After the death of Nelson Mandela, many of us are pondering what the man and his life meant to us and to the world. Prolix’s post about leadership was very thought-provoking, asking us to put ourselves in Mandela’s place and think about what we hold so dear that we would spend 27 years in jail to honor it.
My answer is: Nothing.
You see, I am an agnostic and a person of action. I am not a person of faith. It takes a person of faith to say, “Hey, I’m in this prison cell. I’ve given up my family, my home, my freedom, my friends, and yet, I can still be effective in standing up for my beliefs by doing…nothing.”
I would have a very hard time believing that it is more effective to sit in a prison cell, being an example to whomever you’d like to inspire, than to go out and take action on your beliefs. Clearly Mandela’s faith proved correct, but I don’t know how he stuck to it for 27 years. I’m sure he had many moments where he stopped believing. He was, after all, only human.
And this brings me to a very interesting article I saw on Think Progress. Apparently, Mandela was not a perfect man destined for sainthood. (Insert outraged gasp here.) He held some controversial views that might shock some of us. I admit they shocked me. But then I asked myself, why? What is it that makes someone a great leader, even if you don’t agree with everything that person says?
I think after some consideration, I have arrived at a conclusion that works for me: A great leader is someone who lives his/her values. That is the essence of integrity and trust. You may not agree with some of those values, but you at least accord the leader the respect that s/he deserves because of his/her faithful adherence to them.
So what I am saying is, if you are a great leader, you don’t need to be perfect. You don’t need to have your opinions sanitized to fit the current political climate. Instead, you can hold some views that are standard “progressive”/liberal, and hold some that are downright cray-cray. It doesn’t really matter, as long as you hold true to yourself and stay consistent to your values and beliefs.
Do you agree? Do you disagree?
From the Think Progress article linked above, here are the six thing Nelson Mandela believed that are now controversial. Please let us know in comments whether or not you feel any of these causes you to de-sanitize and/or de-sanctify Mandela.
1. Mandela blasted the Iraq War and American imperialism.
2. Mandela called freedom from poverty a “fundamental human right.”
3. Mandela criticized the “War on Terror” and the labeling of individuals as terrorists without due process.
4. Mandela called out racism in America.
5. Mandela embraced some of America’s biggest political enemies.
6. Mandela was a die-hard supporter of labor unions.
This is an open thread.
Good afternoon Widdershin friends. Here’s hoping everyone is warm and not suffering from what seems like a malady du jour. Cozy up with an adult beverage and watch an old movie – the best advice Dr. Prolix has to offer on this fine Tuesday.
As is the ritual in my life, Sunday morning is a cavalcade of one news show after another. I can’t help it — that’s the way I’m wired and instead of fighting it, I’ve come to silently suffer this abnormality. If there were support groups for such a thing, I’m not sure I would have the power to join one because admitting I have a problem would be steps 1 through 11, my twelfth step would inevitably involve a vat-o-scotch.
This past Sunday was particularly unenlightening. The questioning went something like this, “Well, Congress critter, thank you for joining us today. What I would like to ask you is, if this, and this, and this, and this happened, could it lead to something like this happening if this also happened?”
To which the Congress critter replied, “Thank you for having me and that is a particularly insightful question you have posed to me right off the bat. Not only could something like that happened, if this happened, and then this happened, it could be worse than just that happening, it could be the end of constitutional government, locusts could descend, cows could run dry, and Adam Levine could be named Sexiest Man Alive.”
Why is there such a rush to get to something bad? Why is there such a rush to form up a “Parade of Horribles” based upon half a dozen predicate contingencies none of which are remotely possible without shifting the time/space continuum or selecting a Kardashian as an offering to the Middle Earth gods.
It just isn’t politics where there is overwhelming, absolute giddiness about all things bad happening. For instance take the exalted realm of free enterprise capitalism. Listen or read the business news and it is festooned with, “We have learned that the executives of XYZ corporation are fearful of the reaction of Wall Street to their stock price so they have concentrated on this quarter’s earnings.” Call me crazy, but nothing scares me more than a corporation with a strategic plan based around concentrating on the next 120-days in order to forestall potentially bad news.
Or take education for example — we seem to have a new educational initiative with every change in an administration. Last time I looked, once you put a child in the educational pipeline, it took twelve years to come out on the other end.
