Apologies for grammatical colloquialism in the title.
Here in Vermont, last week, my county-of-residence was deemed as “the safest place in the contiguous U.S.A.” to ride out continued Global Warming, Pandemics, etc., etc.
I get it. I live here. Not a day goes by when I don’t step out of my humble village ranch-design of the mid 1950s home onto our comparatively large yard, breathe in and thank the Powers that I am here, now.
However…as in all things, location-location-location comes with all the drawbacks of anywhere one or more of us humans hammers in the tent stakes.
I am going to do my best to break it down…
Glass Half Full – or Half Empty
Vermont, politically, has a schizophrenic history. As a state, we voted Republican for generations. This is well documented. In the 1960s, for a myriad of complicated reasons, not the least of which was the rapid growth in Chittenden County, Vermont’s largest, with down-country “flat-landers” (a truly unappreciative moniker) invading across industry, community and more. Plus, the celebrated “Hippie Communes” were also in play. Some still exist.
During the beginning of “the Upheaval”, the needed social attention to civil rights, environmental concerns, the war in Vietnam, etc, etc… (Vietnam War begun by JFKennedy, remember…) Vermont was a hot bed of change. As a state, we now vote Democratic; with rare exception to the deft Republican Centrist. (We like balance up here… wildly nutty leftist progressiveness should be kept in check by individuals who can accurately see a doable future and have an eye on taxpayer expense…a small idea lost on our trust-funder-esque Vermont legislature of late.)
Currently, in Vermont – as in most places in the world – we have an excess of Administrators. Across the board, through out every government department, educational institution, and large corporation. (Successful small companies are successful in avoiding this, typically, due to Benign Monarchies of oversight and control and family-run ideals.)
Administrators, God Bless ‘Em, have an important role, but many don’t really make the grade… as they truly do not have “in the trenches” experience of those they manage… and therefore can’t accurately campaign for the good of their employees and their employee suggested projects to Higher Ups. This takes a real amount of solid character… which, in my experience is rare. Glass half empty… and at the expense of forward progress AND a more ethical manner of actually working through both the glaring and nuanced daily challenges of work / life / life when living in a society that has disparate expectations, and no patience.
Glass half full? These are the leaders who embrace their teams, acknowledge them constantly, and remove themselves (the leader) from the accolades… celebrating their teams instead. Whoa, that’s a whole lot of humility. This being said, I know of such leaders, and they are complex, but mostly get this done. Embracing the possibilities of opportunity… and doing this in a manner that “floats all boats” is completely achievable, but only if you find the individual who can function as a leader, by leading by example.
“I can’t understand the CEO of an car company that can’t build a car.”
This is one of my favorite quotes from a now passed, extremely smart, CEO of a commercial electronics giant. As a sort of related aside, it amuses me that a complete script of Monty Python’s epic “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” exists on MIT servers.
Our youngest son (28) reveres this particular scene, below, (take the time and roll with it – and yes, it may be here multiple times over the 11 years of blog entries) as it accurately and I think, humorously, pertains not only to Political realities, but to corporate, governmental, educational leadership, etc…
King Arthur and his trusty servant Patsy “ride” into a field where peasants are
working. They come up behind a cart which is being dragged by a hunched-over
peasant in ragged clothing. Patsy slows as they near the cart.
King Arthur: Old Woman!
The peasant turns around, revealing that he is in fact, a man.
Man (Dennis): Man!?!
King Arthur: Man, sorry…. What night lives in that castle over there?
Man (Dennis): I’m thirty-seven!
King Arthur: (surprised) What?
Man (Dennis): I’m thirty-seven! I’m not old—
King Arthur: Well I can’t just call you “man”…
Man (Dennis): Well you could say “Dennis”–
King Arthur: I didn’t know you were called Dennis!
Man (Dennis): Well, you didn’t bother to find out, did you?!
King Arthur: I did say sorry about the “old woman”, but from behind, you looked–
Man (Dennis): Well I object to your…you automatically treat me like an inferior!
King Arthur: Well I am king…
Man (Dennis): Oh, king, eh, very nice. And ‘ow’d you get that, eh?
(he reaches his destination and stops, dropping the cart)
By exploiting the workers! By ‘hangin’ on to outdated imperialist dogma which perpetuates the economic and social differences in our society. If there’s ever going to be any progress…
Woman: Dennis! There’s some lovely filth down ‘ere!
(noticing Arthur) Oh! ‘Ow’d’ja do?
King Arthur: How do you do, good lady. I am Arthur, king of the Britons. Whose castle is that?
Woman: King of the ‘oo?
King Arthur: King of the Britons.
Woman: ‘Oo are the Britons?
King Arthur: Well we all are! We are all Britons! And I am your king.
Woman: I didn’t know we ‘ad a king! I thought we were autonomous collective…
Man (Dennis): (mad) You’re fooling yourself! We’re living in a dictatorship! A self-perpetuating autocracy in which the working classes…
Woman: There you go, bringing class into it again…
Man: That’s what it’s all about! If only people would–
King Arthur: Please, please, good people, I am in HASTE! WHO lives in that
Woman: No one lives there.
