Milan Vodicka: Follow the leader?
The impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump’s behavior opened wide the window on leaders and followers. What are their roles? What should be our own roles? With regard to impeachment, how have both sides behaved and how should they behave?
It is a pragmatic fact that without followers, some may say supporters, there would be no leaders. Without followers we would not witness historical leaders. No George Washington, no Napoleon Bonaparte, no Joseph Stalin, no Adolf Hitler … and no Donald Trump.
Is the opposite also true? Would there be leadership of a major U.S. political party so spineless in the absence of a leader embodied by somebody like Mr. Trump?
It appears this is a proverbial “chicken and egg” question — which one came first? It can be asserted that the leader and its followers co-emerge; one cannot exist without the other.
On our level of ordinary citizens of the United States, we fall into the category of followers. I like to introduce some “follower-ship” actual learning events of my life.
During the 1962 missile Cuban crises (see en.wikipedia.org, if you need to) I worked as a student worker in a major factory in Prague, then Czechoslovakia. Seemingly out of nowhere everyone was ordered to go demonstrate in Prague’s Old Town Square. It was a sea of “followers,” intentional or not, chanting: “There are no Soviet missiles in Cuba!” … On and on. We know how the “truth” of those chants turned out.
Much later, I participated in one European conference addressing “scenarios of the future.” This was after the collapse of the Soviet Union. One paper presented many models of humanity and its behavior. One of those models stuck in my mind: “Humanity behaves like a herd of sheep, following the leader ram, possibly right off the cliff into the abyss.”
Another actual history of leaders and followers: The Soviet Union and its vassal states invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968. It was a clear occupation of the sovereign country. The Soviet officials for some weeks could not find any Czechs or Slovaks willing to accept government leadership positions, primarily the presidency. However, slowly but surely, by carrot and stick, these positions were filled by emergent followers. The “occupation” turned to “liberation.” It simply depended who you listened to.
If the above resembles the current situation in our country, it is intentional on my part. Does Russia and Ukraine ring a bell? Does Fox News propaganda ring a bell? History is a great teacher.
The past Soviet dictator Stalin stated once that “when you are chopping wood, splinters are flying.” This was supposed to justify the excesses against many, many people; depriving them of meaningful jobs, personal freedom, and even life. The associated “cleaning up” is traditionally called “purges.” Is it the same as “working at the president’s will/discretion/pleasure?” Comparable? Shows how important the president is?
Leaders typically wield powers that we, the followers, may not have. The power can manifest itself by authority (yes, the president has it, elected officials have it), wealth (yes, billionaires have it), by relationship (yes, Ivanka Trump has it), or by influence (this one is for all of us).
Now, how can we use our power? In 1970 the idea that the Soviet Union will collapse sounded like a crazy thought. Unthinkable! Yet, it happened. People caused it, in spite of all the other powers. The Constitution of the USA was enacted 1789. Then, against and in spite of the other powers!
Two principles that should guide both leaders and followers are: One, adhere to the truth. Two, work and behave to benefit all humanity and life.
Mr. Trump and his pathetic followers fail miserably on both fronts. With regard to the second point; it does not benefit anyone to insult, denigrate, label, and name-call. Yet, we witness this constantly. The call to “unmask” the whistle blower would serve no other purpose than to tarnish his or her reputation — and nothing else. My own awakening, when I entered “the West” from my native Czechoslovakia, was a realization that people were kind to each other — people were kind to each other.
What shall we do? Basically, we can line up ourself as the sheep in the herd, be quiet, and follow the leader (“what will happen will happen”), or act as self-referenced beings — aligned with the truth and actively work toward the benefit of all beings. I pledge no blind allegiance to any political party.
Milan Vodicka has been a resident of Nevada County resident since 1978.
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