“They made you into a weapon and told you to find peace”
“Because you believed I was capable of behaving decently, I did.”
“America is the country of the Future. It is a country of beginnings, or projects, of vast designs an expectations.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson 1844
So, without intending to, this has become a partner piece to something I wrote back in November 2016 “In this time, at this place, I will be defined.” At that point I felt like we had reached a defining moment. By that I mean a moment in time where people will be demanded to choose what they stand for and make a stand.
I still believe that even in 2020. In fact, I believe we, the people, are still feeling our way through that process in fits & starts even as if it feels like the world around us, the world we knew, is burning.
Part of that process has been driven by Trump and his unflinching grip on lack of decency, divisive rhetoric and leadership style. It has only encouraged fragments to remain fragments, niche opinions to become stronger niche like thinking and, yet, as this dividing increases the majority of people will feel a slightly desperate sense of yearning for a greater need of “one out of many.” This arises out of a natural desire for community and a grander view of “we” rather than just “I” as well as most people will feel an inherent need to regain some solid, well directed <not just hopeful> trust in something & in someone who offers a glimpse of the future and not just victimization within the present.
I will not argue today that this greater need is pervasive yet because I believe many are still in denial — denying some basic things we see with our own eyes because they desire to focus on past driven resentments rather than future driven opportunities. To be fair. Many of these people have gotten used to a system that hasn’t done shit for them, could care less about what they are interested in and think the character of the ‘establishment’ is no better, or worse, than some tweetstorming asshat in the oval office.
What I will argue today is that while Trump has done nothing to create some sense of unity we, as a country, need someone who will because at some point someone has to clearly define the future of the country. Basically, we need someone to rise like a phoenix from the burning ashes of a fragmented country to breathe a new view of the future into our lives.
This seems like a massive challenge when, in truth, the battle resides in nuance and effective communication.
“Nothing. Nothing. We’re used to living in poverty, we’re used to it. It ain’t never going to change. How many times we got to tell you that? But you don’t listen.”
Almost everyone wants change but almost everyone, regardless of their position, thinks it will never change.
And, therein lies the rub. Trust in the institution. Believing in the institution. For we, the people, believe we (as individuals) can do anything and, yet, we do not believe the government or the grander institution is capable of leading the change.
I say this because if the people are enormously skeptical, even cynical, of anything government promises & actually does it is significantly more difficult for the government to work properly if it doesn’t have the people on its side.
This cynicism comes to life in something I wrote in 2013
America is better when ideas are held up for debate, but it is worse when some let their blind partisanship drag the country down in an “I may lose, but by God they won’t win” death spiral.
The world will improve not because of more government or less government … in fact the government & taxes & stimulus is irrelevant … it will be because people’s attitudes will change.
They will just believe it should be better and will set out to make it better … regardless of the system they are asked to operate within.
No matter what we may say about personal responsibility, Leaders do matter.
They not only breathe oxygen into hope when we feel suffocated but they also have an ability to remind everyone that things are attainable – they can get us to believe when skepticism suggests we shouldn’t believe. A good leader can make people’s attitudes change.
It’s kind of like offering attainable hope. But even this kind of pragmatic hope needs some help. It has to be visionary and big & expansive and yet needs some grounding in ‘believing’. And, yes, I believe one person, a leader/president/prime minister/whatever, can do this.
It is not about telling us we are great or convincing us we are great, but rather that greatness resides WITHIN us.
Ponder this quote:
“The true greatness of a nation is not measured by the vastness of its territory, or by the multitude of its people, or by the profusion of its exports and imports; but by the extent to which it has contributed to the life and thought and progress of the world. A man’s greatness is not estimated by the size of his body or of his purse; not by his family connections or social position, however high these may be. He may bulk large in public estimation today, but tomorrow he will be forgotten like a dream, and his very servants may secure a higher position and a name lasting possibly a little longer.
A man’s greatness is estimated by his influence, not over the votes and empty cheers of a changing and passing crowd, but by his abiding, inspiring influence in their bidden thoughts, upon their ways of thinking, and consequently of acting. That is why the Wycliffes, Shakespeares, Miltons, Newtons, Wesleys, and Gladstones of English history live, and will live, in everlasting memory, while lesser men are remembered only through them, and the crowd of demagogues, pretenders, and self-seekers are named, if ever named, only to “point a moral, or adorn a tale.”
So with nations.
A great nation is not one which, like Russia, has an enormous territory ; or, like China, has an enormous population. It is the nation which gives mankind new modes of thought, new ideals of life, new hopes, new aspirations; which lifts the world out of the rut, and sets it going on a cleaner and brighter road.”
E. Blaze, November 26, 1926
Sri Lankan educationist founder of Kingswood College
“New modes of thought, new ideals of life, new hopes, new aspirations; which lifts the world out of the rut, and sets it going on a cleaner and brighter road” is greatness and all of that resides within us, as a collective group acting coherently, and we seek a ‘phoenix’ to show it to us.
Now. I am not suggesting we need a “change agent” as some leader because I believe everyone wants change. What I am suggesting is we need a “believe agent” because people need to believe – that change can occur, that hope does exist and a better future is within our grasp.
This person needs to capture the space in between practical and emotional:
the “hard sell”: The idea that what people want – what they need, and more importantly, what will drive them to act – is the facts, stated with clarity and without cleverness. Give people facts and they will give you their actions.
the “emotional sell”: That which makes the requested actions memorable beyond the merely mechanical. People are simultaneously logical & illogical, predictable & unpredictable, and 100% aspirational. Tell people to land on the moon and they will figure it out. Tell people some greatness is possible and they will do great things.
Believe agents cannot choose one path or another they must gather it all up and show it to us. I do believe this leader, or a group of these leaders to choose from, exist. We may not recognize them as true leaders now, but I envision our next generation of great leaders will arise from all of this turmoil. I have called this new leadership group “the sifters”. They will have the ability to sift through the loud voices, the silent voices and their peer’s voices, decide what is right, decide what is right for everyone’s future, and do it <whether it is ‘popular’ or not>. Basically, we need a ‘phoenix’ who will explain common sense, even if it is some unpopular common sense, tell people the truth, and make people believe the future we want is attainable. They will take a stand and ask us to stand ourselves.
I am suggesting a ‘believe agent’ builds attainable Hope leading with common sense tethered to Hope guiding us toward the horizon of hope and prosperity.
Am I asking too much of just one person? Maybe. Possibly. But is it fair to ask for someone to galvanize all the fragments into a whole? Yes. One person is a blacksmith and one person can forge a nation into one. That I believe.
This does not absolve us of personal responsibility, but sometimes someone needs to light the light in the ‘lighthouse’ optimism to guide us toward who and what we want to be as a group of people <a nation as it were>.
That said. Hope comes in all shapes and sizes and we need leaders who recognize the shape of Hope has changed. In particular there is a practicality that Hope needs today that it didn’t need in the past. Defining moments usually require defining people in order to bridge the moment. Where will we find this phoenix? Am I asking too much of one person? Is it too late? Yes. I offer scary questions but with all that I will offer an answer. Defining moments create defining people. A phoenix will arise because the moment itself will define them. But. Where will we find the phoenix?