• Posted: Oct 16, 2011 18:57:50
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On a day when Occupy Wall Street protests against corporate greed have spread beyond Manhattan to cities across the U.S. and Canada and even to Europe and Asia, the Associated Press quotes a 69 year old lady from Baton Rouge LA holding tickets to a Broadway show as saying, when confronted with protesters in New York City's Times Square, "I think it's horrible what they're doing. They should all go get jobs." The quote resembles the infamous one falsely attributed to Marie Antoinette "Let them eat cake" for its incongruous failure to grasp the issues at hand. What is it that leads us to manners of thought that so thoroughly separate us from concurrence with one another?
Enlightened parents have, for generations, struggled to provide an educational/developmental environment for their children that fosters both competence and confidence. Few parents relish seeing their off-spring cower or crumble in the face of novelty and challenge. And so we clear the field of pitfalls and encourage them on their way, showering them with praise for each of their accomplishments. But the end result is, frighteningly often, a child who has no sense of themselves as measured by a world not buffered by parental protections. In other words, their confidence is based on a false sense of reality. And when viewed by others with a more down to earth prospective, such falsely based confidence is quite correctly viewed as arrogance. So it was when the head of British Petroleum expressed regrets for the Gulf oil spill, lamenting how it meant he'd now miss opportunity to sail on his yacht. Gee whiz, guy, sorry.
While arrogance derived from a false sense of reality may seem common in today's corporate boardrooms, it is not confined to that arena. We see it amongst our elected officials, amongst talk show hosts and entertainers, amongst religious leaders, amongst both the officer and enlisted ranks of our military, within our police forces, etc., etc. Even amongst academics, including those asked to assist in the formation of economic and public policy. Disturbingly, we also see it within our schools in the form of grade school bullying and teenage cliques, gangs, and social withdrawal.
So, is there a cure?
Unfortunately, an increasingly common response to arrogance is violence. Parents beat their arrogant children. Adults issue threats and finally pull out their guns. Nations engage in sanction and sabotage, and sometimes all out war. All because we fail to recognize both the limitations of our own sense of reality and the sense of reality we share or don't share with others.
Clearly, a healthy dose of doubt and skepticism born of first-hand experience with undeniable reality would help. Further, if we could couple that skepticism with a culture-wide attitude that things are not permanent and neither should our expectations for them be, we might actually begin to close the gap between our competing arrogances and approach more frequent concurrence. What a change that would be.
To be sure, if we are going to have confidence without arrogance, we need to begin by cultivating a healthy belief in our own innate ability to work through doubt and ignorance toward eventually understanding what we need understand to move prosperously and sustainably forward, leaving no one behind. Humbly working together on common problems breeds that kind of non-arrogant confidence.
Interestingly, per a recent This I Believe segment by Catherine McDowall featured on PRI's Bob Edwards Weekend, at least a few preschools have begun instituting the cultural norm "Everyone Is Included" within classrooms. It will be fascinating to observe how far this normalized interpersonal expectation propagates throughout succeeding generations of Americans. Let us hope, very far.
Tuesday, October 20th, 2009
42.2 mm 200 mm