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.”

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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News

RNC: A Convention for the Ages

Night after night, hour after hour, one fabulous speaker with one fabulous message after another appeared on stage

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Long-time convention watchers on both sides of the political spectrum agree that the 2024 Republican National Convention in Milwaukee was one for the ages. The electricity in the room was off the charts. Delegates from across the 50 States sensed that they were in for something unique and special.

What Sets it a Part

Virtually all conventions have stirring speakers, but in this particular convention it seemed as if night after night, hour after hour, one fabulous speaker with one fabulous message after another appeared on stage. Whether it was the gold star parents, Donald Trump’s expert golfing granddaughter, Peter Navarro recently out of prison, Vivek Ramaswami with his incredible insight and diction, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Kellyanne Conway, Dr Ben Carson, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, both of Donald Trump’s elder sons, and their mates, J.D. Vance, and everyone in between, it is difficult to fathom how the convention could have proceeded any better, at least from the standpoint of television viewing, if not for all in attendance.
 
With the backdrop of Donald Trump dodging a bullet just days earlier, people were excited to know that not only would he be presenting on the final day, but that breaking with tradition, he would appear every evening, along with members of his family. We were introduced to grandchildren we’ve never seen before. Trump’s long history of friendships with those in the fight game, as well as real estate developers, recording artists, and everyday people was on display.

Invigoration Plus

The convention goers were invigorated. Each state’s delegation proudly supported Donald Trump, and J.D. Vance, and played significant roles throughout the four days, as well as some of the early activities the weekend before.
 
With the impetus that the GOP has following the convention, it’s time now to ensure that the nearly state goes Republican in a strong way. The wind is at our backs, we feel energized, we’ve got the volunteers, our mission is clear, and now it’s time to make it happen.
 
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Life

The Elusive Nature of Integrity

Integrity is the summation of the decisions we’ve made and actually yields an easier, joyful, and more powerful life

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In the operating room of a great hospital a young nurse had her first day of full responsibility. “You’ve removed eleven sponges, Doctor,” she said to the surgeon. “We used twelve.”

“I’ve removed them all,” the doctor declared. “We’ll close the incision now.”

“No,” the nurse objected. “We used twelve.”

“I’ll take the responsibility,” the surgeon said grimly. “Suture!”

“You can’t do that!” blazed the nurse. “Think of the patient!”

The doctor smiled, lifted his foot, and showed the nurse the twelfth sponge. “You’ll do,” he said. He had been testing her for integrity – and she had it.

This story, related decades ago by noted editor and author Arthur Gordon, illustrates a key component of integrity: having the courage of your convictions – sticking to your guns, doing what you believe is right, and not fearing to speak out. Such actions are needed in the world today where looking good, showing up well, and garnering favorable press predominate. At the root of our existence is the need for the re-emergence of integrity as a common element in the collective character of humankind.

No Paragons

No one lives a life of absolute integrity. Rather, it is an ideal for which to strive. Even those who consistently display integrity can be overwhelmed by what is left over – what wasn’t acted upon and what wasn’t met with integrity.

Integrity is difficult to define. Eleven dictionaries carry eleven different definitions. We know integrity when we see it, but we have trouble explaining it. There is an illusive nature to integrity. It cannot be self-proclaimed, only observed in others. Yet most acts of integrity are performed in private and not subject to public review.

Those who have integrity in large measure have discovered something that the rest of the world must know – that integrity, which many look upon as being comprised of sacrifice, struggle and non-advantageous decision making, actually makes life easier, joyful and powerful.

After the fall youth soccer season, the head coach of  the second grade team resigned. To ensure continuity, the assistant coach was asked to take over as head coach for the spring season. He accepted the position.
Less than a month before the season started, the new  coach changed jobs. His new job was a high-pressure executive position requiring longer hours and more travel. There would be conflicts between the demands of the new job and the needs of the soccer team. But the new coach stuck to his commitment to the players and their parents.
He was rewarded for toughing it out. The soccer team, playing in a more difficult division, had a good season. But the best part of the story is what happened on the job: he earned a bonus for outstanding performance!

Historian Arnold Toynbee observed that of 21 notable civilizations, 19 perished “not from external conquest but from the evaporation of belief within.”  In his address to the Illinois State Chamber of Commerce, Charles H. Brower remarked that “today our country still has a choice. I believe it has always begun to make that choice. I believe it is going back to its old beliefs – such things as ideas, pride, patriotism, loyalty, devotion and even hard work.” Though those words were spoken over three decades ago, their ring of truth is now being heard.

Curiously, we discount acts of integrity practiced by others, not believing that they can have done what they’ve done simply because they thought it to be right. Paradoxically, we’re quick to condemn others who vividly display a lack of integrity, all the while overlooking or forgetting our own lapses.

Emily Carruthers was a teacher in an elementary school in Spokane. A dispute between the school administration and the teacher’s union surfaced. At a union meeting the teachers discussed striking. After the vote to strike, Carruthers got up and voiced her opinion. She knew her opinion would be unpopular and she knew that she would alienate people because of it. Nevertheless she told the teachers that she would cross the picket line as she deplores strikes.

What is Integrity?

Many things, really. Perhaps it is the pivotal concept of what it means to be human and involves fully accepting one’s humanity. Integrity has many synonyms however no single synonym is sufficient;  trustworthiness, loyalty, virtue, sincerity, candor, uprightness, honesty. Integrity is also the avoidance of deception and the avoidance of expediency. It is being complete and undivided.

During a bitter cold snap, quick action by concerned neighbors stopped flooding from a burst pipe in an unoccupied house. Early one morning, water was spotted gushing from under the back door of the house. Two neighbors, who had no key, got inside by dismantling a window frame.
They found the entire lower level of the house flooded with two feet of frigid water. The two men ignored the icy geyser spraying from the ruptured pipe and shut off the water line. Using push brooms, they swept the water out the back door. They moved furnishings upstairs to dry out. Then they reassembled the window frame.
Another challenge was notifying the homeowners of the situation. Neighbors knew only that they were visiting relatives in the Miami area. Long distance directory assistance provided a list of a half dozen people with the same Iranian surname. On the second call, the residents were located. Because of the early notification, they were able to expedite the insurance claim. Neighborly resourcefulness and persistence had averted a major household disaster.

All that We Are

Integrity is an achievement, not a gift. It is not the characteristic that determines decisions. It is the summation of the decisions we’ve made. Integrity communicates to others immediately. It is being the same person to everyone. It’s not noble; it’s not altruistic; it is a practical vehicle for living effectively, for having life work. It is maintaining values steadfastly and focusing on what you believe is right.

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