Elites take criticism very badly.

November 8, 2011

Today, the term courtesan has become a euphemism to designate an escort or a prostitute, especially one who attracts wealthy clients.

Apart from their self-assurance, the most common characteristics of our elites are cynicism, rhetoric and the worship of both ambition and power. These were also the characteristics of eighteenth-century courtesans. The assumption is that the world-weary-cynicism demonstrates intellectual superiority. In reality it indicates neither intelligence, experience nor accuracy. If anything, it demonstrates mediocrity and an inability to profit from experience. To be world-weary is to be willing to go on repeating old mistakes. p.580

I am invariably struck when dealing with members of our elites by their profound  pessimism. Above all, they are pessimistic about the human character. They consider it unlikely that the average individual will work hard enough or recognize beauty or vote for the best policies or even obey in a suitable manner. They take as a given that this individual cannot or will not understand the complexities of whatever responsibilities fate has thrust upon someone who has expertise and power. p. 582

– from the chapter, The Virtue of Doubt, Voltaire’s Bastards, John Ralston Saul

List of Prostitutes and Courtesans

[O]ur élite is primarily and increasingly managerial. A managerial élite manages. A crisis, unfortunately, requires thought. Thought is not a management function.

 – Reflections of a Siamese Twin


Why being a franchise writer should make you damn nasty

April 16, 2010

My goal is to understand franchising, not to be loved.

To contribute to public knowledge. To share insights and to encourage others to do the same.

Being “nice” is irrelevant.

In Voltaire’s Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West, John Ralston Saul presents what a writer’s job is.

VOLTAIRE: “That nasty man who did so much good.” Paul Valéry

Is it because Voltaire wasn’t afraid to be nasty that he did so much good? Almost certainly. There is no convincing evidence that writers can do their job by being nice.

And why should they be nice? To be asked to dinner? To be part of a corporation of writers, which like all corporate groups rewards discretion? To be rewarded with money, prizes and titles?

Nice writers are usually working for someone or senile or in the wrong business. Those who have done the most good as Voltaire prointed out, have “mostly been persecuted.” The nasty sort continue to be persecuted in most countries. In the West they have to deal with more sophisticated assaults such as bankrupting lawsuits and job loss. Worst of all – in this society of expensive communication systems – they are threatened with irrelevance…

What is left for writers to do?

Their only job is to make language work for the reader. that is the basis of free speech. Whatever the vested interests of the day may be, they invariably favour an obscure language of insider’s dialects and received wisdom. So the writer turns nasty. It’s a public service.

Dr. Saul is president of International PEN: Promoting literature. Protecting freedom of expression.

Empire of Illusion, Chris Hedges: The Death of God & franchise propaganda

August 24, 2009

EmpireofIllusionThe title caught my eye.

Is franchising an empire built on brand-induced self-delusion?

If it is, then it appears to be just one in our post-modern world where any means justify the economic ends. So says a Pulitzer Prize winner, anyway.

The first chapter (The Illusion of Literacy) starts off with a bang. A quote from one of my favourite thinkers, John Ralston Saul that I’ve mentioned before (1., 2., 3., & 4.).

I especially like his contrary opinions about expertise: see Experts? We don’t need no stinkin’ professionals. Franchise law is an example of the hollowed-out perfection of the expert literate man.

Hedges lifts this quote from Saul’s 1992 book, Voltaire’s Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West:

Now the death of God combined with the perfection of the image has brought us to a whole new state of expectation. We are the image. We are the viewer and the viewed. There is no other distracting presence. And that image has all the Godly powers. It kills at will. Kills effortlessly. Kills beautifully. It dispenses morality. Judges endlessly. The electronic image is man as God and the ritual involved leads us not to a mysterious Holy Trinity but back to ourselves. In the absence of a clear understanding that we are now the only source, these images cannot help but return to the expression of magic and fear proper to idolatrous societies. This in turn facilitates the use of the electronic image as propaganda by whoever can control some part of it.

Again: …the use of the electronic image as propaganda by whoever can control some part of it.

Case in Point: A new television show named How’d You Get So Rich? features, of all players in this drama, a franchisee attorney (YouTube). This “news” is then picked up the industry-financed social media apologists, not just once, but twice.

Nothing says sincere, honest and authentic in both a visual and journalist sense, as the two words together: Joan Rivers. Celebrity spokespeople have been used in franchising brand management for a long time but sometimes it’s a double-edged sword.

