The Cult of Personality
After watching groups, and at times being a part of one, I have noted a predictable way in which any group of humans, when gathered together in groups of 3 or more, tend to form a thing I would call the “body corporate”. Now, this could have remained an obscure religious term, but it has now come into common usage to define a specific type of group in our fast new, new, new world. Plus, it sounds really Harvard-like and no matter what people say, they still wished they could say they went to Harvard Business School. That, just for starters, should make us suspicious of our value system right off the bat. For new readers, here; the new, new world is what I call what the old school called “now”, but now is not now but the new now, (as in not later, now.) or “Head down on Phone, Bravo Channel and embarrassingly, Bruce Jenner is a girl.” Very distressing. In basic reading primers and forced relocation transportation vehicles, we embark on the indoctrination process known as school. We start learning by direct observation. Direct observation can be static, like sitting in your high chair, or it can be a media experience. Media experiences have evolved quickly and it is now possible to see Mama’s boyfriend both in person and on the nice Deputy Sherriff’s body camera. Then we move on to reading printed words pretty quickly. That’s when the fun starts. The poor kid from the other side of the tracks quickly learns, usually because Mamma’s boyfriend has on the Bravo Channel, where she left it. (being forbidden to touch the TV because she is tired of going to the Pawn Shop to get it back). People get frustrated, fast, even at 6 years old. Little Johnny from the Bravo Channel neighborhood leans to the oral tradition and vivid storytelling and Suzie, who rides in Mom’s SUV (with the proud parent stickers) leans more toward, say, the NatGeo Channel. The Man in the Yellow Hat with the monkey named George fakes George out all the time with quirky words and hidden meanings and thus begins the very tricky business known as communication.
About the time kick ball gets going, a teacher usually illuminates the idea of teams (with a head nod to” teamwork”; a true oxymoron) and the initiation of picking sides. Here, the future leaders of 6th grade are to be found. A small percentage of these kids make it all the way, becoming leaders of men. These “leader” kids start to recognize the gene pool in a way the adults seldom do. They aren’t going for the flash in the pan, the anomaly. A small number get it. There are things you learn and there are things you get.
This behavior ebbs and flows but by high school the kids with greater levels of understanding (generally) seem to ascend in their peer group. Maybe not overtly or socially at first (nerd is not erased easily, serious cash and material favors work wonders) but we all know the story of peaking in high school and that nerdy, pocket protector kid shows up at a reunion with a whole new plan and the Italian sports car (yes, Russian blonde girls too, what were you thinking?) to go with it. So there, Mr. Star Quarter Back man, ever hear of Ground Hog Day? You’re about to live it brother.
This is simplistic and the biggest omission here is the exclusion of technology. Normal kids at the mean (that means the middle value, or average), or within spitting distance know about the App Store. The Calculus Club kid is thinking bigger and has probably already marked you as a future Farm Ville player. Now, you must admit, paying nerdy kids hard earned Yankee dollars for extra crops on the latest social media platform is degrading. But hey, everybody’s got to be something, huh?
From that humble beginning that ironically starts at high school graduation, the game gets far more interesting and serious. Smart kids go to fancier schools, generally speaking, and then get to go to graduate school. Usually focusing on whatever is in vogue. Being a doctor sure ain’t what it used to be. Mama may still think so, but Med School is hard and medicine is messy and the government says they, along with the approval nurse at Blue Cross, know more, have heard it all before and “isn’t it time for you to get back on those TRS reports” (for those unfamiliar with Office Space this means billing codes). Plus, they make fun of you at first because of your outdated, quaint belief that doctors are there to care for patients. You do make cool money and really stupid people confuse you with a God but since in the new, new, new world God’s just not what he used to be either, it just ain’t the same. So, screw that, let’s go to MBA school, learn matrix algebra and optimization bullshit so we can walk straight faced into some schmuck client’s business and tell the guys who have been doing it pretty darn well for decades they don’t really know what they’re doing. The fact that nobody at any consulting firm has probably ever signed the front of the check, for some unknown freaking reason, is not even mentioned in passing. This cannot be overstated. Tell me the last time that anyone, at any corporate headquarters, knew anything of value and had ever put their own ass at risk.
