And lately I’ve had my doubts about you.”
We’re staring into the face of a trend.
I told you in Dec. 2003 that we were moving into an era of “working together for the common good” and that the transition would take 6 years. Thousands of you from Stockholm to Sydney to Las Vegas to South Carolina slipped into the hour-and-a-half multimedia time-tunnel in which I illustrated the arc of society’s 40-year pendulum. Thousands more of you have seen one of my partners make the same presentation.
That 6-year transition is ended; we’re now living solidly in the upswing of a Civic cycle.
This year’s “Final Four” playoffs in college basketball were conspicuously absent of attention-grabbing superstars. Prior to the games, Tom Davis of NBC Sports wrote, “This is being billed as the ‘No Name’ Final Four for its lack of a star-studded cast of individuals.”
In a related story, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said, “The megastar that maybe you normally seem to find in these Final Fours maybe isn’t there. I think it’s refreshing that you’re looking at four teams that ‘team’ is maybe the most important thing.”
Working together for the common good is a beautiful dream. But we always take a good thing too far. “Working together for the common good” quickly becomes “I’m not convinced you’re working hard enough and I’m not entirely sure of your motives. What do you have to say for yourself?”
People who offer evaluation and advice presume to be superior under the guise of being “helpful.” I find few things in life as irritating as faux purity and faux authenticity: the Faux Real. (The title of today’s memo is an inside joke. Pennie and I have pronounced faux [foe] as “fox” ever since the day an imperious woman in an antique shop condescended to explain to us that a particular antique had a “fox finish.” Sniffing and looking down her nose, she said, “Fox is French for false.” We’ve been laughing about it for 20 years.)
Yes, we’re moving into an era of hyper-accountability. Soon Cain will no longer answer, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” but will take great pride in keeping his brother on the straight and narrow. The Cain of tomorrow will be a pest, a prig* and a self-righteous tattle-tale. The Spanish Inquisition and the holocaust of the Nazis were the result of just such a trend getting out of control.
“There is nothing that makes us feel so good as the idea that someone else is an evildoer.”
– Robert Lynd (1879 – 1949)
“Men who believe themselves to be good, who do not search their own souls, often commit the worst atrocities. It is only when we do evil in the belief that we do good that we pursue it wholeheartedly.”
– David Farland
Just as the Final Four were taking the basketball court, Andrew Potter released a new book, The Authenticity Hoax: How We Get Lost Finding Ourselves. David Pitt of BOOKLIST writes, “We live, Potter argues, in a world dominated by the prepackaged and the artificial, the fraudulent and the fake. Growing out of this increasingly bleak cultural landscape is a movement centered on the notion of authenticity: the honest, the natural, the real. That’s all fine and good, Potter says, except for one thing: we don’t have a clue what we mean by authenticity, and even if we did, we wouldn’t know how to find it. That is, the quest for authenticity is a hoax—there is no such thing. Authenticity is an exclusionist notion, defined by what it isn’t, not by what it is, and, for the most part, so-called authentic lifestyles are just as artificial and contrived as the rest of modern culture.”
Tess Vigeland, interviewing Andrew Potter, said, “You also talk about the one-upmanship that comes into play here, keeping up with the authentic Joneses, especially when it comes to being authentically environmentally friendly. You say there’s this trend toward competitive anti-consumption.”
Potter replied, “The idea is that you have to show that you’re not actually connected to the stuff you’re buying. But I think the way it gets really interesting is in the various ways people are downgrading their houses. You know, you get these amazing stories of people putting no-flush toilets in their condominiums in Manhattan, or mud floors in their house. To prove you’re more authentic than everyone else, you have to live like some third world, poverty-stricken aboriginal. It’s quite remarkable.”
We get our weirdest when we compete over who is the most pure.
If we are not careful this attitude will spawn a new McCarthyism in our politics.
If we are not careful this attitude will lead to witch trials in our religions.
If we are not careful this attitude will lead to “litmus tests” in our society.
I suggest we be careful.
In all the millennia of human experience, these are the only known antidotes.
Roy H. Williams
Here’s that link to new books from Wizard Academy faculty and alumni and MMMemo readers that I forgot to activate last week.
Ad writing apprentice to the wizard? There will be only seven.
*Prigs are highly zealous in matters of form and propriety; especially when the prig has the ability to display superior knowledge to those who don’t know the protocol. (Yes, prig is a real word.)