I read a profile in the New Yorker about Rod “Blago” Blagojevich this past July (note: link requires subscription). I found him inspirational in a perverse way. The guy had a lot more going for him than moppish hair. Blago really seemed to believe in himself. Despite his bald corruption, despite his 114-1 impeachment, the guy exhibited no compunction with promoting himself, appearing on Celebrity Apprentice and contemplating a return to politics after all of his legal entanglements got untangled.
I was thinking that if I were Blago, if I had made such a public ass out of myself, if I had been the recipient of an unprecedented 0% public approval rating, I might take some time to reflect on my life. I might avoid the spotlight for the bit.
But no, Blago, like many ubiquitous and shameless self-promoters—the Sarah Palins, the Perez Hiltons, the Kim Kardashians—betrayed no self-reflection, no remorse, no doubt. His type, precisely because they exhibit no self-reflection, seem capable of standing behind the flimsiest of ideologies—of xenophobia, of celebrity worship, of whatever Kim Kardashian does. He brought to mind verses from Yeats’ Sailing to Byzantium: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity.” This passage was on the NYC subways for years as part of the “Poetry in Motion” series and it always made me think of people like Blago—people emblematic of a culture pervaded by the vociferous worst. Meanwhile, the best often seem stuck standing around with their genitalia in their hands, evaluating the merits of their convictions.
Of course, I’m sure Palin and Blago would read those Yeats lines and not think themselves “the worst” (I’m equally sure neither of them read Yeats). Unencumbered by self-reflection, I suppose they see their personal propaganda as an extension of a coherent ideology, not the self-aggrandizement and ignorance-soaked detritus it is (had to get that off my chest).
But these types pose a challenge to myself and anyone who might be holding back on spreading their goodness. What if we exhibited a fraction of the belief in ourselves that the Palins and the Blagos do?
If you’re like me, you might be waiting for right time to act, when your ideas are better thought out. You might act sheepish because you lack the conviction of the un-self-reflective. You might concoct stories about why you don’t promote what you’re doing; you’re waiting for your resources to be lined up, waiting to get your business plan together, waiting for your philosophy to be airtight. But these considerations don’t stop “the worst.” The reliably serve up smorgasbords of steaming horseshit and call it mana.
It’s up to us to give if we have something good to give. How do you know if what you have to give is good? A healthy sign is that you’re asking. The hallmark of ignorance is its vulnerability to questions. Ask yourself, why am I doing this? Is this about self-aggrandizement or contribution? For example, I am clear why I write (see my “about” page for explication).
When you are clear about what you’re up to, start putting out. Don’t be a prude. This means investing and believing in yourself and what you’re doing. Sure, it might not be a fully thought out plan or idea, but does that stop Rush Limbaugh from talking trash? Does that stop the US Weekly presses? If you have something true to say or give, put it out without delay. We must see the imperative of displacing the omnipresent nonsense with some sense.
Often, all we have is an intention to refer to. But if that’s clear, act with courage. As St. Augustine put it, “Love God and do as you please.” If you’re clear about your love or creativity or generosity or insight or whatever it is you’re up to, be like Blago and fear no self-promotion.
[If you are looking to do some self-promotion and you are not a spammer, please feel free to do so in comments or email me at davidcfriedlander at gmail dot com and I’ll try to help]