Let’s make 2019 great by seeking leaders instead of heroes

Summary: How can we make 2019 a great year for America? Before we take the difficult steps – risking our lives, fortunes, and sacred honor – let’s abandon fantasies about heroes. Instead let’s build organizations and find leaders.

“The future is taking shape now in our own beliefs and in the courage of our leaders. Ideas and leadership – not natural or social “forces” – are the prime movers in human affairs.”

–– A World Without Heroes: The Modern Tragedy by George Roche III (1987).

Key to Leadership

Hollywood’s Real Bias Is Conservative
(But Not in the Way Liberals Often Say)

By Elias Isquith in The Atlantic, 9 January 2012.
“The political criticisms of Zero Dark Thirty, Lincoln, and The Dark Knight Rises stem from the fact that for Hollywood, history and ideology are second to business — and individualistic narratives sell.”

Isquith’s essay ends with an insight essential for understanding America’s dysfunction:

“It’s individuals, and individuals alone, who matter. In Zero Dark Thirty, an isolated, single-minded CIA agent – a loner that no one believes in – is the chief reason the butcher of 9/11 is lost to time at the bottom of the sea. In Lincoln, it’s only through the singular grace, wisdom, and humanity of the 16th president that the greatest evil in American history, an evil few but he sees with true clarity, is finally put to rest. And in The Dark Knight Rises, Gotham is saved by the orphan Bruce Wayne as the pariah Batman. These people do great things. And they do them alone.

“This is Hollywood’s – and indeed, much of entertainment’s – conservative belief. But it’s less ideology than business imperative. Recall the feeling you had the last time you walked out of a really good blockbuster. You probably felt elated, invigorated, like you could master the world all by yourself. It’s a good feeling, and it’s happening right now at a theater near you.”

But that is not happening in a neighborhood near you. That is not happening in America. The 1% do not rule as individuals. They are not villains dressed in spandex and swinging through the city. They recruit followers; their money is their superpower. Against them we are helpless as individuals.

20130113-ClintEastwood
He won’t solve our problems.

The 99% have numbers and great resources. We have power only through collective action.  But instead we are fed dreams – as effective as drugs – of wielding power as individuals. As children we read of Tarzan (created in 1912), Zoro (1919), The Lone Ranger (1933), and Batman (1939).  As adults we are fed follies like those described by Charles A. Beard in “The Myth of Rugged American Individualism“ (Harper’s, December 1931 – with powerful insights).  More recent repackaging of this fantasy by Ayn Rand tells us to become Objectivist Übermensch.

So we dream of being superheroes. Or having superheroes, like winged Jesus-figures, fix our problems. Both seduce us from more realistic visions of a heroic future in which teams reform America. That is the path to successful self-government, through the difficult work of organizing ourselves.

We saw these self-crippling dreams in the Bobbsey Twins prancing on our political stage during the past decade: the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements. The members of both resisted the natural process of discovering and training leaders, and by that diverting themselves off the mainline. The Tea Party was co-opted to become GOP shock troops. The OWS become street festivals, leaving nothing behind but garbage on the streets.  They were peasants’ protests. They were the uprisings of children, preferring to be a gang instead of an organization.

As individuals we are dust in the wind. From School Boards to Congress, from the Pilgrims’ Mayflower Compact to the pacts binding the movements of tomorrow, the first step to gaining political effectiveness is organization. That means selecting leaders, giving them authority, following them, and holding them responsible for their actions. Our forefathers did this well. It is how they built America – and the West.

  • In May 1764 Samuel Adams and others in Boston took the first step to American independence by forming the first of the Committees of Correspondence.  They reached out to like-minded people in other colonies. Eleven colonies had Committees by February 1774. These groups steadily gained experience acting on a local and then national scale. They formed the nucleus of shadow governments, which later formed the basis of revolutionary governments. Victory came with the Treaty of Paris in 1783.
  • In 1774 Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Rush founded America’s first anti-slavery society.  In 1868 we ratified the Fourteenth Amendment.  In the mid-1960′s the great Civil Rights legislation ended the government-sponsored oppression of Blacks.
  • In 1787 William Wilberforce began his crusade in Parliament against slavery in the UK, he drew upon support from groups such as the Quakers’ antislavery societies and the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade, plus informal groups like the Testonites. Full victory came in 1833.
  • The first women’s rights convention was held at Seneca Falls NY in 1848. The first National Women’s Rights Conventions was held in Worcester, MA in October 1850. The 19th Amendment became law in August 1920 when ratified by the 36th State.
  • The Civil Rights movement was a loose alliance of groups, including the NAACP, the Congress of Racial Equality, and Southern Christian Leadership Conference. It began in the 1950s and triumphed with the passage of the great civil rights legislation in 1964.

We can do equally great deeds in the future.  We lack only the will to put aside the fantasies of children and act together as citizens. In 2019 we can begin to build organizations to reform America, and find leaders for them. They are out there now, waiting for our call.

