Truth, Trust and the God Complex

In Ireland, we have painfully come to realize that all our gods were really men disguised in frocks or surgeons’ coats. Fallible men with feet of clay and egos often the size of Everest.

This is the age of brutal transparency. Sure, there’s a lot of fake news about, but there is also a tsunami of real news, real facts, real information. Ordinary people have never had as much access to information that was historically the preciously guarded secrets of the gods that ruled over us.

Ordinary people have never been better educated and more able to understand all this information. Ordinary people are still open to spin and manipulation, particularly when it comes to pushing those old tribal triggers. However, deep down, a great many ordinary people know that the system is broken. That the system was always primarily designed to protect the elite, the gods of society.

The latest scandal to rock the gods in Ireland has to do with cervical smear testing. In a number of cases, women were not informed of critical information that they absolutely should have been given. Many women would be alive today had they been given the right information on time.

There are many reasons for this appalling scenario. One of them, the victims point out is the “God complex”. I am personally well aware of this. My experience of 8 out of 10 medical people—particularly senior consultants—is one of cold, imperious creatures. I remember once my doctor sending me for a test with one consultant and saying, “He’s very good but he’s a bit like a morgue director.” Actually, what he said did a great disservice to morgue directors. The man in the sterile coat didn’t shake my hand, hardly ever looked me in the eyes.

Too much blind trust. A servile society breeds servants and masters. The servants are rebelling. All over the world there is a collapse in institutional trust because most institutions have abused the trust given to them. The Irish Cervical Check scandal only came to light because of brave, dogged, determined, articulate and well-informed women like Vicky Phelan and Lorraine Walsh. Here’s what Lorraine Walsh  said about her consultants. “The attitude I was given was; ‘I didn’t feel you needed to know, and in hindsight I should have told you, I don’t know what you’re making a big deal about, this is no big deal.’”

If you ever wonder why most senior managers are clueless about digital, or know hardly anything about their customers, or could care less that the intranet sucks, now you know why. They were trained that way. In the macho misogynist world, it is not cool to care, not cool to be humble. If you are clueless about digital you must lie and pretend and say things like “we need more interactivity; let’s do a redesign; I want to be first in the carousel; what about the branding?’ We breed a culture of men who feel they must know even when they don’t, who feel they should keep the key information and feed it out in dribs and drabs when they see fit, who bristle at being challenged and immediately look to take down the challenger.

That world is smashing straight into a new world where increasing complexity and rapid change means that nobody can possibly have all the answers, where multidisciplinary teams deliver better results, and where the customer / patient / student has lots of hard questions to ask and will not be fobbed off by some deluded soul with a god complex.

What is the Cervical Check controversy about?




5 thoughts on “Truth, Trust and the God Complex

  1. Todd Prouty

    Excellent post. It’s not always being “clueless about digital;” sometimes it’s overestimating what they know, as you are no doubt well aware. For instance, today I had to explain why I was so attached to using radio buttons to switch between tool modes when upper management asked for a checkbox. Mind you, this mode switch completely changes how the tool works, it’s not adding a little extra functionality. I resisted the urge to say, “Because you pay me to know better.”

  2. J-P De Clerck

    Hi Gerry, it’s been a while. Please allow me to make an assumption and then ask your opinion on a few questions that might be out of scope.

    My assumption is that this post is about more than just digital and information.

    My questions to you are:

    What if your statement that people have never been better educated and more able to understand all this information is an assumption that needs validation and that the tsunami of “real” is just a ripple in a pond compared with an ocean of what is presented as real?

    What if the god complex in this day and age is the by definition ego-protecting and self-centered ways human beings see the world (as we cannot see the world through the eyes of others, which is an obvious given but often overlooked in thinking on the future of technology)?

    What if the gods of society include the behemoths of technology and the creators, curators and amplifiers of the information which accounts for the majority of the information people read, see and find?

    Knowing that even scientific research can’t be fully trusted anymore with the pressure to publish and the sponsoring of the research, what are your criteria to define reality?

    Finally: what if we have it all wrong and evidence, as well as our relentless focus on ease, doesn’t make people more educated but rather leads to the loss of the capability to be really informed as the intellectual benefits of having to look, search and accept complexity are traded for the ease of information filters?

    Just wondering.

    1. Gerry McGovern Post author

      Hi J-P,
      You ask some pretty deep questions here. And I don’t really have any answers. I think we have to learn to live with the fact that nothing can be fully trusted, that there are no absolute truths, that so much of the world and our lives are messy and grey and complex. We have to learn to live with uncertainty and complexity; in fact embrace the.

      My wife is studying chemistry right now and she is constantly amazed by the resources that are out there on the Web. There is much more than ‘news’ on the Web. There is so much stuff online that can help you learn about things.

      Yes, probably our biggest gods right now are our technology gods. It is deeply troubling that a few geeks in Silicon Valley have so much power and can control so much.

      Were we ever really informed? I certainly know that in Ireland we weren’t, but that in the Ireland of today we are massively more informed and less gullible. Huge work still to be done but huge progress.

  3. J-P De Clerck

    Thanks for the answers Gerry. It helps seeing the perspective of your wife versus mine which is that of an aging news and media addict. “We have to learn to live with uncertainty and complexity; in fact embrace them”. Glad to hear that, it’s a bit the way we’ve raised our children. Love what you’re doing. See quite some people “in the network” asking different kinds of questions lately. Think that’s good and normal, hope it can “expand” one way or the other.


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