1. FATHER WILLIAM’S MUSINGS
2. THE DONALD, SACHA BARON COHEN, DYLAN, FREUD, OPRAH AND THE GROWTH CURVE
2-1: A SOMEWHAT CONVENTIONAL LOOK AT TRUMP
2-2: E-MAIL EXCHANGE
2-3: A GROWTH CURVE ANALYSIS
2-4: THE LEADER OF THE PACK
2-6: THANKS, CHUCK
3. THIS MONTH’S LINKS
QUOTE OF THE MONTH – ‘LUCKY’ GOFF
“But, lately, aging has softened me up, and provided more
perspective. I now walk towards what diminishes me,
in an effort to cooperate more with the wholing process I now perceive.”
1. FATHER WILLIAM’S MUSINGS
April Greetings, Dear Friends…
In response to last month’s issue, a former student and friend, who wishes to be known only as “The Young Man’ (TYM), sent me a brilliant and unusual analysis of the 2016 US Presidential(?) campaign. His analysis offers an elder perspective that goes far beyond the absurdities of current politics, and I want to share the depth of his thinking with you. His blend of humor, living systems theory and pop culture will take up most of this issue. He will also direct you to additional links that are crucial to his piece.
All told, it’s a big read, and you’ll most likely want to come back to it a number of times, so I’ve also provided a link to download this issue as a PDF. It’s also long-term available at http://fatherwilliam.org/blog/.
When I say TYM offers “an elder perspective,” I mean something that my friend, ‘Lucky’ Goff, describes as well as I’ve ever seen it done. Here’s his latest Slow Lane Blog…
Reluctance = Resistance
I’ve been going through something lately. Something big. Its beating me up, and teaching me a great deal. I’m not really going to describe the details, but I am going to dwell on the process. I’ve found that as I get older that the process of integration, that is happening, brings me up against some of my life-long patterns. When that happens I usually don’t respond very well. I am reluctant to let myself feel the conflict, disappointment, and grief within. I guess it is only natural. I’m human, and much of what confronts me, are patterns of belief and behavior that have clearly defined me in the past.
Life doesn’t seem to care. At least in no way that I have considered caring. What I’m finding is that Life is impeccably ruthless. It rubs my face in the messes I have indulged in making. There is some kind of impersonal and highly idiosyncratic love at work. I’m being shaped up despite myself. The process is reliable, painful, and grace-filled. Life seems to know how to evolve a better me, and very slowly I’m learning how to trust that process and cooperate with it.
I think it was the developmentalist Robert Kegan that first impressed me with the realization that resisting Life is painful. I do it all of the time. And, I am paying for it. But, as I get older, I’m more prone to notice what is at stake, and to suffer more honestly. That means I am more likely to admit to myself, and others, that I have succeeded again in getting in my own way, and making it hard to change. I would rather fight anything than fight myself. Despite my resolve, Life keeps finding the blemishes in my character that need attention, and calling my attention to them.
Right now, I’m being faced with my own well-designed falseness. I’ve lived out a kind of arrogant stance that I know has hurt me, and especially those I professed to care for. That’s a hard awareness to be confronted by. And I’m really grateful that I’m being confronted by it right now, when I can still do something about it, rather than in my last moments of life. Life seems to have a bucket list for me, that if I handle some of these items, I’m going to rest easier when I die. That seems like a kind of compassionate justice I could never imagine.
The problem of the moment is that I have such a reluctance to face the music. It is humiliating, admitting one’s shortcomings; facing how unloving, and self-protective, one is (I’m not past anything yet). I’m not collapsing into shame, although I can feel the temptation. I am standing forlornly in front of my own humanity. I can see that my own reluctance to see what a schlemiel I am capable of being has been a form of resistance. I didn’t want to know myself that well.
This kind of self-knowing is a painful gift. Life cares about me enough to make me really uncomfortable with what I am capable of. And, it’s giving me a chance to find out where integrity lays in my life. In some kind of strange twist of fate, my gratitude grows as I open up to the hurt I have participated in perpetuating.
With all of that kind of awareness cascading into my life like an avalanche of wakefulness, I am enlivened and chagrined. My reluctance before awareness is clearly putting off the inevitability of the gift. Am I resisting, or merely crouching in anticipation of the loving blow? I really can’t say. I know that I have resisted, and that my reluctance has abetted my resistance. I am that human, stubbornly determined to have things my way. But, lately, aging has softened me up, and provided more perspective. I now walk towards what diminishes me, in an effort to cooperate more with the wholing process I now perceive.
Reluctance is turning out to be a faithful scout, a little scraggly, deceptively anxious, but unerring in noticing that something is coming. And, I’m finding that even a broken life is an incredible gift.
At 77, Old FW couldn’t agree more. So if you, like millions of US voters, are feeling some ‘reluctance’ this political season, see if you don’t find some peace in ‘the wholing process’ Lucky and many other elders can now perceive…
PS: If you’d like to see how ‘The Growth Curve” has evolved into “The Wave of Transformation,” click here.
