Over the years I keep finding myself say this statement:
“My whole life in America is learning that I’m never good enough.”
This is quite true, in almost everything. As I get older the truth of this comes out more and more. If I look back on my life this fact has been almost a constant presence. In almost everything I’ve done, in almost everyone I’ve dealt with, this has been an issue.
- When I was in school I was never considered good enough to get into things.
- When I was in school I was never good enough to be socially accepted.
- When I went to college I was never good enough to have the right grades or the right requirements even though they were ‘good’. There was always something wrong with something I did.
- When I tried to join the army I wasn’t good enough (even though people of lesser ability were being accepted). The same goes when I tried to join the Coast Guard.
- When I looked for a job I never had the right experience, regardless of how much experience I had. When I was layed off I looked for a job for months and couldn’t find one . . . and I had 10 years experience! . . . I just wasn’t good enough.
- When I associated with females I was never good enough or there was something wrong with me.
- When I associated with guys there’s always something wrong with what I do (too weird or god knows what else).
- No one would ever listen to my explanations and suggestions, even though I was the only one who knew anything about what they were talking about . . . but they would listen to people who didn’t know anything about it. I guess I just wasn’t ‘good enough’ to be heard.
- No one would ever ask me questions about things they knew I knew. Instead, they asked people who didn’t know.
Regardless of how well I did I never seemed good enough, for schooling, people, everything. But, at the same time, I was noticing that I was often ‘better’ than the people that were considered ‘good enough’. This mystified me for years.
But, after a while, I could see that the whole theme revolved around charisma. By charisma I mean that there is a specific quality or trait that surrounds something which is, in some way, appealing to people. To be ‘good enough’ often means that it has this charisma. Something can be ‘good’, or even ‘excellent’, but if it has no charisma it’s basically nothing. This creates a condition that, in reality, has nothing to do with something being ‘good’ at all. Things are judged only in relation to its association with charisma. Everything revolves around the charisma, not whether something is right, true, good, wise, or anything else. That is what makes it noticed. That is what makes it accepted. That is what makes it ‘good enough’. It shows that a lot of things like ‘truths’, for example, in the U.S. are not truths at all but nothing but an acknowledgement of charisma. In short, in America, something is ‘true’, ‘good enough’, ‘wise’, etc. not because it is but because it has charisma. Because this is so prevalent in the U.S. it makes the U.S. charisma addicted.
And so what happens if something has no charisma? It is tossed to the side. I’ve always joked that I could have discovered the solution to life’s problems and could yell it out loud in the middle of a busy city and no one would care. I could tell it to people’s faces and it would be a waste of time. Why? Because I don’t have the charisma required.
Another one of my common jokes is that “no one will listen to me because I don’t have a celebrity to sponsor me.” In other words, some things require something else, like a celebrity (who must have charisma), to get noticed. If it wasn’t for that celebrity no one would have a care, even if you wrote it in letters ten feet high on a billboard all over the city.
Charisma is a quality that has always mystified me. What makes something charismatic is difficult to determine. I don’t think a person can predict or plan for something to have charisma. Charisma seems elusive, like trying to grasp smoke. A lot of charisma changes from time to time making it difficult to pin down. It also changes with different groups of people and with individual people.
To me, charisma is really a social acceptance of something. It means that, in the midst of everything in life, it is preferred to all. This tends to mean that it ‘ranks high’, making charisma almost like a ranking or hierarchical system or class system.
But, nowadays, charisma seems to be a necessary thing. This is because of a number of things such as:
- Mass society.
- Consumer society.
- Information society.
If you notice that there is a theme with all these: they describe a condition of being bombarded by a multitude of things, of being continually confronted by different things. This condition creates an attitude of being overwhelmed. Charisma seems to lessen the overwhelmingness of all these. In short, charisma seems to be a way to take all the multitude of things that bombard us today and making it ‘manageable’ by making certain things ‘preferred’ and disregarding everything else. By ‘favoring’ the ‘preferred’ thing we are no longer overwhelmed. This seems to suggest, to me, that mass society and the modern world has created a new form of charisma, of charisma of necessity, which is different than the normal charisma we used to see. Perhaps we can call it ‘mass charisma’?
What determines what is ‘preferred’ seems to be based on social appeal, at least in the U.S. This makes sense as the tendency to charisma is based on mass society, of there being too many people. As a result, the ‘whims of the people’, the mass society, determines what is ‘preferred’ or not. These whims, of course, are not controlled nor does it have any leadership. This means it changes almost minutely and varies from place to place, person to person.
