17 October, 2008

Abuse of power

I am not a team player by nature.  I can, of course, work and play well with others when it suits me.  I never would have lasted a day in the Army if I couldn’t function as a part of a team.  I think that I can function equally well as the lowest member of a team as I can as the leader.
Sometimes I prefer to be just a peon, especially if I don’t feel like I have enough knowledge about the subject.  I have never been one to exert authority just because I could.  I’d rather be led by a private who knew where he was going than a general who was lost.
I don’t like power.  I never craved it like it seemed a lot of my colleagues in the military did.  I don’t like being in charge of other people.  I like taking care of the people under my charge but that is not, I think, the same thing.
I like efficiency.  If there is a job to be done, I just want to get it done.  If the most efficient way is for me to take charge, then I will generally take charge unless there are reasons I cannot.  There are five types of authority, and I will not hesitate to use most of them if they are at my disposal.  Ironically, if I ever have to assert legitimate authority, I feel like I have failed at some point.
Legitimate authority is the authority someone exercises by virtue of their rank or position.  It always leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  It is the Father who insists his will must be obeyed ‘because he says so’ rather than teaching the reasons for the rules.  It is the jealous little god that demands worship by threat of punishment rather than deserving it.  It is the sergeant whose only method of leadership is brutal authoritarianism.
All of those things are legal.  All of those leaders are within their rights.  None of them are being followed willingly.  True leadership is motivating your men to do as you wish because they want to.  True leadership is about influence, not authority.  Lao Tzu wrote that the true leader, after all is said and done and his aim fulfilled, his men will say, "We did it ourselves." 

I don’t trust any institution that expects blind obedience.  I do not cater to the slogan ‘Country First.’  If my country wants me to follow it then it had better conduct itself with honor and integrity.  If it wants me to support a war it had damn sure give me a good reason to kill.  I am a patriot, but that doesn’t mean I cannot see that this country has problems.  And I am not so afraid of being branded an ingrate that I am not willing to shout that the emperor is naked.  Perhaps it is because, like the child in the story, I am secure in my credentials.
For so long this country has been led by those who seem more concerned with what they can get away with rather than what they should do.  They seem only concerned with what was legally allowed, and they ignore what is ethical or just.  And when what they wanted to do was not legal, they changed  or obfuscated the laws.  They changed the meaning of words.  They changed military manuals and the definitions of things like ‘torture’ and ‘kidnapping.’   And then they conveniently forgot all about it.  They are only concerned with plausible deniability.
And, what is worse, even when it comes to no uncertain light that they have done wrong, they are not held accountable.
They keep repeating mantras like ‘WMD’ or ‘patriotism’ or ‘freedom’.  They phrase their rhetoric in such a way as to make people afraid to question their motives or to press buttons that are intended to produce a knee jerk reaction that this country has been slowly programmed to produce on demand.
They sell a story as earnestly as Madison Avenue sells deodorant, but it cannot cover up the smell of corruption.
Any cause that is just and deserved will be followed by good people if the reasons are explained.  To demand blind obedience is testament to the baseness of your motives.  To behave as though the people can not choose the course of their own actions without being manipulated is proof of the weakness of your arguments.
The argument that we should follow the president because he is the president is faulty.  It is begging the question of whether or not the president will always act in the best interest of the country.  That is not a foregone conclusion.   The assertion that we should always place our country first begs the question of whether or not the country will always be right. 
Only a fool signs a blank check.  There is nothing unpatriotic in seeing America as flawed.  It is.  But before we can fix our country we have to take an honest inventory of what is wrong with it.  That requires the courageous honesty of adults.  Not the timid acceptance of cowed children.
All men can stand adversity but, if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.
–Abraham Lincoln

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