Many years ago, my dad wanted to sell something in the local newspaper. Someone telephoned my dad to find out more about the item in question, and my dad proceeded to say precisely what was wrong about the item he wanted to sell. Afterwards, I said to my dad words to the effect that he was probably the worst salesman in the world. My dad responded that it was a waste of everybody’s time, and an extreme inconvenience, to deal with someone if they would have no interest in the product.
Whilst I don’t agree with my dad’s approach totally, I recognise that there is a lot of wisdom to his approach. I fear that, as a nation, we are going down the route of being too “sales oriented” and “emotionally engaging”. Whilst there is nothing ostensibly wrong with artful marketing and acting on needs and wants, as opposed to being an emotionless Spock, they more often cover up a dark side. “Sales oriented” can be just another term for “lying”, and “emotionally engaging” can just mean reacting like one of Pavlov’s dogs to hyperbole. The message is: don’t think or look for substance, just react in knee-jerk fashion.
Two forms of communication that I do admire are:
* Hollywood sales pitches. I like the way that they deliver their message succinctly, without sales spiel. Here’s the sales pitch for Gladiator, for example: “When a Roman general is betrayed and his family murdered by a corrupt prince, he comes to Rome as a gladiator to seek revenge” (http://is.gd/cs3ac2)
* Quality newspaper articles. They are actually well structured. They have headlines which tell you the most important information in less than a sentence. The next part of the article is the lede [sic], which provided a detailed preview of the entire story. Newspaper articles follow the principle of the “inverted pyramid”, where you give the important information up front, and fill in the gap later. There is a worrying trend emerging on the internet, and that is to write content-free teaser headlines. An example of this is at Motley Fool: “Should You Sell in May and Go Away?”. Typical for Motley Fool is the fact that they don’t even give a conclusion.
PASSION. Why is everyone so obsessed with passion these days? On Quora, a subscriber asked: “Why do all TED presentations seem like fluff?”. TED describes itself: “We believe passionately in the power of idead to change attitudes”. Subway, the guys that make sandwiches, say “we draw on the strong entrepreneurial spirit and passion that exists throughout our organisation”. Coca-Cola seems to have set themselves some kind of philosophical/existential meta-goal: “out shared passion is transforming The Coca-Cola Company”. (http://is.gd/ctAEFO).
Type “passion” into Google, and you are greeted with the following definition: 1. strong and barely controllable emotion
2. the suffering and death of Jesus.
So, I ask you, are the good men and women at Subway barely able to control their emotions at the prospect of making sandwiches? Or that they would rather suffer the relatively short but unimaginable agony of crucifixion than face the slow death of their soul by spending the rest of their meaningless existence buttering bread?
TEACH THE CONTROVERSY. This is a disingenuous strategy designed to raise the profile of an intellectually bankrupt idea. The term is most widely associated with the Discovery Institute, which attempt to discredit evolution and promote a variant of creationism (http://is.gd/c6YgfO). It just seems like an exercise in muddying waters in order to persuade people to believe what you want them to believe.
DEBATE I hate debates. I can’t engage in them myself. As the saying goes: “he who knows little quickly tells it”. I often think that purpose of debates is “point-scoring” and egomania.
Here’s the take-away from all this: society may have its priorities distorted, but it doesn’t mean that we as individuals have to. We must judge ourselves by our own standards, not by those of society. We have an opportunity, a choice at the fork in the road: will we take the path of integrity, or will we take the path of the drivellers? It is from our actions that we will be men of integrity, or common drivellers.
Anyway, that’s me done.
Boys, I may not know much, but I know chicken shit from chicken salad. — Lyndon B. Johnson