2. THE DONALD, SACHA BARON COHEN, DYLAN, FREUD, OPRAH AND THE
BY THE YOUNG MAN, APRIL 12, 2016
Like so many, I’ve been trying to make sense of the Donald Trump phenomenon. My first stab, over two months ago, in response to an article a friend of mine sent to me, and a bunch of his lawyer friends, most of whom I’ve met, appears below in Section A. A few days later, I stumbled across an article written about a Poly Sci prof. who has a computer algorithm that has proven highly accurate in predicting presidential races. That appears below, also in Section A. Although some things have changed since writing Section A, I will leave it as is.
But on March 14th, things looked the same, but with a new, much darker, element. I was on the phone with a friend, who said he attended a wedding in Cleveland, over the preceding weekend, and many people there were following what happened here in Chicago at the Trump rally at UIC and started to wonder whether there was going to be violence at the Republican Convention this summer in Cleveland. I had similar thoughts over the weekend as well.
Then, on March 20th, a new perspective appeared in a series of e-mails with the friend who was at the wedding; this appears in Section B. After Section B, there will be Section C. Section C will provide an alternative, arguably more illuminating, and possibly prospective, view of what Trump is/may be doing. After Section C, there will be a Section D, which is about the importance of leadership, ideas and history. This is followed by a short Section E, an addendum, and Section F, an acknowledgment and a tribute.
But before you dive in, I want to write a note of cautionary self-preservation: What I am writing in Section C, at least as it pertains to what Trump might be able to achieve, is one possible scenario that can come out of the Growth Curve. There are a multitude of others that make no sense in covering in this essay. Please read carefully, endnotes included (this is where I place a great deal of historical perspective and analysis), and please, once you get there, digest Bill Idol’s explanation(s) of the Growth Curve before you precede any further.
2-1: A SOMEWHAT CONVENTIONAL LOOK AT TRUMP
I don’t share the beliefs, at least the ones I can make some sense of, that Trump is espousing. But, especially this year, this is not going to be an issue-driven campaign which, unless things change, will be between Donald and Hillary. I have three points to make, two of which are demonstrated by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen (SBC), from his Da Ali G Show, and the third comes from Bob Dylan.
First, Trump is very smart and intuitive. One of the conceits of SBC, whether he was in the character of Ali G or Borat, was to put famous people on the screen and see how they would react to the nonsense that would come out of the mouths of either Ali G or Borat. The amazing thing is how many really famous, smart people sat there and, many times, were made a fool by a fool. The sole exception, at least as broadcast during the entire series, was The Donald. It took Trump just over a minute to figure-out he was being punked, after which he walked. And note, he was very respectful throughout Trump And Ali G. My point is: That which allowed Donald to intuit, in the moment, what SBC was doing to him, is an extremely valuable skill-set in politics. This is why, at least in terms of voter polls, Donald has been right to take some of these outrageous positions that all of us here, at the time, thought might damage Donald’s candidacy. He has been nearly flawless at this. There is no reason to suspect his success ratio will somehow change as we move on with this election and new issues come up.
Second, and I know we’re all Jewish here, but so is Sacha Baron Cohen, and, in fact, he is a very observant Jew. That said, perhaps the most famous (infamous) scene from Da Ali G Show was when SBC’s character, Borat, went into a country and western bar in Tucson AZ to Perform a song he wrote. While the song starts out innocuously enough (but note, the innocuous first verse sets the theme and the theme is important here), in the second verse, and thereafter, Borat starts piling on one ugly cliche after another about the Jews. The story here, of course, is the reaction of the crowd. The disaffection Borat brings out in the crowd in Tucson, in this instance toward the Jews, and this was some twelve years ago, is something Trump is bringing out presently, even if he isn’t taking on the Jews (thank God for illegal immigrants and Muslims!). Here’s the song: Throw The Jew Down The Well.
Third, when we get to the general election between Donald and Hillary, what I think we are going to find is that they will be speaking largely different languages on the campaign trail. One of my favorite Bob Dylan passages is this:
An’ I say, “Aw come on now
You must know about my debutante”
An’ she says, “Your debutante just knows what you need
But I know what you want.” (Emphasis added)
It is Hillary’s nature, and frankly our nature as lawyers, to talk about issues in a rational way. We form arguments and try to persuade. In the political realm, this comes out as what the country needs. We need more investment in infrastructure. We need for the FED to remain autonomous. We need to help the poor. We need to improve our health care system. We need to keep Social Security. This, what this country, and its voters, needs will be what Hillary emphasizes and will be the language she will be trying to speak to the voters’ rational brains.
Donald, with all his nonsense, will, many times, be talking the language of “I know what you want.” It will continue to be largely oblique and nonsensical, but that’s OK when you are trying to reach emotional wants (A side note: Bill Clinton could speak both of these languages at the same time, I don’t think Hillary can.). The girl in Dylan’s song knows what Donald knows, and Bubba knew: Quite often the things people want trump (no pun intended) the things people need. Quite frankly, I think this may be a very simple frame for this election: Will people vote based on their needs or their wants, however absurd or farfetched these wants may be.
