THE NEW CRUSADERS: DOING GOOD AT ANY COST
Now that both political parties have taken leave of their senses and their sanity, it creates an opportunity to examine, deeply, what the real issues are that have us so polarized. The current level of discourse is so facile, superficial and childish, that it portends poorly for us living in a functional, hospitable and civil society.
What really divides us, can best be illustrated by examining the belief systems of a movement that I’ve come to call “The New Crusaders.” The movement crosses political party lines, socio-economic levels and even ideological positions. It has a fervent and unquestioning commitment to “doing good” and “helping” people, regardless of the consequences and impact. It has been with us for most all of human history, but has emerged, with ferocity and intensity, in recent times.
It has six core beliefs that underpin its rhetoric and actions:
- Competition Is Fine, As Long As No One Loses
- Upsetting People Is Totally Unacceptable
- Certain People Lack The Skills To Take Care Of Themselves
- Successful People Don’t Do Anything Different Than “Average” Folks – They’re Just Lucky
- Self-Interest Is At The Root Of Social Problems
- A Society Is Best Judged By How It Takes Care Of The Poor And Disadvantaged: Let’s examine these tenets and see what they can tell us about our current state of divisiveness. (In this article, I’ll look at the first three; and in a subsequent article, I’ll examine the rest.)
Competition is the quintessential catalyst for a viable, growing and prosperous culture. It creates the bedrock for opportunities, innovation, and creativity. And most importantly, it creates choices. None of this would be possible without winners and losers. When you win, you have the choice of analyzing what you do to create success, and how to consciously repeat it. When you lose, you have the choice of learning what you need to change, in order to succeed and not lose again. In a high change culture, having losing experiences is much more important, than having successful experiences.
It is critical to understand that there is no learning, without losing. Giving everyone a trophy, going through meaningless performance evaluations (that rate everyone as “acceptable”) and shielding people from disappointment, blocks learning and stultifies growth.
Nothing changes without upsetting people. Change agents are habitual disrupters and upsetters. No one gets up on a nice sunny morning, thoroughly enjoying who they love, where they live, and how they work; and decides to make major changes in their life. If there is no gap between what you have, and what you’d like to have, why would you change anything?
In fact, it is patronizing and demeaning, as well as a form of abandonment, to decide not to upset someone that you profess to care about. Helicopter parents and cheerleading business people, are not only irritating, but are relegating those around them, to marginality and chronic ineptness. If you don’t care enough about people, to upset them, then you don’t really care.
I’m continually amazed by our ability to look at the enormous resources that our society has thrown at the problems of the poor and “disadvantaged;” assess how little it has changed things; and yet continue to support programs that keep getting little or no results. The lion’s share of “help” that we provide is disabling help, primarily because it demands no reciprocity and no confronting of the role in their situations. What we practice, in America, is domestic colonialism.
We give the ‘disadvantaged” just enough material support to keep their heads above water, but not enough truthful feedback to get them to address the real issues that keep them marginal. I have worked, for four decades, with many companies who have made genuine efforts to hire “disadvantaged” candidates. They go out of their way to counsel and advise these candidates on appearance, work habits, technical information – everything but information on how they impact others and what its like to be in their space. The latter is not done, because it opens the companies to charges of racism.
What underpins this behavior is the belief that these candidates are not really up to dealing with reality, and need to be treated in a “special” manner. Special treatment, compensatory programs (i.e. affirmative action), and non-reciprocal “help” are all forms of racism. The intelligentsia, the university, and rich guilt have a vested emotional interest in maintaining a marginal population. It feels good to look helpful, even if that help is disabling and crippling; and corrosive to self-esteem. Our challenge, as a culture, is to face our internal demons, and honestly look at why we continually damage people and call it noble and virtuous.