The other day someone was telling me about a live musical genre where people impersonated popular groups like The Beatles, Elvis and others. I got to wondering if “look alike contests” were still in vogue and so I Googled it. I got about 8,777,000 results in 0.36 seconds. That tells me they still are, perhaps for all you tech geeks it just tells you that I have a slow computer. I didn’t spend any time researching it, but I do know this phenomenon goes back to at least the 1800’s.
At this particular time Mark Twain was at the height of his popularity and often received photographs from men whose friends had convinced them that they looked like him. Discovering that his house was beginning to run over with these pictures, Mark determined to relieve himself of the burden of answering the heavy correspondence so he had his printer strike off a few hundred copies of a form letter. If you had been living in those days and had sent a picture to Mr. Clemens, you would have received a letter that went like this:
My Dear Sir,
I thank you very much for your letter and photograph. In my opinion, you are more like me than any other of my previous doubles. I may even say you resemble me more closely than I do myself. In fact, I intend to use your picture to shave by.
Of course, you can’t use other people’s pictures to shave by, and thus the humor; yet in one sense this is exactly what we do all the time. What I mean is, we often measure ourselves, not against some lofty goal or high standard; but, instead, against others. We want to feel good about ourselves and so we measure our performance on the basis of, “I’m not as bad as he is”, or, “Well at least I would never do what she did.”
When it comes to ethics don’t try to use someone else’s picture to shave by. Do not ever excuse what you clearly know to be unethical behavior by saying, “Well everybody else is doing it.” That just means that everybody else is doing it wrong, don’t put yourself in the same camp.