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 Loser's Guide to Life

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Bella Menzogna 

I read Shattered Glass a few years ago with considerable interest because there are aspects to the story that might have made a gripping movie. It's a horrifying tale, in a way, not unlike Terrence Rattigan's “The Winslow Boy”. I haven't seen the actual movie, so I've no idea whether my excitement was justified. But the other thing that struck me at the time was how all of Glass's friends and colleagues got all sore about it. The guy screwed up, his career was over, but by their own accounts they acted as if they were afraid of catching the dreaded Big Fat Failure disease. Years later their pain is unabated as they recall how their innocence was roughly torn from them.

Lance Mannion has this to say:

Shattered Glass is about the art of seeing what you want to see and believing what you want to believe because it's flattering to you. The glass that's shattered isn't Stephen. It's the looking glass he holds up to others. He learned to make himself a flattering mirror for other people to look into and see themselves in ways that served their own egos and vanity.

The movie suggests that Glass had intuited and completely internalized a truth of today's white collar working world: What too many people want of their jobs is self-love.

It's not just that the fragile economy and the evils of the corporate world make people so terribly insecure that they have to constantly seek validation and reassurance at work. It's that a lot of people see the point of a career as self-aggrandizement. They are celebrities in their own mind and their success at work is proof of their wonderfulness. Glass, in the movie, at least, has figured this out and decided that his real job is to give his bosses and his colleagues what they want--daily reasons to feel good about themselves.

So many respectable newspapers and journals have been falling over themselves lately, vying to be the most exciting source of mythology every day, that you can see why that might be so.

Among other things, Glass apparently made up some stories about cults honouring contemporary political figures. Jack Shafer in “Glass Houses” (linked in the Mannion piece above) relates:

First, he documented the adoration of Paul Tsongas by "Susan," an 80-year-old Chicago widow with no last name. Then he discovered the First Church of George Herbert Walker Christ. Finally, he stumbled upon an Alan Greenspan Shrine at an investment firm.

I guess you have to know how to read it.

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Watching TV is a good way to tear yourself away from the computer.