By David Anderson
To everyone: elected incumbent or newly elected for anything anywhere.
A website pictures “The World’s Top 10 Best Images of Disobedient Animals.”
Sheep didn’t make the list.
Sheep, for the most part, don’t disobey. Sheep go along, maybe to get along. When was the last time you saw a flock of sheep where one stubborn ram or ewe with upraised hoof – clenched like a fist – was expressing its displeasure to the shepherd?
Doesn’t happen. And that’s too bad.
There’s an article out of the Washington Times this past Sunday by Al Mauer entitled, “Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?”
It’s a good thing when we can’t Mauer concluded. Because what’s the alternative? “It’s the group-hug crowd, the ones who believe everyone’s a winner and deserves a trophy.”
In scholastics it’s what philosopher Mortimer Adler called “turned out” students.
In a Tacoma News Tribune editorial from October 8, 1982, entitled “Schools, parents must get tougher,” Adler was lamenting the maintenance mode of education – getting Johnny by.
“Too much emphasis is placed on getting the marginal student through school as painlessly as possible. There is some question whether most parents want their children educated so much as they want them ‘turned out’. How many parents of today share the educational experience with their children? How many enforce homework discipline? How many visit the schools regularly, talk to the teachers, and know more about how their children do in class than what the report tells them?”
More-so than in education, in politics – politicians – presidents even, are allowed to perpetuate myths, half-truths and even lies pedaled to and passed off upon the public sheepfolds by their partners the media giants whose “global ambition is not to produce informed, free-thinking citizens, but obedient customers,” writes John Pilger in the introduction of his book “Tell Me No Lies.”
And speaking of journalism, and journalists – those whose job it is, or should be, as Pilger writes to “rescue ‘objectivity’ from its common abuse as a cover for official lies;” to “call power to account;” to “evidence the cynicism that many young journalists believe ordains them as journalists by pushing back screens, peering behind facades, lifting rocks for whom opprobrium from on high is their badge of honor;” whose “disrespect for authoritarianism has allowed them to alert their readers to vital, hidden truths” – what of them?
“Like others with important establishment responsibilities, they are trained, or groomed, to set aside serious doubts,” where “scepticism is not encouraged.”
It’s where “‘getting along,’” says Mauer, “means getting along on their terms. Other opinions and ideas are not wanted.”
It’s called group think, too often synonymous with collective ignorance.
Though an individual might recognize the absurdity – as in “The Emperor Has No Clothes” – rocking the boat, or blowing the whistle, or identifying the elephant in the room, to mix metaphors, all go wanting for fear of causing trouble where it is abundantly clear none is welcome.
A smiley-face stylized representation that ‘things are good, couldn’t be better.’
Piqued by this this façade, John C. Maxwell in his book “Developing the Leaders Around You,” described it as the “status quo – Latin for ‘the mess we’re in.’”
But it’s also the ‘mess we’re in’ that no one will identify either because they’re non-thinking, non-questioning, non-disobedient sheep, or because the shepherd or leader isn’t asking, or doesn’t care, what – or if – the sheep think.
It is really then “a testament to the fact that people are generally happy with the direction,” that there are no contenders for public office?
“Things must be going swimmingly” is why no challengers can be found?
Or could it just as well be that things are going ‘floatingly’ which is what dead fish do?
Happy days are not here again when measured by consensus, or for that matter unanimity.
In his book “Boards That Govern,” John Carver writes “Unanimous votes often result from the desire to avoid confrontation. Boards sometimes deliberate on inconsequential issues to avoid dealing with a difficult, unspoken issue. What appears as a preoccupation with trivia may be fear of confronting the larger issues in a group setting. Board members deprived of trivia might not know how to spend their time.”
It’s what griped comedian Fred Allen when he quipped, “I have also thought about calling a conference, since a conference is a gathering of important people, who, singly, can do nothing, but together can decide that nothing can be done.”
There’s an ancient proverb that cuts, literally, through such deadwood: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
The analogy expresses the gain to be had from the rather grinding, filing, time-consuming practice by which an otherwise rather dull – and therefore for the most part unusable – instrument achieves its potential.
Potential as is realized in clear, well-defined, reflective, thoughtful, encouraged debate.
So next staff session, neighborhood gathering, board – and bored – meeting, whatever and whenever two or more people gather, raise your hoof you spineless sheep; rock the boat and make waves you otherwise drifting flotsam; rattle your pitchfork those of you disguised as the devil’s advocate – all to the end that the ensuing argumentative discussion actually arrives at the conclusion that’s climatic, the legacy that’s lasting, the impact that’s integral to absolutely anything that’s truly, and for the right reasons, memorable: not a good decision, not a better decision, but the best of all possible solutions – superlative if possible.