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Follow your leader…

I’ve been a member of LinkedIn for some time now [other social networking tools are available…].  It’s useful for keeping up with old colleagues without the intrusive, domineering style of FaceBook.  Recently, however, they have started sending regular emails suggesting that I might like to ‘follow’ some LinkedIn Influencers, or ‘thought leaders’ as it subsequently calls them.  I don’t know about anyone else, but I get quite tetchy when someone seems to be telling me what to think.



Especially as the cast of these leaders is somewhat depressing and all to predictable.  Obviously, we have LinkedIn’s own CEO, whose name I can’t remember and can’t be bothered to look up.  Among the others we have the new age guru and shameless charlatan Deepak Chopra.  Another recent email informed me of the The Things He Always Carries.  Items listed are a biosensor manufactured by a company he works for as an adviser, a gizmo that ‘automatically puts the user into a meditative, relaxed, dream, sleep, creative or altered state of consciousness’ (whatever) that, yes you’ve guessed it, he helped to develop, and an iPad, which becomes a shameless plug for his app and website.  Basically, the things he says he carries are things he can sell you.  Just as well, as he doesn’t always seem to carry money….

Clicking the link for further shameless self-publicists Thought Leaders gives a screen including our own David Cameron, who may be Prime Minister, but who hasn’t obviously had an original thought in all the time he has been in the public eye, beyond that he should lead the Conservative Party.  And so it goes on.

It appears that to be a ‘Thought Leader’  your ideas don’t need to be proven, your thoughts don’t need to be original or even well-formed.  You just need to be a brazen self-publicist and to have made it into the new self-appointed power-elite, whereupon riches of all sorts will flow to you because you obviously deserve it: much the same as the power-elites of every other generation.  Such people can’t tell you how to succeed as they don’t really know how they did it – luck, connections, whatever: you can’t replicate it to a formula.

It’s a nice gig if you can get it, but it doesn’t mean that I want to listen to you, or that I should hold you in high regard.  At the moment the web is awash with massively valued companies that don’t actually produce anything of real value and whose only real commodity is access to their members, and often what their members might reasonably regard as their own property, such as images they have produced, or copy they have written.  If anything is less likely to make me want to engage as part of a community, it’s their suggesting that I should pay attention to modern-day snake-oil salesmen.


Since I started this post [and agonised over whether to post it] another leader from another time has passed on.  I will not comment directly on the late Baroness’s politics, suffice it to say that we did not often see eye to eye, and that as time has moved on I have moved progressively further from such a line of sight.

Much has been made in some circles of the public  ‘celebrations’ at her death, although detailed reading seems to result in reports of  numbers similar to those found at a Scottish Second Division match – as long as somebody remembered to take a dog along.  I don’t celebrate anyone’s death – perhaps if I had been raised under a totalitarian regime I would feel differently, but I didn’t, and neither did anyone else born and raised in this country for many generations.  And in any case, there is too much to celebrate in simply being alive.

In some ways though, this response had become a self-fulfilling prophesy.  Margret Thatcher had become a symbol of many things to many people, and symbols can be very powerful things.  Over the years I have probably met more people who said they would celebrate this passing than were anywhere near the streets on Monday night.  A generation has grown up hearing these things: some of them, although having no direct experience living through the eighties, believed that this was an appropriate response.   If you repeat something often enough people may start believing it, especially if their opinions are still being formed: and the self-righteous indignation of the self-appointed keepers of the flame playing to their own demographic simply makes matters worse.

Those on all sides of the political fence, including those who sit on it, should take a long, hard look at themselves and think of the ramifications of their sloganeering and the law of unintended consequences.  There is a society out there that deserves, and increasingly expects, better.  What you say three times isn’t necessarily true – and history is full of boojums…

Currently listening to: Deserters – Oysterband [All That Way for This…]


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