Saturday, July 6, 2013

From character to personality

On the recommendation of a friend, I've begun reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking.  It's quite an eye-opener: even though I'm only one chapter in I already feel a sense of recognition, and a sort of broad cultural understanding of issues that I've struggled with most of my life.

Apparently, with the advent of Dale Carnegie and the Twentieth Century, America went from a Culture of Character (in which how you gracefully and quietly and responsibly conduct your private life is the most important thing) to a Culture of Personality (in which the image you project -- preferably of a sort of can-do confidence -- is the most important thing).

So of course introverts in such a society find themselves at a disadvantage.  But, more importantly, doesn't this trend imply an emphasis on form rather than substance?  And it seems to me that if we constantly choose the illusion of competence over actual competence we may be simply building a house of cards which is eventually doomed to collapse.

On the other hand, this trend means that the brash newcomer who is full of inventive new ideas is no longer ostracized for "not fitting in."  So it's not necessarily a bad thing; it's more that we need to find a way to balance the two; to appreciate and support both quiet and noisy contributions to society and culture.  And here I am again, advocating the middle way, the via media -- such an Episcopalian thing to do...

1 comment:

Jan said...

I've been meaning to read this. Thanks for the nudge!Q