Oprah Winfrey is a warm and attractive public presence, but her philosophy is poisonous, and the idea of her taking it to an entire network, ominously called OWN is chilling.
Believing in yourself, Searching for your dream and Living your dream can function as a personal philosophy but it doesn’t work to run cities or nations on. These are collective activities where personal dreams come second to more complex relationships For democracy and government to work, you need something called community and that community is never simple. At the bottom there is – hopefully – a lot of confident folks, ‘Believing in themselves, Searching for their dream and then Living it,’ (B.S. & L.) but the city and the nation has to be based on more.
Barack Obama’s fall from grace is a perfect example of the poisonous effect of B.S. & L. can have on society. ‘He Believed in himself. He searched hard for his dream and now he is Living it.’ Excellent. He did it. She did it. Oprah helped elect a new president. But being President is a public project and needs a public philosophy. At the end of the day, the President, the Prime Minister, the Mayor of a city has to be able to think and talk about public solutions for public problems – his own B.S. & L. life is entirely secondary, but that’s not the philosophy that rules today. Life is all about ‘living your dream’ and buying cheap products.
This is why we have so many wretched, visionless, and ultimately gutless political leaders from every camp. They all get elected on a B.S.& L platform. The uber message of every politician is ‘elect me and I will make living your personal dream’ possible. This is wrong. No one is responsible for your dreams but you. Government is something else entirely. It’s a public endeavour for public projects – that’s why we pay taxes together.
Taxes are not a private, Home Depot purchase. Alone our taxes can purchase nothing of any public utility. Together, they are a powerful tool to change the city, the country and the nation for the better. Where are the leaders who understand this and have it in as part of their philosophical D.N. A.? FDR was the last American President to understand this. Mike Pearson and Tommy Douglas the last Canadian Federal leaders to get it.
At the end of the day, government ain’t a B.S.& L. conversation. A fast train service between Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto is not on everyone’s B.S.& L list, nor is surface light rail for our cities, but it’s the right thing to do for our nation and the environment. To get it done it needs leaders who can inspire people to park their private aspirations and participate in that greater public conversation.
The unwitting effect of Oprah’s philosophy is poisonous because she preaches very effectively from her national pulpit that public problems can be solved by private success – just live your dream and all will be well. Well, I’m not buying. Private solutions can’t solve public problems.
End of Part I – The Oprah Poison