There's a lot that rubs my goat the wrong way about the contemporary world.
Top among the thousand or so things I could list off the top of my head, barely pausing to take a breath or peel myself another grape are three items.
2. People Who Have No Sense of History.
4. People Who Are Really Bad at Numbering Things.
The first two on my list, Liars and Bullies, often go together. In my mind, they are best exemplified by trump, trumpism and trump's millions of enablers. (Enablers is probably too kind a word--co-traitors would be better.)
Over the past few weeks, the Liars who have really angered me are the Liars of WPP. Their lies are propagated with impunity these days because, outside of perhaps this blog and Bob Hoffman's newsletters, there is no longer an investigative press, much less an adversarial one. Most of what I read in Ad Age, Adweek and Agency Spy are rehashed press releases that accept the pablum they are spoon-fed by the dirty spoons held by the propagandists and Liars.
Specifically, Ogilvy winning network of the year. Then VMLY&R winning a similar award.
From my understanding, Ogilvy New York's office has literally been decimated, going from approximately 2,500 people five years ago to one-tenth that today. I'm not even sure, if you were being scrupulous, with such a record, your agency should be eligible for agency-of-the-block.
Additionally, for all the bombast the agencies sling about diversity, equity and inclusion, of course, no one asks--or investigates--what sort of expenditure they make toward those efforts and how it compares to the multi-millions they spend on awards. And of course, just 2% of WPP people are over 60 years old. That's one-eleventh of what it would be if they hired according to population distribution.
But, as always, I digress.
The real point of my post today is number 2 on my list or number 3, depending on my number 4.
Not long ago, I started reading "The Persians," by Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones. Like so much of what I read, the book was reviewed in the cheery, neo-fascist Wall Street Journal to veritable raves. Reading the review--book reviews are a shortcut to gaining an eclectic core of information--it hurt me to realize how little I know--and how Westernized is my understanding of our species' time on this burning orb. I didn't want to read this book. As a citizen of the world, I had to.
The Persians were writing literature, building civilization, roads and practicing diversity while the people of Europe were living in caves, painting themselves blue and buggering oxen. Yet our Western orientation keeps us ignorant of the greatness of that ancient culture.
About 100 pages in, I got to Darius.
Darius the Great.
Or Darius the Usurper.
Or Darius the Double Regicide.
But mostly, Darius the ad man. He left behind tributes to himself, telling of his power, the glory of his reign and the vastness of his doman.
The Persians had two words it would be nice to remember today.
Drauga was Lies.
Arta was Truth.
Those words, lie and honest, had deeper meanings than we employ today in the west. They were DNA-level markers of your soul.
"To be a Liar was to be a traitor and a heretic. Drauga was the opposite of Arta or ‘Truth’, a rich theological concept which meant order, justice, stability, and allegiance. To be Truthful was to be loyal to the crown and faithful to god. In the binary world of Persian theological thought, Drauga and Arta were polar opposites. The Lie was implicitly the opposite of the Truth and both the Truth and the Lie were interlocked in a nexus of cosmic power struggles. Both terms belonged equally to the political and the religious domains, which were inseparable in the Persian mind. In spite of the many falsehoods that permeate the Bisitun Inscription, Darius always presents himself as a man who does not lie..."
I realize that today, the world is not as morally binary as it was during the reign of Darius, almost 2600 years ago. We accept shades of grey and nuance. And there is very little wholly-bad or wholly-good. The are extenuating circumstances that allow us to rationalize behaviors that are destroying our planet, our nation, even our industry. And as Sammy Glick said in Budd Schulberg's great novel of lies and deception, "What Makes Sammy Run?" "Why tell the truth when you can lie?"
Why tell the truth?
If you're an agency or a brand, why bother.
Sales, stock-prices, your personal wealth will be so much greater if you embrace your inner Drauga as a corporate and personal ethic, eschewing Arta like it's a badly-timed farta.
If you're a Viktor Frankl-ite like I am, you quickly come to realize that your life really has no meaning.
You won't make a difference. Nor will your children. You will leave no mark, no legacy. No one will "Look on my works ye Mighty, and despair!"
But, whether it makes sense or not our lack of meaning is our meaning. Even though the whole world is cut and bleeding like it's been shaved like a drunken barber, that's why you have to tell the truth, that's why you have to strive for goodness, personal peace, honesty and morality.
I realize this post is more than a little inchoate. And not what most people bargain for when they stop by to read a bit of tripe on advertising.
Somehow, I'm reminded of this story, apocryphal or not.
There's a nearly dead Jew in a death camp.
A guard sees him praying. He hits the Jew with his knout. "What are you doing, Jew?" He taunts.
The nearly dead Jew looks at the guard. Maybe their eyes meet.
"I'm thanking god," the Jew says.
The guard laughs. "You will die any minute. You have lice, dysentery and typhus. You weigh less than 70 pounds. You have no hope of escape or release. What could you be thanking god for?"
"I'm thanking god that he didn't make me like you."
A bit of the Bitsitun:
[1.1] I (am) Darius, the great king, the king of kings, the king in Persia, the king of countries, the son of Hystaspes, the grandson of Arsames, the Achaemenide.
[1.2] Says Darius the king: My father (is) Hystaspes, the father of Hystaspes (is) Arsames, the father of Arsames (is) Ariaramnes, the father of Ariaramnes (is Teispes), the father of Teispes (is) Achaemenes.
[1.3] Says Darius the king: Therefore, we are called the Achaemenides; from long ago we have extended; from long ago our family have been kings.
[1.4] Says Darius the king: 8 of my family (there were) who were formerly kings; I am the ninth (9); long aforetime we were (lit. are) kings.
[1.5] Says Darius the king: By the grace of Auramazda I am king; Auramazda gave me the kingdom.
