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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

We Are Legion

Detail from the frontispiece of the 1651 edition of Thomas Hobbes' "Leviathan"

Any experienced manager will tell you that the single most challenging part of his or her job is not to be found within the mass of technical details that run through a given project's design, but keeping their workers productively occupied during the inevitable yet unpredictable lulls and logjams that force their way through at inopportune moments.  Power outages, equipment failures, traffic jams, sudden, urgent changes in customer specs, etc., etc., will all, at one point or another, intrude upon the orderly execution of any significant project, totally f*ckin' up your sh*t unless you can convincingly improvise on short notice.

Time is money, and labor is only borrowed, not owned, so you sitting there on your hands is usually not an option.  Unless you do something about it now now NOW you're gonna be up sh*t creek, mon frere.  The consequences don't bear thinking about.

And to add insult to injury, your team, just as inevitably as these interruptions will occur, will view them as opportunity to prove the old adage "idle hands are the Devil's workshop".  Sure, the odd individual here or there may prove to have some initiative of their own, seizing some previously unidentified flexibility within their own assignments.  But that flexibility will always be limited.  And frankly, despite the pseudo-folksy drivel of communistic America-haters like Garrison Keillor, it is simply mathematically impossible for ALL the children to be "above average".

The sad truth of the matters is that all men are NOT created equal.  We will never become successful managers of our own affairs until we admit that plain fact.  It is not merely an absurdity, but a malicious deception to tell a child that he or she can "grow up to be anything." 

A blind narcoleptic will never become an airline pilot.  A child suffering from uncontrollable tics and spasms will not become a band saw operator at a wood mill.  A soul burdened by excessive concern with ethics and transparency will never become an investment banker or politician.

The responsible parent or manager admits this up front. 

When a child or worker's lack of direction has led them away from the path of contented productivity, the loving parent or manager will provide his or her charge with an acceptable alternative path forward.  The excellent parent or manager will guide or her charge to the discovery of their own path forward.  The execrable parent or manager will let the chips fall where they may, hoping he or she won't get crushed in the fallout, whatever may become of his or her charge.

Sadly, it is the last sort of management style which seems to have captured the popular imagination for the last several decades, cynically perverting the laudatory notions of 'equality of opportunity' and 'equality of dignity' into the sick and destructive lie of 'guarantee of outcome' to give licence to the wicked and corrosive chaos that destroys faith and cohesion within a society.

The Law is not applied.  The weak and powerless are punished more severely[1] than the powerful and the privilegedRighteousness is punishedPrudence is ridiculedThe youth are not cultivated, but are left to wander the streets aimlessly like feral animals.

'Leading from behind', is a lie, because, in fact, leadership presupposes initiative.  'Leading by example' can only apply to those very few destined to become leaders themselves.  'Aggressive leadership' is a laughable oxymoron, because anyone emotionally mature and responsible enough to be an actual leader understands that the goal is mutually productive engagement--and that it is completely impossible, and indeed an abominable notion, to reduce another human soul to abject conformity.

The true leader will display 'engaged leadership'--an in depth sense of his or her charges' capabilities and contributions to the team that can only come from genuine and unforced interactions that are mutually reinforcing.  The true leader understands that he can neither destroy nor remake those who would be his or her followers, and so commits him or her self only to those endeavors which are worthy of the team.

This last point is why America is suffering in chaos, why there can be no true leadership here.  No American is willing to admit that the idea of the U.S.A. as some kind of comic book superhero is a perverse joke.  We have committed ourselves to an unrealistic and utterly inhuman project that is not only doomed to failure, but requires us to savagely destroy ourselves in the process.

[1] "But federal research shows that the average sentence for a first time, non-violent drug offender is longer than the average sentence for rape, child molestation, bank robbery or manslaughter."