Leadership Compass

For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.  See all posts about heroes, about reforming America: steps to new politics, and especially these…

  1. Can Americans pull together? If not, why not?
  2. The problem with America lies in our choice of heroes.
  3. Robocop is not a good role model for the youth of Detroit
  4. Are our film heroes leading us to the future, or signaling despair?
  5. Why don’t our dreams of a better world inspire us to act?
  6. We like superheroes because we’re weak. Let’s use other myths to become strong.
  7. Inspiration. The missing element that can reform America.
  8. Where we can find the inspiration to fix America?
"1776" DVD
Available at Amazon.

Look to America’s beginning
for fun inspiration

In times of peril, Americans turn for inspiration to the Founding. As a place to start, I strongly recommend the film version of the hit Broadway play 1776. The screenplay by Peter Stone was based on his book 1776.

Much of the dialogue and some of the song lyrics were taken directly from the letters and memoirs of the actual participants of the Second Continental Congress.

For other sources see my posts about inspirations.

If we recover our will to govern ourselves and stand together, there are few limits to what we can accomplish.

13 thoughts on “Let’s make 2019 great by seeking leaders instead of heroes”

  1. Pingback: Seeking Leaders Instead Of Heroes | Western Rifle Shooters Association

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor

      Jim,

      Got to love American political discussions. It is essential that tribal boundaries be maintained least broad coalitions form. To prevent that, abstract concepts are deployed like chaff. The result sounds like a 1975 Comparative Literature class where everybody is a stoner. “That’s so racist-sexist-socialist-astroturf-CulturalMarxist, man.” Let’s peel back the layers to find some reality behind that statement.

      (1) Effective protests are conducted by organizations. From the Boston Tea Party to Gandhi’s marches to Rosa Park’s defiance, effective protests are carefully staged to attract attention and gather a mass following. There are spontaneous protests, such as medieval peasants’ protests, the modern “color revolutions”, the Tea Party, and Occupy. They arise, lack leadership, and almost always fail.

      (2) The modern fetish for “authenticity” and “spontaneity” – the roots of our desire for leaderless movements – has its origin in Nietzsche. This makes effective organizations difficult to build, and so keeps us weak. As Allan Bloom said in Closing of the American Mind: “The problem, however, is not that people are not authentic enough, but that they have no common object, no common good, no natural complementarity.” Leaders help to provide these key elements.

      (3) The sparks that produce peasants’ protests like Occupy and the Tea Party are many and random. Like the sparks that create forest fires, they are often difficult to find afterwards. I wrote about the Tea Party at its creation, examining the evidence: “Are the new ‘tea party’ protests a grassroots rebellion or agitprop?

      The real answer is that its origin makes no difference. What happened afterwards was more important. The Tea Party would have been an astroturf movement (Wikipedia) if its leaders were provided by or controlled by an external group. That was not so, as I documented in two dozen posts during its rise and fall. They were leaderless sheep (loudly bleating) and quickly made irrelevant.

      That the powerful groups on the Right didn’t take control of the TP was a missed opportunity. Much could have been done with people yearning for a cause to follow. We were lucky they didn’t.

      1. You’re definitely having a normal one when you respond to a well-established fact with a rant about a literature class from 1975.

        The inception of the tea party began with a commodities trader calling for a protest over the idea of having to bail out underwater mortgage holders in the wake of the financial crisis. It was quite literally a member of the 1% livid at the very thought of his tax dollars going to the 99%. The Koch Brothers funneled millions to tea party candidates and activists throughout its existence. It’s the textbook definition of astroturfing.

        Sure, OWS’s downfall was largely due to fetishizing ‘leaderless’ movements
        but that’s just not what happened to the TP. They’re simply different phenomena.

        And no, the hobbling obsession with leaderless orgs on the left has nothing to do with Nietzsche. I’m glad you’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of that comp lit class you took in ’75 though.

      2. Larry Kummer, Editor

        Jim,

        Thank you for sharing. You’ve ignored everything I said, but you’ve told us your definitive opinion. Why bother with facts, and all that.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor

      Sven,

      That is the great question! I see them all around me. We could run America with the Boy Scout and Girl Scout leaders I’ve met. Police, veterans, doctors, attorneys, and businesspeople. We do not call upon such people to be our leaders because we have grown small. When our spirit reawakens we will see that strong leaders are abundant in America.

  2. The following is not an elaborate platform, nor “well-informed and formed opinion” of a pretend-pundit, this is just a rant to highlight few problems with this post’s narrative.

    New leaders — to lead an established party, or just start an off-shoot of the established one, OR a NEW one. The former seems an up-mountain battle, the middle is a mix and the latter:
    Some thought of this — a new “Social Democrats of America;” a party with a simple OBJECTIVE:
    “To Create a Wealthy Society and not a Society of the Wealthy Few!”

