A young man who shall remain unnamed recently explained to me his secret of success on Linkedin. He contacts dozens of mates at his college whom he has not necessarily ever met, expresses a willingness to endorse their special skills on the website, and invites them to do the same on his page. Result: lots of endorsements. Problem: the endorsements are largely fake. But the problem was mine, as I sat listening. Virtually no one else today seems to care about such picky moral details.
It’s easy for someone in my position to opine grandly, “The Golden Age has yielded to the Age of Lead and Ash. These young ones… the only reason they’re innocent is that they can’t conceive of a moral principle. They like little savages!” Yes… and whose fault is that? The generation that raised them, perhaps?
I just returned last night from an exhaustive trip to look over some acreage that I’d like to buy, four states away. I thought that I had booked a hotel at a really great discount through AMAC, the Association of Mature American Citizens. And indeed I had… but no thanks to AMAC, whose Internet link had essentially routed me through some existing service like Travelocity–where your reservations are prepaid and inalterable. The Association had not really created a special discount for its members, in other words: it was parasitizing online resources that already existed, and charging a membership fee to do so. It happened that I finished my business a day early, and of course I didn’t want to blow the expense of another night’s stay. When the hotel staff insisted that my giving thirty hours’ notice made no difference–that I was paid up for the full time whether I liked it or not–I called AMAC for some back-up support. The date was Friday, December 30–a work day even for the notoriously vacation-happy USPS; yet I heard nothing but recorded messages. Now, if I were still a member of AARP, my discount would have been locked in and I could have adjusted the days of my stay as long as the hotel received due notice… and a live person would have answered my calls.
I left AARP because I intensely disliked its backing of big-government causes with my membership fees. AMAC explicitly advertises itself as the freedom-loving, small-government alternative. Forgive me if, at the moment, I consider it little more than a scam. I’m reminded of the very worst con I ever fell for in my life, wherein I lost $5,000. The operation styled itself CBC (for Christian Businesses C… something-or-other). I was about to lose my current job, and the soothing, somewhat fulsome promises and good humor of the Elmer Gantry CEO made me think what I really wanted to think: that here was a brother in the faith who had no stronger motive than helping out people in my precarious position. Boy, did I get screwed!
There are a lot of “bad agents” in the world right now, and “men of good will” (as the French say) want to oppose them. They want to be on the right side, and they–we–will likely rally round anyone who cries, “Out on thee, vile person!” We think we’re showing solidarity against the forces of corruption. Only problem is that being the standard-bearer of the virtuous opposition creates all kinds of opportunity to exploit and scam.
I’ve pretty much decided that there is no virtuous opposition… almost never. Most of the good wars you wage must be fought alone. As soon as you put on a uniform, you start to melt–imperceptibly–into the ranks of more bad guys.
Verify before you trust–and then trust no more than you absolutely need to.