The Lesson that is Lance Armstrong

We vacillated back and forth during the saga that has been Lance Armstrong. The story that has played out like a fairy tale has now revealed the ugly truth that lies at its core. Lance Armstrong used performance enhancing drugs. It must be true, after all, he told Oprah!

What lays at the heart of this saga  is the story of how culture creates the Lance Armstrongs of the world. It is a common tale tucked away in both corporate boardrooms and the government back room obscure dealings of a nation too absorbed in scandalous gossip to deal with the foundational elements that take root in our own countrymen. Lance and others like him are symptomatic of the moral decline of a culture, nothing more.

We educate our children without teaching them to think. We receive financial incentives to produce in our workplaces without experiencing the self gratification of a job well done. We lose our jobs for offering our expertise and are punished for voicing opposition to poor treatment of our peers and clients. We have become line staff in industries that have no connection to the factories of early industrial America. Without the ability to think and problem solve, we are willing puppets of the post industrial complex working for the accumulation of wealth for smaller and smaller number of elites.

The very principles we pride ourselves on as Americans are the very skills many of us will never be paid for. Education, certification and license requirements serves the idealist but has no carryover to the workplace. Ingenuity is perceived as threatening. Problem solving is relegated to carbon copied programmatic policy guidelines. Conflict resolution is settled by who has the most power to bully his point. This takes place as much in corporate America as it does on our own school playgrounds. This is the workplace and social experience no matter where we find ourselves. These are the rules that we are forced to play by.

We live vicariously through Lance. He is our hero. His triumphs fuel our belief that one day we will find success and be better able to face the mounting obstacles and injustices in our own existence. We support his efforts through blind adulation and defend him regardless of allegations hurled at him.

Corporate entities salivate at the Lance Armstrongs of the world. Built within each  is a representative to use to drive up sales. With money as the driving incentive, corporations are able to make willing participants of the most idealistic among us. The unspoken problem with the arrangement is that signing on with BIG business makes each participant beholden to the corporate goals and tactics regardless of its ethical or legal consequences… Where corporate interests collide with individual convictions, corporate entities are sure to win. This statement is further substantiated by the United States Supreme Court Citizen’s United ruling asserting the fact that “corporations are people and money is voice”.  It stands to reason that as a representative of a corporate entity, contractual expectations of performance is mandatory.  Within the hierarchical arrangement between corporation and employee there are added unspoken expectations of behavior that hasten the further erosion of the individual self in any interaction where money exchanges hands. Through the long list of public figures that have succumbed under the pressure to perform, it is not outlandish to question the evolving mental health crises for those who enter the realm of celebrity status. Corporate entities are not interested in the personal effect of their expectations or media exposure on people. They are interested in the most important aspect of the transaction, their investment.

So, amid the adulation and hero worship that is bestowed on celebrities like Lance Armstrong, it is easy to understand how they come to rely on questionable activities to feel in control of expectations that come from both their ascension to world status and their corporate affiliation. Many engage in the unethical and illegal behaviors because 1) They are affected personally by the stress of being center stage, and/or, 2) There is an unconscious mistaken assumption that their corporate affiliation buffers them from any investigation into improper behavior.  I want to make it very clear, corporate entities may wine and dine celebrity wanna-bes before the deal and to celebrate gross earnings but they will be the first to pull the plug when questionable behavior arises regardless if it was caused by personal shortcomings or unspoken corporate expectations. Remember, “corporations are people and money is voice”. With that ruling it is clear that even Lance Armstrong gets the short end of the stick no matter what he has personally accomplished.

Nanaymie Kasmira Godfrey MS, MAC, LMHC

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