Monday, July 27, 2020

Talmudic, Biblical, Keynesian and Advertising.

Because, I am loathe to say this but I will for the sake of a blog post, I am reluctantly a leader in the industry I am no longer a part of, I get a lot of emails.

I have a big network—not Seth Godin-Simon Sinek-Gary Vaynerchuk big—but big nonetheless. Sincerely, I believe I could triple or quadruple my network if my writing weren’t so demanding. If I dumbed things down.

If I could resolve not to shave, wear woolen hats when it’s 97-degrees out, talk about my personal brand and hire a team of unpaid Georgfluencers, I could be the next Matt Gaetz in a heartbeat. Further, if I dispensed hospital waiting-room pablum like this from Gary Vee as in Vapid, strategically and expensively placed a curl on my forehead, I could be a Chief Imbecile Officer in no time.

But, I have taken a different path. I always have and I always will. I try to do what I think is right and smart and good—and mostly difficult, not what is popular, obvious and pandering. Never trust anything from anyone who spends a good portion of their time practicing expressions in front of the mirror.  

This weekend, I felt the effects of the strength of my network. I got many responses from something I posted on Friday, but on Saturday morning, I received two personal comments from two Chief Creative Officers at two major holding-company flagship agencies.

Though both of the CCOs have had great careers and I’m sure wealth like I can only imagine, they both expressed more than a little “despond” and a small bit of ‘George, what should I do?’

I think this is how many of the better people in the world face life. They don’t put on a false front where they pretend that these are the best of all possible times and the best of all possible worlds. Just last night, I finished Zachary D. Carter’s new highly-praised 600-page book on the life and influence of John Maynard Keynes, “The Price of Peace: Money, Democracy, and the Life of John Maynard Keynes.”

If you don’t think you can manage the whole thing, you’d be well-served downloading the book for $15 and reading the last chapter or two. That would take you about an hour and cost just about the same as two lattes. But instead of getting caffeinated, you’d wind up with a better sense of the giant forces that are working to create today’s tectonic geo-political trends: globalization, authoritarianism and serfdom 2.0—the result of bionic monopolies, reactionary politics and a lack of taxation that allows wealth to do what it’s always, naturally, done—consolidate.

If you read these pages, and I said this to my friends, you’d realize that you are just a tiny prawn in a giant Mu Shu and there’s not much you can do about these economic and social trends save get up at 4AM like I do and throw the occasional brick through the plate-glass of the nearest rapine-prone banking “institution,” and driving off before the local fuzz can rough you up.

There’s not much we can do against the on-rush of the forces of darkness. We can vote and protest, of course. But as Stalin wisely stated so many decades ago, “It’s not who votes, it’s who counts.” That is to say, it appears to me that America, what Lincoln called, “the last best hope of earth,” is much more last than either best or hope.

So where does that leave you and me and my two CCO friends?

It leaves us where we have always been. We can control just one thing in the world. Our behavior, our integrity, our work ethic and our standards. We can control what we consume and how we consume it. We can control what we learn and how we think. We can redouble our efforts at finding the truths of the world and the truths from the news. We can avoid fear-and-rumor mongering and demonization and bigotry of all sorts and we can speak up for what we believe in.

There is an ancient Talmudic precept that I’ve always tried to abide by. It says, “Whosoever saves a single life, saves an entire universe.”

I don’t think I can save the legacy of the Enlightenment or stave off the forces of Supremacyness where the super-Mnuchin Trump Chao-McConnell DeVos, Prince, Koch-rich believe they are god’s anointed. I cannot get these galloping Supremacists to hear those other allegedly Christian words that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven.”

All I can do, all any of us can do is do what we believe in. 

Or as John Stuart Mill said in "On Liberty,"

"A person whose desires and impulses are his own— are the expression of his own nature, as it has been developed and modified by his own culture— is said to have a character. One whose desires and impulses are not his own, has no character, no more than a steam-engine has a character.

I write this blog every day—I get around 70,000 readers a week. I work my ass off. I charge my clients honestly and do my best for them. I try to be a good friend, a good husband and a good father. I fail, I’m sure six times in ten. Who doesn’t? But I try.

Some months ago, directly after I was fired by Ogilvy, though by all measures my brand is stronger than theirs, a high-flying industry friend sent me a note. “I can’t believe Ogilvy wouldn't just keep paying you to just keep writing your blog. It does more for their brand than anything else they’re doing. With you writing they show an openness and an honesty and a sense of humor that’s virtually unknown in the industry.’

“You know,” I answered, “if they paid me $500,000 a year with a three-year contract, I’d put their name on it, pull-back by two-thirds and call it a day.”

Except I wouldn’t.

That would be selling out, caving in and lying.

And despite all the pressure to follow that holy trinity, that’s not what I do.

No comments: