Goodenough Gismo

  • Gismo39
    This is the classic children's book, Goodenough Gismo, by Richmond I. Kelsey, published in 1948. Nearly unavailable in libraries and the collector's market, it is posted here with love as an "orphan work" so that it may be seen and appreciated -- and perhaps even republished, as it deserves to be. After you read this book, it won't surprise you to learn that Richmond Irwin Kelsey (1905-1987) was an accomplished artist, or that as Dick Kelsey, he was one of the great Disney art directors, breaking your heart with "Pinocchio," "Dumbo," and "Bambi."

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Hmm. On the one hand, this *feels* right, in the sense that for politicians, say, or for the entertainment industry, this corresponds exactly to me intuitions/prejudices/whatever about how the people dominating and staffing those industries work. But I'm an outsider looking in, there.

In cases where I'm not so much of an outsider -- law, for example -- you have to balance the impression you get that the top attorneys are all hyper-efficient machines against the knowledge that the top attorneys you actually know simply aren't. And then, even beyond that, there's anecdotes like this one, where you see a partner at Cravath Swaine & Moore -- one of the most respected firms in the country -- behaving like a freak during a deposition. Clearly there's still plenty of space for flawed, human neurotics to rise to positions of prestige, power, influence, etc. Because they still do.

Probably some kinds of personalities succeed better than others in today's economy. But I'm not persuaded that the author's picture of the successful personality is really accurate. I think she's (perhaps self-consciously) positioning herself as an outsider looking in, and judging on a generalised image, rather than specific substance.


Well, I agree in part. It's clear that, for instance, a writer who looks good and sounds hip on a book tour will out-advance one who doesn't. Really homely female lawyers had better be darn good! And in some circles people look at you funny for not having had plastic or weight-loss surgery.

But I think it's largely because we're no longer competing in some small closed circle. It may be relatively easy to be the prettiest girl at Selma Baptist Church or in a remote village. Not so likely in a big city or on the internet.

The gift of this is I'd never heard "Annoy A Liberal -- Work Hard, Make Money, Be Happy." Doesn't say you can't be funny-shaped while you do it, or that it has to be a lot of money.

I sympathized recently at the airport with a hard-working person -- parking cars, I think -- and he said, "I work hard all day, and sleep well at night."

The rich and the celebrated should do so well. I should do so well.


Balfegor -- good point that when you know someone up close, generalizations go out the window. Comedy is made up of generalizations, and this essay, in its best moments, is comic. Generalizations and stereotypes also are extracted and distilled from something in reality, which is why they can be so dangerously seductive.

But mainly I think the lines have simply softened because the new streamlined style of succeeding has been around for a while. People are still striving lamely and gamely to achieve it, which is why perhaps the last remaining pure Mutant Elite types are the purveyors of books and videos about how to become a Mutant Elite.

And if you knew them personally, even they . . .

I know a couple of people, successful in media, who could be described as Mutant Elites, who are really generous and warm-hearted in a kind of breezy, hit-and-run way. What distinguishes them is that they've learned (by the same trial and error as the rest of us, but they've actually learned) not to do anything to their own detriment, at least in their professional lives. (No one gets through personal life unscathed, deal or no deal.) They've learned to take care of themselves, to protect themselves (a necessity since so many people want something from them), and not to feel guilty about it. New Age spiritual beliefs (which both hold) are very helpful in this. Neither Jewish martyrdom nor Christian self-sacrifice is in evidence.

PD Quig

I would sleep well at night if my bladder didn't interfere. Here's a thought: Toss out the damn TV and don't bother with the rest of the mass media either. If you're funny-shaped you can still work your heart, lungs, arms and legs enough to remind yourself why they're there. If you still forget why you're here, spend some time with a child outdoors. If you are a f**k-up, well, that's natural.

Thanks for reminding me why I left the Left. So much navel-gazing so little embracing of life. So much angst, so little time.

Richard Lawrence Cohen

The bottom line is, I'm utterly delighted that you're finally posting this after threatening to for ages! And yes, the people with Mutant Elite images are also human beings underneath, but maybe what's underneath isn't so important anymore. Maybe the feeling, thinking individual soul was only in fashion for four or five hundred years. We're on the brink of the parahuman era, and the percentage of our lives in which we remain merely human steadily decreases.