My sense, right now, is this will be a far closer election than many of us (in mid-February) presently envision (See Poly Sci article: Trump Beats Clinton By A Fairly Wide Margin. I think the debates will be fascinating to watch and we are kidding ourselves if we think Donald can’t win in November.
2-2: E-MAIL EXCHANGE
“Me: There’s another thing likely on the table now, besides civil disobedience, an assassination attempt. My hunch is he’s wearing a bulletproof vest, but we’ve seen this movie before. He is now a genuine target, the first we’ve seen in some time.”
“Friend: I certainly hope that this does not go to that level. The country would really be a mess if that happened.”
“Me: Obviously, I share your views but, since writing you this morning, I’ve come to see what is, I think, the central “thing” about Donald: He is the first intuitive charismatic leader this country has seen since Reagan and the first “dangerous” charismatic leader, to the status quo, this country has seen since the 60’s [There were a lot in the 60’s, as you know, and a lot got shot (as did Reagan) or killed.]. In Moses and Monotheism, among other points, Freud makes the case for the human mind needing a single “entity” to organize its beliefs around. Hence, the eventual, near total, prevalence of monotheism over polytheism. We see this reflected in other places as well, presidents, dictators, there were many Founding Fathers but only George Washington is referred to as the “Father Of Our Country”. Janet Yellen is the FED. Jamie Dimon is Chase.”
We have reached the point that, whatever we want to call the belief system Trump is leading, he is this belief system’s intuitive charismatic leader. This makes him vastly more effective (no judgment on good or bad) and the singular lightening rod/focus for, not only the believers, but also the opposition. Put another way, the focus/ beliefs of the “Red States” and the focus/beliefs of the “Blue States” now rest on the shoulders of just one man, Donald J. Trump. History informs us of some of the things that are likely to follow.We have reached the point that, whatever we want to call the belief system Trump is leading, he is this belief system’s intuitive charismatic leader. This makes him vastly more effective (no judgment on good or bad) and the singular lightening rod/focus for, not only the believers, but also the opposition. Put another way, the focus/ beliefs of the “Red States” and the focus/beliefs of the “Blue States” now rest on the shoulders of just one man, Donald J. Trump. History informs us of some of the things that are likely to follow.
If I am right about this, or most of it, and I am pretty sure I am, it really is of little value for people to call The Donald a demagogue, or a snake-oil salesman, or a charlatan, etc., because this is not about The Donald. There are always demagogues, snake-oil salesmen and charlatans floating around in the sea of humanity and, generally, they are paid little notice or have little, to no, effect. It is only when there is both a sizable audience, with a certain belief system or disaffection, Borat suggests to us this has been present for at least twelve years and a smart, intuitive charismatic leader that the flame ignites. It has now.
So, let’s look to history to see how we should be dealing with this situation, both in terms of what will, and what won’t, work. And, here’s a hint: stop calling The Donald names, including a liar, a demagogue, a snake-oil salesman or a charlatan, because it’s water off a duck’s back (no pun intended) both for The Donald and his supporters.
2-3: A GROWTH CURVE ANALYSIS
There exists another framework to use that provides a different perspective on what is presently going on with the Trump phenomenon. This framework was introduced to me, in 1985, by my ninth grade (1966-1967) English teacher Bill Idol. The tool is called the Growth Curve. It comes from work done by biologist George T. Lock Land in his book Grow or Die. If you really wish to understand the Growth Curve best, first read Bill Idol’s summary of the Growth Curve here: Written Summary, then watch Bill flesh it out a lot more in this 20 minute video: Video Presentation. If you don’t want to watch the video, you pretty much have to read his six page Written Summary. (It’s shorter than that because there are pictures and large print.). There is no point in me trying to rephrase, or shorten, what Bill writes because what is written is the bare minimum needed to start to understand the Growth Curve and it is written by a master communicator.
The premise behind the Growth Curve is all living systems will repetitively go through phases of growth or the living system will die. In Bill Idol’s adaptation of Land’s work, there exist four phases in the Growth Curve and they are represented by this diagram:
As Bill explains in either the video and/or the written summary, all kinds of things are living systems. Our bodies, of course, the cells in our bodies, other animals, plants, etc. But some things, we might not initially think as falling under the definition of a living system are, in fact, living systems. All of our interpersonal relationships are living systems. Our work places likely have layers of living systems. For our purpose here, 1) our country is a living system (Bill talks/writes about this when he discusses Sputnik) and 2) our political parties are living systems.
