21 May 2007

Leadership for Human Survival (unedited)

This is the longer version of a letter to the editor I submitted to The Leader in response to this letter. They have a 400 word limit so I couldn’t fit it all in the version that will be published. (My 400 word version was published in the June 20th, 2007 edition, but I cannot find it online.)

What does it mean, as Rich Roberts asserts, that “the greatest military in the world” serves to “provide liberty to the oppressed, remove tyranny, and prevent illegal and immoral acts of war/terrorism”? He believes it means that we must kill people who start conflicts, but I believe it means that we have to take responsibility for being resourceful global leaders in the only home that human beings will ever have. Being a responsible leader means that you create the conditions that help everyone communicate with each other, you help prevent conflict by finding ways to ensure that everyone gets their basic needs met, and when conflict arises in spite of your best efforts (as every parent of rival siblings knows it does) then you find creative ways to resolve it.

I freely admit that I am not a parent, but after 39 years on the planet and over 20 years working with kids and families I have enough experience to know that you don’t kill the kids, your spouse or your neighbors, for being mean or picking fights. If you are a responsible and respectful adult you find ways to figure out what is really going on and then coordinating with the whole family (and sometimes the whole neighborhood) to create more peaceful ways to get everyone’s needs met.

In the world today the United State of America is in a position of incredible power and influence. But, with high technology, so are a whole lot of people that are complete strangers to our way of life. Are we going to continue to alienate the strangers to our way of life by labeling them our “Enemy” then bully or kill them before we know who they really are, what their basic needs are, and how we might work together on our common concerns? Or are we going to be responsible leaders who encourage communication, prevent conflict, and use peaceful means to resolve conflict?

There are two things that we need to do in order to address the issue of terrorism, first, get to know the rest of our human family. It is pathetic that we, the richest people in the world, are the most afraid of our neighbors and also the least able to appreciate the value of all the different gifts that each member of the family brings to our home. Our wealth is the envy of the world, but our isolation and the sicknesses that we have wrought on ourselves and the world through irresponsible and self serving use of that wealth is a shame (that we can overcome.)

The second is to discover how we can work with them to meet everyone’s basic needs. Can we be modest enough to ask how we can be of service without imposing on them how we think they need to be helped? Can we provide the assistance they have requested without imposing undue restrictions on them in the process?

I recently took a small step towards achieving all of the above without the permission, sanction, or any other deference to our government and it’s current, past, or future policies. I visited Kiva.org and made a micro loan to an entrepreneur in the third-world. I am helping to support 19-year old Djeyhun Askerov of Khirdalan settlement, Azerbaijan to expand his business. This small gesture is Do-It-Yourself foreign policy. You can read about many other resourceful individuals in Afghanistan, Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America, and many other places, who are all taking responsibility for their lives and simply need access to some additional funds to improve their situation, and by extension improve their society.

Killing strangers who don’t understand our way of life is foolish. Of course, we have to support the policing of criminal acts through investigations, arrests, prosecutions and punishments, but we also have to be morally strong enough to put communication and cooperation with our human brothers and sisters before acting on our selfish instinct to lash out in retaliation. If you are like me, you want more strong moral leaders in the world, and less selfish and short-sighted bullies.

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