The “wellness” industry is full of ideas, prays, practices, and most importantly things to buy. Effective critiques have been made. By now we should all know about the violent mining and child labor being used to extract those rose quartz meant to open your heart, the emerald for healing, the amethyst for balance. The cultural appropriation of white sage done by white ladies. The fantastic sales of the book and film “The Secret” and people prophesying that your positive thoughts create positive energy which attracts positivity to come into your life.
What I do not understand is how this philosophy applies to people in a country at war, or amidst a famine, or as the ocean rises to swallow up island nations. Do we then believe that those people have too much negative energy and thoughts so they attracted it to themselves? If we all sent them some obsidian for protection would that stop the missiles from falling? Has a person invited sexual violence because they did not use a yoni egg or yoni steam? If realigning your energy is the only thing needed to overcome sickness of the physical, mental, or emotional corps we live within, is cancer the punishment for not saying the right mantra with the sound bowl?
From a macro view, does this edict of individual wellness siphon energy from the real threats to our livelihood — the exploitative capitalism that makes us buy an aventurine crystal or to wear jade as a way to manifest money. And thus are people poor because they have not been on the correct energetic wavelength? Or are people poor because billionaires are hoarding wealth and governments appease the growth of destructive industries. Is the Orange County rich, suburban woman wearing a pyrite for success and wealth struggling equally with the food insecure woman in Appalachia? Can incense ward off a genetic predisposition to Alzheimers?
The insidious danger of teaching people that they can wear, burn, meditate or pray away what is harming them is the onus on personal responsibility. And then the reverse logic that people are individually responsible for bad things happening to them. Focusing on the intangible aspects of the world has been a mainstay of preventing poor people from realizing the conditions of their oppression. Countless revolutions have been handicapped when challenging religious beliefs — people cannot release themselves from the belief that gilded churches are not promising a relief from suffering. The church of wellness has replaced tithes with alters to attract wealth, exorcisms with psychedelic trips, communion with manifestations, prayer beads have maintained their place on the pedestal.
One reason this industry has leeched across so many racial, economic, and social lines is because it offers a few simple actions to feel some agency amidst this world of structures of oppression. We don’t have the tools to demand a redistribution of wealth, policies that protect our environment, and a common agreement that people deserve to live. So we wear a crystal, practice mindfulness and fight off negative energies to feel that we are not at the whim of monsters. No one wants to be starring down a monster with no weapons, but we need more than mantras, copper bracelets, and gemstones to ward off this evil.