“Do not let yourself be a doormat to a fool”

When I wrote my post about Occupy Boston, often my eyes were drawn away by a verse I have posted onto my monitor:

“Do not let yourself be a doormat to a fool or curry favor with the powerful.” Sirach 4:27 New English Bible

It was a verse I remembered reading decades ago, but could never find, until I found an online version of my old freshman Religion 101 Bible. Several weeks ago it came to mind, and I wanted it where I’d see it often.

As I thought about Occupy Boston, I realized that where I’d always used the verse to apply to personal relationships, it seemed especially topical. I thought at least they were standing up to the powerful. I began to ask myself, maybe not paying attention to this one word to the wise is how we got ourselves into this bit of mess.

Let’s take a look. Let’s start with my personal favorite, TV.

Real Housewives of …   

The franchise has enjoyed – to my count – seven incarnations: D.C. (cancelled), Miami (cancelled?), Orange County, Beverly Hills, Atlanta , New York City (I was once addicted to this one), and New Jersey.

As of January 2011, Rodney Ho writing online for Access Atlanta noted 3.43 million viewers for RHOA and 2.76 million viewers for RHOBH. That’s a lot of people who like to watch skinny rich women do nothing but preen and argue. Heck, when it came to RHONYC, I used to be one of them.

Then something started happening to me and it wasn’t pretty. I felt like a failure because I was neither skinny, rich, nor idle. I was supposed to be smart, right? Well certainly if I’d been as smart as I thought I was, I’d be a millionaire right? And of course, there’s no excuse for not being skinny and beautiful in this day and age, right? Anything else is clearly the mark of a woman who isn’t trying hard enough.

Then I read something. It echoed a deep little whisper my conscience had been repeating like a mantra to the rest of my obstinate little consciousness. A TV critic (whom I wish I could cite) wrote that he and others had observed that advertisers and marketing may very well have driven the abundance of scripted and unscripted shows depicting affluence in order to “inspire” audiences to be better consumers.  Crap. I knew that. Deep down I’d known that a long time ago, before I started taking in the Kool Aid through an IV.

And so, you may ask yourself, what in the name of you-know-who does this have to do with Sirach 4:27 for crying out loud?  And you’re probably also asking yourself and can you answer that in less than 150 more words?

Well, to item #2, yes.

You know, overall we fell in love with luxury and wealth. (I know some people out there were smarter than the mainstream, but I can’t include myself in that group.) We did. Let’s face it, compared to other people in other countries, we live like kings as it is, but we wanted more. Advertisers and TV and media put it out there, and we ate it up. Maybe we couldn’t feel good about ourselves unless we could buy, buy, buy so we could mimic the rich and powerful in any way we could. In doing so, maybe we were guilty of “currying favor with the powerful,” in trying to emulate them, in not questioning or challenging their motives, or in many cases their competency.  In doing so, I think maybe we (and again, I include myself in this) became doormats to fools — marketing fools, advertising fools, product development fools, and of course, investment manager fools. Now our economy is wrecked due to the greed-driven stupidity of the very wealth-mongers we so admired. I think an excellent culmination of this is the case of Bernie Madoff: look at the hard time Harry Markopolos had trying to get anyone to believe Bernie Madoff wasn’t on the up and up for ten years before Madoff confessed. People were so too busy admiring and pampering the powerful that his victims ended up being doormats to a fool.