Thursday, April 06, 2006

Evolving Leadership

Government is best approached as a reflection of the people, and not the other way around.

When authority figures accurately represent the current beliefs of the people, there is harmony and respect between them as well as a free flow of ideas upward. When authority figures instead represent the views of a particular party or religion or sect or demographic or ethnicity, there ultimately ensues a clash of beliefs between those of the “rulers” and those of the “ruled” (or not so ruled!).

The relationship in the latter case has become inefficient: the free flow of ideas has slowed to a trickle. And much of the attention is directed toward defending one’s own ideas and attacking those of the opposing side. This continues until all progress grinds to a halt, as the leaders have prioritized partisanship over progress.

Meanwhile, the populace continues to change as it always does, only it changes less smoothly. Progress comes in fits and starts, unguided by any remnant of visionary leadership. As a society turns its attention in on itself, it tends to exaggerate its own weaknesses and limitations (as does the individual). It begins to highlight its own negative and limiting beliefs.

If this period of inward examination is short-lived and uneventful (i.e. no wars or major upheavals occur), a society can work out its inefficiencies and eventually embark upon a new stage of growth and progress. This has happened a number of times in the history of the U.S. and many other countries. The people find a way to eliminate the inconsistencies between their leaders and themselves. This typically involves electing new leadership (in the case of a democracy) or removing the old system of authority and installing a new, more efficient system of government.

Over time, the new leaders or system of government introduce new ideas and institutions that address previous inefficiencies. Some of these new ideas and institutions work well and take their place alongside previously successful ideas and institutions that were kept.

Thus an evolution occurs in which new beliefs are blended with old ones to produce a new society, which in turn inevitably generates new and unforeseen inefficiencies. How that new society deals with these new inefficiencies (along with the old ones) will determine how long the new leadership can keep its attention on the future.

If too much energy is devoted to internal issues and disagreements, growth will once again grind to a halt and the leaders will once again grow out of touch with their citizens – and the outside world.

This is a cycle that has existed throughout much of our history. And the pertinent question today is:

Where are we in this cycle?

Has our current leadership grown out of touch with the beliefs and priorities of the populace?

And if so, what methods will we use to eliminate the inconsistencies between our leaders and ourselves?


  1. This one I can try to answer:

    Where are we in the cycle?

    The current controll over every branch of government is 40 years in the making. Republicans and neoconservatives (former Marxist liberals) had longed been dissatisfied with New Deal and Great Society programs. Despite these programs helping to move society towards a better end, some of it’s institutions had become wasteful and irrelevant in the late 20th-early 21st centuries. Without going into detail (you can research this yourself), even as a “liberal” myself, I can plainly see their point. I’ll toss you one example: the Aid to Families with Dependent Children. Early in its life it was criticized by a proto-neocon, Patrick Moynihan. Despite being a Democrat himself, he perceived the fatal flaw of the program, wrote about it, and others questioned others pieces of New Deal and Great Society legislation. For better or for worse, the Republicans had their rallying cry: Smaller Government.

    To make a long story short, Goldwater begat Reagan, Reagan begat Gingrich, they all (plus the neocons--some will agrue this is not entirely so) begat GWB. Over this period of time and due to dissatisfaction with how the country has been run for 40-odd years, the (R) control every branch of government. While this country is fairly balanced liberal (40%) and conservative (40%) with a wide variety of details and other beliefs in btween and threaded throughout, logic would dictate that the (R) would eventually seize power. They now fight like champions to maintain this control.

    It is my belief that if it “took Democrats 40 years to ruin this country” it only took 12 years (1994) for the (R) to upend it in their own way.

    Beginning with Goldwater in ‘64, there has been a drumbeat for hegemony over the rest of the world. Several events finally brought this event about. The end of the Cold War, the 1994 mid-term elections, the “election” of GWB and 9-11. Put all those in the crucible and it is only natural we are currently fighting 2 major land wars. Hey, we have a military, why not use it? We’re the most powerful nation in the world, why not change a few regimes? I might agree with either of these arguments if there had been better planning for the Iraq War, but that’s another treatise altogether.

    Back to the question, “Where are we in the cycle?” My answer is that the dissatisfaction of this country as evidenced by public opinion polls does not bode well in ‘96 for Republicans in particular, incumbents in general, and Bush in the future. One or two houses of Congress will change this year. Just my prediction. Let’s hop the Democrats have learned from their mistakes and the mistakes of the Republican congress.

