The solace motivational speakers offer to people does not seem to have any substantial problem unless it gets delusional. The question is when does it get delusional? One cannot have a generalised response to it; however, it would be a fruitful exercise to dig into the general claims of some motivational and see whether there is something fundamentally wrong with them or not.

Based on the general premise of optimism, motivational speakers offer an alternative to the otherwise grief-stricken people. Of course, a big group of people has some complaints against the system and; therefore, they feel a special inclination toward motivational speeches which can offer them some consolation, to say the least.

So far so good, there seems to be no harm in highlighting good things about life and, in fact, the exercise of instilling hope can be deemed as a virtue by many standards. However, the element of truth that is lost in the course of this type of exercise is of structural nature. Motivational speakers generally offer an alternative way out of the inertia or stalemate caused by the social structures. Now, this is where the problem resides.

The problem is that motivational speakers are generally those people who were at a point in their lives were faced with some debilitating circumstances and which were partly or wholly a result of structural injustices of society. In these circumstances, they devised a way out of it and achieved some successes. Therefore, in the euphoria of those achievements they tend to share their experiences and motivate people towards ‘action’. It has to be noted that ‘action’ constitutes the core of their argument.

The implicit reality that gets concealed in this process is that these successful people who were not privileged enough but still managed to live a good life become a part of that structural reality from where these structural obstacles emanate. Is it too general a claim? How can I prove this?

My allegation should not sound outrageous and no single individual is held complicit here. I am not blaming the current motivational speakers who were once faced with a grave situation managed to manoeuvre the circumstances in their favour. It would be a very highly moralistic assault which I never intend to do because an individual does have to play with the circumstances in his or her favour, of course to a certain extent.

The problem that demands attention is at the second step where the motivational speaker realises that the protest of people against the system is unjustifiable and if he or she can come out of the adverse circumstances, everyone ought to as well. They tend to forget that the paralysing circumstances were an outcome of some unequal structures. Moreover, what is more, outrageous and inherently paradoxical is that these motivational speakers blatantly convey that everyone can somewhat manage to overcome the structural realities of life. What this means is that if everyone or even a considerable number of their audiences get to overcome the structural inequalities then it means the shackling structure has actually been broken. However, that is not the case because the preaching of motivational speakers revolves around playing with the current structure.

Hence, it is imperative to understand that only a few people among the audiences will be able to manoeuvre their way out of their problem in the way motivational speakers did. The rest of the audiences only resort to optimism which is farcical in nature and false in essence. The word I used, in the beginning, was delusional and it is the very word that explains the situation of those people who tend to hold back their claims against an oppressive system and solely rely on their own abilities. The harsh reality is that those among the audiences who succeed to manoeuvre the structure to their advantage become a part of the very system that tightens the shackles even further for the masses. Once again, they are not blameworthy as such in my eyes, the problem is that “taking structure as a given” and preaching the same perpetuates the oppressive structure.

Haider teaches Political Philosophy and International Relations at UMT. He is interested in the theoretical roots of oppression and exploring historical and sociological structures in our society. He tweets at @SYEDMUHAMMADHA6.

Haider teaches Political Philosophy and International Relations at UMT. He is interested in the theoretical roots of oppression and exploring historical and sociological structures in our society. He tweets at @SYEDMUHAMMADHA6.


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