I love the line from 1984, "In this decade, the message has really reached its infuriating zenith." Little did she know!


Richard: I had a hard time refraining from inserting an editorial comment right there. I decided to put duct tape over my mouth and not even bold anything.

PD: You fulfilled my prophecy that this would be taken as mere liberal whining, about how failure is proof of virtue or superiority, maybe. I don't deny that it's there (and having left the left myself, it annoys me too), but it's twined kudzu-like around something else, about human evolution or something, that's worth hearing and even worth retyping. Just try and peel off the kudzu.

Dilys: You've just captured in a nutshell why working-class Americans identify with the wealthy and vote Republican!


I'm sorry for perhaps being a M.E. wannabee, but I just don't want to call myself a 'fuckup', even if I am. I just don't to think that everyone should have that helpless feeling. Ugh! If this is 'humanism', to hell with it! There's a lot of ugliness in these statements, not humanity! No wonder the M.E.'s started rising! Who wouldn't if this is the 'humanist' alternative! My gut level reaction is that you're creating the M.E.'s you dislike out of the sheer negativity of your current views! Phew!


There are two "yous" here -- the frame, which is me and my blog, and the essay, which is by journalist Marcelle Clements. We are not the same, nor does publication imply endorsement of every word of the essay. But there's something here I do stand by, and that is the way it points out the stark and phobic American division of the world into "winners" and "losers." No matter which side you identify with, as Balfegor suggested, it's a false division. Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur, and the guy Dilys met parking cars at the airport may well be a winner in his own terms. Identifying defiantly with the "loser," as Marcelle does (for comic effect), and much of the left does, can be an endless excuse not to find your own way to succeed. Identifying with the "winner," however, can also make you cruel to your own inner "loser," unforgiving and ashamed of your own human weaknesses. "Don't ever let them see you sweat."


Some advice for Ms. Clements, and fellow travelers:

(1) Watch what your eating; try to avoid sugar and carbs. They're probably making you depressed, just like they made me depressed when I ate them in large quantities. Eating Omega-3 fatty acids may help too. Seriously. It is not healthy, not philosophical, and most certainly not normal, to go through life anxious and depressed. Many times, what people consider a spiritual/existential malaise or funk can have a hidden physiological cause.

(2) I'd advice you to read some Ayn Rand, especially Atlas Shrugged. Though the work has it's flaws, Atlas is a good thought experiment on what would happen if the human beings you call "mutants" suddenly stopped working so hard and became nice normal, laid-back people like you. In a few words: economic upheaval, anarchy, death, and a collapse of modern civilization into the dark ages. Rand's works also go into the foolishness of basing your self-esteem on comparisons with other people, which Ms. Clements seems to do in her article with an almost stalker quality.

Hale Adams

Hello, amba,

I think another thing to bear in mind here is how Mutant Elite-ness is probably a reaction against the "malaise" of the '70s. Back then, everything seemed to be going to Hell in a handbasket (I was in my teens, then), and "hopelessness" (in the sense of the survey) was everywhere. Complaints about Mutant Elite-ness shouldn't be seen as liberal whining. It's just that some of us (and I am NOT a Republican) don't like the idea of a return to the Bad Old Days of the '70s.

A pendulum can swing just as far in one direction as it does in the other. Eventually we'll see a return to normalcy, whatever that is. (Maybe a return to the psychic status-quo of 1910, before the world went crazy in 1914? World War I and its consequences plague to this very day.)


Hale -- one of my eccentric mentors, novelist Robert Louis Nathan, impressed me greatly about 30 years ago with the insight that World War I was the unappreciated root of a host of subsequent, persistent evils -- the 20th century careening off the rails right at its beginning. Interesting to hear that again from you!


if the human beings you call "mutants" suddenly stopped working so hard and became nice normal, laid-back people like you. In a few words: economic upheaval, anarchy, death, and a collapse of modern civilization into the dark ages.

