You read a memo from the CEO, feeding you a line about how there’s “no money” for raises this year, though you know darn well that your company posted high earnings and paid big bonuses to folks at the top. You watch a political debate featuring candidates trying to score easy points with alarmist rhetoric and boldfaced lies. You get a pamphlet with your new credit card that cloaks in tiny, dense print how one late payment can jack up your interest rate and that any disputes with the company must be arbitrated in a different state. You listen to an attorney for a convicted, corrupt public official or executive claiming that his client is a victim of a miscarriage of justice.
We are so constantly bombarded with messages containing lies, spin, and deception that we’ve become numbed to the reality. Sometimes it seems that all we can do is shake our heads in dismay or disgust.
Okay, I’m sounding a little bit like Howard Beale in “Network” (1976), when he famously yelled “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” But seriously, this isn’t about a simple rant. Most rants lead to temporary relief, at best, as I can attest from experience. Rather, we need to do things in a different way, and I submit that authenticity, integrity, and dignity should be our guideposts. Our institutions, communities, and politics are in bad need of these qualities, and it’s going to take a lot of effort, smarts, and determination to turn the tide.
Of course, retreat — literally or figuratively — is an option. However, while taking breaks from the seeming madness can be a healthy thing, permanently removing ourselves from the fray only guarantees that things will get worse. So, let’s step away as necessary, and then get back into the game.