The Spitzer Effect

March 18th, 2008 by bebersghost

You’d have to be completely detached from the news (and late night TV) to not know that Eliot Spitzer, former Governor of New York, traded in his reputation, job and possibly marriage for a night with a $4000 prostitute. One can’t help but wonder how anyone could be so incredibly stupid.

How indeed?

Whenever I hear adults criticize teens for doing stupid things (as they often do), I’m always mindful of the Clinton’s and Spitzer’s of the world – proof of the “Dilbert Principle”, that we are all idiots sometimes.

Politicians seem particularly skilled at making huge mistakes, so much so that I hereby introduce a new word: Spitzerian, or to Spitzer – to do something so incredibly stupid that the entire nation is in awe over how someone so intelligent can be so dumb (synonymous with Clintonian, Foleyan and insert name of favorite scandal ridden politician here).

Psychologists come up with all kinds of fancy reasons why people do these things. But, not being a psychologist, I believe it’s just that we human being are stupid sometimes, and do things without thinking of the consequences, or assume we are somehow immune to those consequences. The truth is, we do it all the time. Mostly it’s little things: overeating, not exercising enough, cheating just a bit on our homework, procrastinating, etc.. Most of us avoid the big mistakes, if only because we can’t afford $4000 prostitutes.

I’ve seen BBYO members do some stupid things. I think the difference though is that in many cases they do stupid things because they don’t actually know the consequences (as compared to just not thinking about them).

Drugs are a good example. I’ve known members who try drugs, and when he or she doesn’t immediately go insane, come to the conclusion that all the anti-drug programs they had at school were lies. They then start using regularly and remain oblivious as their life starts going bad in every possible way. I’ve seen this happen and am in awe at the sheer Spitzerian stupidity involved.

Or the Aleph who “borrows” his parents car before he has a license. Exciting? Yes. Fun? Yes. But does he realize that if he gets cost he may delay getting his license for a long time? Or that he has an accident and injures someone his entire life can be ruined? Or how about the passengers who join him, not realizing they could also be criminally liable? Are they Spitzerian? Or just ignorant?

Stealing street signs, Committing acts of vandalism, trashing restaurants. All acts of idiocy. All very human.

How can we prevent people from making these kinds of mistakes? I don’t know. I don’t really think it’s possible. At least not entirely.

But I will point out one thought that may help.

In many cases people make these mistakes in order to be “bad” – to be rebellious – to stand out or find some excitement. In other words, they confuse “good” with being “well behaved”. This is understandable – for little kids, being “good” is the same as doing what you are told. But when you are older, the meaning of the word “good” changes (or should change). “Good” means to act in an ethical manner – which not only is different from “well behaved” but sometimes even demands that you do not do as you are told.

Or put another way – it is possible to be rebellious, to stand out, and to find excitement and to still be a good and ethical person and not make stupid high risk mistakes.

Think about it. And next time you have $4000, remember – there are better ways to use the money than Spitzer found. You could invest in Bear-Stearns….

2 Responses to “The Spitzer Effect”

  1. AZAleph Says:

    Yeah, instead of one vice-ridden Aleph buying one really expensive “working girl” using chapter funds, my chapter could plan a program at a brothel and we could all get laid. Sounds like a good idea to me!

    /sarcasm (if you needed it)

  2. Jeff in MAR Says:

    I just want to thank you for keeping this site going. Your opinions may not be what is popular or accepted in BBYO at the current time but they mirror the sentiments i have heard from most BBYO members. I’m Godol of my council and I think that your style of advising is the most beneficial to the chapters. You know a tremendous amount, but look at the rules and interpret them in the way that makes sense for the membership. We recently received a new adviser in my chapter this year and he works in a very similar fashion to you. His style of advising has had an enormously positive effect on my chapter and i believe whatever chapter you advise is benefited by you being an adviser. When i get fed up with the new rules and restrictions being thrown at my by our director i turn to this blog and my adviser to remember why i ran for office.

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