Jan 212014
 

Last week, I talked about how good it was when individuals approached their lives proactively rather than reactively. You often can’t enter an open door of opportunity if you’re not already prepared. However, in groups, too much general proactivity can be disruptive. In stable groups, harmony and respect for traditions can be comfortable and help bind members together.

In business, an employee is often tempted (or required) to be reactive. They may be content to do what they are told – simply doing their job and then coming back tomorrow and doing the same job in the same way. That is not bad in itself. When the job doesn’t change and the rules are well-known, the same responses in the same recurring circumstances keep things going smoothly. People who like predictability, and like for things to remain as they were before, can be happy doing this kind of work, especially if they are part of a team and able to share social connections.

I’m not just talking about low-wage jobs. A professional is, by definition, expected to be a highly-trained practitioner of a narrow specialty. In fact, you can expect that the more training they get, the narrower their specialty. They go to school and learn a great deal about a field such as architecture or law. And, having mastered the accepted standards of their specialty, they apply their training over and over again to particular types of problems. Such elite professionals can be very successful, and acquire remarkable wealth in this way. A conservative worldview does not prevent them from achieving great professional and economic gains.

A business middle-manager can also be reactive and still be successful. A manager’s job is about choosing TACTICS from available options. Managers gather measurements of compliance, compare these to expectations, and then adjust policies or budgets. This continuing feedback process can bring the system under their control back into expected norms. I’m not being critical. This can be very challenging, important, and rewarding work.

However, every business, social, or political LEADER is responsible for STRATEGY. They MUST be proactive to be successful. A leader must get out ahead of things, imagine possible futures, and make decisions about issues that most other people cannot see. A good leader is a master of change, recognizing where things are not working and sometimes reforming entire systems to adapt to new situations.

A good leader understands that many people resist or actively obstruct change. A good leader works persistently when necessary or presses for rapid adjustments if urgency demands it. Sometimes incremental change is no longer good enough and the group must transition to something entirely new. In any event, a good leader is always proactive about moving us forward.

© 2012, David Satterlee

Aug 052012
 

My personal experience is that masculinity and femininity complement each other very nicely. I become exceptionally moody and morose without the company of women. In a mixed gathering, I prefer to be in the kitchen, behaving myself like a mouse in the corner, than with the men watching sports in the family room. And, I know that I really like being married and having a feminine woman as my best friend.

Further, while lurking near widows and divorced women, I have heard them confess that they “simply like having a man around.” It sounded as if, like me, the simple presence of someone of the other gender satisfied a palpably felt deficit.

The feminist Gloria Steinem famously asserted that, “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.” OMG! Didn’t Dr. Seuss put a fish riding a bicycle in his “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish?” What a rascal he was! I’ve gotta look for that.

 

The way some men treat the women in their lives, one could believe that the women would truly be better off without them. In any event, there is often clearly room left for improvement in many relationships. My wife, Dianna, liked the sentiment of the poster, below, and brought it to my attention.

The text reads: “We need to teach our DAUGHTERS the difference between a man who FLATTERS her and a man who COMPLIMENTS her. a man who SPENDS MONEY on her and a man who INVESTS in her. A man who views her as PROPERTY and a man who views her PROPERLY. a man who LUSTS after her and a man who LOVES her. A man who believes HE is GOD’s GIFT to women and a man who remembers a WOMAN was GOD’s GIFT to MAN and then teach OUR SONS to be that kind of man.”

Let me add the observation that the sentiment still tilts toward a sexist, patriarchal view of gender relations. I think that women are capable of being even more self-sufficient emotionally and physically. While I deeply treasure the satisfying bonds between men and women, I am sympathetic toward those with a radically-independent spirit.

Photo

In fact, the entire range of “conservative” thought tilts toward a sexist, patriarchal view of gender relations. Another way of saying this is George Lakoff’s observation that conservatives tend to have a “strong father” view of how families and governments should be run. Conservatives tend to look for, follow, and be loyal to their chosen authorities. It is very clear that “He’s the boss” or that the man of the house or the conservatively-elected president is “the decider.” On the other hand, the “liberal” tilt endorses a nurturing father, rather than a strict authoritarian.

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Jul 112012
 

Last week, I talked about how good it was when individuals approached their lives proactively rather than reactively. You often can’t enter an open door of opportunity if you’re not already prepared. However, in groups, too much general proactivity can be disruptive. In stable groups, harmony and respect for traditions can be comfortable and help bind members together.

In business, an employee is often tempted (or required) to be reactive. They may be content to do what they are told – simply doing their job and then coming back tomorrow and doing the same job in the same way. That is not bad in itself. When the job doesn’t change and the rules are well-known, the same responses in the same recurring circumstances keep things going smoothly. People who like predictability, and like for things to remain as they were before, can be happy doing this kind of work, especially if they are part of a team and able to share social connections.

I’m not just talking about low-wage jobs. A professional is, by definition, expected to be a highly-trained practitioner of a narrow specialty. In fact, you can expect that the more training they get, the narrower their specialty. They go to school and learn a great deal about a field such as architecture or law. And, having mastered the accepted standards of their specialty, they apply their training over and over again to particular types of problems. Such elite professionals can be very successful, and acquire remarkable wealth in this way. A conservative worldview does not prevent them from achieving great professional and economic gains.

A business middle-manager can also be reactive and still be successful. A manager’s job is about choosing TACTICS from available options. Managers gather measurements of compliance, compare these to expectations, and then adjust policies or budgets. This continuing feedback process can bring the system under their control back into expected norms. I’m not being critical. This can be very challenging, important, and rewarding work.

However, every business, social, or political LEADER is responsible for STRATEGY. They MUST be proactive to be successful. A leader must get out ahead of things, imagine possible futures, and make decisions about issues that most other people cannot see. A good leader is a master of change, recognizing where things are not working and sometimes reforming entire systems to adapt to new situations.

A good leader understands that many people resist or actively obstruct change. A good leader works persistently when necessary or presses for rapid adjustments if urgency demands it. Sometimes incremental change is no longer good enough and the group must transition to something entirely new. In any event, a good leader is always proactive about moving us forward.

© 2012, David Satterlee

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Jul 112012
 

Isn’t it encouraging to meet someone who takes pride in doing their job well? I’ve met several such gems recently here in town. Do you know someone like this? Tell them that you noticed. Even if it’s not the same person that I had in mind, the one you compliment will receive that positive recognition from you. You can make their day. My most recent contact made the comment that they “believe in being proactive rather than reactive.”

A person who is only reactive waits for something to happen and then responds to that event. A person who is PROactive takes initiative to make change happen, anticipates potential threats or opportunities, and takes steps ahead of time to be prepared. Things seem to go better for proactive people. The reason why is explained by the saying, “Good luck is found at the intersection of preparation and opportunity.”

As individuals, we have an advantage over lower life forms. A bacterium may simply react by moving toward food or away from an irritating chemical. In fact, when there are no opportunities or threats, there is no need for change. On the other hand, when change is at hand – when compelling change is afoot all around us – we need to respond.

Reactive change allows us to adjust with less urgency and in smaller steps. A mountain shepherd can lead his sheep to greener pastures as the season matures. However, being overly fond of old habits, characterized by reactive change, can leave us unprepared for a crisis (or even an unexpected windfall).

Proactive people are in the habit of staying so aware of their situation that they can anticipate needed changes. More than that, they are, by nature, open to examining, evaluating, and possibly embracing new ideas and opportunities. Proactive people are more likely to prosper during a time of dramatic transition.

In groups, however, there can actually be benefits to reactive behavior. You have heard the phrase that “too many cooks spoil the soup,” or “lead, follow, or get out of the way.” When change is necessary, it can do harm to the entire group if someone selfishly obstructs progress in defense of their private interests. For instance, a tribe works best with a strong, competent, visionary leader who can find solutions to difficult problems, inspire hope, and show the way forward when change is necessary. I’ll talk about this in more detail next week.

© 2012, David Satterlee

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May 312012
 

Christianity started out as a very liberal way of life. Take a look at the things Jesus personally did and said. A red-letter version of the New Testament will help. I won’t cite chapter and verse, but if you’re up for this discussion, you will already feel right at home.

Above all, Jesus lived and taught love. He even made the blunt assertion that “God is Love.” Jesus pointed out that the greatest law was Love – of God and neighbor – and he used the parable of a good Samaritan to point out that everyone is our neighbor.

In contrast to the popular idea that “you are on your own,” a core liberal belief is that “we are all in this together.” That is, we are all neighbors and need to care about our common good at every level, not just our own family or religion.

While teaching personal responsibility, Jesus also taught us to not focus overmuch on individual liberties. He washed his disciples’ feet to set an example of submitting in service to others.

Jesus really came down hard on the Pharisees. These were the nation’s  religious and political leaders. Often the wealthiest, they created, enforced, and defended a system of traditions and laws that supported and sustained their own positions of privilege and power.

The Pharisees claimed the high ground of faith and values, but Jesus condemned them and called them hypocrites. Notably, he drove money changers, members of the privileged financial elites, out of the temple.

Jesus was tolerant of those in other social classes; He ate with tax collectors and sinners and he cared about the health and welfare of all. He gave his gifts freely to the poor and downhearted and he encouraged others to do so as well.

Finally, stop a moment to contemplate the fact that Jesus, along with folks such as Martin Luther. were the radical liberals of their time. They took issue with the existing systems of unfair power, privilege, and oppression. Without extending the point too far, they were, in fact, progressive community organizers.

©2012, David Satterlee

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May 312012
 

Men of the fields, like all men of faith, are optimists. As defined at Acts 17:11, faith is the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Optimists are able to contemplate the future with eyes of hope. They can imagine the substance of a reality that does not yet exist.

Pessimists are more likely to behave as faithless men of fear. They contemplate the future and imagine losing what they already have. This motivates them to worry about preserving things the way they are and conserving resources already at hand.

As children, we are usually relatively weak and understand that we could lose anything at any time. Someone stronger, having more authority or power, can take property or liberties from us at will. This makes us more focused on near-term risks and immediate gratifications.

As adults, there are several typical reactions to this fear of loss. Some may store up that which they fear losing or, like a prodigal, spend carelessly on whatever they can get now. Some may follow teachers who prey upon their fear. They may work to undermine even the best parts of our own elected government-of-the-people. They may even arm themselves and prepare against a day of “Second Amendment remedies.”

Others, as they develop toward adulthood, exhibit the emotional maturity associated with accepting delayed gratification. This is related to “self-control” – one of the Fruitages of the Spirit. Without this, no one would effectively invest in the future of their children, community, or nation.

By being open to faith in a good outcome, either as the result of hard work, the blessings of a loving  God, or  both, these optimists are willing to invest their resources – energy, blood, and treasure – in an uncertain future.

The further out these liberals are able to imagine the “substance of things hoped for,” the more radically they are willing to invest in the common good of their communities – voluntarily walking in self-sacrificing love rather than fear.

©2012, David Satterlee

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May 212012
 

My sweet wife and I were sitting on the front porch swing, reading the Sunday paper and enjoying the cool breeze of the early morning. It still amazes me how many things we don’t know about each other, even after all these years. She was reading the obituaries. I knew something was up when she lowered the paper into her lap and just stared off into the distance. Eventually she explained, “I almost married a Republican lawyer.”

Being my usual smart-ass self, I quipped, “Yeah, that would have been tough. Lawyers like to argue, and they especially like to win arguments. And, you can’t argue rationally with a Republican.” Fortunately, my beloved knows that, once I get the smart-ass out of my system, it’s safe to move on as if nothing had happened. She finished her story.

