Tag Archives: fame

The Brutal Ethics Truth About “7 Brutal Truths That Will Make Your Life Better If You Accept Them”

All looks yellow to the jaundiced eye.

Conservative writer John Hawkins published a post called “7 Brutal Truths That Will Make Your Life Better If You Accept Them.”

If I were as cynical as he is, I might say that a better title would be “How to Rationalize Being a Jerk,” but I’m not.

However, his post does demand some ethical perspective. Most, though not all, of his truths are really constructs to justify unethical conduct. Let’s examine them:

1. The average person cares more about what he eats for lunch than whether you live or die.

Maybe, and so what? That doesn’t mean that you should emulate them.  To begin with, there is no “average person.” There are individual people, good, bad and in-between. Hawkins writes,

“You tell the average person that doesn’t know you very well that you have a fatal disease and he’ll say, “I’m so sorry to hear that.” Then he’ll forget about it in five minutes while he debates with his friends whether they’re going to Chili’s or the Mexican restaurant down the street. What that means is that everything you want out of life, you better prepare to earn without getting a lot of favors on the way. If you fall, you have to be the one to pick yourself up off the ground, brush yourself off and get your life back on track. You care. They don’t. So it’s up to you.”

But the a stranger doesn’t always react that way. Sometimes he gives you his kidney. Hawkins is supplying an excuse to be callous based on a Golden Rule Distortion: “Do Unto Others As They Would Do Unto You.” Don’t listen to him.  Care about other people, and don’t hesitate to ask for help. People are better than you think: they will surprise you. In the meantime, it is your job to be as good as you would like them to be.

2. Life is not and will never be fair

I’ve written about this recently: fairness is a vague and broad concept in ethics. Life isn’t “fair” because life is often random, and nobody is tending the fairness meter. Systems either are fair or are not depending on your point of view. The mainstream conservative view about fairness is that one should play the cards one is dealt and stop complaining about it. It’s facile, though not without some truth: it is better to spend time trying to overcome obstacles than to bitch about them. On the other hand, each of us has an obligation to make the world better for those who follow us. Genuine unfairness, in systems, institutions, the culture and society, should be exposed, attacked, and fixed if possible. Hawkins’ approach would have left the U.S. with slavery, second class citizenship for women, Jim Crow, straight-only marriages, age discrimination, brutal monopolies and unchecked consumer fraud. His #2 is a license to be callous.

3. Most people are shallow

What an elitist and ignorant thing to say. If one has spent any time talking to and getting to know a wide range of people, it becomes clear that the opposite is the case. Again, assuming that most people are shallow provides Hawkins with an excuse to ignore them, or treat them with contempt. Most people will tend to behave as if they are shallow because they are rushed, stressed, distracted and focused on short-term exigencies. Give them time to think, a reason to consider a topic carefully, and the respect they deserve, and frequently unexpected depths will reveal themselves. “Most people are shallow” is a crippling bias for anyone to adopt. Expect the best of people: you will often be disappointed, perhaps, but you will also allow validations of your faith in humanity to bloom.

Writes Hawkins:

“So, use the shallowness of other people to your advantage. Learn to dress like a successful person. Pay attention to how you look. Find ways to give off the appearance that you are doing well. Don’t be a phony—be you, but also take advantage of the fact that a superficial appearance will be the reality to most people.”

Let’s see: pretend to be a successful person, but don’t be a phony; be you, but try to fool people by not revealing who you are. What?

People don’t assume that people who dress well,  speak well,  have manners and behave in a civilized fashion are successful because they are shallow. They assume that because they have learned from experience that certain traits both aid success and result from it.  Hawkins is the one revealing shallowness. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Daily Life, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, U.S. Society

From The Ethics Alarms Harry Truman Files: Applause For “The Wrecking Crew”

 

One of my favorite Presidential quotes of all time is from Harry Truman. He said,

“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”

Nonetheless, people deserve credit when they do important things, and trying to encourage the culture to not only give credit but also to remember and honor those deserving it across generations is a frequent theme of this blog.  The Ethics Alarms Heroes Hall of Fame is one expression of this theme. This post is another.

I was reminded of The Wrecking Crew when Glen Campbell died, and recently, when I heard old Monkee Mickey Dolenz in a recent interview.  Cambell was the most famous alumni of the studio band, which had many members over the years. Dolenz was a member of the group that was its most famous beneficiary, although The Byrds were also famously represented by The Wrecking Crew in their first hit record, “Mr. Tambourine Man.”

It has always amazed me how little this loosely organized band of brilliant studio musicians is known outside of the music business and the rock and pop trivia nerds. The Wrecking Crew was significantly involved in much of the greatest pop music recorded from the late 1950s to the mid 1970’s. Their musical contributions are indistinguishable and inseparable from the those of the famous singers and groups they backed, and yet fame and credit, as well as sufficient honors, have been elusive.