If we first look at our political parties, we see the Democratic Party is presently, for better or worse, still a stable living system. It is still in the Performing Phase. On the other hand, whether one believed this to be the case before Trump arrived on the scene this year, the Republican Party is now in the Unforming Phase of the Growth Curve. It must either successfully go through the Growth Curve or it will die, hence the title of Land’s book, Grow or Die.(1)
Both parallel, and most likely by virtue of causation, the Unforming in the Republican Party began the process of the Unforming in the country as well. If the political process in the United States relies on both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party functioning in a dialectic process, which it does, and if one of the parties ceases, or becomes incapable of, participating in the dialectic process required for governing, then, eventually, this will lead to an Unforming. We’ve been in this phase for quite some time, but, what The Donald’s campaign has done, is it has brought out more of the pent-up pain, anger, anxiety and a sense of chaos that was brimming somewhat above the surface among the disaffected. As contradictory as this may seem, this could be a good thing because we are now pretty much in the portion of the Unforming Phase, especially with the Republican Party, where there are BOTH a) a great deal of pain, anxiety, anger, chaos, etc., AND b) the option of going back to the way it was before is not possible. Because going back is not possible,(2) what remains possible is: 1) moving from the Unforming Phase into the Transforming Phase; 2) staying in the Unforming Phase longer (where we will encounter even more pain, anxiety, chaos, etc., than presently); or 3) death of the system(s). As death is not a viable option here, we are left with the first two options for both the Republican Party and the country.
With this in mind, where logic seems to take me now is not at all pleasant, which is kind of the point of the Growth Curve.
At the first level, Trump wins the Republican nomination. If he does, we may be able to go forward with the Growth Curve, both for the Republican Party and the country. If he doesn’t win, while there are a number of variations, the end result will very likely be Hillary Clinton winning the presidential election. In normal times, Hillary Clinton is the most qualified candidate for president in our lifetime. But, because she is not a charismatic leader, and the Republican Party will quite likely remain in the Unformed stage without Trump, or anybody else to act as charismatic leader (therefore still beholden to the present forces that keeps the Party from truly participating in political discourse and movement), it is doubtful Hillary will be able to lead the country out of the Unforming stage. This represents option number two above where this country will, quite likely, have a repeat of the past four/eight years, but with more pain, more anxiety, more failure, and overall a greater decline in our body politic.
However, it can become very much a paradox if Trump wins the nomination, and then the general election, because Trump is a charismatic leader which gives him the potential to bring the country out of the Unforming, which is option number one above. To understand how, and why, this is the case, I want to quote directly from what Bill Idol writes in a section of his explanation of the Growth Curve:
“But there is a special skill to great performance, and that is, as Kenny Rogers sings, “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em/ Know when to fold ’em/ Know when to walk away/ And know when to run.” The outstanding performer knows when to hold to course, when to change course and when to quit the race.
“In his study of peak performers in business, Charles Garfield found one of their traits to be the ability to change course when appropriate. More importantly, he found that peak performers know things never stay perfectly on course; they expect changes (course deviations) and can enjoy making the corrections and using them for gain.”
Quite simply, what this means is if The Donald is going to succeed as a Charismatic/Transformational Leader, he will have to adjust, along the way, to allow for more people to become comfortable with both his ability to lead and the message of his leadership. In this instance, it is also quite likely those who are already on board with Trump will have to adjust their visions of the future, largely because of their faith, and psychological investment, in their leader. As a possible “for instance”, for the longest times, people, on the left, have been perplexed by the fact many people, who identify with the right, are actually some of the very same people who would benefit greatly by the policy proposals offered by the left. This is exactly the sort of paradox one would expect to encounter in the Unforming Phase of the Growth Curve. A Charismatic/Transformational Leader can quite possibly make inroads with this cohort of people, where other leaders have been unsuccessful. While this bears some resemblance to Nixon going to China, or the Reykjavík Summit between Reagan and Gorbachev, which culminated in the INF treaty between the two nations roughly a year later, it is much more like Johnson getting the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and then Medicare in 1966, passed on the heels of the death of President Kennedy.(3) If we don’t get it accomplished this time around, at least at the national level, as I’ve stated before, we will likely continue on into a version of the societal Unforming President Roosevelt confronted when he was elected in 1932, even if it is not an outright economic depression. And please, let’s put aside the question of whether Roosevelt went to war to start the “correction.” For our purposes, this is virtually irrelevant. What’s more important to note, however, is how long the United States can remain in a state of Unforming, or Transforming, and still come out the other end and move into the Transforming or Reforming Phases.
Right now, it is impossible to predict what will happen next. For those who already support Trump the answers are much easier, although they will be confronted with The Donald modifying his message as we move into the general election. For those on the left, what I would say is this, in the language of my former profession: There exists a rebuttable presumption Trump is not the Charismatic/Transformational Leader this country needs at this stage in its history.
In order for Trump to overcome this rebuttable presumption there must be clear and convincing evidence he will be able to successfully navigate the pivots and harness the energy of chaos created in the Unforming Phase, and, thereafter, provide the leadership and vision to bring about Transformational change, thereby creating a new, more inclusive vision for our country. And, yes, Trump will build the wall between Mexico and The United States. That’s the Growth Curve symbol he owes the people who joined with him at the beginning. However, he will need more symbols if he is going to succeed. May I suggest he consider doing right by Flint, Michigan, former manufacturing dynamo of GM, but now a city with literally a corroded infrastructure, massive poverty, massive unemployment and children who have been harmed by the insensitivities of state and local governments. This would be a symbol for the left and includes many of those policies of the left with which those in the disaffected right should be aligned.