The addiction to charisma also makes sense in a country that worships consumerism, advertisement, and show. Isn’t that nothing but the display of charisma? Isn’t that what sells in this country? Success, business, money, acceptance . . . everything . . . is based on its charisma value.
With all this we can see that what makes a person ‘good enough’ is how they fit into the ‘charisma’ image. In my case, as mentioned above, it is apparent that I have no ‘charisma’. Regardless of my qualifications, regardless of my abilities, regardless of my experience, etc. I am nothing without charisma.
My being without charisma meant that no one could fit me in their charismatic image of life. In other words, I did not have the ‘qualities’ that they associated with charisma. This shows that there is a charismatic image of life. This means that, in people’s minds, they create something like a ‘preconceived’ idea of the ‘preferred’ life. This image of life is their focus in life, sort of like an ideal (this makes charisma like a form of idealism). As a result, all their hopes and dreams are focused on this idealized image – charisma. This means that if something does not fit into this image it is viewed, oftentimes, as a disappointment or as insignificant. Because I did not fit into this idealized image I was treated in this way (as many of us are).
The problem is that the charismatic image of life creates a situation where many ‘good’ things are not noticed, neglected, or disregarded. In some respects, the charismatic image of life creates a lifestyle of neglect for everything not charismatic. This neglect, though, can have many forms:
- Complete neglect. Too many things, too many people, too many abilities, become neglected because of it. What’s ‘good enough’ may be standing right in your face but you wouldn’t even know, not when all you look at is charisma.
- Trivializing. There is a tendency to trivialize other things or make them insignificant and small.
- Villanizing. It’s not uncommon that something ‘un-charismatic’ is viewed with hate and despising. This can get to the point that it can cause great suffering and even death in people.
Charisma also has many manifestations. In reality, charisma is a major factor in how we view people and society. In some sense, it is the basis for perceiving people and society, what they are, and how they work. As I said above, the charismatic image of life is a form of idealism, of a ‘preferred’ way of being as a person and a society. By creating ‘preference’ it creates something like a hierarchy of which there are many forms. Some of the things that ‘preference’ is based include:
- Race. The general tendency is to look at ones race as ‘preferred’. Other races are often looked down upon, trivialized, or villainized.
- Physical attributes. How a person looks can determine their whole life. Being ugly, deformed, or any other ‘un-charismatic’ way could be devastating.
- Ability. Certain abilities are often looked at highly. Other abilities, that are considered ‘un-charismatic’, may actually take more skill and ability but, because they are not charismatic, they are not looked at highly.
- Social trends. Trends in society can have great impact on what is ‘charismatic’ and what isn’t. In many respects, social trends is nothing but the patterns of current ‘charisma’.
- Beliefs. The beliefs we all hold are ‘special’ and ‘charismatic’. This is why they have the power they have. As a result, we ‘prefer’ them above all else.
- Personal inclinations. Each one of us has certain qualities and inclinations that make this or that ‘charismatic’ for us. Often, who we associate with, and find appealing, is a result of that person demonstrating a ‘charisma’ we like.
By looking at these we can see that charisma “colors” the world and determines how we view the world in many ways. By making something ‘preferred’ it makes its fact dominate and a factor in our world perception. For the fact is that charisma greatly affects our world perception and how we view the world. In that sense, it shows that the ‘magic’ of charisma is that it gives us something we can relate to and accept. It ends up giving us something to strive for and look up to. In many ways, charisma is the basis of all understanding because it gives us an image that appeals to us and which we can relate to.
But the charismatic image of life also has a tendency to create a narrow viewpoint of life, much like looking at life through a tube. When we follow the charismatic image of life we as if only partially see the world, only seeing the ‘preferred’, neglecting all else. There is a tendency to focus only on certain aspects of life that appeals to us. As a result, the charismatic image of life tends to become sort of a selfish way of life, seeking what pleases oneself. In many ways, the hedonistic way of life is nothing but seeking ‘charisma’.
And so, we can see that charisma has many good qualities, giving us ideals and a world we can relate to. But this is offset by many bad qualities which can, and has, caused suffering for people and by creating a very narrow view of the world. This makes charisma, really, something like a double-edged sword, something we should be cautious about.