Are entrepreneurs becoming the new porn star?

Businessman
iStock_Jon Schulte
Francois Badenhorst
Deputy editor
BusinessZone and UK Business Forums
Share this content

When she spoke to BusinessZone recently, the entrepreneur and activist Cindy Gallop lamented how we’ve allowed pornography to distort real world sex.

It’s not that porn is bad per se; Gallop ardently defends it as a form of entertainment. Instead, it’s that pornography had seized our sexual consciousness, displacing the real thing.

It’s an idea I’ve thought about a lot since my chat with Cindy; this phenomenon where the real could be displaced by the hyperreal. As I listlessly flicked through the channels this past weekend in a filled belly stupor, I stumbled across an episode of The Apprentice. As I watched, it struck me just how unlikeable all of the contestants were.

They were all, without exception, the sneering archetype of a vulture capitalist. Even worse, they were wannabes; they see their behaviour as an ideal to strive for. I can almost picture them before stepping on set, staring into a full-length mirror, repeating power mantras.

If porn had altered many people's’ perception of sex, I wondered, what had programmes like The Apprentice done to entrepreneurship?

John Paul Rollert, a professor at University of Chicago’s school of business, recently wrote a wonderful history of how sociopathic capitalism became the norm. In it, he also captured the problem represented by The Apprentice.

“The stories we tell ourselves, far more than the evidence of scientific analysis, determine how we interpret the world around us,” wrote Rollert in The Atlantic. “Accordingly, the fate of capitalism rests in no small measure on the real and imagined characters whose ethics and efforts, at any given time, seem to embody the system.”

A popular image of what a successful entrepreneur looks and behaves like is being constructed, mediated through spectacles like The Apprentice and even the American election where Trump, the god-king of sociopathic capitalism, was largely elected for his ‘business acumen’.

But it’s not just about how the public sees commerce. It’s just as much about how prospective entrepreneurs see it. More and more, we seem to be falling for the idea of, as Rollert puts it, “Capitalism as zero-sum combat”. Will this dissuade people from striking out on their own, pursuing a great idea? I worry that it will.

In my brief time writing for BusinessZone, I’ve been repeatedly struck by the diversity of the entrepreneurs I’ve spoken to. Not one of them has resembled the pinstripe-suited Hyenas on The Apprentice.They’ve been working moms, born-and-bred Englishmen, fresh off the boat immigrants, recent graduates (some, like Studentnomic, are still at school).

Entrepreneurs, our readership, emerge from every corner of British society, motivated by a desire to fix some problem, to fill some gap in the market. For the time being at least, entrepreneurship is by no means the sole province of mean-spirited, private school-bully stereotypes.

It’s not to say entrepreneurialism is warm and cosy fun. It’s punishing, lonely and just plain difficult. But with all these existing barriers, do we really need to further discourage people by having the entrepreneur be personified by a coterie of snarling mini-Trumps?

I’m very open to the idea that I’m being overwrought and full of it. But I’m also aware of the reflexive negativity that many of my peers harbour towards business as something that’s not for them. It’s worth asking why that is.

Anecdotal evidence, perhaps – but, then again, off the cuff observations didn’t keep Trump from the presidency, either.

Replies

Please login or register to join the discussion.

There are currently no replies, be the first to post a reply.