Um, that is, in fact, crap. If you take your head out of Ayn Rand for a second and look at the real world, you will find that every bridge-builder, doctor, lawyer, artist, novelist, architect, street-cleaner, teacher, truck-driver, poet, nurse, and other person who keeps the human project more or less going is human. A lot of them try to be nice and sometimes fail; a lot of them work really hard some of the time and other times collapse in front of American Idol; and I bet that all of them can be subject to even the unsexy vices of laziness, apathy, envy, and the desire to hide under the pillow when they hear noises at 4am. On the other hand, unlike Rand's cyborgs, they do seem capable of human relationships that aren't based on rape and fantasies of domination and submission and also of being nice to their mothers. Oh, and also unlike Rand's cyborgs, they exist. They're people.


It is not healthy, not philosophical, and most certainly not normal, to go through life anxious and depressed. Many times, what people consider a spiritual/existential malaise or funk can have a hidden physiological cause.

Right. If only St Paul and Shakespeare had avoided sugar and carbs.



(1) St. Paul was anxious and depressed? Have you ever read the Book of Phillipians? Would you "count it all joy" if you spent decades being run from town to town, persecuted, imprisoned, shipwrecked and threaten with execution by the government? If not, wouldn't you have a legitimate beef to be depressed?

Shakespeare was depressed? Did you get ahold of his personal diary, because the last time I checked historians were having trouble even confirming he was alive or wrote half the stuff he did. We can only speculate on his true outlook on life

(2) By no means do I think Rand's writings was 100% infallable or not without alot of psychological hangups; you can knock those strawmen down all day long. But I've been around the block a few times--through businesses, law firms, and entreprenurial ventures--and I can assure you the world really is 10% of the people doing 90% of the work. I've had bosses who were so mean, driven and tough that I wanted to slug them somedays. But they were the people who worked the late hours. They were the people whom you always came to when you needed answers to "how to do this or that", because they spent their 20s and early 30s learning the arcane crap their trade demands. They were the people who made people do the critical tasks needed to keep the organization from losing customers or screwing up something major. And they were people who lived their lives with integrity, despite how wealthy they got or didn't get.

Working for them were people only willing to do simple tasks and collect a paycheck at the end of week, who were unable or unwilling to learn what the boss knows or do what the boss does. They weren't necessarily bad people or bad employees, just as not motivated. You can't blame them, given the huge sacrifice of time and energy it takes to be truly great in any given field. But I will say that if the boss decided to show up and be the boss, the whole organization would collapse if they were the only ones around.


"[I]f the boss decided not to show up and be the boss, the whole organization would collapse if they were the only ones around."

I guess we really do sometimes fail.


Protagonist: the entrepreneur as hero certainly accounts for the productivity and technological advancement in the world. But I suggest that you wouldn't want a world made up ONLY of entrepreneurs either (and you couldn't have one if you did want it).

I was talking with a friend who's starting a family foundation, about recent criticism of the microcredit movement, for which Muhammad Yunus of the Grameen Bank just won the Nobel Peace Prize. The criticism is: not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur. Therefore, you have to have some way of identifying the entrepreneurially gifted or motivated.

The Ayn Randish view of the world can become as one-dimensional as saying that only artists, or saints, or hell, mothers, really fulfill their human potential and do the necessary work of the world. Artists may indeed have a higher rate of depression (or manic-depression) than members of other professions, but I don't think you'd want to live in a world that had been devoid of them (and time does the job of selecting those with staying power). Artists of course work extremely hard, but read their letters -- they also do a lot of gestating, lying-fallow, and . . . whining. It's part of their preparation, like grinding pigments.

So the Nike just-do-it personality certainly accomplishes much, but it's not the only effective style of accomplishment. Art moves more crabwise, but gets places that enterprise never goes.

The Snob

Speaking as a right-winger with some mutant elite qualities, I don't think this is a right-left thing at all. I live in Boston and am surrounded by real mutant elites who would never dream of pulling a lever for anyone not considered liberal. The law schools alone up here are full of them.

What I think happens on the right is that the "I can't keep up with this world" sentiment probably gets redirected towards religious faith, which often advises against mutant elitist tendencies.