[1.6] Says Darius the king: These are the countries which came to me; by the grace of Auramazda I became king of them; Persia, Susiana, Babylonia, Assyria, Arabia, Egypt, the (lands) which are on the sea, Sparda, Ionia, [Media], Armenia, Cappadocia, Parthia, Drangiana, Aria, Chorasmia, Bactria, Sogdiana, Ga(n)dara, Scythia, Sattagydia, Arachosia, Maka; in all (there are) 23 countries.
[1.7] Says Darius the king: These (are) the countries which came to me; by the grace of Auramazda they became subject to me; they bore tribute to me; what was commanded to them by me this was done night and (lit. or) day.
[1.8] Says Darius the king: Within these countries what man was watchful, him who should be well esteemed I esteemed; who was an enemy, him who should be well punished I punished; by the grace of Auramazda these countries respected my laws; as it was commanded by me to them, so it was done.
[1.9] Says Darius the king: Auramazda gave me this kingdom; Auramazda bore me aid until I obtained this kingdom; by the grace of Auramazda I hold this kingdom.
[1.10] Says Darius the king: This (is) what (was) done by me after that I became king; Cambyses by name, the son of Cyrus (was) of our family; he was king here; of this Cambyses there was a brother Bardiya (i. e. Smerdis) by name possessing a common mother and the same father with Cambyses; afterwards Cambyses slew that Bardiya; when Cambyses slew Bardiya, it was not known to the people that Bardiya was slain; afterwards Cambyses went to Egypt; when Cambyses went to Egypt, after that the people became hostile; after that there was Deceit to a great extent in the provinces, both in Persia and in Media and in the other provinces.
[1.11] Says Darius the king: Afterwards there was one man, a Magian, Gaumata by name; he rose up from Paishiyauvada; there (is) a mountain Arakadrish by name; from there - 14 days in the month Viyakhna were in course when he rose up; he thus deceived the people [saying) “I am Bardiya the son of Cyrus brother of Cambyses”; afterwards all the people became estranged from Cambyses (and) went over to him, both Persia and Media and the other provinces; he seized the kingdom; 9 days in the month Garmapada were in course - he thus seized the kingdom; afterwards Cambyses died by a self-imposed death.
[1.12] Says Darius the king: This kingdom which Gaumata the Magian took from Cambyses, this kingdom from long ago was (the possession) of our family; afterwards Gaumata the Magian took from Cambyses both Persia and Media and the other provinces; he seized (the power) and made it his own possession; he became king.
[1.13] Says Darius the king: There was not a man neither a Persian nor a Median nor any one of our family who could make Gaumata the Magian deprived of the kingdom; the people feared his tyranny; (they feared) he would slay the many who knew Bardiya formerly; for this reason he would slay the people; "that they might not know me that I am not Bardiya the son of Cyrus;" any one did not dare to say anything against Gaumata the Magian until I came; afterwards I asked Auramazda for help; Auramazda bore me aid; 10 days in the month Bagayadish were in course I thus with few men slew that Gaumata the Magian and what men were his foremost allies; there (is) a stronghold Sikayauvatish by name; there is a province in Media, Nisaya by name; here I smote him; I took the kingdom from him; by the grace of Auramazda I became king; Auramazda gave me the kingdom.
[1.14] Says Darius the king: The kingdom which was taken away from our family, this I put in (its) place; I established it on (its) foundation; as (it was) formerly so I made it; the sanctuaries which Gaumata the Magian destroyed I restored; for the people the revenue(?) and the personal property and the estates and the royal residences which Gaumata the Magian took from them (I restored); I established the state on (its) foundation, both Persia and Media and the other provinces; as (it was) formerly, so I brought back what (had been) taken away; by the grace of Auramazda this I did; I labored that our royal house I might establish in (its) place; as (it was) formerly, so (I made it); I labored by the grace of Auramazda that Gaumata the Magian might not take away our royal house.
[1.15] Says Darius the king: This (is) what I did, after that I became king.
[1.16] Says Darius the king: When I slew Gaumata the Magian, afterwards there (was) one man Atrina by name, the son of Upadara(n)ma; he rose up in Susiana; thus he said to the people; I am king in Susiana; afterwards the people of Susiana became rebellious (and) went over to that Atrina; he became king in Susiana; and there (was) one man a Babylonian Nidintu-Bel by name, the son of Aniri', he rose up in Babylon; thus he deceived the people; I am Nebuchadrezzar the son of Nabu-na'id; afterwards the whole of the Babylonian state went over to that Nidintu-Bel; Babylon became rebellious; the kingdom in Babylon he seized.
[1.17] Says Darius the king: Afterwards I sent forth (my army) to Susiana; this Atrina was led to me bound; I slew him.
[1.18] Says Darius the king: Afterwards I went to Babylon against that Nidintu-Bel who called himself Nebuchadrezzar; the army of Nidintu-Bel held the Tigris; there he halted and thereby was a flotilla; afterwards I placed my army on floats of skins; one part I set on camels, for the other I brought horses; Auramazda bore me aid; by the grace of Auramazda we crossed the Tigris; there the army of Nidintu-Bel I smote utterly; 26 days in the month Atriyadiya were in course - we thus engaged in battle.
[1.19] Says Darius the king: Afterwards I went to Babylon; when I had not [yet] reached Babylon - there (is) a town Zazana by name along the Euphrates - there this Nidintu-Bel who called himself Nebuchadrezzar went with his army against me to engage in battle; afterwards we engaged in battle; Auramazda bore me aid; by the grace of Auramazda the army of Nidintu-Bel I smote utterly; the enemy were driven into the water; the water bore them away; 2 days in the month Anamaka were in course - we thus engaged in battle.