If you wanted to disprove the contention that "Self-help gurus are charlatans and hucksers," you probably shouldn't use James Arthur Ray. He preaches that success can come to those who will it, and he gets people to pay good money to do things like sit in sweat lodges to benefit from the techniques "he searched out in the mountains of Peru and the jungles of the Amazon" so they can "gain strength and confidence by mastering physical discomfort."
But it's still troubling that he's been charged with manslaugher in connection with an Arizona sweat lodge ceremony that left three people dead. At least we shouldn't sound so damn pleased about it, as this guy does:
On Wednesday, John Curtis, of Asheville, N.C., a critic of the $11.3-billion self-help industry and founder of the website Americans Against Self-Help Fraud, welcomed the news of Ray's arrest and said he hoped it would prompt new scrutiny of an industry that he says preys on troubled people.
"I see it as the proverbial 9/11 for the self-help movement," Curtis said. "I hope we'll see a greater degree of accountability."
This is "blame the bartender for the drunken driver" and "sue the gun manufacturers for firearms violence" territory, the current trend of blaming anybody and everybody for the bad things in life instead of holding people accountable for the judgment they exercise. In the trial, we will learn all the evidence to help us decide how culpable Ray is -- what medical precautions he did or did not take, what steps he did or did not take when it was obvious people were in distress, and so on. But the people who went into the sweat lodge -- even if they were delusional underachievers grasping at any straw to give their lives meaning -- were sentient, adult human beings capable of assessing risks and acting accordingly.