For those who don’t know, a few days ago allegations of sexual assault, unwanted touching, and sexual harassment were made against a man named Harvey Weinstein, a Hollywood entertainment mogul.
Mr. Weinstein is very wealthy, and very powerful in entertainment circles. His studio, Miramax, produced such movie classics as Clerks, Pulp Fiction, The Crying Game, Sex, Lies, and Videotape, and many others.
According to news stories, Mr. Weinstein is abusive, misogynistic, vindictive, and obsessed with power and control.
Many of the news stories and commentaries you’ll read on this subject will focus on certain themes, such as:
- The hypocrisy of many in the entertainment industry, who supposedly knew about Mr. Weinstein’s alleged behavior
- Comparisons to politicians and other celebrities who behaved (and continue to behave) abusively toward women
- A discussion of patriarchy and privilege
I want to focus on some other things.
It’s important to try and learn from other people’s mistakes….and the Weinstein scandal represents a HUGE cautionary tale.
What caused Weinstein to allegedly behave in such awful ways? How did he get there?
Only he knows for certain, but I’m guessing it amounts to what I would call the “Amplification of Objectification”.
Several years ago I went to school with a woman who was a regional manager for a large fast food company. In our conversations, the two of us came up with the term “Thinging” to describe some of the challenges her employees faced.
She mentioned her employees were feeling increasingly isolated and depressed about their job because of the dehumanizing, objectifying way people treated them.
When you want a soda, you can go to a machine, put in your money, hit a button, and get your soda. The “Thing” gives you your drink.
If you want to go somewhere, you get in your car, turn the engine on, and drive. The “Thing” gets you where you want to go.
Her point was that many people didn’t really see fast food workers as people.
They were “The Thing that gets me my cheeseburger”.
They were a means to an end….a tool to be used by people who wanted something.
If the stories about Weinstein’s behavior are true, it’s pretty clear he viewed women this way.
How often do we (if we’re being honest with ourselves) treat people as things?
How often do we see others not as people, but as their job or as something that performs a specific function or role? How often do we see someone as:
- A prospect…..further sub-divided into “tire-kickers” or a “hot lead”?
- A sex object?
- A competitor?
- A time waster….a Sunday driver who slows me down on the road?
- A political obstacle?
- The “Thing” that serves me my food or processes my order?
“You must remember to love people and use things, rather than to love things and use people.”
-Fulton J. Sheen
Truth be told, that is a lot harder to do than we care to admit. We all are guilty of using people and turning them into things at one point in time or another.
Yet the Weinstein story seems to raise more questions than it answers:
- Why do some people seem to go so far in the wrong direction?
- Why do so many of the worst examples come from men of fame, wealth, and influence?
- Why do some people with fame, wealth, and influence not behave this way….why do they behave (like the rest of us) decently, but not perfectly?
I think of power and influence as a magnifying agent. Whatever characteristics, behaviors, and traits that are strongest inside us get magnified and more pronounced when we have more strength and resources at our disposal.
“The serum amplifies everything that is inside, so good becomes great; bad becomes worse”.
-Dr. Abraham Erskine, Captain America: The First Avenger
I bet if you went back many years ago, Harvey Weinstein’s behavior wasn’t as extreme as it reportedly is today. I bet when he thought about his future, Harry Weinstein wasn’t saying to himself:
“One day I’ll be rich, famous, and powerful….and then I’ll be accused of using my wealth, power, and influence to rape, harass and abuse women. The whole country will be appalled and repulsed at what I allegedly do”.
Yet here he is.
Most of us will never come close to doing the things that Harvey Weinstein is accused of doing…but we probably don’t have the power, means, or opportunity to get away with it, either.
But we can get away with being a horrible jerk on social media…with flipping people off and acting like a maniac in our road rage moments….with treating those who serve us as “the things that get me my cheeseburger”.
Now more than ever, it’s a pretty good idea to focus on making ourselves better….particularly how we look at and treat our fellow human beings.
Want to avoid becoming a Harvey Weinstein? Let’s stop “thinging” people, and make sure that our behaviors and character traits that might get amplified as we move through life are the ones we WANT to be amplified.