Or take infrastructure spending for example — we seem to have developed a surefire way to determine bridge replacement — when the roadway decking becomes impassable due to flooding from the bridge having fallen in the inconveniently placed river.
The list goes on. We have become a society obsessed with the here and now. We have forgotten only a few years ago what it was like to fill out an eighteen page insurance application detailing everything down to our bowel movements, handing it to an agent who mailed it or if they were really technically savvy, they faxed it, and then waiting ten days for a reply on whether or not our pre-existing third nipple precluded us from coverage.
This whole culture of here and now is going to be front and center this week in the brewing budget “howdy-doo-dah.” It is too much for our Congress critters to try and do big things so forget a “grand bargain.” It is going to be a whole lot of gnashing of Congressional chompers to get to an une petite budget deal. In an overall budget of $1.0 Trillion, this budget deal over which the Potomac has run red from the ink of slashers, entails a whopping $65 Billion. It doesn’t even get rid of all the sequester cuts.
One thing though, if a small deal is possible maybe bigger deals can be possible going forward. And barring that, if a small deal is possible, maybe subsequent small deals can also be possible. The real reason to be optimistic — at least Congress isn’t doing anything to harm the economy. You have to look for sunshine where you can find it.
As a short-term budget deal is announced this week I’m going to be watching for two things — how the upcoming cutoff of unemployment benefits and food stamps are handled. Those two issues will be a good measuring stick on whether or not Congress is up to the task of no longer inflicting damage upon the economy because unemployment benefits and food stamps are two of the most robust forms of economic stimulus.
The other reason these two programs are good measuring sticks — you don’t need a six part question predicated on “what ifs” to tell if something bad is happening to the Sixty-seven Million poor or near poor. For these folks, who weave in and out of being able to feed their families on a monthly basis, the only “what if” question that matters to them is: What if they can’t?
This is an open thread.
Good day Widdershins! So is everyone getting all “Christmasy” feeling? Well, I’m not. I tell you, I’m about ready to start shouting “Bah humbug!”. It may just be the cold, rainy weather we’ve had lately, with one day’s respite and then it will continue for the next three days here. Next, add in that the crowds are starting to grow in all of the stores as we get closer to the day and I’m almost ready to scream! I mean, I don’t expect to experience crowds at Rite-Aid or Walgreens, but there they were!
Now I have never been partial to large crowds, and maybe it’s because I don’t have any small children within the family to share Christmas with, but I seem to get less and less tolerant of the holiday crowds. I will admit that when my niece and nephew were growing up it was fun to be around them as they opened up gifts and such, and I did enjoy going out to get their gifts and the same goes for getting them for the Momster and my Dad. I suppose I’m just turning into an old Scrooge!
With that in mind, I thought I’d dredge up some really awful Christmas songs to put everyone in the same mood I’m in when it comes to “the Holidays”. If you have any bad Christmas shopping experiences or bad songs to share feel free to share them in the comments below.
This song seems to be responsibility of the poor soul who sings(?) in it. Gawd help him for inflicting this upon humanity.
I’m sorry Rosie, but a singer you are not.
Sorry, but Larry the Cable Guy doing much of anything, is, in my opinion, bad.
I simply cannot believe he did this: ↓
A perennial favorite on these types of lists:
And lastly, one of Pat’s favorites:
Okay folks, it’s an open thread. I’m gonna go back to my mutterin’ and grumblin’.
Good Sunday, Widdershins.
I’m nearing the end of a nasty cold, Now I’m down to nasal and sinus congestion and a tight, hacking cough accompanied by generalized aching. Christmas is in a little over two weeks, and there are decorations strewn around my house guilting me out to no end, and I’ve done little to remedy the situation. Needless to say, I do not feel particularly frisky, Nevertheless, I’ve got a post to do here, so I might as well go on ahead and finish the week on the same dreary note. Seems that there are a number of tunes that deal with feeling less than optimal.
Without further ado, my list is below. Please join me by posting anything that you care to in this totally open thread. Oh, and pass the Kleenex, please. I’m going back to bed.
(1) Unwell – Matchbox 20
(2) Subterranean Homesick Blues – Bob Dylan
(3) Cat Scratch Fever – Ted Nugent
(4) Somebody Get Me a Doctor – Van Halen
(5) Sick As a Dog - Aerosmith
Good afternoon Widdershins. I hope everyone is safe, warm, and dry from this wintry figment of our imaginations about changing climatic conditions. For the 2% of rent-a-scientists who don’t believe in climate change may they find a nice flag pole upon which to wag their weary tongues.