If people have heard of them at all, the Wrecking Crew is known for “ghosting” the accompaniments for the Monkees’ first two albums. However, its studio band work was far more extensive than that. They were, for example, the creators of Phil Specter’s “Wall of Sound”: in the early years, they were sometimes credited on Specter discs as occasionally credited as “the Phil Spector Wall of Sound Orchestra.” They played under other names too, or no names at all. The nickname “The Wrecking Crew” became public when it was used by drummer and member drummer and member Hal Blaine in his 1990 memoir, “Hal Blaine and the Wrecking Crew”; they also sometimes called themselves “The Clique.”  Blaine, Campbell and keyboardist Leon Russell are the most famous members; some of the better known studio  musicians that formed the backbone of the Crew’s ranks were drummer Earl Palmer, saxophonist Steve Douglas, guitarist Tommy Tedesco,  and bassist Carol Kaye, as well as versatile Larry Knechtel, later a member of Bread.

I checked Wikipedia for a list of the hits The Wrecking Crew played on and made into the classics they are. Here were some of them. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, History, Popular Culture, Professions

Al Luplow And The Duty To Remember

 

A culture is defined by what it chooses to remember and what it chooses to forget. Ideally, a culture would remember everything, because knowing the past, as Santayana famously observed, was insurance against repeating its mistakes.  But time is a huge eraser, as Shelley told us:

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
This is why historians have such a crucial role to play in preserving our culture, by preserving stories, lives and memories along with the inspiration and wisdom they can provide.Sometimes a lost memory is rescued from neglect. Today we remember Colonel Joshua Chamberlain as one of the central heroes of the Battle of Gettysburg for his desperate stand with the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment at Little Round Top, culminating in his using his knowledge of military history (he was a college professor) to improvise the bayonet charge that held his position and turned defeat into victory. That was not the case for almost a century, however, until the historical novel “The Killer Angels” retold the story so vividly that Chamberlain’s entire career became the object of new scholarship and admiration. This was truth emerging, but it was also justice. Chamberlain deserved to be remembered.

Unfortunately, Chamberlain is an exception. Once a life, a deed, a remarkable moment is forgotten, it is usually gone. That is a tragedy for the culture. The duty to remember, which I have discussed here before, is the duty to protect the culture and its riches. It is also based on the Golden Rule. We all would like our lives to be remembered as long as possible, especially when we accomplished something that future generations could and would appreciate or benefit from recalling.

This brings us to Al Luplow.

Two nights ago, in an outrageously antic and entertaining game between the Cleveland Indians and the Boston Red Sox, Indians outfielder Austin Jackson robbed Hanley Ramirez of a home run by leaping in the air at the right centerfield bullpen fence reaching over it mid-air to catch the ball, and tumbling over it. He still held on to the ball—he could have easily broken his neck—and the home run became an out.

Although outfielders have fallen over that fence from time to time, notably in the 2013 play-offs…

Continue reading

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Filed under History, Journalism & Media, Sports

Why The World Doesn’t Work: The Case Of Jackie Kennedy’s Chef

hustebookThe world doesn’t work, and Ethics is always struggling to avoid losing ground. I collect stories that show why this is. Here is one from the obituary page, the saga of  the departed Annemarie Huste, who was Jacqueline Kennedy’s private chef.

In 1966, the former First Lady moved to New York from Washington, D.C., and in need of a private chef—rich person, you know— hired Huste, a young German immigrant whose previous employer, theater impresario Billy Rose (of “Jumbo” fame!), who had just died, rendering her skills superfluous. Huste did the job to Mrs. Kennedy’s satisfaction,  feeding the occasional hoards of family members who came to visit,  accompanying the Jackie, Caroline and John-John to the Kennedy compound Hyannis Port,  in the summers and playing with the children of JFK.

Then, in 1968, Weight Watchers Magazine approached her about cooperating in a feature called “Jackie Kennedy’s Gourmet Chef Presents Her Weight Watchers Recipes.” Huste dished about Jackie’s diets and dress sizes in the article, never asking for her famous employer’s permission or consent. Jackie Kennedy was horrified, and even tried to stop publication, something the Kennedy family was and is very good at. This time, it didn’t work.

A few weeks later,  Huste gave an interview to Maxine Cheshire, then the “beautiful people” gossip columnist for The Washington Post and syndicated nationally. In return for  inside-the-Kennedy-home details, Cheshire made Huste sound like the coming star of gourmet cookery, hinting that a television show, a cookbook, wealth and fame were just around the corner. What was really around the corner was unemployment: Jackie fired Annemarie Huste, who deserved it. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, History, Journalism & Media, U.S. Society

Comment of the Day: “Unethical Quote Of The Week: Martina Navratilova”

social-media

Chris Marschner has weighed in with an exposition on social media’s impact on public opinion and society, sparked by the post here about a tennis icon’s claim that other sports stars had an obligation to use their fame to push their own often half-baked opinions on their fans.

