I love the idea of a meritocracy, but I think it should simply be divorced from self-promotion, self-advocacy, and salesmanship. I want to start a “cult of reluctant celebrity,” for there is nothing wrong with celebrity, per se, so long as the person being worshiped or celebrated doesn’t really want the attention. I want this cult to compete with the cult of LinkedIn in business; with the cult of popularity in politics; with the cult of cool in the sexual marketplace.
We should ban politicians from campaigning if they appear to actually desire the jobs they are running for. Others should promote your interests, advocate for you, recommend you for jobs. As I alluded to in a post on sexuality, the key to creating a virtuous society is to actually reward virtue. Instead, we reward cunning and salesmanship. This leads to a situation in which ruthless VC’s can milk every last good idea out of a desperate and intimidated body of creative thinkers. We wonder why creative talent often lies dormant and unused, but then demand that everyone pull together an “elevator pitch” in business or the perfect “line” at a bar. Good ideas might take more than a short elevator ride to explain, while character might need more than one line to make itself heard.
Though it is true that people usually like to do what they are good at and vice verca, being good at football, for instance, should mean that your game speaks for itself and doesn’t require your salesmanship: that is the job of a good scout or coach. Our society is currently turning into one giant, sanitized MySpace page of shallow self-promotion, where “loose connections” determine career advancement while “strong connections” (ie actual intimate relationships) become irrelevant or low priority affairs.
How is it that the Greeks knew this and yet we fail to learn from their example? (see Ostracism in Athens or petalismos in Syracuse). The truly great leader is his own best critic, not champion. Man longs for recognition, but let’s be discerning about what kind! The truly great leader longs to adore his true self, not be adored by the public directly. He longs to be adored from the future, from “history,” and founds his self-worth on that more than his current popularity. George Washington did not want the presidency! The following is spoken by a man who understands virtue ethics and true happiness:
I desire to conduct the affairs of this administration that if at the end, when I come to lay down the reins of power, I have lost every other friend on earth, I shall at least have one friend left, and that friend shall be down inside me. -Abraham Lincoln
Is this not why we love blogs? We have at least some minor assurance that the person who writes it cares more about the ideas than about self-promotion. I would like to be recognized for writing this, but essentially I’m giving it away for free and just praying that more capable people run with the idea. That’s all I want. It’s not so much that I think money corrupts absolutely, but that self-promotion corrupts absolutely.
The best author will be the one who is ashamed to become a writer. – Friedrich Nietzsche