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Wicked Good Spin Doctoring

Tom Haskins has to quit reading my mind.  After all, I have a sort of quasi-schedule to my blog posts, and it never ceases to amaze me how he can leave a comment on one post that acts as a natural segue to my next post.  He just left an insightful comment to my recent book reviews:

Your addition of the adverb "genuine" got me thinking. I wonder if people who are "nice with a side order of backstabbing" are conscious of being nice, but unaware of their dark side? I wonder if genuinely nice people are born genuine (genetics), raised by genuinely nice parents, or it's a trait they acquired later in life. I wonder if a backstabber can change to genuine? I wonder what that change would involve: feedback, practicing skills, problem solving, therapy...? I wonder if the backstabber is merely confused, damaged by abuse, lacking goals to be genuine or lazy about improving his/her character?

DefyingwickedWhich brings me to my planned post.  A couple of months ago, my wife and I were able to see the musical Wicked while we were in southern Florida over spring break.  For those of you not familiar with this musical, it is the "story behind the story" of The Wizard of Oz.  While the musical hardly follows the book at all, I actually like it better because it meshes well with the familiar movie that we all know and love.  Besides the fact that it was one of the best musicals I've ever seen (I would rank it above Les Mis and Phantom), there was something that Wicked accomplished that no other broadway musical has up to this point:  it really made me think.

Submitted for your consideration:  Suppose everything you accepted as truth were suddenly turned on its ear and spun around about a zillion times?  We sometimes experience this with our office politics situations.  Without giving away too much of the plot, how would your thinking about The Wizard of Oz change if you knew that:

  • Glinda and Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West) were roommates (and good friends) at school?
  • Elphaba was not so much of a wicked witch as she was an animal rights activist who fell victim to bad spin doctoring?
  • The pointy hat that the witch wears was actually a malicious regifting from Glinda?
  • All of the characters that Dorothy (who is barely a footnote in the musical) meets in her journey actually knew each other quite well long before she arrived in Oz?

Recently, I had to face a situation where somebody I had perceived as a snake politician was one of the "good guys," and somebody else I had previously trusted was really a snake.  My perceptions were allowed to persist because of spin doctoring (rather effectively executed, considering that I've always prided myself on having a rather keen BS-o-meter).  I began to wonder what it was about this newly discovered snake which made them behave as such.  Then Tom's comment came up, and it brought to mind part of Glinda's dialogue at the beginning of Wicked:

Are people born wicked, or do they have wickedness thrust upon them?  After all, she had a father, she had a mother, as so many of us do.... And, like any family, they had their secrets.

I'm not sure how many of Tom's questions I can answer... can you?  Sometimes reality, like spin doctoring, is very situational.  Perception is a prickly ally.  I do believe that every situation is capable of a happy ending, and that the "bad guys" eventually get theirs in the end.  We may never get to witness it, but it does happen... somewhere over the rainbow.


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ann michael

Isn't it funny how similar conversations arise independently but at the same time. The last three days I've found myself in a nature/nurture discussion every day!

It seems as though it's impossible to come up with a blanket answer as to which is more important - they're both important.

While I certainly understand the value of the debate when looking forward (to our children and their children, etc.), I find almost no value in trying to figure it out as a reason (or often excuse) for who we are and what we do.

I think we all need to take the time to understand who we are, how we react in situations, and try to make sure that our reactions are respectful (and hopefully effective). Sometimes we get stabbed in the back - it's a bummer, but we move on.

Sometimes we might even be the stabber and need to come to terms with that, try to make things right if possible, and again, move on - hopefully wiser and more aware of our own issues.

Sorry, didn't mean to get all philosophical on you!

Timothy Johnson

Ann - never apologize for "getting all philosophical on me"... your brand of philosophy is better than many others' so-called facts. And you are right on target with your thinking.

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