Charlie Sheen cheerleader for the zombieconomy

As people throughout the Western world  relish the public meltown of the probably ill Charlie Sheen, I agreed with author Umair Haque’s take on his downfall.

The irony of Charley’s meltdown, is that earning a cool $1.25 million every episode as well as attracting millions of twitter followers as soon as he started to Tweet, he is by almost any commonly used measure a huge success symbol — as he’ll be the first to tell you.

Why do we persevere with this stunted definition of success?  It has made us unhappy, overweight, unhealthy, disfunctional, it clearly undervalues the future, nature, other people, society, and even our own selves. And we need to change it. But rebooting our ideas about success might mean turning our backs not just on self-indulgent and self-destructive habits, but doing stuff, for a change, that matters. And not for the money.

What does it say about us that so many people who provide critical social value are valued so little, while Charley’s activity is somehow worth hundreds of millions to society. I read somewhere that in the year before the GFC, the highest earning fund manager in the US earned more than the entire nation’s teaching staff combined… such a society capable of valuing success in any reasonably meaningful sense of the word — or is it inherently unable to invest in qualities that endure, matter, nurture and protect? Are we so immature as to destroy ourselves in the pursuit of fools gold?

Charlie Sheen highlights everything that’s tired, sick and corrupt in the American dream. His success and the popularity of his story highlight how little  wisdom and maturity are to be found amongst those who get their kicks from Hollowood crash n burn.

Time to change channel folks , start by switching away from our patently bankrupt definition of “success.”.


2 Responses to “Charlie Sheen cheerleader for the zombieconomy”

  1. Start by switching away from our from our patently bankrupt definition of “success” to … ? To misquote Churchill, capitalism is the worst system execpt for all the others that have been tried. I think the comment that it has made us unhappy, etc. is trite. Which particular century was it when “we” were so much happier and healthier. Sure we should strive to make it better but pot shots at the system (and particularly fund managers) have been done to death. What does Umair actually want us to do?

    • Switch to a definition of success which includes along with profit a positive contribution to society, culture, the environment, employees, humans, the future. And does so not at the expense of any of the above. Commercial success in this regard is: an endeavour whose results make the world a better place to conduct that business in the future. This is not about trying another system, this is about making this system work – sustainably. This is not about taking pot shots at the system so much as pointing out the indisputable problems with it, pointing out the need for change and challenging those with the imagination and ability to lead the way. It’s not that the present capitalist system ‘has made us unhappy’, it’s that at this point it’s broken and if we keep going the same way, boy oh boy will it make us unhappy…Labour markets creaking as corporate streamlining means that most new jobs created are menial dead-end affairs (even though the U.S. economy added jobs in every month in 2010, hundreds of thousands of people gave up looking for work. The number of discouraged workers climbed to 1.32 million in December, from 1.28 million the month before), Entire industries farming, digging and polluting themselves into oblivion with no serious attempt to think beyond the next 50 years, Governments drowning under the cost of their debt, lying to each other in order to stave off the debt collectors, capital markets that have failed completely over the last decade to allocate resources to uses of enduring productivity are now on life support to the tune of hundreds of billions in direct and indirect subsidies by central banks, shuffling the same old assets around, extracting the last meagre bits of value from yesterday–instead of investing in tomorrow. No, we’re not unhappy right now, not while globally, the wealthiest 10% of people account for 59% of all the consumption. So we’re not… But plenty are…like the 3 billion people living on $2 per day, the 13% of the global population who are hungry. That’s 25,000 a day dying from hunger. While we are thought to be the longest living Western generation because our children are so overfed on such a chemically enriched diet that they’ll live shorter lives than us. Happiness is in the eye of the beholder.

      What does Umair want us to do? He calls it Radical Creativity. Get creative with our businesses, re-imagine their role. An example: if we can get Coca Cola to the poorest, most desperate places on earth, why can’t we leverage those same (already built!) distribution channels for medicine, textbooks, clean water filters, you name it? Capitalists would smile at the idea of a world where access to Coke means access to a better life. it’ll never happen? Take a look. Then we could start working on the damn product itself!

      Look at the microfinance movement. Even manufacturers can radically change, like NASDAQ listed carpet maker Interface which has reconfigured its business from the ground up.

      Yes, Umair is a cheerleader, and no he doesn’t have all the answers – he thinks the capitalists are clever enough to come up with their own.

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