“Someone I dated in high school died. I might have married him. It turns out he became a lawyer.” I put my arm across her shoulder. She likes to lean her head back and rest that way. “We were actually pretty serious for a while, and then I called it off.” She leaned her head back and rolled it toward my shoulder. “You know what a liberal hippie chick I was back then, with protest marches and folk songs. Well, he invited me to go with him to a Young Republicans Club meeting. So, we started comparing ideas and, pretty soon that was it.”

Well, that’s about it here too. When you’re been married for a long time, some of the best things are the quiet, delicate, unexpected joys that land on you, like the cool flutter of a butterfly, for just a moment. I kissed her gently on the head and told her that I loved her. And then I just stared off into the distance for a while, surprised that I would find myself so suddenly grateful to a Republican lawyer.

©2012, David Satterlee

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Apr 102012
 

@ChumForThought – By David Satterlee – Throwing ideas into dangerous waters

“No man is an island.” Communities are the foundation of civilization. It is almost impossible to be entirely self-sufficient. We need each other for our variety of abilities, interests, and ideas. Our individual differences make us stronger as a group.

Farmers understand that monoculture crops require extra care because they are more vulnerable to disease and disaster. Colonies of single-cell bacteria do not need diversity in the same way because they just reproduce rapidly to consume whatever they find and then die back.

For people, it is easiest to create communities when everyone shares mostly the same values. But, the more we isolate ourselves from others who are different in some way, the more extreme, intolerant, and fragile, our group becomes.

In the natural environment, thousands of different plants and animals work together to fix nitrogen, provide shade, hold soil from erosion, cross pollinate, and such. Our human communities also prosper when they embrace diversity.

Communities do not allow unlimited personal freedoms. In fact, one of the properties of communities is that they are intrusive and coercive. People in communities voluntarily give up some individual liberties and, in the spirit of Ephesians 5:21, “submit to one another” for the common good.

For instance, if you catch my child throwing rocks and breaking windows, I should appreciate, or at lease accept it, if you bring him to me, explain the problem, and expect me to disciplined and correct him.

As communications tools and speeds rapidly increase in our modern world, we find ourselves to be involved in larger and larger communities of interests and communities of relationships. This can be fearful for those who prefer the comfortable memory of things like they used to be.

Nonetheless, we are obliged to keep on extending ourselves to understand, or at least accept, that we are all in this together and that the Golden Rule works both ways.

©2012, David Satterlee

Mar 062012
 

I favor leaving Rush Limbaugh on the air. I declined to sign a petition asking Clear Channel Communications to remove him. Rush is endlessly fascinating. It’s kind of like staring at the snakes at the zoo, watching a street fight, or lingering at the scene of a train wreck. You know you shouldn’t, but you just can’t seem to look away.

Shock jock Howard Stern keeps his audience in the same way. Oh yes, there are the supporters who simply align with everything he says, but… It seems that, whether they like Howard or not, most tune in “to see what he will say next.”

Limbaugh is an embarrassing caricature of the hate and bigotry embraced by too many conservatives. He seems to enlarge and amplify their basest attitudes. He’s the kind of influence my Mother warned me against when she said, “Bad associations spoil useful habits.” Of course, Limbaugh positions himself as the Grand Defender of Virtue, but that’s another story… That is what he thinks, and that is what my Mom thought. Mom wins.

Some listeners are embracing Rush’s message but the bad behavior of “dittoheads” is alienating independents. [For what it’s worth, Google “dittoheads.” You will find some very creative and entertaining send-ups of the phenomenon.] The Urban Dictionary points out the obvious; blind, unthinking, following without question. There is a satirical 12-step program for dittoheads. The good times just keep rolling.

Other listeners are uncomfortable and defecting from his program. In fact, as of this writing, an explosion of advertisers are also rejecting his show.

Finally, Limbaugh is energizing liberals. He is standing in the open, drawing lightening to himself. Just as Republicans cynically energize the bigotry of their base by giving them people and ideas to hate, Rush is out there painting targets on himself every day.

Rush is wrong. Rush is a train wreck. And, if you don’t believe me, ask your Mother… or Al Franken. Let him rant. Let him be the shining public example of everything that you no longer want to be. Don’t go over to the dark side of the force. Go to the light.

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Mar 042012
 

imgresI cross-posted “Hate Speech at my US Post Office” to Open.Salon.com where it was selected as an “Editor’s Pick.” I described responding in alarmed kindness and signing my name. It felt kind of liberating.

It was very satisfying that a lot of “closet liberals” commented that they felt empowered. Here are some samples:

  • “Thank you for sharing this, and I have to say, you inspired me. I am a liberal amongst conservatives at my work and I usually ignore the hate-speech and brow-beating to try and get me to “see it their way.” I don’t bite, so they lose steam. I just moved to a new office and I heard my first anti-Obama joke in the new building today. I didn’t say anything. But you have just inspired me to stop being the silent liberal! I will prepare my logical retorts and be ready the next time they come around with inappropriate comments and condescending attitudes and I’ll tell ’em what’s what. Thanks again.”
  • “I did a similar thing a few years ago in a slightly less public space (the bulletin board in the break room of a large office building.) The fact that I signed my name helped other people to step forward and speak up, and the end result was that anonymous sniping was established in the office culture, for at least a few years, as a very un-cool thing.”
  • “And yes, we need to stand fast and push back against the bullying. I hope you write that column, and find there are many other people in your town who feel you speak to them and for them, too.”
  • “Too often the “other” side runs to name calling, innuendo, and outright lies to make their point. Instead of hating on someone you don’t agree with, how about talk in plain terms of what you would rather see, why and how that will help.”
  • I applaud you for speaking up and taking a stand, particularly when it may not be a popular one in your community. Hopefully, it will let other people see that they’re not alone and push them to speak up too.
  • “Living outside the U.S. for the better part of the past ten years I can tell you the rise of racism in America is extremely noticeable to those of us who do not live there, nor suffer the consequences. Name them, and shame them. That’s about all you can do.”
  • My synagogue was stricken with a swastika. We will try to set up some public education programs around it. It stinks and calls for talk, rather than anger. I say, treat it with education. Post an anti-hate poster. Set up a discussion. Write an article.
  • When Obama was about to get elected, I threw a fundraiser and posted invitations throughout my building, to attend and watch his acceptance speech. Some pinhead yuppie Libertarian spawn defaced Obama’s picture as a crude caricature of Hitler with reversed Swastikas over the invite text. A lot of folks who attended were outraged, but I told them that I wasn’t really worried about bad art. What worried me were the quiet guys with deer rifles. As much as pinheads like Rush and Newt piss me off, I still worry about the quiet guys with rifles.
  • “Liberalism is a mental disorder” is a Michael Savage saying. The author is thus likely a typical Savage fan: old white male, paranoid and resentful. Good for you for speaking up, but take care: these men are very, very angry people.

As I continue to contemplate my most recent encounter with hate, I am warmed by increasing optimism. It occurred to me that conservatism is the condition you leave and that liberalism is where you go from there. That produces a positively-trending dynamic. It can be summed up in the observation that:

”Liberals are just former conservatives who have relearned the True Meaning of Christmas.”

If you do a Google image search of “true meaning of Christmas,” you find lots of Christmas trees, mangers, and Peanuts kids. That’s level one; that’s for people who don’t look very far and don’t dig very deep.

If you’re persistent, however, you find a few images that emphasize Jesus’ expressions of love, being compassionate, doing good, teaching, serving, feeding, and healing. These are examples of, metaphorically, “opening your hand” and “giving liberally.”

There is no shame in being liberal. It is an open, joyful way of life. Liberalism was modeled, not only by Jesus, but by every person we like to admire or call “a great man.” Think Gandhi, Mother Theresa, the Buddha, Dr. King, and many others.