Is this a too cynical interpretation of this type of modern myth-making?

Humble but poor outsider +  scrub toilets + Harvard MBA/law + In Communion with the holy American Church of Franchising = A Saint’s story (millionaire, cars, 2nd wife, fame).

I wonder what the majority of mom-and-pop franchise investors would like to say to Mr. Zarco? Is he their champion of the underdog? Does his story reflect this people’s:

  1. life reality or
  2. is this just another in a long line of cheesy attempts to lure more life savings into a dying empire, noteworthy since this is an unbelievably desperate economic/employment times?

An inspiring story on a marketing and franchising level.

And personally, to me anyways.

Franchisees: master storytellers caught in a literate machine

December 11, 2008

chaplinmodernFranchisees have primarily retained their geographically-specific, oral culture. As a species we have survived because of our ability to listen to and tell stories (a narrative), appropriate to a specific narrowly-defined physical landscape.

  • We’ve never needed to be that smart at rational decision making, especially if time and complexity are added.
  • We’ve evolved to look for dangers in certain places only.

The most vibrant research is coming out of the fields of behavioral finance, social psychology, law and economics, neuroeconomics, etc.

  • Basically, we walk around scratching ourselves with a belief that our rational brain (neocortex) is in charge, while in fact, 90% of what we do is caused or strongly influenced by our reptilian brain or the limbic system. [We think Spock is in control but we behave as if we’re Lucy Ball.]

Mankind has evolved primarily as a member of tribal structure within a hostile natural environment. Only since the industrial revolution,  has a phonetic alphabet gained its ascendancy in the West.

Our culture (Literate Man) views oral or tribal civilizations as more primitive, backward. Voltaire’s Bastards worked very hard to stuff the native genie in the bottle and they were extremely successful in doing so. There were some unintended consequences (externalities) though with this world view: slavery, theft, genocide, arms race, environmental collapse…

The printing press was the technology that revolutionized Western civilization. It brought with it many impressive and life-enhancing benefits. These, through a rational, Literate Man’s eyes, make them superior to the older, oral traditions.

The Gutenberg Galaxy (phonetic literacy) is an infinitely repeatable, homogenous and repetitive juggernaut. Franchise agreement is an example of an archetypal, industrial revolution machine. It is a colonial instrument intended to be used to control the savages (see indentured service).

A new technology (electronics) came along and now we in the West are in a postliterate age. And this scares the hell out of the self-identifying rational Supermen (ie. the franchise bar). They can hear the drum beats over at Blue MauMau.

  • All the franchisees have to do is to cast off their own blinders and assume their rightful leadership role via internet information sharing.

We know how to flip the switch, notwithstanding the huffing and puffing.

— Modern Times, Charlie Chaplin

Experts? We don’t need no stinkin’ professionals

November 27, 2008

VoltairesBastardsPeople sense that our society is backwards but they lack the understanding of why.

Saul suggests that it has to do with our fetish with the individual:

Just how confused we are over what we mean by individualism can most easily be seen by looking at the West from the outside. Buddhist societies are horrified by a great deal in the West, but the element which horrifies them most is our obsession with ourselves as a subject of unending interest. By their standards, nothing could be unhealthier than a guilt-ridden, self-obsessed, proselytizing white male or female, selling God or democracy or liberalism or capitalism with insistent superior modesty.

The individual is an old idea but “individualism” began to take form in the early 19th century. This is when the idea of “professionalism” came about:

The rise of the professional was therefore intimately linked – throughout the Industrial Revolution, the accompanying explosion of inventions and the growth of the middle classes – with Western man’s assertion that he was a responsible individual. He was responsible to the degree that he was competent. Thus the value of individualism was pegged to the soaring value of specialization.


By becoming better at what he did, each man believed that he was increasing his control over his own existence. He was building his personal empire of responsibility. This was both the measure of his worth and the sum of his contributions to society as a whole.

But, oddly, as the specialization and professionalism increased, the expert became much more isolated. In fact, we have pepper/fly poo time:

While our mythology suggests that society is like a tree with the ripening fruits of professional individualism growing thick upon it, a more accurate image would show a maze of corridors, blocked by endless locked doors, each one leading in or out of a small cell.

Voltaire’s Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West, John Ralston Saul, 1992.

  • Franchising is barren because certain members of the franchise bar feel personally insecure as men.

Maybe in the 2nd half of their life they can become less fearful of death (and life).

%d bloggers like this: