Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Collaboration when most needed is most spurned in America

Aside from the many other demonstrations that the current occupant of the Oval Office does not represent “American values,” the one way in which he incarnates one of the least relevant and most out-of-date traits is his “rugged individualism” taken to the outer limits.

Even Teddy Roosevelt would be appalled by this latest version of the slogan most associated with his name and presidency. Stripped of all the connotations of “rugged individualism” in the service of the nation, the current president serves only himself, and if he were a conductor of an orchestra, the musicians would refuse to play. Public humiliation of cabinet officers, public countering of others’ words and intentions, dismissal of at least one dozen key players, none more significant that James Comey, former director of the F.B.I…..these are not the acts of a person who knows how to work with others, or one who aspires to learn this attitude and skill.

Stripped of the generative creativity that comes from a vigorous and collaborative exchange of ideas, proposals, approaches and personalities, the il duce's modus operandi leaves any organization or nation bereft of its best and brightest ideas. Any one person who believes his/her ideas are the only appropriate ideas for any situation as complex and knotted, especially situations that have challenged and rebuffed the best ideas of generations of brilliant minds and creative, courageous leaders, is truly living in what pop psychologists call “castles in the sky.” Both the castles and the sky itself are figments of a single out-of-touch mind and bankrupt ego.

 It is not only that this person skipped registration in all classes offering humility at all levels of his “platinum” education; the evidence suggests that his justification for such blatant avoidance is “I know better than the professor!” Team play, to this person, is really only for losers who cannot make it on their own. And while there is a segment of corporate antediluvian leadership that “used” to pit leadership contenders against each other, in the firm conviction that head-to-head competition would generate the best ideas to advance the profits of the company and the dividends of the shareholders, the problems facing humanity, and the planet itself, demand the collaborative method of address.

Competing for water, land and air in a world in which these finite resources now demand an ethical and collaborative equation that addresses the survival of all. Similarly, the nuclear threat, whether coming from Iran or  North Korea, or even from members of the ‘nuclear club’ like Russia or the United States, demands the combined energy, creativity and collaboration of many voices, all of them prepared to “give” a little in order to reach a “bigger” resolution. ISIS, could well be considered the apprenticeship for geopolitical collaboration, in that it stretches across multiple national boundaries, both geographically and digitally, financially and ideologically. Once defeated, it could have paved the way for more applications of the same collaborative approach.

And it was not an approach that the various national leaders have come to quickly or completely. There have been many lurches into and out of a shared approach to intelligence, to severing the financial life-lines of the terrorists, to refusing them arms. And even now there is evidence that some countries continue to support terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah (both having receded into the dark corners of daily news casts) while others like Saudi Arabia continue to fund and support schools of hate-prosletizing around the world under the radar. The rise of anti-semitism and Islamaphobia, along with homophobia and racism, sexism and ageism demonstrate that our fears continue to dominate our best instincts, our most profound hopes and aspirations.

And if we are not seeing collaboration from our leaders, especially when masked by platitudes in communiques that demonstrate little more than a “meeting” occurred, with little or no expectation of anything resembling follow-through, commitment and shared responsibility for enhanced collaboration, how can we expect ordinary people to shift attitudinal priorities from fear to hope, from silo's to teams, from neighbourhoods to towns and cities, from states and provinces to nations, and from nations to the planet?

We are all members of a parochial, provincial, me-first, narrow and self-centred species, struggling, each in our own way and apparently in our own sweet time, to raise our eyes, our ears and our efforts to a wider, broader, deeper and more collaborative togetherness. It is not that we all have to take the “same steps” to combat a shared planetary crisis; it is that we all have to take individual, collective and effective steps to address this existential threat. Our unique cultural, linguistic, religious and spiritual identities need not be sacrificed in such a shared and collaborative effort. Nor is it any longer appropriate to “leave it to others” as our ordinary stereotypical detachment, disinterest, and shedding of responsibility, in a world in which, clearly, the efforts of public leadership will not be adequate to keep the rise in global temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius, nor the arms race from spinning out of control once again. (We have just learned that the American administration is about to scrap all previous arms control treaties, in their headlong and headstrong, mindless and insidious pursuit of hard power through both an exaggerated growth in the Pentagon’s budget, and also the sale of arms around the world.

Turning the United States into the sales and marketing arm of the National Rifle Association and the arms industry, so that every man women and child in every country can and does have his/her own personal gun is not only evidence of insanity, but also the complete sell-out of all hope for the replacement of hope with terminal fear. And for what? The jobs rate and the personal polling numbers of a person whose suitability for the office has been unequivocally demonstrated to be deficient.
Diplomats like Al Gore comment that the current administration is “regressive” in its return to a past that is no longer here, nor is it worthy of being pursued. A less politically correct way of putting it would be to say the current administration is highly dangerous, toxic and counter-intuitive to everything the planet and her people need.

And those needs are not frivolous and merely self-serving, as are the approaches of the White House; they are needs for survival, and not only for the current generation of voters, but for successive generations of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
We need to have a collaborative and shared vision of the hope and the promise of a shared future that reduces, if not eliminates the nefarious aspects of “me-first” because I am the best, and I can do what is best for you!


Talk about government control of people! The Republicans will one day have to confront the irony that they have permitted an administration that demands and expects total submission of the electorate to its dictates. This so far exceeds the worst aspects of the nanny state of which they complained when Obama was in office. It eclipses any vestige of that prospect and replaces it with a personal dictatorship befitting a banana republic.

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