Liberalism is not a bad word or an embarrassment. It is not a light to be hid under a basket. Liberalism should be a light that you confidently thrust high, as an illumination in the world.

DavidS

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Feb 072012
 

Source: Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy by Bill Clinton
Abstracted from pages 42-47

Whatever our shortcomings, because Democrats, whether conservative, liberal, or moderate, basically believe government has an important role to play in our lives, they want it to work well. That makes most of them less ideological and more open to policies that have both progressive and conservative elements than their anti-government adversaries.

To get America back into the future business, we’ll have to make choices and changes in both our government and our private economic practices. To create jobs and raise incomes; to create new businesses and restore our manufacturing base; to have a finance sector that both earns money for itself and promotes a strong economy; to save ourselves and our children from the ravages of climate change in a way that increases growth and broadens prosperity; to move back to a balanced budget—these tasks will require the best ideas of conservatives, liberals, and moderates, Democrats, Republicans, and independents.

But we can’t get the right answers if we begin with the wrong question. [Conservatives ask] How can we weaken our government, reduce its revenues, and restrict its reach the so we can throw off its chains? That’s the wrong question.

Here are the right questions:

  • How can we move back to a full-employment economy with good jobs and rising middle-class incomes?
  • How can we restore American leadership for peace and prosperity and leave our children and grandchildren a brighter future?
  • What do Americans need governments to do to achieve these goals?
  • How are we doing now, compared with our own history and expectations?
  • How are we doing compared with the competition from other nations?

There remains a lot of space for a real, productive debate, areas in which both Democrats and Republicans could contribute to bipartisan solutions that actually get our country back in the future business.

The only people who have taken themselves out of this needed debate are the antigovernment idealogues. They already have the answers, and the fact that the evidence doesn’t support them is irrelevant. The inevitable consequence of their policies is to push the pedal to the metal of the most destructive trends of the last thirty years, to increase inequality and instability, and to forfeit the future.

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Feb 022012
 

I have studiously watched all (I think) of the 2011/2012 Republican debates. I wanted to expose myself to a variety of points of view, even if they might differ from my own current preconceived notions. The exercise has left me shocked and appalled.

It was not just the remarkable certainty of the candidates’ conflicting assertions [they might have demonstrated more party and policy unity). But they freely engaged in the most egregious and transparent distortions of each other’s records and statements (and that was BEFORE their assertions about the incumbent President and his party who, by the way, had no immediate opportunity to make a defense or offer a rebuttal).

I know that politicians can play hardball and are prone to mudslinging, but I began to feel that there was something at work here that felt palpably evil. So I did some soul-searching and some research, and carefully selected some quotes that support my point of view. Now, granted, there are certainly other points of view and I should be willing to consider them, but this is my blog and my outrage, so please feel free to publish your own and be aware that I moderate all comments.


“It’s not a matter of what is true that counts but a matter of what is perceived to be true.”
Henry Kissinger

  • “A compelling story, even if factually inaccurate, can be more emotionally compelling than a dry recitation of the truth.”
  • “There’s a lot of money with a lot of big law firms that have a tremendous amount at stake by getting the right language to convince the right jury that my client is either innocent or that the opposition is guilty.”
  • “We decide based on how people look; we decide based on how people sound; we decide based on how people are dressed. We decide based on their passion.”

Frank Luntz, Republican pollster and consultant on the language of persuasion.

“I have been thinking that I would make a proposition to my Republican friends… that if they will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them.”
Adlai Stevenson, Governor of Illinois, (1949-1953)

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”
Arthur Schopenhauer

When a man who is honestly mistaken hears the truth, he will either quit being mistaken, or cease to be honest.
Unknown

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
Martin Luther King Jr.

The search for truth implies a duty. One must not conceal any part of what one has recognized to be true.
Albert Einstein

And, don’t even get me started on the certainty of individuals defending the universal validity of their personal (religious and political) convictions, in the face of so many faiths. And, don’t even tempt me to start invoking George Carlin.

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