It’s More Than Optics

AIG that perpetual money sucking ‘living dead’ insurer, deemed ‘too large to be allowed to fail’, had a dispiriting announcement of huge bonuses. While ‘outrage’ has been expressed on both sides of the political aisle, AIG has claimed contractual commitments as a defense. People have said however that taxpayers who are hurting are unlikely to find that very reassuring. The ‘optics’ as one commentator put it, are terrible.

However, it’s more than optics. The denouement of the Jon Stewart/Jim Cramer dust-up which occurred on THE DAILY SHOW last Thursday (if you’re reading this in parts of the world where this has gone unnoticed and hence reads like ancient Greek, go onto the THE DAILY SHOW website and watch some of the exchanges — quite edifying as a journalistic ‘moment of truth’), was when Stewart poignantly pointed out that we need to go back to a time when you were rewarded for the fruits of your effort, for integrity, for being imaginative yet also playing by ethical rules, not by gaming the system, or partaking in a runaway orgy of greed and financial gamesmanship.

Yesterday, heading to an unusually satisfying movie (SUNSHINE CLEANING), I saw a book extolling the lost pleasures of conversation. It led me to consider how much of modern entertainment seems to be in the attention-diffusing business. Great conversations concentrate attention on the people you’re conversing with as well as yourself, and hopefully on the stimulus as well as the pleasure of the interaction.

Sadly, on review, the book didn’t live up to the dust jacket hype. It was ironically more about how to ‘game’ various conversations — be they romance conversations, business conversations or otherwise.  It was more about gimmicks, not the type of engagement and authenticity of exchange that real conversations are about. It has to, again, be about more than optics!

I’m convinced we need better conversations taking place now more than ever — in government, between government and citizens-at-large, between businesses and customers, between businesses and stakeholders, between families and friends, between intimates of all stripes.

“At a dinner party, one should eat wisely but not too well, and talk well but not too wisely (W. Somerset Maugham).”  In life, the well from which we draw our wisdom should not be the shouted assurances of Messrs. Cramer and co. and their ilk, but the more deliberate exchanges, and consideration of alternative points of view, afforded most often by wide-scale reading and wide-ranging conversation.

Mark Twain once suggested to someone that they stop “communicating” with each other so they could start conversing. Well, let’s at least stop communicating at each other. In the week ahead, let’s have some great conversations! And then, let’s keep them going…and expand them!