Flim Flam


One of my all time favorite movies is The Rainmaker. It’s one of those timeless pieces that focuses on family life and the meaning of love. Burt Lancaster stars as a film flam man who travels from town to town peddling dreams. In the movie’s story he promises to create rain for a place that is suffering from drought. During the course of his stay he manages to pull a troubled family back together and to help a woman gain confidence in herself. It eventually becomes clear that all he really did for everyone is help them to see the truth of what was always inside of them.

We have far too many hawkers of this and that idea doing everything possible to convince us that they somehow know all of the answers to providing a better life for everyone. Print, electronic and televised media are filled with people hoping to create the next buzzwords and soundbites. Once something catches on we all too often rather sheepishly begin quoting it as though it is truth and wisdom. We sometimes align ourselves with people and ideas without doing a great deal of thinking. The hucksters of old who banged their drums and spun a good story have become the gurus of advertising and political operations. We find ourselves enchanted with quips and pretty faces, audacious lines and promises.

Now we seem to enjoy quantifying and labeling virtually everything and everybody as though all the world is a commodity. A great deal of the modern ways of selling products and ideas began when I was just a child. That’s when television became both a source of entertainment and a way of hawking ideas, not the least of which was naming an entire generation of children as Baby Boomers and then labeling them with generic traits that somehow define them in many minds to this very day.

I suppose that somebody actually thought that it was a brilliant idea to attempt to generalize about millions of people within a certain age group and so they even went backward in time honoring the parents of the Baby Boomers with the title of The Greatest Generation. Next came the Generation X group followed by the Millennials. Somehow the negativity of the descriptions of each classification became more and more extreme until we were pointing fingers and blaming one set of people or another for the difficulties that we face today. In the meantime there are those who began to delight in shaming the post Millennials as uniformed, lazy “snowflakes.”

My entire life has been spent working with people from all of the aforementioned generations and while I see certain environmentally induced differences from one group to another, I find that in the long run people are far too individual to turn them into cardboard cutouts that are all alike. We are not a row of identically dressed Barbie dolls regardless of what the sellers of words may attempt to make us think. In fact, the key word here is “think” and when we step back just a bit we see the truth just as the folks in The Rainmaker eventually did.

I suppose that I got riled up a bit about the idea of stereotyping people based upon the decades in which they were born after having a conversation with a young man who had been told that many employers prefer hiring Gen Xers rather than Millennials because the thirty something set is lazy and inclined to complain.

I was shocked to hear such a thing but in my heart I do understand that there are many who allow misconceptions and ridiculous stereotypes to become their truths. It goes without saying that I have worked with some incredible Millennials who are dedicated to hard work and high standards. In fact, those who are not are the exception rather than the rule. The very idea of drawing conclusions about an individual based on age is abhorrent to me, and yet our society has become driven by the idea of making assumptions based on very unreliable indices.

Someone recently floored me by remarking that a person that we saw passing by us was probably a redneck who had guns in his house and voted for Donald Trump simply because he wore a gimme cap and drove a pickup truck. I wondered how it was possible to jump to such judgmental conclusions with rather skimpy evidence and yet such non sequiturs have become more and more common. We hear about people being identified as being of a certain type because of where they live or what they wear or which church they attend. It’s even gone so far that some advocate for getting rid of the color red for clothing as though it is some kind of secret sign of a person’s political leanings.

It’s long past time that we regain our senses and quit falling for the salesmanship of those would sell us lies. We can’t create rain by banging a drum and we can’t properly think by spewing canned responses. We should also steer clear of any situation that asks us to believe an idea that feels ludicrous or that leaves entire groups of individuals nameless and faceless. We have to have enough common sense to see that the purveyors of shady shell games are continually trying to captivate our thinking. Perhaps a bit of caution and disbelief is what we really need.


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