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When Will America be Honest with Itself?

Posted by Larry Doyle on February 2, 2010 9:05 AM |

Initially I intended to write this morning about the development of a bubble in China’s property market. As I was formulating my thoughts, this commentary took a turn. I went with it. I hope you will follow along.

I strongly and adamantly believe that before you can fix a problem, you have to be honest and acknowledge the reality and the core of the problem in the first place. I remain extremely concerned about the future of our economic landscape due to the very fact that I believe many within our society at large, and the financial and political spectrum specifically, are neither honest with themselves nor the American public. In fact, time and again I find myself thinking that the media and our financial and political leaders believe America can’t handle the truth. That’s is such bulls&*%!  I believe that mentality, however, is pervasive and is poisoning our country.

In speaking with a friend just yesterday, I shared the use of a phrase which I believe is all too prevalent in far too many corners of our society and our economic landscape. What phrase is this? Superficial congeniality is a phrase coined by Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, in his book Straight from the Gut.  I have a mixed opinion of Mr. Welch, but I love this phrase and use it liberally. Why?

I want people to be brutally honest with me and I try to be brutally honest with them. In the process, real respect develops. Without respect, both for oneself and others, the necessary value structure for excellence does not develop and mediocrity inevitably sets in. I see this all too often in society today. It sickens me.

America should drive superficial congeniality out of the equation. America should demand the truth. America must be honest with itself. Unless and until that happens, we are doomed to the mediocrity that is overwhelming us. Do not think for a second that we are not a long way down that road already.

What do you think?

No superficially congenial responses, please.

LD

  • TML

    Seems like there is plenty of the “if you’re not cheating, you’re not really trying” mentality along with the superficial congeniality.

    Where has it gotten us?

    I agree this mentality is reenforced in a lot of what we see from media outlets.

    Don’t worry, be happy and do it if it feels good.

  • kbdabear

    Jim Cramer would say; “Sure we’re mediocre, but we BEAT EXPECTATIONS!!”

  • coe

    LD – perhaps I can add another turn of phrase to your lexicon, one that I think travels well with your concern about “superficial congeniality”…that is, “unearned familiarity”…in this misguided era of the cult of celebrity, it seems many feel that the 24/7 access that the paparazzi, media, talk and magazine shows offer in stripping bare the cultural rock stars – whether movie icons, pop sensations, sports superstars, business leaders or politicians – gives them the right to presume and proclaim they “know” these people and, in fact, wield influence…we see this all the time on Wall St, as salesmen and traders pretend to “know” their customers, but, in fact, have barely scratched the surface (sorry dude, a Bloomberg flare does not a relationship make)…it is blatantly fraudulent and, to be a wee bit dramatic, yet another symptom of the fall of society! Consider your column on UBS and Barack Obama…as Robert Wolf went from powerful fundraiser to trusted advisor in the wink of an eye (or, to be more accurate, from the clearing of a check to the simple act of sending our president UBS research) I find it quite easy to believe the relationship is one of mutual superficial congeniality and unearned familiarity…I may be wrong, but I believe Robert was a “Corporate” guy in his days at Salomon Brothers, though I suppose his view from the top as the UBS meltdown took place in mortgages has indeed earned him some battle scars – those, I’m sure, were indeed earned! What a perfect guy to advise BO on something this critical to our economic landscape!
    You have been quite consistent in your clarion call for transparency and honesty…we’ve all heard and even participated in conversations where one’s true feelings are revealed…in this time of crisis, where leadership is absolutely at a premium, it is more important than ever to can the phoniness, shed the disingenuousness, admit the relationship weaknesses, acknowledge the legitimate differences of opinions, and get to work in a respectful but honest way…that’s it from the cheap seats this morning – I have to get ready for a drop-in with my dear friend Oprah (watching snippets of her show I DVR’ed), for my visit to help my best buddy Jamie Dimon run JPM (I am really just using the ATM), and my dinner (i.e. sitting in the same restaurant) with Mayor Bloomberg, with whom I consulted on his last election run (I answered a pollster’s question on 86th st!)…superficial congeniality AND unearned familiarity – it’s time to “man-up” and bring some real character to this business of leading our great country as well as with dealing with our own colleagues, clients, and political and business leaders…but, I have often been wrong before and I will be again and again (perhaps not on this point though)…later LD

  • Great post. It’s high time America had this conversation nation-wide.

    I remain extremely concerned about the future of our economic landscape due to the very fact that I believe many within our society at large, and the financial and political spectrum specifically, are neither honest with themselves nor the American public. In fact, time and again I find myself thinking that the media and our financial and political leaders believe America can’t handle the truth.

    I completely agree with this statement, but I think there is a difference between being honest with yourself and knowing certain basic things. I think most people don’t even KNOW these basic things–including and especially those in the media!

    Did you know that in End the Fed by Ron Paul, he speaks of a time when he was in a house committee meeting (I think it was financial services, or banking, something like that) and he was talking about gold. Later, after the meeting, one of the committee members took him to the side and asked him if the nation was on the gold standard or not!! And Dr. Paul also says MOST congressional reps do not know basic information about our financial system–the very thing they are charged with watching and regulating! So it is not just citizens! This is like leaving your plumber in charge of your brain surgery! This generates a very special kind of craziness in me!!!!!!

    I have been thinking a lot about fiat money lately: quantitative easing and fractional reserve lending–creating money out of thin air. If people would just sit and think about what this really MEANS to their savings and freedom–their very FREEDOM–they would start to get furious and demand the proper changes.

    And the most ridiculous thing about this government of ours is that even WITH printing money out of thin air, we still do not have enough money to cover congress’ spending!!! This is insane! They get us on both ends–inflation AND overspending–and we are practically powerless to stop it because we as a nation don’t understand the fiat money end of it.

    /rantoff (LOL)






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