What I believed has happened to date is remarkable. In a relatively short period of time, Donald Trump has unleashed the somewhat above the surface disaffection within many in the Republican Party and a majority of the voters who have voted so far in the Republican primaries or caucuses. This unleashing is reflected in the increased anger, anxiety and chaos we are presently seeing in the supporters around Trump and at his rallies. For change to occur, under the model of the Growth Curve, all of this is necessary. What is starting to happen now is Trump is causing a similar anger, anxiety and chaos within the Democratic Party. Without going into detail, this too is probably necessary. Furthermore, Trump has made the point of singularity of the anger, anxiety, chaos within both the Democratic and the Republican Parties one person – Donald J. Trump.(4) This is hugely dangerous, particularly to Trump, but this danger, this chaos, can possibly be the necessary fuel for exiting the Unforming Phase into the Transforming Phase. This may be a complete fool’s errand (I am not at all suggesting this is being done on a conscious level inside of Trump’s brain) on behalf of Trump, or it may be an act of extraordinary, largely unconscious/intuitive, genius.
In any event, if one accepts the truth of the Growth Curve, there seem to be four keys to success, not only for Trump, but more importantly for this country: 1) Whether Trump can hold his disaffected Republicans; 2) Whether Trump can ward off the Republican Elders’ attempt to torpedo his candidacy, particularly if it happens at the Republic Convention(5); 3) Whether Trump can, somehow, convince liberals, who recognize their knowledge of Trump is provisional and subject to change (see endnote 1), that he is a Charismatic/Transformational Leader who can lead the country, and its citizens, out of the Unforming Phase into the Transforming Phase and; 4) that the Transforming Phase will largely include those things the liberals have been promoting for years (most of which are found in the total disaster, which is Flint Michigan, and many other cities and locales around our country.). This is a tall order. It is clearly beyond Hillary Clinton’s ken, if for no other reason than she will be unable to capture what remains of the Republican Party, after Trump, as the Republican Party will, unfortunately, remain in a highly volatile Unforming Phase and, therefore, unable to truly participate in the democratic process. Only time will tell if all of this is beyond the ken of Donald J. Trump. But those of liberal disposition should be open to this possibility as it could be the path out of our current darkness and because what we are now witnessing is a full peacock-colored real estate mogul nailing, on the fly, how to become a candidate for President of the United States and vanquishing all his opposition. Take it Mr. Morganfield!
Of course, as there is only a rebuttable presumption The Donald is the Charismatic/Transformational Leader, which appears to be a greater burden to Trump in early April than in Mid-March, where is this country if he is not? Enter stage right, Ms. Oprah Winfrey.
2-4: THE LEADER OF THE PACK
In the written and video presentations of the Growth Curve Bill Idol provides some examples: The story about his son Matthew, the story about Sputnik, the story about Lee Iacocca/Chrysler and the Unforming in the 1960s. Each of these examples of Unforming, Transforming, Reforming, Performing, while sharing the same overlay of the Growth Curve, were different in many respects: Size, difficulty, nature, etc. But, as Bill explains, as long as you understand the Growth Curve Model, you can come to understand what’s going on.
After Bill talked about the Growth Curve, and a few other useful tools, he went on to try to teach his version of brainstorming to the Office Of the Public Defender. The reason for this is quite simple, if you are in the middle of an Unforming, among other things, the system needs new ideas, and brainstorming is a great tool for developing ideas. The need for new ideas becomes very evident once you look at a second image about The Growth Curve:
Although this image was tailored for Corporate America (primarily where Reform and Perform intersects with Results), it is quite easy to see how, once the Transforming commences, the system needs new ideas and, when done right, brainstorming develops a lot of new ideas, rather rapidly, which are then weeded-out, refined and then, hopefully, the system can move on to the next set of issues and stages. The Unforming in the sixties shows us how this works.
During the sixties, once the Unforming began, we had two interlocking things going for us in a positive way: 1) dynamic, charismatic leaders who 2) brought their ideas to the national stage. Political leaders like the Kennedys, Gene McCarthy, Lyndon Johnson, George Wallace, Lester Maddox (no judging here, just statements of objective facts). Then we had leaders in the clergy, Martin Luther King, Billy Graham, Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, and Muhammad Ali. Then we had the antiwar movement and civil rights movements joining and bringing many of the aforementioned leaders into play, along with a breathtaking number of young charismatic leaders from college campuses, from political movements outside the normal frame, even from street gangs (men like Jeff Fort, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale) and, of course, our clown princes, Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin. Finally, the country had songwriters, both here and abroad, who provided anthems that identified paradoxes, served as symbols for purpose and expressed the shared goals. Good stuff to be happening during Unforming and Transforming Phases.
