Worthless Beliefs

As a kid, I got to live on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain. I don’t really remember much of this time, as the fall of communism marked my eighth birthday. Surely, I got to participate in awkward ceremonies praising the revolution, something we now usually associate with the weirder of Koreas. I remember glimpses of the corrupt Western world passing through the censorship, with Disney cartoons, Japanese technological advancements in popular science show and, remarkably, Miss Universe pageants. First are now irrelevant, second are possibly rotten at some scrapyard, so let’s focus on the contest. I remember interviews with the finalists, when they were asked about what’s really important to them. “World peace”. “Protection of the environment”. “Ending world hunger”.

With my tiny understanding of life back then, I was sitting in awe, amazed by what I now called bullshit.

Now, to give some context. Let’s say you know some idiot frequenting a fortune teller. What they are likely to hear upon sharing their hard earned money with someone shining with the aura of clairvoyance is one of the following:

You are a good person, but you have your moments of anger…

You believe in others, and sometimes they use it against you…

Sometimes you’re in doubt, whether you made a right decision, or not…

The list goes on and on. As you probably already noticed, each sentence is true for every single person in the world. Everyone could identify with them, with no problem whatsoever. And idiots, presented with random selection of few such sentences, are certain the fortune teller knows them really well.

The phenomenon is well known in scientific world as a Barnum effect. Given the number of idiots visiting story tellers and reading horoscopes, I get the feeling it’s completely unknown to the average Joe.

But what does that have to do with the beauty pageant interviews?

Quite a lot, in fact. Let me ask you something. Are any of these important to you:

Ending all wars

Saving the world and nature for future generations

Making sure no one is ever hungry again

Liar. No, not even a single one of these is really important to you. Which is why it’s easy to identify with them. If you think of the corporate new black of the early 21st century – values – it’s the same.

Innovation

Sustainable future

Making the world a better place

Loyalty

Integrity

Okay, but there must be some way to identify the beliefs which are true, are really important, which make our own identity. There is a way. You simply have to pay the price.

If you’re willing to sacrifice something for a belief, you really do identify with it.

Think of religions. Regardless of your background, your age, and your official affiliation, you’re more than likely to be a Zen Buddhist. Basically, what it takes is to understand that attachment (to things, people, concepts) is the source of suffering – which is universal belief of all major religions and most philosophical systems.

On the other hand, there’s Jainism, one of religions of India. It’s monks go to the greatest extent not to hurt any, even the smallest of living beings. Their food choices are obviously limited, but they go even further. A small mask on their faces protects them from unwillingly swallowing some tiny bug. They even sweep the ground ahead of their footsteps, so that they don’t crush anything alive.

There’s an obvious difference in price to be paid. And the bigger the sacrifice, the stronger the devotion. Once you’ve went all the way into some Jainism, you’re really unlikely to stop.

(Yes, it does work the same way for corporate beliefs.)

The sacrifice can have several dimensions – from freedom of choice to losing friends and business associates.

That being said, I love to do business with people who display solid and rigid beliefs different from mine. That is, until they openly contradict and oppose. And since I decided not to do business with fence hangers, my peace of mind improved. A win-win situation.

I’m not really sure if that interviewed beauty queen did something for the world peace, as I’m unsure if businesses flying ‘Loyalty’ on their banners would follow it to the letter.

Their claims cost them nothing, so why would they ever care? Given a sucker is born every minute, someone will inevitably fall to their trap. Some money will be made anyway.

Remember, the bigger the price, the bigger the devotion.

Have you ever met with claim of belief, especially by the organization, to be truly met?

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