Egotopia: Narcissism and the New American Landscape ⋆ Politicrossing
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Egotopia: Narcissism and the New American Landscape

Must we bear witness to one more bumper sticker proclaiming that some insecure guy loves his dog?

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“There are moments in history that divide eras, moments that serve to direct our attention, to inform us of a fundamental shift in collective perception, in professed values.”

Although he wrote Egotopia: Narcissism and the New American Landscape 23 years ago, and the book received no acclaim, John Miller, co-founder of Scenic America, was on to something.

“The emergence of the New American Landscape is such a moment,” Miller said, “whose significance, for the most part, is a steep detection of sociologists, historian, and architectural critics alike.”

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The [Greedy] New American Landscape

Keeping in mind, that his writing pre-dated the statue-toppling Leftists, here are my notes and excerpts from Egotopia:

So little of our historical landscape remains, replaced by the “New American Landscape,” that it’s hard to appreciate our present aesthetic deprivation, having few opportunities for comparison.

Must we bear witness to one more bumper sticker proclaiming that some insecure person loves his dog? We have been transformed from a society modeled on the professed virtues of balance, harmony, rights, and responsibilities to one that celebrates self indulgence in the name of self-liberation.

The ugliness of our environment is a function of our transformation from a society to communal values to one that celebrates and encourages individual self indulgence. Greed, ignorance, mindless science and technology, and excessive materialism contribute to both environmental destruction and a public confusion and ambiguity about aesthetics.

Self-absorption Reigns

In a historically brief 50 years, America has turned its back on community, as community has been traditionally defined, and embraced the suburban cultural breeding ground of self-absorption.

For people whose identity increasingly depends on what they consume, advertising messages are no longer irritating, intrusive, and inane but informative, sustaining, and nurturing.

We appear indifferent to the physical and environmental loss of our cultural heritage as, one by one, authentic small towns and charming country side are paved over.

Concurrently, we seemed pleased and satisfied in having created a physical environment in which it is literally possible to be no more than minutes by car away from refrigerated soft-drink.

One Big Shopping Strip

The great suburban transformation has remade travel, from one part of the New American Landscape to another, into merely physical motion. One travels thousands of miles to encounter the same chain stores, the same chain restaurants, and the same chain motels.

The New Man imposes himself on the environment, first by his obvious presence (car, camper van, boat trailer, videocam, screaming kids, barking dogs) and then by conditioning sales- savvy vendors to cater to his tastes. Ultimately, travel in America promises adventure and novelty while delivering standardization and mediocrity.

Of all the players appealing to the debased sensibilities of the new man, none is more capable, calculating, nefarious, and successful than the billboard industry. It has succeeded in corrupting and tainting public aesthetics, public welfare, and public consciousness. Billboards are intrusive, obnoxious, annoying, and, unlike television, they cannot be turned off.

America, the Once Beautiful

During the 1980’s the billboard lobby attempted and often succeeded in incorporating the following civic minded notions into law:

  • Modify the highway beautification act from protecting scenic beauty to preserving “Communications through the outdoor medium.”
  • Abolish the traditional use of municipal authority to remove billboards.
  • Required that all trees blocking the billboard would by law be cut down at taxpayers expense.

The billboard industry maintains that billboards save the traveling public from being bored out of their minds. They stand tall on the very border of parks, across from schools, churches, hospitals, and even within sight of cemeteries. They are a common place on sides of busses, and bus stops.

Some cities permit billboards to be placed on parking meters. The U.S. senate seriously debated selling advertising space on mail trucks and neighborhood mailboxes. Billboards have been erected on ski lifts, on golf kiosks, in little league parks, and on soft drink vending machines.

What is Art?

The billboard industry has contended openly that billboards constitute art and has promoted the notion that we should evaluate individual billboards for their effectiveness, artistry, and eye catching appeal. Marshal McLuhan would have understood the billboard industry’s need to seduce the public into focusing attention on the message and not the medium.

Billboards hawking alcohol and cigarettes nearby schools are potentially far more insidious than the availability of pornographic tapes in an adult video store.

Each day, they’re subjected to the grotesque and vial commercial solicitations, the intrusiveness and insanity of which would have shocked our collective sensibilities only a few short years ago.

Today we do not consume to live. We live to consume.

The Advertising Mob Rules

We have created and institutionalized a mob which sets for us our societal standards, cultural icons, and norms of behavior.