    From all the statistics of economic inequality (Gini, Median vs. Mean incomes etc.) US has been far behind the average of reasonably developed countries. It still is the only country without an all inclusive healthcare system and where higher education for the average young person is clearly unaffordable (ie an economic suicide).
    Why?
    It may be that individual wealth has been made the dream of the most; some of the able and lucky ones get wealthy, while the rest gets nowhere, if not poorer, yet all seem continue to believe the dream is a valid idea still.
    To overcome this deeply instilled paradox would require, IMHO, at least a generation worth of changes:
    1. The Education, 2. The Media, 3. The Constitution…
    Without profound changes in the minds of the majority, there’s no other hope than for just another “Peasant Revolt” — achieving nothing and still costing “the garbage left behind.” (That may not mean just the litter, but, for some, their livelihoods. To “vote” for someone preaching this 1-2-3…, there’s no chance, in today’s landscape, to get anywhere.
    So, if you agree, at least partly, with the above or similar or “in principle” — please specify: How to start doing anything about it? How could an Able Leader push this necessary agenda past the Deep State and not being eliminated or ridiculed or silenced in any other way?

    Here is my feeble attempt to state a few, presently achievable goals:
    * Balancing the international trade:
    Instead of the import taxes (where would the money so raised go anyway?); how about this: any corporation selling their products worth in here must create the same/similar value in here as well, in North America?
    * Curbing illegal immigration:
    Instead of building a Great Wall; how about forcing employers to hire only eligible employees? (abandoning the futile War on Drugs would free enough law enforcement to help with that…)
    * Eliminating political corruption:
    Instead of keeping the “legal bribery” status quo (funding campaigns etc.); place a drastic limit on a single political donation per year to some low multiple of the minimal wage and keep it strictly tied to individual SSN (SIN in Canada)?
    * Halting/reversing the wealth gap dynamics and destroying the “new” aristocracy:
    Reinstate the progressive taxation and keep (drastically) increasing the inheritance taxes.
    Etc.
    So, the question is: Who would vote for the above four points today?

    The devil is not always in the detail, it may well be in the fundamentals — “Yes, we can, BUT…”

    The Laissez Faire system brought us here (to this dead end) and there’s no way that it would deliver anything better by just tweaking it. As said, a profound change is required to enable the new leaders to deliver the OBJECTIVE.

    1. Well, if anyone bothered to read my liddle rant I owe to them this:
      The points #1. & 2. are self-explanatory; however, the 3rd, The Constitution, requires a hint or two:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_to_work
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Covenant_on_Economic,_Social_and_Cultural_Rights
      I see these as a natural continuation of abolishment of forced labor — let it be the consequence of serfdom or out-right slavery… The fact that UN may have a part in this doesn’t necessarily preclude it’s validity.

  3. Ross Douthat has some interesting observations on the impasse between the leaderless populists and the out of touch elites.

    The West at an Impasse” – “How meritocracy and populism reinforce each other’s faults.”

    “meritocracy essentially co-opts the talented people who in a different world would be leaders in their local communities, their regions, their social classes, pulling them all up into a national elite and weakening every rival power center in the process.”

    and

    “when meritocracy loses credibility and legitimacy, the result is a political impasse. The official elite becomes too arrogant and self-deceiving and unpopular to govern effectively, but the populist alternative is disorganized, ill-led, susceptible to snake-oil salesmen and vulnerable to manipulation by factions within the upper class.”

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor

      Mike,

      “Meritocracy”! That’s hilarious. Much like “divine right of kings.” Total farce. William Buckley nailed in the 1960s when he said (often, in various forms) that he would rather be ruled by the first 1200 people in the Cambridge telephone book than the Harvard faculty.

      Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn used to tell the story about then Vice President Lyndon Johnson and his excitement over the talent in the new administration of President John F. Kennedy in 1960. Johnson the number of Rhodes Scholars and Harvard graduates who were part of the Kennedy team. Rayburn’s droll response was sobering: “That might be true, Lyndon, but I wish one of them
      had run for sheriff. That proved to be prophetic.

      Your parent’s background, your SAT scores and playing rugby in high school are poor indicators of merit, no matter how seriously Harvard regards them.

  4. “Meritocracy! That’s hilarious. Much like divine right of kings.”

    The problem with sarcasm is that I can’t be sure if you are agreeing with Douthat’s point, or missing it.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor

      Mike,

      Douthat’s thinking is, as usual, muddled. The essay is a rorschach blot. He refers to the meritocracy as “a system of elite formation that relied on SAT tests and resumes” – implying (perhaps) that it isn’t based on merit. I agree. He then approvingly cites a book saying something quite different.

      “His book, a work of fiction that purported to be a work of history and political analysis written in the middle of the 21st century, envisioned a world whose classes were increasingly segregated by talent and intelligence. …His point …is that meritocracy essentially co-opts the talented people who in a different world would be leaders in their local communities, their regions, their social classes, pulling them all up into a national elite and weakening every rival power center in the process.”

      He then goes in a third different direction:

      “It suggests, in fact, that when meritocracy loses credibility and legitimacy, the result is a political impasse. …A governing class that has vaulting self-confidence and dwindling credibility, locked in stalemate with populist movements that are easily grifted upon and offer more grievances than plans.”

      His previous essay “The Case Against Meritocracy” was equally muddled thinking. The common element to both op-eds is that he believes our current elites are chosen by merit.

      I disagree with that belief. My statement was not “sarcastic” (in my experience, that’s how people often label statements they don’t understand). It was a factual statement.

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