    Against the loose background I gave above, here are my brief conjectures to the two remaining questions:

    Has our current leadership grown out of touch with the beliefs and priorities of the populace? If you are a true believer, the answer is no, but that seems to only be roughly 20-35% of the poulation who feel the need to continue down the internecine path forged by this administration.

    And if so, what methods will we use to eliminate the inconsistencies between our leaders and ourselves? Grass-roots organizing is everywhere these days on both sides. You have Justice Sundays and existing at the same [period of time. It’s exciting to be an American these days, in that we are seeing a titanic struggle for the soul of this country. a majority of the population will feel they are not particularly affected. Unfortunately, we are all affected. Right now, at this broad point in history, we will either tilt to one side or another for a generation. Granted the struggle can last another generation before the final tilt. Something is going to break and break soon or relatively soon.

    Of course, I’m certain your questions were hypothetical.

  2. One other positive thing to add: Americans in general, do not have the stomach for extremism from any side, even in their own society. Although there will be a tilt in government for some time to come, the populace will counter that tilt quite satisfactorily. I believe in the people. I'm one of your "If you define “we” as human beings, however, then nationality becomes a less important distinction." types. You could tell, couldn't you?

    I'm a cynic and a believer all rolled into one.

  3. Another issue here is the topic of "inefficiencies". Who determines which programs and strategies are efficient, and which are not? By what criteria do you measure "efficiency"?

    In other words, we don't all agree on what is currently working and what is not. Some wealthy citizens would argue that the current administration and/or social programs are just fine, while others would argue that millions of Americans are not benefiting in the least from the way things are.

    So who shall define what is or is not efficient? I suppose it once again comes down to that definition of "we". Since I tend to define "we" more broadly than most, I am also more likely than most to see inneficiencies - not for me personally, but for those of my fellow humans who are simply not benefiting from "the way things are".

    As long as there is a significant portion of our society, and race, with no access to the basics - i.e. adequate food, clothing, shelter, and even opportunity - then I am not going to define our current social programs and strategies as "efficient".

    I have no problem with people experiencing abundance, but it seems to me that if we can spend hundreds of billions of dollars on war, we ought to be able to provide the bare essentials for the less fortunate.

    So where are we in the cycle? I think we're trying to decide upon and define our "inefficiencies".

    Only then can we elect leaders and enact policies to deal with them.

  4. Amen, my Brother. In a rising tide all boats should float. Some are built more soundly than others. In my opinion, even the smallest boat should be seaworthy. Sadly, I know many too many people who ask me why I complain about the inequities of Amwerican society. Their boats are rocking comfortably on the waves of a "strong" economy". Too bad they sit in the middle on a deck chair and never look over the side.

    This is my favorite quote ever--hard to duplicate or even to say better myself:

    * As long as there is a lower class, I am in it. As long as there is a criminal element, I’m of it. As long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free.

    Here's some more I like:

    I have no country to fight for; my country is the earth, and I am a citizen of the world.

    Now my friends, I am opposed to the system of society in which we live today, not because I lack the natural equipment to do for myself but because I am not satisfied to make myself comfortable knowing that there are thousands of my fellow men who suffer for the barest necessities of life. We were taught under the old ethic that man's business on this earth was to look out for himself. That was the ethic of the jungle; the ethic of the wild beast. Take care of yourself, no matter what may become of your fellow man. Thousands of years ago the question was asked; ''Am I my brother's keeper?'' That question has never yet been answered in a way that is satisfactory to civilized society.

    Yes, I am my brother's keeper. I am under a moral obligation to him that is inspired, not by any maudlin sentimentality but by the higher duty I owe myself. What would you think me if I were capable of seating myself at a table and gorging myself with food and saw about me the children of my fellow beings starving to death.

    --Eugene V. Debs

    Check this out if you want to hear some pretty profound statements:

    And, finally, a quote from me:

    I'm very pleased, alas,
    that you may be in my korass.

  5. All I know is that Shakira's hips don't lie and that may just be the only truth we need.

  6. I love the fact that you all can enter into such a philosophical debate only to have it end with Shakira's hips.

    And I too, don't believe they would lie.

  7. Apparently, Shakira is providing us with some sort of deep spiritual insight. Unbeknownst to us all! (OK, I suppose SOME people have seen religion in those hips all along... :-)