Friday, July 03, 2020

Flattered To Death

As good as things like capitalism and democracy are, they come with some downsides. One of those is that we're often flattered by people who want our money, our vote, or both. We're surrounded by it. We swim in an ocean of it. And since this is a presidential election year in the United States, the situation is especially bad. We hear a lot about how the problem is with corrupt leaders in Washington (and wherever else), how good the American people are, what hard workers they are, how they deserve this and deserve that, are entitled to this and entitled to that, etc.

It would be simplistic to say that all of this flattery goes to people's heads. But some of it does. And that's added on top of all of the teaching of self-esteem in schools, in books, on television, and elsewhere, all of the popular sayings of a similar nature ("don't let anybody judge you", "don't let anybody put you down", "be yourself", "follow your heart", "you deserve a break today", "the customer is always right"), and so on.

For a partial antidote to all of this, see here. We should ask what we're doing to make the problem worse. Do we accept and repeat claims that most Americans are political conservatives or that most are traditional Christians, for example, despite the lack of evidence for such conclusions and the evidence to the contrary? Do we repeat common false notions of how Americans are such good people, but that a small group of political leaders (or the media, academia, Hollywood, etc.) are holding them back and bringing about most of our problems? How much of your view of America is based on wishful thinking or false notions you've accepted without subjecting them to much analysis?

Many years ago, I heard Alistair Begg tell a story from his childhood on his radio program. Listen at 17:18 here. A worker in a candy shop, apparently after hearing somebody compliment Begg about something, told him, "Sonny, flattery is like perfume. Sniff it. Don't swallow it."

1 comment:

  1. I think "follow your heart" and "be yourself" are among the worst. No thought about the nature of you or your heart. I'd guess the assumption is that they are good, or at the worst neutral, but certainly not bad. That woman is prettier than my wife, I'm following my heart into her bed.