Joel, the character Tom Cruise played in Risky Business, symbolizes the worst type of personality in business. He has loads of fun dancing around in his underwear until he takes the advice of his skeevy pal Booger from Revenge of the Nerds: “Sometimes you gotta say ‘what the fuck.'” Things go downhill from there; he gets conned by a prostitute, sinks his dad’s treasured Porsche in Lake Michigan, gets threatened and robbed, and is forced into premature suburban teenage pimpdom. In the movie, things work out for him in the end… because it’s a movie. In real life his parents would come home to an empty house, a missing car, a neighborhood full of STD-infected teenage boys and a dead son who got himself double tapped in the driveway by Guido the Killer Pimp.
Apparently there are a lot of guys out there like Joel. For convenience sake we’ll call them all “Mr. WTF.” Confronted with a tense situation or difficult decision, this genius elects not to think the matter through. To him, discretion is NEVER the better part of valor. His warcry is always “Go for it,” a worn-out 80’s mantra that has inspired countless construction site mishaps, drunken car wrecks, and unfortunate red carpet fashion disasters. When the pressure is on in the boardroom or town hall, his is always the loudest voice in the room, inciting panic and extolling immediate action of the utmost severity, accusing anyone who dares advise caution of cowardice… as his finger inches ever-closer toward the big red button.
How does this sort of reckless personality acquire the power to make vital decisions or set massive forces in motion— and fulfill our worst fears by running rampant and misusing people and resources, frittering them away in a lunatic surge of bungled efforts, lost opportunities, and missed chances?
I have no idea. But everyone else always winds up paying for this guy’s mistakes. And believe me, he makes a LOT of them.
It was his reckless stupidity that launched a completely unnecessary THREE TRILLION DOLLAR military invasion to support a futile hunt for imaginary WMDs in Iraq; his stubborn ignorance that ignored desperate warnings from expert engineers warning not to launch the Challenger because they KNEW it would explode; and his smug sociopathy that completely understood the theoretical possibility that the first-ever A-bomb test at Trinity might ignite the atmosphere and exterminate all life on Earth, but who went ahead and set the damn thing off anyway to see what would actually happen.
Mr. WTF also thinks it’s a good idea to pump millions of gallons of water and chemicals, at high pressure, into cracks in the Earth in order to squeeze more oil and natural gas out of the ground. Despite the fact that the process seriously screws with the water table and ecology of the areas in question, and does who-knows-what to the tectonic structure of those sites. Of course the Petrochemical industry is paying gangs of PR spin-doctors and lobbyists loads of money to assure us that hydraulic fracturing is as safe and natural as sunlight and puppies. And back in the 1940’s, apparently, more doctors smoked Camels than any other brand of cigarette (those doctors later died from lung cancer, of course).
Should we really trust Mr. WTF when he promises he has our best interests at heart? Even though he stands to make billions off the deal and will be laughing his ass off from a beach chair in Belize once the deed is done? I mean… just how stupid do these corporate douchebags really think we are?
Pretty damn stupid, it seems. And for the most part they’re right. P.T. Barnum’s Theory of Evolution is still operating in full force in the 21st century: every minute another sucker is born who thinks that senseless games of environmental Russian Roulette like “hydrofracking” should be allowed.
Because it’s as safe and natural as sunlight and puppies, just like the nice man in the suit promised.