Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cynicism and its opposite.

In agencies and HR departments across the country and around the world, creative people are excoriated for their purported cynicism, for not being upbeat, for seeing the glass half-empty, for wishing the work they are forced to produce was better and their work environment less hostile.

These creatives are often called negative, dark, difficult or cynical.

Last night I came upon a sentence in the book I'm reading that really hit me between the eyes. It is from T.J. Stiles' National Book Award-winning biography "The First Tycoon The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt." "Cynicism, of course, always seems to be the most sophisticated position to take; yet it is also the laziest (along with hero-worship, its direct opposite)."

Hero-worship is what agencies do best. Whether it's worship of the latest crap Crispin produces or some fake ad produced for a profit-making award show, that's hero worship. It's hiring a music house because they once recorded a chord on "Seinfeld." Or hiring a director because he was an assistant on "Avatar."

Worse is hero-worship in the world of new media. Think of how many "this changes everythings" we've heard over the past few years. Facebook has been made heroic. Twitter. Even Spitter which is Twitter for people who lisp.

What both cyncism and hero-worship reduce us to is an inability to judge the world on its own merits. Cynics say, essentially, everything sucks. I happen to think hero-worship is worse, though. They say, that must be great--someone cool did it.

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