We Can (not always) Have It All

Thoreau, Gandhi, Mandela — it’s easy to see why their words and ideas have been massaged into gauzy slogans. They were inspirational figures, dreamers of beautiful dreams. But what goes missing in the slogans is that they were also sober, steely men. Each of them knew that thoroughgoing change, whether personal or social, involves humility and sacrifice, and that the effort to change oneself or the world always exacts a price.

But ours is an era in which it’s believed that we can reinvent ourselves whenever we choose. So we recast the wisdom of the great thinkers in the shape of our illusions. Shorn of their complexities, their politics, their grasp of the sheer arduousness of change, they stand before us now. They are shiny from their makeovers, they are fabulous and gorgeous, and they want us to know that we can have it all.

— Brian Morton, “Falser Words Were Never Spoken”


Morton’s article makes it clear that the words that we thought were from the great figures who encourage us, are actually illusions of ourselves in which we reinvented the people like Gandhi, in order to make them tell us what we want to hear.

“We can have it all.” Oversimplified slogan worsens the hardship that facing us everyday.

Why do we need to repeat the “words from the great” like mantra everyday?

Quotes are supposed to be followed by a source — said by whom. (Although I’ve been wondering since I was little: is the chance of two people saying the same thing really that low?) But nowadays, many quotations by celebrities in different areas are everywhere — on posters, postcards, t-shirts, hats, key chains, notebook covers, Facebook wall, Instagram feed…

A positive celebrity is a symbol her/himself. The symbol of the positiveness shines a better and more effective light on the quotes that are probably from her/him, or assigned to her/him.

There are two possibilities of what happens when a quote like the following appears in your social media feed:


If you didn’t know who this guy was, you might first notice the quote. Then you thought: “hey, he’s right! I totally agree with him and I need someone to tell me that!” Then you might google him, and get to know who Justin Bieber is, and start to like his music and so on. In this process, this picture increased the influence of the singer. It might have had some good effect on you too, while you read it. But most importantly, you are thinking “Justin Bieber is such a smart cookie!”

If you first notice Bieber’s photo, you might think: “Hmm, I don’t really like him.” But then you saw what he “said”, which you also appreciate because you think you “need to be strong”, because you are also “talented” but not everybody likes you. Then you might think: “well, he’s not so bad.” Like this, this picture improved the celebrity’s image, and made him more likable, to some degree.

If after seeing the photo of Bieber and reading the quotation, you remain indifferent — congratulations for…nothing. It just means that you are not a Justin-Bieber person. But it doesn’t mean that you are immune to all the other celebrity spectacles.

How about…







You are not stupid


It’s like when we are in kindergarten, we fell down and got hurt, we needed our parents or grandparents to come to us and tell us “everything will be okay.” They were the people we wished we could be.

They are the voice we would like to believe. We want to have it all. We need to be told that we can have it all.

30 Days Writing Challenge – Day 5


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