Fredster graciously allowed me to go ahead and post this piece before it got too stale since it was originally scheduled for yesterday. Thanks Fredster.
The year 332 B.C. Alexander the Great is on his world tour — killing, pillaging, and enslaving anyone who might have the audacity to not yet be conquered. Alexander and his posse roll up to Tyre. Tyre is a coastal town with an island fortress about a kilometer off-shore. The women and children have been sent away. The men folk and soldiers have taken shelter on the island fortress.
Alexander must conquer because that’s what he does — it‘s just how he rolls. Here at Tyre, he first sends out a set of envoys to see if the Tyrians might be amenable to surrender. Nope, not interested is the answer. Alexander wants to make sure the Tyrians know he’s called “the Great” for a reason, so he sends out another group of emissaries. To make just as sure Alexander gets the message, the Tyrians promptly kill the envoys and pitch their lifeless bodies over the walls. Copy that — message received.
At the time, Alexander has no navy. He envisions building a causeway out to the island. It’s easy at first because the water is shallow — only about two feet deep, but closer to the island the water becomes deeper. Alexander builds two huge towers engineered with catapults and archery stations and he moves them to the end of the causeway bridge. Alexander thinks he’s making progress.
The Tyrians promptly outfit some flat-bottomed boats with kindling, oil, and other combustibles, light it, and send it on its way to the causeway. The lack of fire safety codes in 332 B.C. pretty much seals the fate of the soon to be burning towers.
While the bridge was a great idea, it simply didn’t work. Alexander was forced to call upon the navies of city/states he had already conquered to finish with the island of Tyre. You can read the complete story here.
Why did I waste three-hundred words on the Siege of Tyre? It is pretty famous in terms of demonstrating strategic outside-the-box thinking, but it is more useful in illustrating a fool’s errand by asking the question, “You have a bunch of people by their own choice on an isolated island and outside of wanting to conquer them (because that‘s what you know), why not leave them alone to their own solitary demise?”
President Obama has spent five years trying to find a way to charm the far-right wing dominated by the Tea Party, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and other sundry wack-a-doodles. While not Tyre, it certainly is “Tired Island”. He’s sent emissaries. He’s tried capitulation. He’s allowed them to set the debate. He’s tried to build bridges, but the bridges have been repeatedly burned.
Much like Alexander, Obama believes in his own awesomeness. I truly believe as “President/community organizer” he thought he could convince the far right-wing of, if not his awesomeness, the awesomeness of his logic and policies. Obama failed to appreciate that on “Tired Island,” there are millions of emotionally motivated people living in a world where there is little science, there is little logic, and most of all, there are few discernible facts servicing a myriad of manufactured story lines.
For a moment let’s talk about a few of the denizens of the right’s Tired Island. You have Darrell Issa whose every sentence is a noun, verb, and the word “scandal”. There’s Steve “Electrocute Illegals like Cattle” King, there’s Steve “Drugs in the underwear” Stockman, Kent “Obama’s got coodies” Bentivolio, Louie “Cantaloupe Calves” Gohmert, Trey “Wanna do some blow” Radel, Duncan “Let’s use little nukes on Iran” Hunter, Blake “Birther” Farenthold (he’s the one at right who looks like he just swallowed the whole Smurf clan), and then there’s Michele Bachmann and what can you say other than, then there’s Michele Bachmann.
On Issa’s committee, 13 out of 22 Republican members have called for impeachment. These 13 are joined by about three dozen others who have threatened impeachment. We Widdershins first discussed this coming shift of political emphasis from Obamacare to impeachment last October. On Tired Island such talk isn’t going away any time soon.
With Obama having but 37 months left in office, he needs to stop the fool’s errand of building bridges to Tired Island. His self-annointed awesomeness is not going to rehabilitate the inmates. Eventually, the denizens of Tired Island will run out of energy and given the demographics, that might be sooner rather than later.
There are hopeful signs. At the ALEC conclave this week, The Guardian got hold of some pretty sensitive internal documents showing 60 corporations had financially abandoned ALEC over “stand your ground“ laws in light of the killing of Trayvon Martin. The hole blown in their budget has forced them to consider changing this conservative corporate/legislative dating service to a 501(c)(4) in order to keep their donors a secret.
