Last Updated Dec 21, 2009 12:10 PM EST
- A morally and ethically-bereft CEO who made millions in bonuses while the company tanked and shareholders went broke?
- Politicians who say anything to get elected, then flip-flop? Who wouldn't know fiscal responsibility if it jumped up and screamed "China owns us!"
- Tiger Woods for letting all his followers down by cheating on his wife?
- Big-ticket lawyers who get rich on class-action lawsuits or by representing terrorists?
- Actors who hang out with dictators and endorse quick fix diets and homeopathic cures that are supposed to heal things that aren't even wrong with us?
When you're born, your brain is 100 percent ego, preservation of "self" being the only thing that really matters. Then you discover these super beings called mom and dad who are really in charge. So you learn to manipulate them into taking care of you. Those who get good at that have strong survival skills, are possibly of higher intelligence, and may end up a bit on the narcissistic side.
But somewhere along the line, usually in your teens, you realize that those super beings are nothing of the kind. They are, in fact, ordinary humans. So you become judgmental, act out for a few years until you discover that you're human too, and develop a little empathy. When you start to realize that the entire world doesn't revolve around you, you're well on the road to adulthood.
In my estimation, that process happens the way it's supposed to oh, maybe 25 percent of the time. The rest of us, well, we look like adults, sometimes even dress and act like adults, but we've still got perhaps a bit much of the narcissistic - child - ego thing going on. It doesn't make us bad people, although our spouses and employees might sometimes disagree.
Anyway, one aspect of being something of a child in an adult body is that we still, in much the same way we did with ourselves and our parents, hoist people up on pedestals. But we don't just do it because we need to believe in super beings to take care of us. We also do it so, when these super beings inevitably act like humans and fall off the pedestals we put them on, we get to feel like we're better than them. Ergo, that makes us super. Get it?
Now, I'm not saying we should cry for business and political leaders who make all the rules and the money. And I'm not saying we shouldn't hold them accountable when they screw up. Far from it. But we also need to hold ourselves accountable by not putting ordinary humans on pedestals.
Look, the sooner we realize that our leaders are a reflection of ourselves, the sooner we realize that "they are us," the sooner we develop some empathy for them, the sooner we start acting like responsible adults, the sooner they will too -- and not a moment sooner.
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