Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Gone John Galt

Today's New York Times offers an op-ed by a former executive vice president of AIG. This man, Jake DeSantis, had had enough and decided to go John Galt. The op-ed is the resignation letter he addressed to CEO Edward Liddy. Link here.

And today's Wall Street Journal has a column by Holman Jenkins about the true scandal of the AIG bonuses. It turns out that most of what we all thought was true was fiction. Link here.

From reading these articles we can learn a couple of lessons about anger management and rage control.

If you are an aspiring demagogue and wish to manipulate emotion, you must start with a good story. Find a confused and gullible population, and offer story that explains what went wrong, with special emphasis on making them feel like victims. After all, the less you know about what is going on in the world, the more you feel like you have no control over it.

The story does not have to be true. It needs to make an occasional tilt toward the facts, but it does not need to be factually accurate. It just has to make sense.

The story will help you to colonize confused and unsuspecting minds. Thereafter you will be able to get them to do what you want them to do.

If manipulation and seduction are your games, storytelling is the way to go. A good story will fire up the emotional engines while narcotizing all forms of rational control.

On the other side of the great clinical divide, those who want to temper their tendencies to emotional excess would do better to ignore siren song of stories, turn on their capacity for reason, and jump right into reality.

A good place to start is the two op-ed pieces I have linked above. They give a more honest account of the facts of the AIG scandal than we are hearing from the politicians.

After reading these op-eds, take your emotional temperature and see whether your new-found knowledge of the facts has caused your righteous anger to subside.

Admittedly, there are other ways to calm anger, but a cold, hard look at the facts must be at the top of the list.

Of course, some of those who have learned to deconstruct texts in college no longer believe that facts exist at all. They are surely the most ripe to suffer the influence of aspiring and real demagogues. Which is the whole point of deconstruction, anyway.

I am not saying that no one should ever feel anger. As Aristotle put it, we all need to feel the right anger at the right time in the right place at the right person under the right circumstances.

So, if your anger has not completely subsided, hopefully it has been redirected against the politicians who have been manipulating your emotions for their own political gain.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ironically, I originally did wonder why these people weren't fired, but did not care one bit about about the contracts that were fulfilled. That was to be expected, and ethical business management. My anger remains squarely directed in the same place. Our government is responsible for this mess in the first place, and the people for not demanding change or voting the looters out of office.