They now determine how America looks and feels. We have been guilty of being too generous with those that would debase our society.

Long have we been devouring our moral capital. Many are satiated on the heady narcissistic nutrients that flow so generously from our cultural bounties. Yet, even they might realize that their gluttony foretells a mighty fall.

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Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®



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Business

Avoiding Burnout

Burnout is regarded as a distinct type of stress related to demands on the job, and you can keep it at bay

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In this ever-changing, covid-plagued era, many people today are experiencing unprecedented pressures and stressors. As the stress builds up over time, these individuals suffer from burnout and feeling as if there is no time for their lives.

Burnout is a term that has made the rounds in business and general literature over the last decade and a half. It’s actually a unique type of stress that involves:

* diminished personal accomplishment,
* emotional exhaustion, and
* de-personalization.

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Although researchers are still exploring the nature of burnout, it is widely regarded as a distinct type of stress related to demands on the job.

At Risk

Who is most susceptible to burnout? Those in helping professions, or in positions that have significant amounts of interpersonal contact. This includes people in customer service departments, municipal services, and health care.

While burnout is costly to organizations, unfortunately, those organizations in which employees feel the effects of burnout, often do little to be of service. How do you know if you’re heading for burnout, or are already there?

Have you been evaluating yourself negatively lately? Does it seem to you as if you’re not making any progress or have even lost ground? If you feel as if you are not as competent and successful doing your job as you have been in the past, you’re experiencing the sensation of diminished personal accomplishment.

Depersonalization

Another clue to burnout is depersonalization. This occurs when you rotely do what you’re supposed to, but withdraw emotionally from what you’re doing. In the health care industry, this could be characterized by a nurse who follows correct medical procedures, and is cordial with patients, but no longer cares about them on a personal basis.

In business, depersonalization can be seen as detachment, a blase attitude towards peers, clients, or customers, and perhaps to one’s organization in general. If you begin to see others as objects rather than human beings, beware, you could well be on the burnout path.

The third component of burnout is emotional exhaustion. Here, it feels as if you don’t have the capacity to respond emotionally to others. Your energy level is low. You are irritated or tense. You know that you can’t give of yourself like you have in the past. Following a long weekend, or time away from work, you still loathe the thought of going back to work.

Emotional exhaustion often is the first of the three characteristics to appear when you’re in danger of experiencing burnout. Long hours and heavy demands can drain your emotional resources. People who may have been optimistic about what they could achieve on the job, and had high expectations for themselves, are particularly susceptible to burnout as they begin to experience set-backs and frustrations.

Antidotes

Among the emerging antidotes are 1) the ability to know, observe, and be involved in the outcome of your efforts, and 2) the opportunity to engage in a self-evaluation.

The first remedy allows you to maintain a mental link between what you do and what results occur. Said another way, it’s highly stressful to work at a job all day long, perhaps interacting with many, many people, and not know if what you’ve done has been of value, or been appreciated.

The second remedy, self-evaluation, involves looking at what you do with some measure of objectivity, perhaps using a chart, checklist, or scale developed during less trying times, that includes most of the key components of your job description and responsibilities.

One of the best safeguards for not falling prey to burnout is to accept the input and advice from others. Your spouse, co-workers, and friends often are able to notice changes in your behavior that may be detrimental to your well-being, long before you are aware of them. Please, listen up when somebody says “take it easy.”

If you’ve ever saw Star Trek: the Next Generation, you know that when Counselor Troi told Captain Picard to take it easy, at first, he always resisted. Then, he relented, and followed her advice. Captain Picard, I postulate, never missed a day on the bridge due to burnout.

Tune Up the Old Bod

Particularly if you’ve been putting in long hours and facing high-expectations, schedule a regular preventative medical exam, complete with cardiovascular and cancer screening tests. Many people who appear to be in good shape find out the hard way, either through a heart attack or sudden death, that all was not well internally. You and I don’t have the capability to determine how well everything is going on inside, solely based on the way we feel and perform.

Some top athletes in our time, among them Pete Maravich, Hank Gathers, and Sergei Grinkov were in top physical condition, but perished at an early age because of long-standing coronary problems that went undetected. In some cases, well-conditioned athletes who act with unknown coronary problems, actually live years past the time when a non-athlete in the same condition would have lived.

