Did I Say That?: Mother knows best and more advice from Joe Pisani’s mom
When I was growing up, my mother had a collection of sayings she would use to drill personal virtue into our young, impressionable minds.
They were sayings like “Practice what you preach,” “Money doesn’t grow on trees,” “Count your blessings,” “Don’t follow the crowd,” “Wipe that smile off your face or I’ll wipe it off for you” and the ever-popular, “I’ll wash your mouth out with soap.”
Then, there was the most memorable phrase of that era: “If everybody jumps off the bridge, are you going to jump too?”
Since I didn’t see anyone jumping off a bridge, I wasn’t entirely sure what the application was to my life. However, whenever she said that, my instinctive reaction was to respond promptly, “No, I’m not going to.” Who in his right mind wants to jump off a bridge? Now, I know — everybody.
She used that saying whenever I whined, “But everybody is doing it!” Everybody was partying. (And drinking and drugging). Everybody was going to see raunchy movies. (They still are.) Everybody was cheating. (Nothing new there.) Everybody was tossing around F-bombs. (Where’s that bar of soap?)
Like clockwork, she’d say, “If everybody jumped off the bridge, would YOU?”
The truth is they all were jumping off the bridge, and they wanted me to join them. Very often, it was hard to say “no” because I wanted to be one of the crowd. But if everybody is doing something, you can bet your life it’s not a smart thing to do.
In our society, people are jumping off the bridge and calling it fun ... or the right thing to do. And they’re pulling and pushing you to the railing and forcing you to jump with them. There’s all hell to pay if you speak up and say it’s wrong.
With social media and peer pressure, it’s really hard for people, young and old, to say, “Ahhh, nooo, I don’t want to jump off the bridge ... have a great day.” Instead, they give in to drug abuse, binge drinking, pornography, profanity, indecency, harassment, cheating on tests, cheating on taxes, cheating on their spouses, stealing, lying, and a lot of other socially acceptable bad behavior.
Tragically, celebrities set the example in our society — the wrong example. Millions of people follow them on Twitter and Instagram and take what they say as gospel. With social media, it’s easy for everyone to jump off the bridge ... at the same time.
Here’s a fundamental truth: If a celebrity is leading the charge off a bridge, DON’T JUMP because at the end of the day, celebrities are very rich people and very famous people, but they usually aren’t very good people even though they get a lot of media attention and pretend to be paragons of virtue ... until an old photo surfaces, showing them doing what they denounce.
Harvey Weinstein is accused of sexually assaulting women for decades, and the entertainment industry looked the other way. Even after his misdeeds were unmasked, everyone in Hollywood said, “WE never knew!” That’s an example of an entire industry jumping off the bridge. Let’s not even bring up Jeffrey Epstein.
And what about the workplace? Your boss and his boss and every other boss in the corporation or the news show or the government says, “This is what we’re going to do.” Suddenly, a little voice in the back of your head whispers, “Ahhh, that doesn’t seem right.” Most of us don’t have the strength to stand up in the face of the mob or the corporate office and say, “That’s wrong! I’m not doing it!” Instead, we go along sheepishly, covering our faces like perps coming out of the police station so no one will recognize us ... and then get pushed off the bridge. It happens every day.
Look at the world around you. Does it look like a place where everybody is doing the right thing? That road to perdition is wide and heavily trafficked. That other road is narrow and deserted. Don’t jump. If only we listened to our mothers!
Joe Pisani can be reached at email@example.com.