All of these people and “movements” presented their ideas to the nation. Quite often, all of this produced sheer madness, extreme danger and complete chaos. But the clash, the dialectic, of all of these individuals, and their ideas, somehow produced an end result where the war was over, Black America was closer to freedom and parity, women were beginning to make inroads in places they had never been in great numbers, cultural norms had been changed, and liberalized, as were laws. By the middle of 1975, the way America looked was completely different from the way it looked in November 1963, as movingly depicted by Greg Brown in this song: Brand New ‘64 Dodge. From the ashes of the assassination of our beautiful prince, and the attendant major Unforming, came a new America and a new age.(6)
Now let’s look at today, hello Oprah! Twice now, Oprah has openly criticized both the Occupy Wall Street movement and the Black Lives Matter movement for a lack of true leaders. She was widely chastised for this, but she was right. Quite simply there are no leaders on the national scene, rising up from college campuses, or alternate movements, in all areas of the country and in all areas of our country’s life, that comes close to the massive bouillabaisse of leaders present in the sixties. Furthermore, I would argue, linked to the lack of leaders, there is also a lack of new ideas and, without new leaders and new ideas clashing, transformational change cannot be forged. Additionally, I feel it is illuminating, in a dark sort of way, to look at our present “leaders” during this presidential cycle: Hillary Clinton, age 68 (product of the 60’s), Bernie Sanders, age 74 (product of the early part of 60’s), Donald Trump, age 69 (product of the 60’s), Ted Cruz, age 45, born in December 1970.
It’s bad enough we are not generating any true new leaders but, if we look closely at the past seven years, what we see is we’ve actually been losing them in Washington, largely because they’ve just had it. While there have been a number of departures, the one that shows us the most, the one that should have led this country to a John Lennon: “You better see right through that mother’s eyes” moment, is the resignation of the man who was second in line to become president, John Boehner, the Speaker Of House. He wasn’t about to be indicted. There were no scandals, sexual, financial, whatever, brewing. His power as Speaker was not so much more diminished, or tenuous, than it had been for some time. Instead, on September 25, 2015, the day after the Pope spoke to Congress, Boehner woke-up that morning and decided to bag it: He was going to announced he was resigning, not only as Speaker, but from Congress as well, and he was resigning like now. Not when his term as a Congressman was up in January 2017, but as soon as the Republican Caucus could select a new Speaker, which, of course, took a bit over a month to accomplish. This was a Johnny Paycheck/David Allen Coe (he wrote the song), Take This Job And Shove It moment. Breathtaking in its abruptness and, I believe, unprecedented in this nation’s history. Since his resignation, as near as I can tell, he’s not on the circuit raking in the cash. He’s not a lobbyist. Rather, he seems to be leading a fairly bucolic life back in Ohio mowing the lawn. And who can blame him? Still, this is a telling episode in our nation’s recent history. Instead of moving on to the next news cycle, we, as a nation, should have given some very deep thought about what Speaker Boehner was really telling us about ourselves and our country.
Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA * npr.com / CC BY 2.0
If we go back to other eras, we see how the birth of our country, with the Founding Fathers, and their clashing personalities and ideas, all with the same goal of freedom, makes perfect sense in terms of the Growth Curve. So do the changes in the Renaissance and during the Golden Age of Greece. So does Moses, the Charismatic/Father Figure/Transformational Leader, really starting to make something happen from the idea of monotheism promoted by the less successful Egyptian King Akhenaten. That said, it was Joshua, not Moses, who led the Jews into Canaan (AKA The Promised Land). Even the clash between democracy and Marxism, during the 20th Century, can be evaluated, and understood, within the framework of the Growth Curve. Suddenly, labor unions, Social Security, Medicare, the regulation of Corporate America and large parts of both The Great Depression and the 60’s fall into place. All of this, eventually, produced virtuous growth, at least in our country.
When I look at our country now, with the Unforming of the Republican Party and the connected Unforming of the nation, what I see is the Chicago Cubs throughout most of its history: Not enough great players on the field, no bench, not enough minor league prospects, and a terrible front office. This is what has gone horribly awry in our country and, in every possible respect, The Donald is only the symptom. He is filling, not creating, a huge void, unless he doesn’t turn out to be the salvation. Psychologically, it’s a whole lot easier to blame “the demagogue” rather than to understand the underlying meaning of why segments of “We The People” are feeding “the demagogue” into prominence and sometimes controlling power. This is why attacking a symptom of the disease in the system seldom cures the disease in a system. However, if we go back to the Chicago Cubs analogy for a moment, and take it seriously within the context of the Growth Curve, what we presently see is a team that was in the Unforming Phase at the end of the 2011 season, but has now gone completely through the Unforming Phase, the Transforming Phase, the Reforming Phase and into the Performing Phase of the Growth Curve to the point where they are the odds-on favorite to win the World Series this season. Who made this happen? In large measure it was a young man, Theo Epstein, with the right ideas, and a child of the 60’s, Joe Maddon, who came to the Cubs, last season, to be its Charismatic/Transformational on-field leader. This is no accident. This is how change is implemented. So, from the perspective of what is needed for the Growth Curve to work, this country’s present the lack of new leaders and new ideas, creates a very, very bleak picture and it shows us the United States is presently in a phase of historical purgatory: We must either find a way to grow, or we will die. As death has happened before to cultures, nation-states and political parties, we know it can happen again. Sorry David Brooks, kind of close, but no cigar.
