Eye-Opening Perspectives for Heroic Hearts

Eye-Opening Perspectives for Heroic Hearts

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Cream Always Rises To The Top

Famous Quip Sinks To Bottom

by Winsip Custer CPW News Service

As Western culture seems to be coming under fire from the Middle East, so too are many of the little sayings and verses that parents, teachers, bosses and others used to instill moral and ethical truths.   "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink," is one.  "The horse is more likely to lead you to water, but the water he leads you to is in all likelihood polluted today," said Wilford P. Hodge of the Center For Cognitive Analysis of Popular Phrases in Jonesboro, Arkansas.

Take another one..."You have only one opportunity to make a good first impression,"  that one, says Hodge, is 180 degrees away from another popular saying..."you can't read a book by its cover."  I've read some pretty good books with a crappy cover," said Hodge.  "On the other hand, I read some crap with stunning covers....take Harry Potter, for example," he said.  "Hog warts!"

I asked Hodge what he felt were the pros and cons of these bits of wisdom collected from various sources and codified in books like McGuffey's Reader.  "The pros are that they are quite memorable and as teaching tools they pack a great deal of culturally transmitted information in few words.  It's like looking at a mountain filled with rocks and trees and a stream coming down one side with snow cap at the top....so much packed into a single image.  On the other hand, the image is distorted from the start.  A picture of a mountain is not a mountain.  Same thing with these quips and phrases.  Take this one...'cream always rises to the top'.  Now we know that in a milk jug that's sitting still cream floats, but what organizations sit still?  Most are in a constant state of flux.  The churning and churning means that cream can't rise to the top because of the constant agitation.  Often you find that agitation is to create a barrier to the cream rising.  It's often caused by some in the very organization in which the cream, if it was more stable, would rise to the top, but can't.  I offer you two organizations in which the cream did not rise to the top, but was suspended in the milk by an artificial hyper-state of confusion, shifty and deceptive business trade practices and even illegal maneuvering....Enron and Columbia/HCA Health Care.  If it was cream that rose to the top in these organizations it was clearly curdled," said Hodge.

"Ken Lay went to jail for fraud.  Rick Scott of Columbia received the largest Medicare/Medicaid fraud fine in U.S. history, $1.7 billion, but that didn't stop him from becoming Governor of Florida with advertising paid for by his $400 million stock sale and severance packages when Columbia went bankrupt from his management style. Style?  Well, it was the style of Jesse James.  That Scott was elected the Florida Governor is a clear indicator that with many of the retired leaders of American business and industry retiring to Florida, their endorsement of Scott gives them comfort. They must mostly be descendants of Cole Younger and Billy the Kid. They see Scott as one of their own even with information about his Columbia connections widely disseminated during his gubernatorial race in a state that previously selected our nation's highest officer, the President of the United State...an officer sworn to uphold our laws...even the ones that he and they may not like.  Which brings me back to this popular quip.  Cream rises in a stationary or more stable milk jug, but Enron and Columbia are clear examples that crap rises to the top, too.  To be accurate about these nuggets of culturally transmitted illusions people have to think dialectically about a phrase or quip. Think of the exact opposite as quickly as you hear the first one.  Rising is juxtaposed to falling.  Purity is juxtaposed to corruption.  Motion is juxtaposed to stillness. Bad apples to good apples, to use a different image...or fresh cream to curdled cream.  The truth of the matter is generally in the middle.  Let me further clarify...  'Cream rises to the top....in stationary or more stable milk bottles....but so does feces in a septic tank,' said Hodge as he put his hand on his chin as if well-please with his statement. "Now when your friend tells you he has just been promoted to a higher position at the newest Enron or Worldcom or Goldman Sacs or Merrill Lynch, or heck, your local school board or church or synagogue, corner supermarket or even the President of the United States, say  'Cream always rises, but so do turds in a septic tank.  Which are you?'  There, that's clearly a better quip, but an admittedly tasteless one that you don't want you use at your mother's house at Thanksgiving or at lunch with Monsignor after church on Sunday, but it has the punch of those early moralistic quips in McGuffey's little Reader" said Hodge who concluded "and I've worked in some organizations that were clearly more like a septic tank than like a sanitized milk jug."

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