Here is his Comment of the Day on “Unethical Quote of the Day: Martina Navratilova”:

…Social media is built on the construct of group think. That is why I think it is more dangerous than anything Trump or Clinton may do. The medium is the message.

It is not surprising that every platform uses similar concepts such “followers”. The psychology is that the larger the number of followers the higher the relative credibility. Facebook started this charade by placing a “Friends” counter on the person’s time line. “Likes” are another tool for the message makers. “Likes” are a reinforcement mechanism. Just click the thumbs up sign to validate the idea- don’t add anything- just positively reinforce the thinking. Ever wonder why there is not a dislike icon – thumbs down? Yes there is a means to comment but be prepared to have many weigh in against you if you challenge the group think. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Comment of the Day, Daily Life, Ethics Dunces, Popular Culture, Social Media

Unethical Quote Of The Week: Martina Navratilova

"Hey, Kershaw! Martina wants to know why you're afraid to give us your position on fracking!"

“Hey, Kershaw! Martina wants to know why you’re afraid to give us your position on fracking!”

“So many athletes are afraid to use their platform to do the right thing and speak what they feel, and that’s very depressing.”

Tennis legend Martina Navratilova to approving New York Times sports reporter Juliet Macur, as the former tennis great prepared for her keynote speech at a human rights event at the Department of State.

Wrong, Martina. There is no “platform.” You earned credibility and influence regarding social and political issues by intelligently and boldly standing up for your own rights and privileges, on issues that affected you directly and about which you had an important perspective and a legitimate reason to speak out. Female athletes. Discrimination. Gay rights. Feminism. You had credentials and authority in all of those areas, and using your status as a sports star to spark intelligent debate was responsible and fair.

Once you had established your credibility, analytical abilities and skill at articulating issues while taking informed positions on them, then you had earned added legitimacy separate from your athletic prowess and stardom. You’re a smart person: smart people’s informed opinions should be listened to and considered no matter what the topic. Many other athletes have expanded their legitimate authority and influence this way. Muhammad Ali. Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Ted Williams. Billy Jean King. Bill Bradley.

Athletic stardom, however, confers no more assumed expertise regarding issues unrelated to sports than being a paper-hanger or a busboy. The difference is that famous athletes, like famous singers and actors, are admired and idolized by many people, especially among the young, who are incapable of resisting the siren influence of their heroes. There is nothing good about this, and everything wrong about it. Tom Brady supports Donald Trump, and the only reasonable reaction to that is to conclude that Tim Brady is a moron. However, that’s not how blank-slate sports fans react to his endorsement. For too many of them, the sequence is pure cognitive dissonance: Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, Leadership, Sports, U.S. Society

Ethics Mega Dunce And Ethics Corrupter: “Dancing With The Stars”

Ryan Lochte, role model

Ryan Lochte…liar, boor, jerk, TV star, role model.

This announcement would warrant a KABOOM! if ABC’s popular reality show/ dance competition hadn’t already demonstrated its lack of responsibility and decency so many times before. I guess my still unexploded head should be grateful for that, at least.

Dancing With The Stars is going to include Ryan Lochte in its line-up of competing celebrity dancers in the upcoming season. Why? Because he urinated on the wall of an establishment belonging to someone else, lied about the immediate consequences, insulted the hosts of the Olympic Games he competed in, and thoroughly embarrassed the United States, of course.  He’s infamous! He’s cute! He’s a moron! Naturally, this makes him attractive to “Dancing With The Stars.”

The undeniable message such casting sends to younger citizens whose sense of ethics and appropriate social conduct are still being formed is that wrongful conduct pays. DWTS is proving that as long as what you do makes you famous, it doesn’t matter if it is reckless, stupid, harmful or illegal. Then you can cash in.

This is the message that the show has often broadcast. Kim Kardashian was a contestant because she made a sex video, was the daughter of one of O.J.’s lawyers, had a freakishly large butt and epitomized hedonism, venality, and style over substance. Perfect! Tom DeLay was on the show because he was a famously vicious and corrupt—and successful— politician. Bristol Palin’s sole qualification for the show was that she managed to be an unwed mother-to-be, engaged to a jackass, while her mother was trying to convince the nation that she was qualified to be a heartbeat away from the White House. Reality shows and the ranks of washed-up actors have  supplied the show with a steady stream of drug addicts and low-lifes  whose sole distinctions have been that they were primarily famous for doing things that would get normal people fired or imprisoned. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Popular Culture, This Will Help Elect Donald Trump, U.S. Society