Likewise, I think women with more conservative values who feel lost in the working world are likely to react to this by getting married, staying at home, and raising children. Caring for a family is hard work and there are certainly mutant elite mothers, but I think there is an important difference between the two settings. Barring malfeasance or deep negligence, mom can't get fired by mutant-mom Mrs. Jones across the street, but her husband does in fact have such an issue with his mutant-boss Mr. Jones.

As an entrepreneur, I have mixed feelings about the idea of a world full of entrepreneurs. After all, we need to find our employees somewhere :)


I saw The Secret. Some of it I think is true -- we attract things into our lives with our thoughts and attitudes. We are all interconnected parts of a great universal mind, so naturally what we think matters. And even for atheists, positive thinking makes a difference, because feeling helpless just makes you tired and depressed.

But of course positive thinking is taken too far, and using the "secret" to acquire personal wealth and power doesn't seem at all spiritual to me.

Wanting to be successful is good, wanting to be successful and stepping over others in the process is bad.

So of course this is another question of balance and common sense.

I try to adjust my thinking. My mind naturally gravitates into negativity. I don't need to work at feeling hopeless, it just happens. I do have to work at feeling positive, and I use any new age thing that works for me. There is truth in it, and it's valuable as long as you don't take it too far or use it for selfish ends.

It's much better than whining all day (which is what I would do without spiritual self-help -- now I only whine part of the day). I have seen a lot of this at Barbara Ehrenreich's leftist blog. People who can't get their lives together prefer having something outside themselves to blame. Barbara encourages them to whine and blame the evil capitalist system, and they love it.


Snob -- brilliant!! To see religion, which among other things archives a nook of the past, as the refuge on the right.

There sure are mutant elite moms (and dads) -- the ones who are building a resumé to get their toddler into Harvard. In my limited acquaintance they are found on both "wings;" it's more a matter of class (and maybe generation) than ideology.


now I only whine part of the day

LOL, real, that's progress!


This is simply sad. No need to refer to Ayn Rand arguments, the author of this is simply a pathetic individual. The author sets up people that are successful in their given fields as "mutants" and takes pot shots at them for it. There are people that seem "too perfect" and seem soulless, but, I'm sorry, that doesn't add one whit to his hateful, jealous soul. In fact, it turns him from an ordinary human being into a colossal failure. Positive/Negative worldviews don't come into this, this article is a black hole. If this were a general thread, the author would a troll no one would feed.


Stefan, one thing you missed: she's being funny. It may not be your idea of humor, but it is not exactly a straight-up, straight-faced self-presentation. It's more like a grossly exaggerated stand-up routine with a serious subtext.


Amba, I didn't miss the "humor." I laughed outloud at the foolishness of preppies in the similarly dated Preppy Handbook. That was good. This is not. I stand by my statement. Troll writ large.


::Advisory- dripping sarcasm ahead::

amba - It's worth noting that truly helpless poverty is only possible in societies that reject elitism (communist states), and in places that can't or won't support the 'game' (corrupt failed states). And it's significant that you'd be hard pressed to find a leader of one of these dust-strewn, distended-belly, flies-on-lips, AIDS-stricken countries who would disagree with the tone of 'The Rise of the Mutant Elite.'

Filthy Western Capitalism, it seems, is a grave threat to human prosperity. It's good to know that liberals have their priorities straight.

It's also interesting that within the realm of huge, costly, and failed relief efforts (a predominantly liberal domain) the micro-enterprise efforts amba mentioned are small a sign of hope. Yet the liberal whiners' response to this uniquely successful 'mini capitalism' solution is the shallow complaint that it doesn't work for everyone. Boo hoo. Try making a success out of ONE of your hippie-sunshine granola-crunching feelings-sharing welfare-entitlement pipe dreams WITHOUT the help of 'Mutant Elitism'... then we'll talk.

Mutant Elitism should not be the only way to measure and guide our society, but its influence (and I would say its predominance) is VITAL to our success.



Sorry, but my friend with the family foundation is a conservative/libertarian who hates government, and the critics of microcredit he was telling me about are conservatives as well. They are critiquing it from the point of view of effectiveness -- it doesn't work as well as it could, or rather, it provides a leg up out of extreme poverty but not necessarily into the middle class. What will make it work still better?


That is: they are all firm believers in market, entrepreneurial, motivation/incentive solutions to poverty.


Truly, i have to say i don't ~get~ much of any of this- mustn't be my taste in humour, either.

Oh, i think i get the Elitist angle(the mutant must be the funny part, but i see nothing much mutant about it all- just pretty projectional). I like using that word "Elitist"(it's kinda dirty, eh? It spits out the mouth&off the tongue nicely)- but, i use it more for attitude as opposed to wealth or class. Or, generation.

Either way- i could care less, i guess. Busy gauging the size of the gaping hole in our barn roof and praying our insurance will cover it(2 much snow) and also thanking God for sparing life and limb - both human and bovine. Life can always be much, much worse- and it can always get better.

As for balance, that's where things get screwy- the way markets are set up sucks. When whey is sold for 6$/# in Natural Foods stores and the farmer is only paid .08$/cwt... it hurts. No parity.


sigh... there you go, dumping all the wind out of my sails.

I have no answer to your decent question. I can only reply that it felt really good to write what I did, and achieving that goal didn't require accuracy :P

I do have a thought on microcredit, though. I don't think it's about pulling people into the middle class. It's about making a success, a hope, and an aspiration. In short, it's a simple PR campaign for a trial-size package whose big old daddy is Mutant Elitism. I think programs like Mary Kay or Amway should be running alongside microcredit. Not to get people hooked on consumer crap... but to celebrate the first congolese woman who drives into her village in a pink cadillac. "Wow, maybe I too could cruise the dirt roads in my OWN pink caddy!"

This sort of image is repellant to those who hate consumerism and mutant elitism... and I have to admit it's pretty bad. But it's bazillions of times better than stone-and-dirt poverty. Some anti-mutant-elite, anti-consumer people would rather people starve than have those people drink coca cola and eat mcdonalds. They should be so lucky. To eat rather than starve, I mean.

Some side effects of mutant-elitism can make us sort of plastic-wrapped, self-doubting, Wal-mart-bought shadows of ourselves. Like someone telling us we're either sharks... or bait. Maybe there is pressure for us to 'conform' or 'perform'... But I'd choose that over flies on my face any day.


I can hardly wait to read the next part of the essay. Maybe it does have a lot of whining, but it at least partially articulates something that has bothered me for a long time. And no, I'm not overly depressed about it, just somewhat distressed when I think about it too much. In the 20 or so years since this was written, the view of the Mutant Elites that a person's worth as a human being is directly related to the size of their mutual fund and/or their celebrity has become firmly entrenched among those on both the right and the left. There is a well known libertarian talk show host here that regularly refers to people who don't make a six-figure income by the time they're 35 as lazy, incompetent slobs who aren't even trying to "succeed". Firefighters, cops, EMTs, nurses, teachers - all losers by his definition, I guess.

Don't get me wrong. I know how privileged I am to live in a society in which six- and seven-figure incomes are within reach of those who truly desire them. I'm just tired of the division of human beings into winners and losers based on such a shallow criterion.

Bruce Beckner

It's nice of you to dig this 20+ year old artifact up and hang it on the clothesline for us to examine.
The author uses a standard trope favored by academics and others: watch a little television and professed to be horrified and what she sees.
Well, this, to me, is a little like going into a grocery store and professing shock and outrage that they don't sell lawnmowers.
The unstated premise of these and similar essays is that television matters, and because it matters, they wish that television's values were more in line with theirs.

Well, 20+ years into the "long tail" we are well into the fragmentation of "mass culture" into a million little, different pieces, each of which matters to somebody. And, I would hope we would be a little smarter about "celebrity" in all its forms (of which this is one manifestation) -- recognizing that it comes at a personal cost that often is very high.

So, to use a hackneyed phrase, there are lots of "alternative lifesytles" out there for the non-robotic. If you're in one, you know something the "robots" don't know, but eventually will find out . . . the hard way.


The main problem with this essay is that it is based on a perception of reality rather then reality. The book "The Millionaire Next Door" explains that quite clearly (as an aside I never knew my family had money until I was a junior in college, and reading that book was an experience).

For example, I know a guy worth 8 figures or more, who if you saw around town would be wearing an old T-shirt and jeans with holes in them. He often goes into a bank like that and will ask for a loan of a couple million for a development project, then he'll be out on a bulldozer that afternoon. He's just a good old boy, has a good family, married only once and is still married. It may be that this is the reality from a red state, but the statistics from that book generally support that it's reality everywhere. However, that's not the reality that people learn about on TV, and therefore they never realize that they're perceptions are totally incorrect.

The article says more about the author's personality, and general prejudices then it does about anything else. When thinking about the author I could not get the lyrics: "I want to be different, like everybody else I want to be like" and "I want to ... assert my individuality along with the others who are different like me" out of my head ("It's Saturday" by King Missile).


It is so weird to find this via Instapundit the very day after I attended a Learning Annex expo on Real Estate and Wealth. Donald Trump was the keynote speaker.

As is usually the case with profound issues hopelessly split down innumerable false alternatives born of bad philiosophy, there's no way I could cover every point I want to make to the depth it really needs, so here's a few scattershots:

1. This isn't a "liberal" whine. Liberalism, properly understood, is the political outgrowth of that greatest and original self-improvement movement, the Enlightenment, which held such notions as human moral perfectibility. No, this essay is a Leftist whine, predicated on the Left's own version of Original Sin.

2. By "human" the essay means the weak, the hopeless, the fuckup in man, instead of the heroic aspect which the "Mutant Elites" do (see "Original Sin" above). If that is "humanism", to hell with it.

3. There is far more of the Enlightenment individualism amongst the Mutant Elite than amongst the priests of angst; the author's claim to individuality as opposed to the M.E. is disingenous.

4. That essay is far too expressive and accurate of the Left's basic sense-of-life, to be funny... at least to those of us outside it.


All that being said, there is nonetheless something askew with the M.E. as it currently stands, based on what I saw yesterday. Something is askew there. But that essay is nowhere near putting its fingers on it.

I never saw any indication that such as the parking lot attendant were any less than they were; several speakers, including Trump, made clear that not everyone was cut out for entrepreneurship, and there was nothing wrong with that. One could argue that some of them *do* think like that, but I would say, who is representative? Trump or those people?

Methinks that this is indeed more "navel gazing"; it speaks much, much more about the sort of dysfunctional relationship with reality that people riddled with such miserable sentiments have.

Rich Rostrom

Clements wrote this essay 22 years ago. Treating this as some kind of trenchant comment on The Way Things Are Now is like a 60s pundit responding to _The Best Years of Our Lives_, or an 80s pundit bloviating about the hippies in the streets.


I'm treating it as a trenchant comment on the craze for the book "The Secret."


A really good friend of mine is currently reading ~The Secret~ and is buying copies to share w/all her friends- so i'll be getting a copy.

It reminds me way a lot of the Amway thing, amba- Quixtar and all the self-help books and tapes of ~speakers~ that the folk belonging have to purchase and listen to or read.

We try so hard to find the exact formula to get the most out of life-- in all aspects. I think our efforts are stressed so much- we are too tired to appreciate when it's all said and done.

Donald Trump. I find him interesting because, you know- he really is a pro at what he does.


Karen -- thanks for reminding me, I was horrified that someone in this comment thread (one of the humorless libertarians from Instapundit) recommended Amway with a straight face. Anything that generates this much bad press from former insiders may not be what it claims to be (and of course the Amway insiders say those who complain are just unmotivated losers -- same trick as est, etc.: if you have any doubts, complaints or suspicions, they only reflect back on you).

I had to watch the first season of "The Apprentice" for a job and, you know, I came out of it liking Donald Trump. I think he has comically bad taste (his Sun King apartment, e.g.), but he seems very real, capable, straightforward and no-bull, and he is obviously having a good time. Somebody has to build playgrounds for the rich, eh?


Apologies -- going back to find the reference to Amway, I find that it was NOT one of the "humorless libertarians" from Instapundit, but one of the thoughtful libertarians with a sense of humor from Instapundit. I should not have spoken so quickly. Lord, we bloggers do love to shoot our mouths off.

