Between bringing kids to college, friends’ houses, basketball games and visiting in the hospital, I managed to get in about 15 minutes of watching golf. It’s the tournament that the ferociously long-hitting Dustin Johnson won by a stroke. It’s not about that nice effort by Johnson that I’m writing.
The tournament was on NBC, whose sole redeeming feature is that Johnny Miller is one of the announcers. They aired a commercial… one of those commercials: a commercial that tries desperately to show just how good and wise and knowing the sponsor is. Probably a car company.
The star of the commercial was a vaguely androgynous- and asian-looking youngish chap who told about how his mother (of course) used to encourage him to be different. Why, he said, she even let him wear dresses around sometimes! Then comes the really wise tag line at the end that’s supposed to educate and inform and enlighten and unbenight any troglodytes remaining out there, all while the rest of us cool, hip, with-it ones are supposed to nod our heads wisely thinking, “How wise, car company… well said.”
That really wise, insightful tag line? I’m glad you asked. It’s: “It takes people who aren’t afraid to be different to move the world forward.”
Oooooooo… I can just hear all the heads nodding sagely out there thinking to themselves, “Check. I knew that. It’s just that freakin’ car company that said it so well! But I knew it all along, ’cause I’m just as wise and insightful as that car company.”
Uhhhhh… except for that pesky other thing that’s out there and occasionally intrudes, and trips up the sagest-sounding apophthegms: reality.
Oh? What reality might that be, you ask? What reality can trip up our cutesy little world full of platitudes and clichés and pithy bons mots? Why, this reality: The reverse is true as well: “It takes people who aren’t afraid to be different to muck the place up real good.”
Adolf Hitler was different. And he managed to make a real hash of Germany for about 12 years. Josef Stalin was different. He managed to muck up Russia for 25 years. Mao in China? Very different. Most prolific mass murderer in history. He killed more people than the bubonic plague and the black death… combined! You’ll grant me, I’m sure: that’s pretty different.
Lots of really different people are wandering around mucking up the world, making it so that really, really good (not just different) people have to come in and clean up after them.
Anyone can be different; “different” is nothing more than being a standard deviation or two right or left of the center of the Bell Curve. There’s just nothing inherently good about being different. The trick is being good. And that just ain’t as simple as Google (catchphrase: Don’t be evil), or any car company with syrupy broadcast platitudes makes it out to be.