Friday, September 02, 2011

The Poor As House Pets

So yesterday as I drove to work, I was listening to Scott Stratten's book, UnMarketing from Audible. It's only so-so, particularly if you've seen him in person. It lacks the energy of his live keynote speeches and most of what he has to say in the book can be found in YouTube videos of his presentations. Still, what he has to say is worthwhile, so try to catch him one way or another.

In the book, he casually trots out his open-minded sensibilities as he talks about a business colleague he knew on Twitter who had come out against gay marriage. He tut-tuts with appropriate modern disdain and all is well. He takes pains in the book to mention that he is apolitical, but his style and patterns are all quite hip and up-to-date: he is up on all the latest social networking tools and is suitably unimpressed with tradition.

The book is very much a business and marketing book. He works hard to tell you how to use Twitter, Facebook and blogs to expand and improve your market reach. Suffused throughout is the notion that you want to spend your time developing relationships with people who will perform. Don't get me wrong, he doesn't see people as tools. Quite the opposite. He wants you to do your best to serve those around you, suggesting that such service will develop great business relationships.

It's difficult to argue with this. You need to expect yourself to do well by others and conversely, you want to interact with those who perform and avoid those who do not. Behavior, as it were, leads to success.

So where is the connection between this common sense attitude and our own attitude towards the poor? When we talk about the "less fortunate" we speak of them as if they were house pets we forgot to feed, but when we listen to the latest hip business books, we nod and stroke our chins when we're told that the best way to improve our lot in life is to be valuable to others.

When was the last time you saw inequality discussed by an advocate for the poor where this was the cornerstone of the talk?

Bill Maher cares about the poor. Doesn't he?

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