But I still do not think we should be promoting pyramid schemes in the developing world. The reality of those is that a few people DO get rich, but many more lose their investment. Their hopes are dashed and they are made to feel that it's their own fault -- hardly a good motivating tactic. More of a heartbreaker. It's not just that the people who are most devoted and motivated get rich. It's that their enrichment depends on an ever-widening pool of hopefuls, some of whom, however motivated, will simply be unable to make the demanding up-front commitment of time AND MONEY (buying books, tapes, and seminars) that is required to reach the higher levels where money begins to be made.


-- by selling books, tapes, and seminars.


Amba- some of those Libs are pretty humourless- that was the point, eh? :0).

My in-Laws are right in the middle of the whole Quixtar pyramid- so many books and tapes they could start their own library- i kid you not. I asked once- why didn't they share those tapes, rotate them around. I got a spiel about college books and owning you own was better; information at hand.

It breaks my heart, but i will admit- they socialize w/folks that are (ME- lol) and enjoy their time away from ~reality~- which is hard, continuous work on a farm. The ~funtions~ are, i don't know- giving them something they cannot seem to find elsewhere- not even in their own faith or Church(which i did mention before: how the use of religion is manipulated to hold these folks together- kind of like a religious glue). It energizes my MinL and that makes my FinL happy for her.

I don't understand why they don't invest all the $$$$ spent on those books, tapes and seminars on their own existing business to upgrade equipment and genetics, etc- but, like my husband says: it makes them happy- leave it alone. My husband impresses the hell outta me.


amba "But I still do not think we should be promoting pyramid schemes in the developing world. The reality of those is that a few people DO get rich, but many more lose their investment."

I agree, even though I was the one who first proposed Amway as part of my 'modest proposal' in this forum. The thing is, as Karen's (another poster) relatives can attest, the Amway sort of message (and I know nothing about the organization beyond its concept) brings a remarkable energy and hope to some people.

Yet then again, consider the glorification of celebrity, rap, and pro basketball in the inner city. Sure, hope sells. But in many cases it only sells jerseys, CD's, and spinner rims... seldom does it sell an improved life.

But I have to realize that these dreams serve a vital, however exploited, purpose. Maybe if we were to focus on progress, rather than profit...

This reminds me of a time a liberal friend of mine was complaining about the huge cost of the space program, and how useless it is next to what that money could accomplish in education. I got back to her the very next day, when I saw a full-page ad in the LA Times promoting education and achievement for at-risk kids. In the big picture was a portrait of a young black boy, with his thought-cloud dream depicted above him. In wonder and hope, the young man gazed up at a Space Shuttle blasting off. This was not a NASA ad, it was funded by some education hippies, and it just goes to show the value of hopes and dreams (which is NASA's _real_ product).

Turns out, the objective of the ad was not to make the kid an astronaut, and it wasn't to sell space shuttle toys. The objective was, in the most pragmatic sense, to get the kid to finish high school.

Did you dream of being an astronaut when you were a kid? I did. Yet what are the odds of you, me, or that kid in the ad ever becoming an astronaut? Then does that mean we were tricked by a myth?

Does it matter when we consider what truly motivates people?

Somewhere, hidden in a box of childhood memories, every up-tight teacher... by which I mean every mutant-elitist-hating alternative hippie-liberal chairs-in-a-circle anti-establishment self-esteem-boosting individual-actualizing feelings-talking educator... has a wrinkled and folded and pondered-over poster of the space shuttle.

Dreams are vital. Things are the worst where dreams are dead.


Well said, rc. It's the truth- the "remarkable energy and hope" is almost tangible. Unfortunately, for the majority it never gets beyond the dreaming part. These folks go ~dream-building~ by viewing houses and properties that "someday" they will be able to attain due to their diligence in ~The Business~.

THAT is a myth, IMhumbleO. And because it is a myth- it is exploitation at it's highest.



I totally, totally agree with you about the space program. Man does not live on bread alone. You have to feed imagination and aspiration. The species is our ultimate "Go, team!"

