Saturday, August 13, 2011

Things as they are ...

I was discussing some issues regarding tornado preparedness with my wife, Vickie, this morning. She was describing some problems she knew about where incompetent, power-hungry nitwits had kissed asses to obtain their way, and thereby managed to render hopelessly inadequate certain storm preparedness levels in a place where many lives would be at stake should they ever be hit by a storm. This topic had been brought up in some email correspondence she'd had with a friend of mine, This friend of mine has a resume of qualifications that any sensible person should be eager to add to their staff, but he inexplicably has trouble getting prospective employers even to return his phone calls and emails. He's not my only friend with this sort of problem, and it truly saddens me when qualified, competent people are not given the opportunity to contribute while nitwits and the mediocre sit in their rightful place.

This got me to mulling over something that's bothered me all my life. When I was a boy, I imagined that all the strange, contradictory, and outright stupid things I saw around me might begin to make more sense, once I got older and could learn about the whys and wherefores about things as they are. My imagination was to prove to be totally wrong! As I've grown older, and indeed have learned more about how things really are, for the vast majority of instances, my lack of respect for things as they are has increased well beyond what it was when I was a boy! For the most part, things are worse than I imagined!! This is a pervasive problem that's everywhere - schools, government, the private sector - everywhere!! There's no paradise to be found anywhere, because all organizations are run by fallible, often stupid, and unqualified people!

Call me a cynic, if it makes you feel better. The difference between me and a cynic is that I've never completely given up hope that things as they are could be transformed into things as they should be. In my view of how things should be, incompetent nitwits should be struggling to find work, whereas the most competent, qualified people should be filling all positions of importance. Policies and processes within organizations shouldn't be driven by office politics and petty human jealousies, but rather reflect the realities they're intended to serve. Real accomplishments should be given their due, whereas sham accomplishments with no reality behind them other than someone's ego should never be given any significance. Awards recognizing performance should be going to those who truly have earned them, not to pretenders who didn't do anything to earn them other that to find the right ass to kiss, or learn the gamemanship in their organization.

O.K., call me an idealistic dreamer, if it makes you feel better. It always seemed to me that if I give in to cynicism, then the worst possible outcome results: I become what I've always despised. I become one of those organizational naysayers who resists every possible change because they're convinced it wouldn't work, or it messes with their power trip in the office, or it makes them look bad if policies actually need changing. Cynics are simply disillusioned idealists, who wind up contributing to the very aspects of things as they are that caused them to become cynical in the first place.

I'm not a cynic, but a realist. I know how things are in situations that matter to me - learning "the rules" (the real rules, which don't necessarily match what's down on paper) is an adaptive strategy that has always been helpful. I'm not usually in a position to make the rules, but it always seemed to me that if I wanted to accomplish something, I had to understand the rules well enough to find work-arounds, if possible. By being willing to pull no punches in pointing out things as they are, I've been in trouble of one sort or another many times during my professional career. So be it. As I discussed in a recent blog, I make no apologies for that!

To the extent that you have the energy and the will, you should never give up working for positive change, no matter how many times you're beaten down by the bastards who are responsible for things as they are. If you truly wish someday to see things as they should be, you should never, ever give up that hope. Don't sacrifice your principles for the dross of "job advancement" or the fear of vengeance from the coneheads. I'm over 65 and I don't believe I've ever given up any of my principles for the sake of some prize the system could offer me, or by the threat of some punishment. I certainly haven't succeeded in every battle I fought, but I've never given up the hope that someone smarter than me, with more energy and perhaps a key insight, can finally achieve those things I've failed to accomplish.

No comments: