In what is arguably one of the worst times in American history since the Great Depression, the people of America have their chins decidedly up.
The sanguine mood is characterized by “an outbreak of niceness across the cultural landscape — an attitude bubbling up in commercials, movies and even, to a degree, the normally not-nice blogosphere,” the New York Times reports.
Enron and Madoff are no match for the almost hermetic happiness that now protects the Nation. It’s not sugar-coated like the self-help decade of the nineties. Nor does it resemble the maudlin contentment of the shut-eyed fifties. Instead, it’s a cheerfulness that smiles next to adversity.
It’s nourished by President Obama himself, who has cottoned such unprecedented praise and agreement that the press can’t help but gush. That goodness has spread virally – as happiness has been proven to do – and companies and individuals are following suit.
“Companies that have the highest retention have the nicest atmospheres,” the New York Times reports. “And in a situation where people are losing their jobs and you have an option of whom to hire, you’re going to hire the person who is complimenting your tie. Nice becomes a competitive edge.”
Alice.com is a good example of this. It’s not just that we have a ping pong table and encouraged nap time, but that our co-founders consistently encourage and compliment employees, partners, customers, potential vendors, and others. I didn’t even know this was a viable way to do business. That is, our work is not predicated on fear, failure, politics, or manipulation.
Such plushy and persistently optimistic companies give power back to the employee, back to the customer, and back to the idea of social community where the greater good is served over the individualistic ambitions of wealth or influence.
Mean is out. Earnestness and altruism are in fashion. Humility is an aphrodisiac. The roof has caved in, and people are responding accordingly. Not by panicking, but pulling up their bootstraps and making lemonade. And giving their neighbor some. And the prostitute down the street. And the dog too.
Even hard-core adherents to darker fantasies like Eminem are “just coming clean and exhaling.” The rapper’s newest album ripostes on his drug addictions, and his subsequent challenges and triumphs more than women stuffed into trunks.
And while our children will most certainly rebel against us, perhaps under the objectivism of Ayn Rand or the cynicism of Gen X, our optimism, vanilla, mediocre and conservative as it may be, is prevailing.
What is happening now is that glee is rising from collectively pushing forward at all costs, not knowing if it will work and accepting that there’s a good chance it won’t, and working towards something greater. All together. With differences of opinion, but with respect as well. With civility and common courtesy. And with confidence in humanity’s decency.