Finally, although it is tremendously important, in terms of the bigger big, I haven’t, and won’t, address what happens when Growth Curve analyses are performed on our economy, as well as the rest of the world, in terms of politics, social structure and economics. For those who haven’t done it in a while, this is called homework.
The aforementioned Moses/Joshua pairing brings up an important point I missed initially with this essay and that Bill Idol helped me see, or more to the point, re-see. Most of the time, our leaders don’t have the complete package. Instead, there exist different types of leaders and they server different needs at different times in history and/or during the Growth Curve. Bill covers this subject matter in his essay Complementary Wholeness in the section where he writes about the different personality types, which can also be used as a frame of reference for types of leaders.
Overlaying these different types of leaders, on the current political situation, and the Growth Curve, could lead to something I didn’t see initially when I wrote this essay: What might happen if Trump, who has moved this country’s Unforming into the anger stage, doesn’t win the election and Hillary Clinton does. While Hillary may not initially have what is needed, which is what I wrote in Section C of this essay, over time, if other things do happen sometime during the course of her Presidency, Hillary’s strengths as a leader, development and implementation, may be what the country will need at that particular time. One of the things that would seem to be necessary, to bridge the gap between Trump and Hillary Clinton, is a leader who is what Bill Idol calls an “Imager” in his Complementary Wholeness essay. And, guess what?: That sounds an awful like the man who may become this country’s First Husband.
But what I just wrote is one of the quick-fix resolution our brains try really hard to make, particularly when we are in distress. It is more likely than not, that what I just wrote will not be the way this plays out. It is more likely than not, things will be more protracted that this. At times like these, our internal desires to quickly tie things up in neat little bows is something we should be monitoring internally very closely. Bill Idol has a tool for this too, it’s called Direction Of Error.(7) In any event, even if the Trump to Bubba to Hillary double-play works, it does nothing to truly address the absence of a next generation of leaders. In this regard, the double-play would only buy time and restabilize the system. As there will be other Growth Curves to come, Oprah Winfrey’s observation about the paucity of new leadership, and new ideas, becomes the real 800 pound gorilla in the room and that which truly puts our nation in peril, not Donald J. Trump.
2-6: THANKS, CHUCK
The video of Bill Idol discussing the Growth Curve was shot by Chuck Olin and his team from Chuck Olin and Associates. Chuck was a wonderful man, simply wonderful (I can hear his voice in my head now as I type these lines.). And he was many other things as well: Father, husband, business owner, mensch, witness to some of the horrors in the 60’s. But, most of all, I think, quite often, Chuck was about shared experiences, an important component of the Growth Curve when we are discussing something like a nation-state. So I would like to ask all of you to take a few minutes and root around in the hyperlinks that follow about Chuck’s life and his work. What I hope you will see is a man devoted to sharing experiences, and the process of shared experience, whether it be The Jewish Brigade in World War II, Marc Chagall’s The Four Seasons and The America Windows, or a small, forgotten film of a young boy running around the bases at a major league baseball park, or, my favorite image of Chuck: Standing on the south-east corner of the Francis Parker School’s roof, a solitary, yet dashing, figure, with a tripod and a camera, filming a meaningless high school football game for the coaching staff.
So, thanks Chuck for giving us some of your time when you filmed The Cook County Public Defender Seminar led by Bill Idol, a shared experience, and all the other fabrics you wove with your films: 1) Olin Films, 2) Chicago Films Archives, 3) Chicago Tribune Obituary.
(1) One may ask: Why is the Democratic Party currently still in a Performing Phase while the Republican Party is in an Unforming Phase? My answer comes, in part, from an article I read, just over five years ago, in Slate Magazine, called The First Liberal. In this article, the author suggests the French philosopher, Michel de Montaigne, was the first liberal and the author defines liberalism from two principles he finds in Montaigne’s essays: “Liberalism, at its core, is not so much a doctrine as a disposition, a habit of mind, and it’s compounded of two principal elements: An abhorrence of cruelty and a sense of the provisional nature of human knowledge.” For our purpose, the second part of the definition is more important, the belief in the provisional nature of human knowledge. This allows the Democratic Party much greater flexibility in its platform or belief system. Hence, when the winds of change occurred about something, like welfare, the Democratic Party followed Bill Clinton in dismantling many parts of the welfare state (no judgment here as to whether this was right or wrong.) On the other hand, we have the Republican Party that, while it succeeds at such things like eroding abortion rights, or bringing back the death penalty, the Party struggles mightily with things like global warming. Once the difficulties the Republican Party, as a whole, possesses in accepting the provisional, and changing, nature of human knowledge deviates so far from reality it can hit a critical mass and, thereafter, drift into an Unforming Phase.
