I Would Rather Elevate the Good Than Play Whack-a-Mole With the Bad
Some thoughts on platforming, encouragement, and what we can learn from the Secret Service’s money memorization.
I thought about calling this piece “For The Love of Everything That is Good In This World, Stop Quote-Tweeting Marjorie Taylor Greene” but I felt that using MTG’s name in the title kind of defeated the purpose of my thesis.
Instead of invoking names of conspiracy theorists, then, let me ask you this: if we all have a responsibility to call out what is wrong and unjust and ugly in this world, don’t we also have a responsibility to elevate what is good and true and beautiful?
I’m not prepared to answer the question of which one is more important, but I am pretty comfortable with comparing one to cultivating a garden, and one to running on a hamster wheel.
You’re pretty smart. I think you already know which is which.
Bear with me as I walk us both through a very overused analogy. (My apologies if you’ve heard it in a dozen motivational speeches or sermons or Ted Talks already. If that’s the case, feel free to skip ahead a few paragraphs.)
When agents for the U.S. Secret Service train to spot counterfeit money, they go through a rigorous process that involves studying real U.S. currency in minute detail. Learning every single feature of every single bill — plus how the paper is made, how the ink is blended, and which security features are embedded into the newer bills — helps them to spot fraud. (Ordinary citizens can sharpen their counterfeit-detection skills, too, with tools like this.) They don’t waste time learning the layout of every possible fake on the market in order to know those are bad; the act of memorizing the real deal is enough to identify a false one a mile away.
There are too many variants of bad bills to keep track of, but there’s only one gold standard (get it? because we don’t use that anymore? Thanks, I’ll be here all night) for each real bill — and that’s what needs to take up a Secret Service agent’s brain space.
This principle of knowing the good so you can spot the bad is applicable to many other areas of life, which is probably…