In 1979, a man stole a 12 million dollar horse that was being mistreated by a powerful corporation that was using it as a branding mascot. Upon realizing the horse was being sedated, drugged and shot up with steroids that could make it sterile, the man took off on the horse, right down the Las Vegas strip and headed for the hills.
The man was semi-famous himself. A washed up old cowboy who was now selling breakfast cereal, trying desperately to be something he wasn’t, coping with his fake life with tequila. He was on the run…with the horse. In big trouble.
Now his story may not have ended up so well, if it hadn’t been for a savvy reporter who wanted a good story.
And she got one. Luckily, she was able to discover the best part of this man…the most genuine and authentic part of himself. The part that believed in something and was willing to risk it all to save a thoroughbred horse and set him free. And that he did.
I wish I could say this story was true. I love it when the good-guys win, which seems to be far and fewer these days. But it’s actually a summary of one of my favorite movies, The Electric Horseman.
We discover throughout the movie, that the more the truth comes out about why this man, Sonny Steele, (played by Robert Redford), stole the horse, the more support he had. People joined together, speaking out in Sonny’s favor, and dissing the greedy Ampco Corporation, who are constantly conspiring about how to save their reputation, make a million-dollar merger, and line their pockets.
The bottom line was that Sonny Steele couldn’t be anything other than his authentic self. He didn’t care about the money, he didn’t care about what people thought of him, but he did care about animal rights. We also learn, that he was desperately wanting to free himself, as much as the horse, from the spotlight of public life and the superficiality that came with it. He was trying to find the best part of himself again.
Which leads to a word I’ve been loathing lately – “authentic”. (I wouldn't mind throwing out the word "transparency" either.) Everything and everyone in big business claims to be authentic. But how can a company be “authentic” when they have ulterior motives, which most likely includes making a lot of money. I haven’t figured that out yet.
Especially when Cohn and Wolfe (a PR firm) listed Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Google as the top four most “authentic” companies of 2017. Are you kidding me? (Facebook also made the list). Hmmmmm….
Regardless, I just can’t get behind that word.
I appreciate the Electric Horseman because it is a pre-1980s movie, filmed before full-blown Neoclassical economics took hold of America. In the following decades, American values would shift from one of corporations taking care of their workers and communities, to one in which corporations now take care of their shareholders. Trickle-down and budget cuts of the 80’s, banking deregulation of the 90’s, followed by a never-ending war and recession, has led us to 2017. Need I say more...and the worst part, is that if you do your research, you may discover this path was laid out decades ago by the "powers" that be.
Many have bought into an ideology that has shifted from the mind-frame of the prosocial 1920-1960’s that “we’re all in this together”, to one of increasing selfishness and greed.
I coined it the “consumerism illusion”, as I was talking to my kids about the influx of seasonal ads on television. And so I try very hard to open their eyes to the fact that a company will tell you anything to get you on board with their product. However, material items are nothing more than a momentary lapse of illusion. Consumerism, which fuels this present-day economic model, is not real. And it's definitely not authentic. It’s painfully fake.
Finding the best part of ourselves, the authentic part, takes away this pain. When we walk away from a false life, we start to remember our humanity and our connection to others and our planet. What we value comes back to us. We remember that the "unconditional" act of taking care of one another is what creates a beautiful and peaceful society. And maybe that’s what this season of thanks and giving needs to be.
As we brace ourselves for "Black Friday", and the pressures - seen and unseen - that accompany it, be aware. Think about exploring small businesses to buy from - ones that truly are authentic because it's a passion and livelihood. And consider turning everything off - if even for an hour at a time. Enjoy the silence and reconnect with one another and the natural vibration of the planet without the clutter of virtual noise.
And so, as Sonny said, “Oh, I'm gonna get movin' on. Find me something simple. Hard maybe, but plain and quiet.”