Writing that the Democratic party seems, by nature, to be more adaptable to going through the Growth Curve doesn’t mean it won’t again, in fact, it will. The question is when? Well, kids, it may be now. Clinton is having a hard time putting away Bernie Sanders, a marginal political figure during his entire public life. Bernie is appealing to an unsatisfied faction of the Democratic Party and promising pie-in-the-sky solutions. He’s also very much the father figure to many of his supporters. Furthermore, there exists another question about the Democratic Party: Who’s on its bench nationally? Who’s on the list, short or otherwise, for vice-president? So, things are not completely copacetic with the Democratic Party right now either.
(2) Writing that going back is not possible is not the same as saying the Republican Party “Elders” won’t try. And, as of this writing, some of them are trying to go back. But as Bill Idol explains, in some detail in the video, attempting to go back to what worked before, at this point in the Unforming Phase of the Growth Curve, can get very weird, even culminating in a catastrophic result, as in the death of the system. For a country, that relies on the existence of a healthy dialectic, created by two “performing” parties, the death of one of the parties should, at all costs, be avoided, even if it means that a political party remains in the Unforming Phase for a while longer. In other words, at this stage of the Unforming, there may be a greater possibility of the Party Elders destroying the Party, by opposing Trump, than by letting this play out more naturally, even if this means losing the election this November.
(3) However, there were consequences to the Democratic Party as a result of President Johnson’s moves on civil rights (mostly) and Medicare. This led to the Democratic Party going through its own Growth Curve, as reflected by the movement started in 1968 by George Wallace’s third party candidacy, see fn. 5, and culminating in the Democratic Party reforming with the south mostly lost to the Democrats from this point forward. It is important to note that, at least on the surface, this loss was of only a region.
(4) Trump is now also the target of a large segment of the Fourth Estate, like this from the Boston Globe, who believes it was soft on Trump at the beginning of the campaign and is trying to correct their perceived, self-judgmental error. Bill Idol has a graphic description of the phases in an Unforming. As you can see, Trump has brought us from denial into anger: Stages In An Unforming.
Bill’s graphic suggests what we should be looking for as benchmarks as the country, hopefully, makes its way through the Unforming Phase of the Growth Curve. When Bill refers to anger as the second stage, particularly as it pertains to a large system like a nation-state, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the same anger. What is more important is a fair segment of the country has exited the denial phase and moved into the anger phase. There will be opportunities, down the road, to reconcile the different versions of anger – for instance in the next phase: bargaining.
When it comes to the “depression” phase, and I quote Bill: “A sign of ‘depression’ would be those who were previously angry withdrawing from participation, perhaps after ‘bargaining’ with their peers to make their going AWOL look like the only reasonable thing to do – or perhaps looking for an even more radical group to belong to…” Students of, and participants in, the 60’s sound familiar?
(5) The issue of the Republican Party Elders trying to stop Trump, which may ultimately mean a third party candidate, brings-up the subject matter of third party candidacies in presidential elections in general. Of course, there have been third party candidates in modern times, hello Lyndon LaRouche. In 1968, George Wallace, after surviving an assassination attempt, actually won five states and amassed 45 Electoral College delegates. However, this did not truly affect the results in the Electoral College in terms of Nixon winning the election and there was no real third party candidate in 1972. The potential danger of a third party candidate by the Republican Party Elders, in this election, in the middle of a Growth Curve Unforming, is that it could so fracture the Party, it might permanently leave the country with three parties (even as early as this presidential election). Modern times relies on there being two parties, with presidential elections never getting to a contest in the Electoral College, or worse into Congress or The House Of Representatives. Should this occur, the resultant chaos, and stress on the country, would be enormous, dwarfing that which we experienced in the 2000 presidential election. Consequently, what appears to be happening now to the Republican Party is different from what happened to the Democratic Party in the 60’s, see fn. 3, because what happened to the Democratic Party was largely regional, the loss of the south. What’s happening to the Republican Party now is not regional. In fact, studies have shown that it can be defined as finely as county to county across the nation. A fair argument exists for this being the reason the Republican Party’s Unforming has dragged the entire nation into an Unforming Phase. This makes it a problem for the nation, as a whole, and means the best possible result for both the Republican Party, and the country, would be for both entities successfully exit from their intertwined Unforming Phases, and into Transforming Phases of the Growth Curve, somehow changed but still intact. Finally, please note, without going into detail, the tolerance for third party candidates in Congressional elections is much higher and does not pose the same dangers as in presidential elections.
(6) Somehow, it became the accepted view, in many circles, the Baby-Boom Generation (BBG), which was at the heart of this change, failed at its stated goals during the 60’s and was a Me Generation. The achievements just mentioned disprove both of these theses. What did happen, however, is a large segment of the BBG bought into these theses of failure. This is unfortunate as it is objectively true the new age, that commenced in the early 70’s, was a better age, at least socially and culturally, with more “better” to come as a result. That’s what happens in a Performing Phase. But, by the late 1990’s, this New Age had started to run its course.
(7) In fact, while I had a glimmering of doubt about my tidy little bow, it was Bill Idol’s wife, Donna, who pushed back on this when she read a late draft of this essay. This is how Direction of Error is supposed to work.
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3. THIS MONTH’S LINKS:
SIMON & GARFUNKEL 40+ YEARS LATER (May not work in US)
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