After B School (that’s business school for all you red necks out there) we are now considered full on corporate killers and, yes, we will send your sorry ass packing right out that door, you just wait. As soon as the other consultants get here and we evaluate something important, (maybe the craft beer menu at the Embassy Suites), you are so gone. We could not care less if you’re 58 years old, maybe have a bad ticker and you pretty much let us suck your soul out, we are redeploying the incremental, ideated mezzanine of human capital and are getting ready to dive deep, scale and ramp it. Of course, nobody has a clue what this means, mostly because it doesn’t make any sense. But when you say it real fast on an earnings call, it sounds almost serious. (Just an aside here, imagine all those on an earnings call being made to spell and use in a sentence the words they throw out.) Since there is no direct link between you, those on the street (or maybe even the entire human race) and the elite few left upstairs, you are screwed. The fact that it’s immoral and just plain shitty isn’t even considered as being remotely relevant, I am telling you, this is a tough bunch. “Hey, did you see Bob? I know he has kids in college and all but, hey, it’s for the greater good. When you hear that phrase, “greater good”, it almost always means money in which case it surely means more cash to piss away on the new, new, new email data base with 6 dimensions that can copy (as in cc: and bcc:) every sentient being on this and nearby planets, plus update your social media. You know the ones, they were popular with the Anthony Weiner Snap Chat photo club. Kind of brings a tear, doesn’t it?
These first big firings are scary at first but since it’s not you, quickly forgotten. One other thing that is forgotten, mostly because nobody wants to think about it, is the top floor. You know, that rarified air; the elite, specialized knowledge, the ability to use up to 15 nonsensical words in one run on sentence masquerading as a paragraph. They have assistants that can whip up a 647-page power point deck that can make even the most artificially stimulated among us go head down. Serious stuff brother, serious.
Then, of course, we have “they’, or “he”, or “she”. The CEO, the COB, the See Oh Can You See. These are usually single minded, ego-centric (read ruthless) individuals that have now out bullshitted their peers and sent them packing. So finally, their true talents and unequalled vision are to be appreciated. In a smaller company, normally public, they get to stack the board with their buddies who love stock options, director fees and bars at the Ritz Carlton. The extra bonus of dismissing as irrelevant the great unwashed is always a welcome perk. This is, or course, done in the process of telling them their contributions and team spirit make the team soar. I mean, shit, if you hadn’t bcc’d those 431 people, the project would have failed. Whole departments would have been grounded. Interfering with productive people who do shit and bring in revenue is the highest possible calling, kind of. Let’s not forget those Ritz points and flyer miles.
Concurrently, the See Oh Whatever crowd has now begun to speak in stranger tongues. They may even have a YouTube link so you can watch their revelations on some pay to play speaking gig, maybe even TEDx. Hot Damn! This is it, boys and girls, the big time with your name in lights. You know, folks would not be the least surprised if the See Oh Can You See of Oz got their own hot cable news show. Which one? Is that really a question? It doesn’t matter just so it’s high profile and has some capital letters with some of them being N, maybe M, and ending in C. I do seem to remember there were like 4, or 5, letters. Just run in from the kitchen when you hear the ad for the suicide hotline. Dammit man!
This is now headed to the dreaded “Nero Ending”, (the Nero Ending is very similar to the Enron Ending). Happens all the time. So, a few years back, a French guy named Descartes (for our Southern friends; Dey-Kart) said in 1637 something along the lines that good sense is not widely distributed throughout the world. Hmmm. Ok, history does have that sneaky little quality of repeating itself. Corporate research has eliminated greed, envy and ego centric narcissism as causes, mainly because those that know do not speak. While being the Pontiff may be close, making up words, having people pretend to listen and letting your ego run buck ass wild no matter what does have a certain divine quality. And remember, you can reconcile the fact of shattered, ruined lives, just lucky it wasn’t you, by blaming those consultants and the fact your hands were tied.
Just remember; humans have never invented anything that couldn’t be weaponized, if even for involuntary mind numbing; the new, new, new world is fast but it can never be fast enough and just because somebody believes it don’t make it true. Egocentric mania might be fun for a while but you never get to change the game and the game never stops. The game cannot even slow, it can only speed up. The only way to buffer the speed is to get off of the board.
There it is. You wonder what the point is? Me too. But if I had to pick, I would answer the point is to acknowledge what is right in front of us and all of the unintended consequences that the relentless quest of greed makes manifest. Teach those kick ball kids that using big words about nothing does not help anyone. That kid over there in some war torn forgotten country will not be any less hungry just because you have the newest Beamer or 3 phones.
To borrow and paraphrase my old friend, Ralph Waldo, the point is to “know one life has breathed easier because you have lived” As Ralph said, and I agree, that is to have succeeded………