Thursday, September 17, 2009

Beyond Growth - The Unquestioned Gurus of the Religion of the Self

This is good - you need to read it and think about it. The marketing of personal growth and spirituality has become BIG business, especially with the rise of Twitter. Everybody is selling some way to become a better human being, as though they hold the secret and you can only get it from them, for the right price.

The Unquestioned Gurus of the Religion of the Self

written by Duff McDuffee on September 16th, 2009

Personal development superstar blogger Steve Pavlina just tweeted that he is now promoting Eben Pagan’s DVD set, “Man Transformation.” (Link goes to Pavlina’s sales page for a 20-DVD course costing $436.50.) Pavlina seems to have become interested in dating advice right around the time he announced that he and his wife decided to have an open marriage and explore polyamory.

In his sales letter, Pavlina attempts to distinguish Pagan’s pick-up advice from that of “pick-up artists,” but the truth is that Pagan put himself on the pick-up artist guru map with his interview series “Interviews with Dating Gurus” that interviewed all the other pick-up artists which Pagan speaks very highly of, including our confused friend “Tyler Durden.” Pavlina writes…

Man Transformation has a very empowering attitude throughout. This program is about men teaching men how to be more successful with women, not by tricking or deceiving women but by learning how to become more authentic from the inside out. [emphasis mine]

There’s my favorite word again! :) Of course to be authentic, you have to do it in the right, socially-prescribed, guru-approved way. You must be authentic like a “real man” is authentic, as in Pagan’s bonus DVD “The Real Man’s Guide to Money and Success.” Clearly you are not a “real” man unless you value—and have—lots of money and worldly success. To not be rich and powerful is to be emasculated, to be a woman.

Also a bonus is the original Double Your Dating eBook, where Pagan writes that powerful women are “secretly wanting a man that is in control of himself, his reality, and them” (pg 13 of the 2003 edition). It’s hard not to read “empowering” as clearly “power-over” in this context.

Pick-up artist Eben Pagan made his internet millions explicitly teaching men that women secretly want a man who is in control of them, and teaches tactics to secretly control women through sophisticated psychological manipulation. Why is this not regularly questioned by conscious people in our personal development community when we claim to investigate “limiting beliefs” and clarify our values on a regular basis? Do we all value patriarchy so highly that we’ve never examined the limitations of these beliefs and values?

Indeed, I think that there are many unquestioned gurus, many limiting beliefs that we do not seek to examine, and many values embedded within personal development teachings that we do not make explicit. In particular, we fail to examine those gurus, beliefs, and values that are held by those in positions of power: those of the wealthy, famous, and powerful. For what many of us are actually seeking through personal development is not maturity, nor wisdom, not true liberation nor even thinking for ourselves, but dominance over others, celebrity, and personal wealth—at any cost. Our personal development quests are far too often just quests to glorify our own egos, to bind ourselves further in the name of freedom, to worship our selves in our religion of one.

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Within our personal development community, Eben Pagan is always revered. Almost no one questions, “hey, do you think that his clearly anti-feminist view and the dating techniques that follow from it perpetuate violence, oppression, and objectification of women? And how might this view of women be related to Pagan’s extremely expensive and aggressive marketing systems that he uses to sell this ‘dating advice’? Does he believe customers secretly want to be controlled and dominated too, thus justifying overpricing and over-hyping one’s products to maximize his own selfish gain (because after all, that’s what customers really want)?” Perhaps this would be excusable if it were still 1950. But more and more, world-traveling college graduates are becoming personal development bloggers and selling internet marketing courses, yet nobody in our circles knows of sociology or feminism?

Eben Pagan has successfully created a (very slick) image for himself as a role model for how to be a man, and as a proponent of “conscious capitalism” (as Tony Robbins said in an interview with Pagan). A generation of men and women who are desperately seeking ways to navigate the ever-more-complex worlds of gender, relationship, and career are taking his advice on everything from dating, to how to structure their workdays for maximum productivity, and even how tall of a desk to purchase. (By the way, I used to co-host a podcast called Conscious Business. Mr. Pagan would not have made even the longest of potential guest lists.)

Pagan’s claim to fame is that his information product businesses—mostly patriarchal dating advice—make $20 million a year. With his 80 remote employees, this actually isn’t much money—it’s a medium-sized business. The self-image he projects is equivalent to that of Bill Gates, but even in the best possible light, Pagan is a small-time CEO of a medium-sized marketing company.

Eben Pagan and Tony Robbins are in the same Axis of Marketing Evil, hence their “friendship” (Robbins, like many charismatic famous people, uses the word “friend” as a namedropping device to associate himself with other famous people—who knows if they actually have any relationship beyond a single phone call). They both regularly use deception and confusion in the name of trust and authenticity in order to sell overpriced products. Pagan writes and speaks under the pseudonym “David DeAngelo,” chosen because the information product marketers believe alliteration sells more ebooks. Pagan has been teaching others this path to “success” with $3000+ marketing courses. Since Pagan sells such high priced courses exclusively through his own confusing websites, they get far less review and critique. You can’t find any of his books or DVDs on Amazon (except a handful of used copies), making it difficult for consumers to judge whether the products are worthwhile, and removing all public criticism. Also, charging a lot for a product with manipulative marketing creates cognitive dissonance, reducing critique and creating cultish ingroups and vicious but uninformed outsiders.

Perhaps Pagan would say that we don’t question such gurus because we are castrated men who bow obediently to our masters? If only we had more expensive courses on how to be a “real man,” then we would have the balls (or ovaries) to question authority and think for ourselves! :) P.S.: Click here to sign up for my Think For Yourself DVD Course!

Since Pagan’s courses are so expensive and not available through regular distribution channels, not critic can say for sure whether his products continue to explicitly promote patriarchal values. But I can say that Pagan still has his original ebook “Double Your Dating” on the market, so he certainly has not recanted any of his old values publicly, unlike some other reformed pick-up artist gurus.

Read the whole article.

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