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Blame the Victim, But Get a Bentley

Reductio ad Absurdum

Kyle Hill

June 27, 2013

A neuron fires. Then another. An electrochemical cascade surges across your cerebral cortex. If we had brain scanners advanced enough, we could tell that this neuronal thunderstorm was the result of an intense focusing on a brand new Bentley. The vibrations emanate from your head and the universe feels them. It responds in kind. In no time at all, you have a new car. You thank the universe for manifesting your wish. The law of attraction proves itself again.

If The Secret weren’t a secret but a reality, “attractiveness” would take on an altogether different meaning. Like degrees of physical attractiveness, everyone would have a degree of mental ability to manifest anything they desired. Shoes, cars, diamonds, lovers, outcomes, anything. If brain waves could really make it out of the head and into some cosmic crucible of creation, neurology would be radically transformed (not to mention that it would become the most groundbreaking science in history). Probing the inner workings of the brain would no longer require invasive surgery or less precise EEG technology. If the universe could hear your thoughts, so could Dr. Novella.

Birthdays would be decidedly more boring. When anyone can simply think themselves a present, you would really have to “keep Christ in Christmas,” because there wouldn’t be much else. Throngs of expectant children would sit on Christmas morning rapt in contemplation until that Red Ryder BB gun finds its way under the tree. “Black Friday” and “cyber Monday” wouldn’t be spent in enormous lines or on heavily loaded servers but in moments of extreme visualization.

If intense mental focus and desire did sent out a requisition form to the universe, men would be plagued with embarrassing deliveries. Those men who actually did think about sex every seven seconds would surely ruin a few brunches. Visualizing pornography would manifest millions of confused, and nude, actors.

When your spending is limited only by imagination, fashion loses the true meaning of the term. No longer can one establish class by the clothes and accessories one can afford. It’s a liberating, if a bit bland, turn of events. The intense request for the finer things in life would stress production lines around the world. Why Bentley and Rolex ramped up production would be a mystery to them, though the final owners of each product would be known to the cosmos. Oprah was right about one thing: if the law of attraction worked, “everyone gets a car!”

The universe works in mysterious ways, or so The Secret says. All cosmic deliveries would be serendipitous surprises. Delivery trucks around the world would always be driven by coincidence and whim. “Oh, you wanted this Armani suit? I just happen to have a free one here in my truck! Lucky you!” No one can track their orders from the universe, but at least they get there.

Of course, everyone is famous when you can think anything into being. Celebrity would become meaningless, with everyone famous for no reason. Seven billion Kardashians.

Money seems pointless when anything can be birthed from your brain, to the stars, and to your front door. How hard something is to visualize is now the global value system. A sandwich? Two minutes of moderate focus. A promotion? Two weeks.

There is a dark side to a world where thinking is doing. Every accident, every illness, every misfortune is either the result of negative thinking or insufficient positive thinking. Cancer patients with a poor prognosis do not want a cure enough. Starving African children need to start visualizing some roast beef and gravy but don’t. Can’t escape poverty? It’s your fault for poor mental imagery. The ghetto got you down? Blame yourself for not asking the universe for more. “Be positive” isn’t a recommendation, it’s a requirement. You have no right to be without wealth or opportunity. Visualize it!

If the law of attraction were the norm, so would blaming the victim.

The calculus of contemplation is bad enough. The universe would have to arbitrate between what would surely be millions of similar requests for fame or fortune. Who gets the Bentley? Maybe it comes down to who wanted it more. But this still means that the medical patient that didn’t get better didn’t want enough to get better. The universe works in mysterious ways, unless you want a new cocktail dress; then you just have to think really hard about it.

Crime is another conundrum in a world where attraction doesn’t describe magnetism or sex. How does one solve a murder that was visualized? CSI would have to be outfitted with the latest in neurotechnology. Minority Report-style pre-cogs would need to be brought in to determine when a dirty deed would be visualized and when. The violation of privacy today is nothing compared to when the FBI and IRS needs a record of what you thought about in the last six months.

Instead of thoughts venturing outside the brain to call the customer service of the cosmos, wealth, material gain, and inequality are accounted for by things we can’t control—parents, date of birth, genetics, environment, and a bit of luck. “Life coaches” can advise a serious visualization regiment that seems to work because affluent, white, western people have the opportunities to get what they desire. Meanwhile, the philosophy of “attraction” easily rationalizes the needless suffering of millions now and millions to come. The world would be a glut of wealth and fame and instant gratification if The Secret were no secret. What do you see?

Kyle Hill

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Kyle Hill is a science writer who specializes in finding the secret science in your favorite fandom. He writes for the Scientific American Blog Network at his blog, But Not Simpler. Hill also contributes to Slate, Wired, Nature Education, Popular Science, and io9. He manages Nature Education's Student Voices blog, is a contributor to Al Jazeera America’s science show TechKnow, and you can follow him on Twitter under @Sci_Phile.