King Arthur: Then who is your lord?
Woman: We don’t have a lord!
King Arthur: (surprised) What?!?
Man (Dennis): I told you! We’re an anarcho-syndicalist commune! We’re taking turns to act as a sort of “executive-officer-for-the-week”…
King Arthur: (completely uninterested) Yes…
Man (Dennis): But all the decisions of that officer ‘ave to be ratified at a special bi-weekly meeting–
King Arthur: (perturbed) Yes I see!
Man (Dennis): By a simple majority, in the case of purely internal affairs–
King Arthur: (mad) Be quiet!
Man (Dennis): But by a two-thirds majority, in the case of more major–
King Arthur: (very angry) BE QUIET! I order you to be quiet!
Woman: “Order?!?”, eh, ‘oo does ‘e think ‘e is?
Arthur: I am your king!
Woman: Well I didn’t vote for you!
King Arthur: You don’t vote for kings!
Woman: Well ‘ow’d you become king then?
(holy music swells up)
King Arthur: The Lady of the Lake– her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite, held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water, signifying by divine providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. THAT is why I am your king!
Man (Dennis): (laughingly) Listen… Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government! Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some… farcical aquatic ceremony!
King Arthur: (yelling) BE QUIET!
Man (Dennis): You can’t expect to wield supreme executive power just ’cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!!
King Arthur: (coming forward and grabbing the man) Shut UP!
Man (Dennis): I mean, if I went ’round, saying I was “an emperor”, just because some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me, they’d put me away!
King Arthur: (throwing the man around) Shut up, will you, SHUT UP!
Man (Dennis): Aha! Now we see the violence inherent in the system!
King Arthur: SHUT UP!
Man (Dennis): (yelling to all the other workers) Come and see the violence inherent in the system! HELP, HELP, I’M BEING REPRESSED!!!
King Arthur: (letting go and walking away) Bloody PEASANT!
Man (Dennis): Oh, what a giveaway! Did’j’hear that, did’j’hear that, eh? That’s what I’m all about! Did you see ‘im repressing me? You saw it, didn’t you?!
At the end of the day, power is as power does… and I have discussed this too much within the pages of this Blog.
However, IF an administrator can humbly rise to the occasion, give credit to her or his Team, and have the talent to SELL positive project ideas to higher-up administrators, that is the “glass half-full” perspective. It is doable, if only more in positions of authority would realize just how beneficial a perspective it can be.
The Gelatinous, but Larger than Everyone Thinks, Center
Squeaky wheels get the grease. This is proven daily by the centuries of “no news is good news” relentless drumming of media outlets that take particularly glee in promoting all the bad crap that happens and rarely if ever, holding up the good. Mostly because promoting all the bad crap takes such little effort, and making a full 30 minute, hour or even a minuscule “Tweet” or “Instagram” post of something really good for society takes more effort. In reality, there is a whole lot of good going on in the world, even if these little miracles are difficult to make out. (Glass half-empty).
And here, mostly silent and quietly stewing over it all are the quantities of individuals that in habit the Gelatinous Center, to which identifying and encouraging this gigantic group is the ultimate point of this blog entry.
Consensus, within a severely “Gerrymandered” reality is challenging. Equally challenging is the bullying concept of “if you are not with us, you’re against us”. However difficult building consensus is, it is the ONLY way forward with any equanimity involved.
Considering all this, there is a vast stack of issues, current and long held, that I personally agree or disagree with, as most people do. Finding the commonality in our collective values is where the rubber hits the road. This cannot be achieved by decree (“but I am your King!) or executive mandate with any long-term success. But where does one begin this process?
Firstly, in one’s relationships with family, friends and work associates.
LISTEN. Learn. Offer objective, but kind (please) alternatives, but only when asked to participate. I have been relieved of many an occupation by not being able to translate, “So, what do you think?” into “Accept my idea without comment” from higher level administrators. Clarification is key. “Do you truly wish my honest and experiential thoughts, and will there be unwanted discipline – or worse – if I disagree?” Sometimes even going so far as to “get it in writing” may be worth it. I can’t begin to tell you how many severe Non Disclosure Agreements I have signed with my work for multinationals…
…but seriously, building consensus within Family, Friends and the Workplace is an excellent way to begin the process of reaching out from the large, gelatinous center of society. From there, growing a well vetted perspective and resulting concept is more easy than one may think.
Word of mouth. Worth of mouth. World of Mouth. If the first local politician doesn’t “buy in” to your little groups way of thinking about a project or impractical mandate, ask why. Get it in writing. Then either convince them of the logic of your group’s position, or move on to the next individual. Gradually make your way up the chain until your belief or cause, again, well vetted, can be brought up at the regional / State level. Make inroads. Make a difference.
Yes, it’s difficult in someways to do this. I for one have tried this a few times, and failed miserably. But, I have also succeeded, and so, I keep trying. Consensus is hard. I am thinking, though, that Complete and Utter Anarchy is harder.