As her bio puts it, “Rachel Haywire is an event producer, writer, model, and entrepreneur who seeks to create a new economy in which people can express themselves more freely. She likes long walks after the apocalypse and a damn good time”. Sometimes that good time can be… let’s say… a bit provocative. Currently she is raising funds for a public burning of the notoriously banal self-help book, The Secret, and doing it as a way to fund AIDS research.
As she put it on her GoFundMe page for this project:
The Secret is an extremely dangerous pseudo-science book that remains a bestseller for new age yuppies and the guru hacks that feed them. It teaches people that your thoughts create your reality. In other words, your thoughts cause everything from cancer to cerebral palsy to AIDS. Not only that, but events such as the holocaust and slavery could have been stopped if only the victims would have exercised positive thinking.
The Secret is especially popular in the city of Los Angeles, which is why we are going to host The Secret Burning in LA on the 1st of October. It is here (in a Secret location) that we will burn as many copies of The Secret as our friends and enemies chip in for us to buy.
For every copy of The Secret burned, we will donate $5 to AIDS Research. We want the money to go to researching new treatments for AIDS, rather than having AIDS patients believe that they can cure themselves with the power of positive thinking.
Let’s end this pseudo-science cult and begun devising real solutions. Do help us purchase (used) copies of The Secret so we can burn them and create a better world.
After conducting this email conversation I recalled that some time in the mid-90s a sort-of gossip column in SF Weekly reported that someone had burned a copy of How To Mutate & Take Over The World by myself and St. Jude (Milhon) as part of a performance piece, which I took as a tribute that was well aligned with the sensibility of the book itself. I don’t think Rhonda Byrne, author of The Secret would feel the same.
Ok then. Here’s the interview
RU Sirius: Of all of the sort-of positive thinking manuals, The Secret seems to mostly attract a unique brand of airhead and there are a lot of them. Is it just the simplicity? Have you been surprised by some of the people who bought in?
RACHEL HAYWIRE: It’s the simplicity and the pandering self-help culture. Some people don’t really buy in as much as pretend to in order to get ahead. Others are stupid enough to believe it because they have never actually been through real misfortune. It’s usually pseudo-affluents who are trying desperately to succeed and failing. They are afraid of expressing “negative vibrations” they think are the cause of everything bad that happens to them. They often ignore action and focusing only on “manifesting.” They can manifest right off, you know? The banality of this entire group of people is almost remarkable in its sheer vapidness. Anyone I know who has bought in is like a zombie infected by a plague, yet I suppose some are just gaming it for their amusement and wealth. This isn’t to say that energies and vibrations don’t attract different outcomes; just that these people actually think that negative events occur due to mindset and wavelength. This is scientifically absurd, yet they continue to throw these seminars and make money off of gullible idiots who want to be a part of this new age fake success cult.
RUS: A bit of positiveness seems necessary for doing anything. I’m imagining that I will continue to publish articles here and that a few people will find them worthwhile… but sometimes it’s hard to be sure. So where’s the boundary between rousing oneself to be proactive and swallowing a giant tub or horseshit like The Secret?
RH: That’s a good question. I think a lot of people assume that if you are positive and proactive, it is somehow necessary not to criticize or question anything. They think that challenging anything that makes people happy or scales up the economy is a horrible and sinister act that must be punished. What they don’t realize is that they are actually making people miserable and hurting the economy as a result. As evidenced by the concentration of wealth in San Francisco, revolution leads to growth. It is only through refusing to swallow horseshit and providing a new alternative that real growth can occur in the first place. Yet people don’t like to look at this long term because they are concerned only with immediate winning.
RUS: A book burning! When I first read your pitch, I thought … oh this looks like a fun performance piece with a good point. And then I saw somebody go off on the fact that it’s “a book burning”… which I hadn’t really thought to categorize. Once it’s categorized that way, it takes on all kinds of difficult provocative resonances with both real life and fiction. And yet, somehow, the triteness of the particular book seems to exempt the act from the seriousness alluded to by Ray Bradbury etc. Any thoughts on this?
RH: Exactly. People are already making Fahrenheit 451 references. This one guy made a commentary video which opens up with a quote from it. The books burnt in Fahrenheit 451 were not of the banal level of The Secret; rather texts that were forbidden for their enlightened nature. The Secret was created to get money from naive not-quite-rich people with psychological problems who hadn’t quite made it in life. It is the banal middle class plasticity that is so annoying. People are more focused on the “bad look” of burning books than why we are burning it in the first place. People say that the Nazi’s burnt books yet they also drove cars. Occultists, gurus, and witches burn books all the time for ritualistic reasons. Pagans and hippies burn books for symbolic transitions. The book we are burning is significant in its distinct superficiality, and our ritualized burning of it marks an important transition for mass consciousness. The Secret is the dead-end of culture that must be cleansed from this earth.
RUS: There’s a class aspect to all of this. Wealthy people have increasingly taken up the sort-of extreme “everything is wonderful if I think it is” mentality. And it can pretty much work for you if you have that sort of cushioning. But poor and middle class people, I think, often end up conflicted. And the politics of it are awful in terms of class.
RH: It’s the latte liberals and centrist conservatives who want to be rich that are the problem. Some rich people are just outcasts like us who are brilliant at what they do. There is a refusal to even address negativity in these aspirant middle class social groups, and I call the people who buy into it the hashtag gratitudes. They are straight up pathetic, and believe that AIDS is caused by “putting out AIDS vibrations.” Seriously, how fucked can these people be? Yet now they want to come off as classy and act like they are against burning books so they can seem righteous and educated.
RUS: Well, one of the sharpest critics of “positive thinking” and self-help gurus was Barbara Ehrenreich, a left-liberal focused on economic issues. She had a book called Bright-sided: How Positive Thinking Undermines America. Fundamentally, the same myth of total self-responsibility — that you create your own reality — is applicable to monetary well-being as well as to the issues you raise, like AIDS or cerebral palsy. It’s a bit more mutable, but there are all kinds of preconditions that make financial well-being likely to be difficult or impossible or accidental rather than a result of good attitude or even heroic effort. So books like The Secret can make both rich people and poor people feel excessively deserving of their place in the finance hierarchy. So I guess there are lots of ways to approach this…
RH: Very much. If someone is living in poverty, it is tempting to fall into delusional thinking for a while. “If I click my heels together and think about wealth, suddenly I will go from being on food stamps to throwing elite dinner parties.” Yet as the poverty continues, people often lose faith in this sort of nonsense. While we do create our own reality in an occult sense, it seems obvious to me that if we could simply change reality with our thoughts we would have no crime or poverty at all. If The Secret were accurate, there would be no suffering. We would all just think our way into complete hedonistic bliss.
As for total self-responsibility, there is a clear distinction between taking responsibility for your choices and thinking that someone you care about has a disease because of their negative thoughts. In The Secret, it actually says that if a friend or family member tells you that they are sick, the proper response is to ignore them in order to avoid feeding their negativity. I know people who consider themselves fascists who are nicer than this! Can you imagine ignoring a loved one who tells you they have a horrible disease because you are afraid that discussing the disease with them will make their disease worse? This is why I’m donating funds to AIDS research.
RU: I had a conversation once with a relatively well-known writer who observed that “if you scratch a new age chick she immediately turns into a harradin.” I should probably be careful these days about the gender aspect of that, but the point seems to be correct by my experience. Some people who expect things to just go wonderfully can really get thrown by the slightest challenge.
RH: The people who expect things to go wonderfully won’t be able to comprehend events like The Secret Burning. They will crumple in the new economy because they are unable to endure the volatility of the radical fringes, and that is fine with me. Let’s do this.