And I agree with you about the importance of hope, but what MLMs like Amway do is raise a lot of people's hopes, then shatter them and blame the victim. They may be temporarily thriving while in the grip of the dream, but the crash has to be terrible. How is that different from thinking you can become a sports star when in fact only a few will? I don't know, but I feel it is.


Karen said, "Unfortunately, for the majority it never gets beyond the dreaming part." I agree. But does that make the dream a failure?

In most of the worst places in the world, 'Mutant Elitism' is not dominant. But when M.E. rises, a lot of dysfunctional people and places tend to get better. I'm not saying M.E. isn't bad, it's just that it's... bad lite. You can only smash on M.E. if 1) you already have it pretty good, and 2) you don't consider the non-M.E. societies with flies on their faces.

Karen says: "THAT is a myth, IMhumbleO. And because it is a myth- it is exploitation at it's highest."

So sue me. :P No, seriously. M.E. makes some provision for this. Promote an unattainable myth in business and you'll get prosecuted for fraud. Sharks must patrol their own.

We're peculiar people. Dangle a carrot in front of us, and we'll perform. Yay, carrot! And then we'll covet other people's carrots... and then we'll wish we had more carrots...

Have you ever wondered if humanity is pathologically unable to be happy? Maybe this is inescapable. The author expresses feeling 'helpless' when confronted by M.E.- maybe this is the reason why.

The whole liberal thesis is that we're helpless before this tendency. So why not just be helpless with a nice car, an HDTV, and a beer in your hand? At least it beats flies on your face.


Amba: "How is that different from thinking you can become a sports star when in fact only a few will? I don't know, but I feel it is."

I agree. Sports dreams seem more vibrant and less manipulative than Amway dreams. And unfortunatley, 'so sue me' is not a distinct enough weapon to attack the problem: the shark tank's aggressive rules of conduct just couldn't be wielded without causing some innocent casualties.

So some bit of nuance is necessary in the 'game,' and it needs to be found outside of 'mutant elitism.'

But I maintain a position that if you had to pick one prdominant 'game,' mutant elitism is a good choice. And fully rejecting mutant elitism or whatever is a very bad choice.

As it is, I personally work hard only because I have to. I feel the most fulfilment in things I share with people I care about and etc. I guess we all need a little bit of hippie :)


rc -- "flies on your face" is such a great all-purpose summing up of "developing" world misery, especially since that's the cliché photograph we're always shown to evoke that misery. I might use it, henceforth (with full credit to you).

Have you ever wondered if humanity is pathologically unable to be happy?

I tried -- poorly, I'm going to go over there and try to improve it -- to express in another post that you can be remarkably happy when, due to circumstances beyond your control, you stop wanting much.


amba: "You can be remarkably happy when, due to circumstances beyond your control, you stop wanting much."

Sounds like a good antidote to the side effects of Mutant Elitisim. I think you might be on to something.

"'flies on your face' is such a great all-purpose summing up of 'developing' world misery, especially since that's the cliché photograph we're always shown to evoke that misery. I might use it, henceforth (with full credit to you)."

Holy moly, now I'm famous. But no credit is necessary. I just did a quick google search of "flies on your face." It revealed, among other things, the quote: "I'm going to look like one of those poor kids in Africa mom keeps talking about who are starving to death because we don't eat our dinner! My belly will get all fat and stick out and I'll have flies on my face!" True, true.

That an example of a common, but remarkably apt description for those disturbing images we see, the ones with Sally Struthers begging for mercy, and kids with distended bellies. "Think of the children!" That cliche strangely moves me, and I boiled it down as much as possible. Somehow, it stirs some visceral, moral part in all of us, yet it also recalls an emotional, one-dimensional, and possibly manipulative image we use to describe the plight of poor and developing peoples.

It's also alliteration (of use for those english snobs out there), and it can quite easilly be used for sarcasm (that's of use to me).

The image is horrible, yet grotesquely funny at the same time. I think that duality does a good job of encompassing Americans' perspective toward true poverty in the world. Kinda dismissive, kinda funny, kinda manipulative, kinda sad... but maybe also useful to affect change...

This discussion has been a lot of fun. Thanks amba, and everyone else, for participating.


I've enjoyed both your sarcasm and your subtlety! What a pleasure.

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