Talking Cultural Diversity

a discussion board for cultural and diversity issues by Thomas Kochman and Jean Mavrelis

The Elixir Complex

By Thomas Kochman - 12.20.2009

Frank Rich’s op ed column “Tiger Woods, Person of the Year” characterizes the fraudulent image that Tiger Woods perpetrated as a big “con” although not nearly in the same category as the illusions created by leaders who “marketed to us on the way to Iraq” or those “titans who legally created and sold the securities that gamed and then wrecked the system.”

Yet the question is raised who is responsible for being taken in by the images and illusions that others directly or indirectly promote.

There seems to be little doubt that we are a nation of hucksters, people constantly preying on our fears or greed to sell us something. After all, isn’t that what politics, capitalism and advertising is all about? Yet despite what we know and the warning signs — buyer beware — that surround us we continue to be taken in. As Rich says, “We keep being fooled by leaders in all sectors of American life, over and over.”

So, as any good anthropologist or therapist would say, “What’s going on, here?”

At the core perhaps is trust: not only, among the U.S. mainstream, our willingness to trust, but even beyond that a need to give people the benefit of the doubt. To contemplate doing otherwise undermines our wish/need to believe. We are a nation of True Believers, as Eric Hoffer wrote many years ago, and, as M. Lamar Keene suggests in The Psychic Mafia, with his true believer syndrome, we’d rather believe than suffer a crisis of faith.

Ultimately then, at the personal and cultural level, it is the collective image that we have of ourselves as \”Americans\” –true, blue and virtuous– that we cling to and protect, and that is also what makes us susceptible to occasional self-delusion, the \”hard sell\” and the \”next big thing.\”

So are we right or wrong in trusting and needing to believe?

The answer, of course, is, “Yes!”

One Response so far

yep, this is sooo true, culture is who we “imagine ourselves to be”, and fairness and integrity are right at the top of our white U.S. identity list –
and we also seem to assume that people of color and new immigrants of every hue are never above suspicion – maybe that’s why Tiger’s “fall” as a man of color “hurts so bad”.

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