Friday, November 14, 2008

Celebrity Meltdown

No matter how hard reality bites the theology of laissez-faire, its blind disciples will cling to it. But when Alan Greenspan, one of its high priests, is gripped with agnosticism, it means that a change of heart is in the air. Why has the former Federal Reserve chairman acquired divine status in the first place? Why do we canonise fellow human beings so promptly today?

Taken in its most ruthless representation, the technology-driven era offers few alternatives: embrace it or ignore it at your own risk and peril. Excess breeds excess. There seems to be no room for the middle path. To meet new spending patterns of consumers for whom time appears to fly, markets started promoting prêt-à-porter. Then came prêt-à-manger. And now, enter prêt-à-penser. Celebrity models, chefs and experts rule our world.

The worldwide trend for the last decades has been an obsession with pet theories and an infatuation with fads. Worse, deprived of adequate contextual research, most parts of the developing world have simply internalised what are merely aberrations. As like-minded people tend to flock together, they end up confusing what they repeat among themselves with self-evident truth.

William Easterly's ‘White Man's Burden’ and Ha-Joon Chang's ‘Bad Samaritans’ should provide the elusive hindsight to those who feel fooled and let down. For an even better taste of vintage "lateral thinking" and "thinking outside the box", Nassim Taleb's ‘Black Swan’ might well be the ultimate pick. There is indeed a heavy price to pay when we let wizardry and punditry cloud our reasoning.

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