From “Occupy Wall Street” to Every Street – even Lakewood’s streets, and those of Tillicum and DuPont; from the rutted-roads of Rwanda to the airy mountainous heights of Afghanistan and its arid desert wastelands, chaos can reign anytime two volatile, combustible ingredients come together – leadership that is AWOL, and values that have gone to hell.
Cars were set on fire. Others were overturned. One of scores of officers clad in full-dress battle gear saved the large plate-glass window of a bank from being smashed with a shopping cart. Others were not so lucky. What was happening here? Why the rampage? The riot? The rumble?
Boston Red Sox fans were celebrating, lost in euphoria. What with all this carnage, and but just ten days before Halloween, what horror might have occurred had Boston rather lost to the Yankees instead of won that historic 7th game of the American League Championship Series of 2004?
Certainly not limited to out-of-control celebrating fans, chaos can characterize a far smaller but also far deadlier contingent as revealed in the ongoing investigation in southern Afghanistan. The Tacoma News Tribune, October 16, 2011 reports villager’s dogs shot for target practice; cultural taboos violated; innocents killed. Who were these wild-eyed, pillage-and-plundering hordes? And how could this happen?
They are alleged to be members of Joint Base Lewis McChord’s rogue “kill-team” – the so-called “lost platoon” of the 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.
Also evidently lost is “Occupy Wall Street” which seems to have occupied every street, having gone global – 951 cities in 82 countries. In its name alone “Occupy Wall Street” had as its original target corporate greed, land-grabs, government inequity, and professional and business fraud. But have the have-nots who would have none of it – have not they also lost their way? One placard in London read “Here comes the Ethical Revolution.” Meanwhile riots and fires in Rome belie values and bolster chaos.
“Lost” encompasses all that characterizes chaotic behavior whether on the streets of Boston, or among the village huts of Afghanistan, or any of the many continents “Occupy Wall Street” occupies – Europe, Asia, South America, Africa and of course America.
Chaos is attributable to both a lostness of values, as well as to a leadership that has lost its way.
“The lost platoon” was lost from leadership’s radar. Without oversight, the men lost their sense of purpose and mission. In a telling observation from the report, while the chaos that ensued received the headlines, the crisis that brought it about had occurred long before. Commanders admitted having “lost sight of a platoon that needed close scrutiny. People who should have been setting the example were unavailable.” And, not surprisingly then in this leadership vacuum, “Soldiers who would never make poor choices when it was known they would be held accountable for their actions were able to form their own ideas of right and wrong.”
There is an undeniable theme, an inescapable truth, a common thread that twists and turns a circuitous course through many stories of chaos. Its twines form a noose about the neck, choking common sense from its victims leaving them gasping for air and grasping for purpose.
Joseph W. Cotchett calls it “the erosion of ethics.” Ralph Nader bemoans “the betrayal of other people’s money.” But Ivan Boesky called it for what it is: greed. “I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself.” (Boesky, speaker at School of Business Administration, University of California, was later sentenced to three years in federal prison. “The Ethics Gap – Greed and The Casino Society. The Erosion of Ethics in Our Professions, Business and Government” by Joseph W. Cotchett).
“Nothing personal. Just business,” is not only the classic line from “The Godfather”, it’s also the title for a book for the “guided journey into organizational darkness” where what’s good for business trumps everything – and consumes everyone.
In Lakewood, trees are to be cut down to improve business visibility; Amtrak bypasses Puget Sound in order to improve business efficiency; Camp Murray gets its gate – and gets its way – to make its business – and campus – pedestrian-friendly; state-wide slot-machines are proposed for casinos to bolster the economy; and in DuPont extending mining operations to 700 acres is billed as but another similar chapter in the town’s history.
But when is it not about business? Do those with deeper pockets get more places at the table? Does governmental authority in this economy escape responsibility – let alone accountability – for something that might matter more to those who will live with the consequences of those business decisions – those in the community?
“The lost platoon” had lost its way when leaders themselves were AWOL. Wall Street protesters are disparaged as “a ragtag group looking for sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll”; disenfranchised as “fringe groups”; and dismissed as “just disgruntled people” all of which is only to add fuel to an already raging fire.
Certainly the champions of chaos for having lost their values are not commendable. And neither is leadership that has lost its way, out of touch with the people.