By the time you reach your forties, and certainly mid-forties and fifties, heart disease becomes the leading cause of death. Heart disease is brought on by a variety of factors such as a sedentary lifestyle, smoking too much, experiencing too much stress, getting too little rest and so on. Curiously, as more women rise to higher and higher ranks within organizations, the risk of heart disease rises as well.

Surrounded By Workaholics?

Despite the well-known, high prevalence of stress and burnout in the contemporary working world, and the resulting dangers, some organizations still maintain a culture in which employees have it tougher than it needs to be. Too many managers have the misguided notion that only wimps are stressed. These are the same managers who tend to give out stress in abundance. If only they knew that stress is real, and exacts a cost on both individuals and the organization.

Someday, organizations will be held responsible, both socially and legally, for the mental health and well-being of their employees. Until that day, you’ll probably need to accept it as a given that if you want to flourish in an otherwise potentially stressful environment, there are not many places you can look for help. You’re going to have to help yourself.

Suppose you work with a boss who unduly heaps piles of stuff on your desk with little or short notice? What are some of the strategies you can employ to keep your job, maintain your relation with your boss, and yet not be overwhelmed?

When Your Boss Wants You to Be a Workaholic

With great tact and professionalism offer these words, “I’m really over-committed right now, and if I take that on, I can’t do it justice.” Other appropriate responses:

* “I appreciate your confidence in me. I wouldn’t want to take this on knowing my other tasks and responsibilities right now would prohibit me from doing a great job.”

* “I’d be happy to handle this assignment for you but realistically I can’t do it without foregoing some other things I’m working on. Of tasks a and b which would you like me to do? Which can I put aside?”

* “I can do that for you. Will it be okay if I get back to you in the middle of next week? I currently have blank, blank, and blank in the queue.”

* “The number of tasks and complexity of assignments I’m handling is mounting. Perhaps we could look at a two or four week scenario of what’s most important to you, and when the assignments need to be completed, versus what I can realistically handle over that time period.”

Flexibility Matters

All the while, stay as flexible as possible. Frequently, your responsibilities and assignments will change. Your ability to adapt to your boss’s needs will go a long way in helping you flourish at your position,  and diminish the feelings of being overwhelmed.

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Life

130 Things for Which to Be Grateful

Whether it’s a person, object, form of entertainment, place, or concept, everyone can be grateful for many things

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I asked around and learned some of the things for which people express gratitude. Whether it’s a person, object, form of entertainment, place, or concept, everyone can be grateful for many things.

While some items on the list might not apply to you, most are items for which we can all be grateful at one time or another in our lives:

People & Relationships

Family
Friends
Good teachers
Role models
My boyfriend
My girlfriend

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My parents
My children
Babies
Siblings and cousins
Coaches
Mentors

Family reunions
Engagements and weddings
Pets
Nice wait staff
A kind landlord
High school reunion

Health

Generally good health
The ability to walk
Breathing
My genes
Good hearing and eyesight
A Sound Mind

Safety and Security

Police and Fire Departments
U.S. Military
National Weather Service
Freedom of the press
Freedom of religion
Domestic Privacy

Modern Luxuries

Clean water
Mouth wash
Cars
Public transportation
Air conditioning
Clothes that fit

Washers and dryers
Work at home jobs
Being employed
Book publishers
Financial aid
The ability to own property

Technology

GPS
DVR
Pandora
Computers
Smartphones
The Internet

iTunes
Powerpoint
Photographs

Entertainment

Movies
Broadway shows
ESPN and ESPN2
TV news
Learning Channel
History Channel

Fashion
“Retail therapy”
Xbox, Gameboy
Books
Concerts
Art

Sports

Running
Skiing
Rowing
College basketball
Tennis
Skating rinks

NHL
MLB
NBA
WNBA
Olympics
NFL

Foods

Good food
Mexican food
Sushi
Pizza Fruit
Ice cream
Crunchy peanut butter

Cream cheese
Beer
Tea
Chocolate
Asparagus
Miso soup

Places

The USA
National and state parks
Social scenes
Bars
Whole Foods, Earth Fair, and Trader Joe’s
Costco and Sam’s Club

Coffee shops
Public schools and universities
Swimming pools
The beach and mountains
Shopping malls
Cruise ships

Arboretums
Vancouver
Niagra Falls
NYC

Nature

Pretty weather
The arrival of spring
The arrival of fall
Thanksgiving
Freshly cut flowers
First snow

Concepts

Learning
Formal education
Lessons learned
Experiences
Respect
Ability to change

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