If we are to believe the media generated images, the commercials, the public values community and sacrifice. Problem is the same public rewards the voice speaking above all others. Be assertive, people say.
No. Not a new development.
In Army leadership schools we found ourselves evaluated on command voice, command presence, assertiveness. And these things have a great importance in a dangerous situation where hesitation can compound the threat and moving quickly can save lives. It’s less of a value when a soldier knocks on the office door and needs to talk about divorce, bankruptcy, violence or an inappropriate touch. Then, taking the time to listen, identify the problem and focus efforts on the solution (or on discipline for the offender) matters. But still, we value assertive, strong position rather than the right one that may require reflection.
If a hammer works for one job, it should work on all jobs, right?
And in our political landscape the illusion of strength matters more than a thought out position. A pause for needed reflection becomes equated with dithering. So some learn this and speak louder, over other voices.
Again. Not a new development.
A friend in the aftermath of an election used the term narcissism. A self-centered value scale that carries with it a lack of empathy for others outside one’s circle.
Bumper sticker ideologies appeal. Reflection doesn’t. Small steps forward in our society are met with manufactured angst over ‘our way of life’ as if even the thought of not hurting someone else was somehow a threat.
And yet in our public value of assertiveness we don’t notice it enough to call it what it is. A narcissistic disorder that can be manipulated through accusations of weakness.
I’m reminded of a prophet’s flight away from immediate danger. Elijah fled his ruthless king, finding a place in Mt. Horeb to await the next course of action. In the midst of his retreat he encountered an earthquake, a windstorm and a fire. We are told the voice he was looking for – God’s – was not in any of these strong assertive presences. It was in a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19) he would have been sure to miss if he were looking for messages in catastrophe.
A few thousand years later we are still valuing the earthquake scale voices – something that puts barriers between us. We are still trying to out bluster them, while ignoring the still quiet voices concerned with matters greater than their own self-importance.