With 3 years and one month to go, the President might have finally accepted the far-right “just isn’t that into him.” Perhaps he will turn his attention to unemployment, infrastructure improvements, immigration, “too big to fail” financial institutions, voting rights, gun safety, or anything that is not mollycoddling the fringers on Tired Island. If he keeps trying to build bridges over to Tired Island, he needs to consider: What will he do if he gets there? If the past is prologue, I’d direct his attention to the fate of Alexander’s second set of emissaries.
This is an open thread.
I am grateful. Grateful that we have lived contemporaneously with Nelson Mandela. With his passing is the celebration of the life, career, activism, and embodiment of the world’s greatest example of leadership to which so many aspire.
Living during the time of Nelson Mandela is like what I would imagine living during Lincoln’s too short life would have been. President Mandela emerged from prison to ascend to the Presidency of the most racially torn country on the planet and declared his unconditional love for the very countrymen who had imprisoned him.
Mandela’s story gives bones to so many concepts of leadership. In honor of his passing, I thought I might share one.
Nelson Mandela was imprisoned as a young man and he was not the man we have come to know. He was angry. He was physical. He was not a model prisoner. He fought, he was actively disobedient, and he harbored great, unfocused anger toward his captors.
After a few years of this rebellious behavior, Mandela had an epiphany. He realized he had been imprisoned because of his belief all humans had value. He realized his constant rebellion against the guards was causing him to treat them with less than dignity — the very dignity to which he knew all humans were entitled. He was not living his belief.
He changed. He began treating the guards with respect. He started schooling them since most of the guards were illiterate white men who did not have the benefit of Mandela’s education. He taught them to read and write. He gave them a love of books.
Once he had taught them the basics, he expanded their education. Mandela involved other prisoners in his efforts to “prison school” the guards. He essentially created an academy at Robbins Island for the guards. Remarkably, since the prison jobs were so coveted by a certain segment of the population, he taught generations of families giving them the benefits of an education.
After his imprisonment of 27 years, when he was released and was inaugurated as President of South Africa, Mandela reserved rows of seats at his inauguration ceremony. Those seats were reserved for the prison guards — the very men who had imprisoned him and the same men he had found it within his heart to educate. The reason: Mandela wanted to demonstrate there was no greater power of healing than forgiveness.
I love that story. The very men who held Mandela prisoner for 27 years, who denied his freedom, who denied him his family, who denied him his youth, who denied him his worth were at his inauguration as his special guests. That depth of forgiveness is not of this world.
This story demonstrates his extraordinary depth of leadership and his commitment to a sustainable set of values. When I used this story in leadership training, I then handed out a deck of cards to the participants. On this deck of cards were printed 50-some values — things like family, justice, equality, truth, morality, education, art, etc. I would then ask the participants, usually about 20-30 per session, to tell me those things that were important to them as people and those things they espoused to be in their personal set of sustainable values.
Without fail, the participants would quickly amass a card stack of 20 or 30 cards representing a set of values they personally claimed. Participants always claimed a value set of this size because there is an overriding sense of social desirability associated with claiming values. Much like a Vera Wang gown or a Tom Ford tuxedo, if it doesn’t cost anything most everyone will claim one.
Once the participants sorted to their personally claimed 20 or 30 socially desirable values, I then asked them, “Now, of those values you are claiming, for which values would you spend 27 years in prison?”
Needless to say, the stack of claimed values thinned considerably. Most people ended up with just one card (always “family”) and never more than two or three claimed values for which they would spend 27 years in prison. I would then ask, “Outside of your family, what do you have left?” A vast majority of people, outside of their claimed value of family, have nothing for which they would spend 27 years in prison.
In celebration of the life of Nelson Mandela and in his memory, I put this question to the Widdershin world, “Outside of family, for what values would you be willing to spend 27 years in prison?”
This is an open thread.
Good Thursday, Widdershins.
I have a nasty cold, and to add insult to injury, I have had a recurrence of sciatica. Needless to say, Chat is trés blu.
I’m going to stagger back to the sofa with my kleenex, a bottle of cough syrup, the heating pad and some orange juice. I’m planning to watch old movies as opposed to the news channels lest I add acute depression to my list of diagnoses.
In the meantime, feel free to cuss and discuss any topic that strikes your fancy.