Monday, May 18, 2009

Post No. 119: “Where Have You Gone Joe DiMaggio?”


© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

In the world of social commentary, there are “observers” and “critics.”

People often ask how we approach preparation of articles reflecting our observations.

Short answer? We watch C-Span, the History Channel, Tom and Jerry, and Turner Classic Movies all weekend. During that time, we absorb roughly 50 different points of view on various subjects, and give Tom’s observations more weight.

We consider them further during the week, while watching the news and Congressional hearings, in an effort to identify themes or “cross-over” principles, which arguably apply to divergent subjects. It could be sports, science, religion, and music. Like Wile E. Coyote, we keep chasing the Road Runner, seeking something.

(We also walk through book stores each week and pick up any and everything.)

So many today claim to know, with certainty, how we got here economically, why and how this or that President was flawed, and why we will fail as a nation if we do X. This banter drove the Logistician to Brazil for his sabbatical to study with the heads of the samba schools.

Before he departed, while eating his standard meal of sardines, beef tongue, and horseradish on pumpernickel, he asked, “How are these people able to come up with evidence which only supports their position?” He abhorred “goal determinant analysis.”

He then asked, “Why didn’t these people step forward to take control before things imploded?”

We seem to be dissatisfied with virtually every aspect of our lives, along with the people running most of our institutions, not to mention our significant others).

There’s no shortage of “incompetents” according to the critics: politicians, doctors, commercial banks, insurance companies, the Federal Reserve, drug companies, pedophile priests and Boy Scout leaders, automobile companies, oil companies, current and past Presidents, the housing and construction industries, the poor, the rich, CEOS, lawyers, investment bankers, immigrants (whether illegal or not), unions, doped up athletes, Hollywood, and of course, Wal-Mart.

It’s a Herculean task to find anyone or anything held in high regard, and about which at least 70% of Americans view positively. We’d settle for 60%.

Apart from all of the new input we consume, we constantly review earlier posts, to consider their continuing applicability. In Post No. 85 in February of this year, amid rising concerns about the global economy, we generated, Why We Suspect, To Our Dismay, That “Whatever” Our Leaders Devise Will Not Work.

In Post No. 27 in July 2009, we wrote about The Inability of our Leaders to Please (or Lead) Us.

Finally, in May 2008, in Post No. 9, Recognizing the Potential of the Innovative Thought Process (We are a Better Country Than We Currently Think of Ourselves), we noted that a recent poll revealed that 81% of Americans felt the country was heading in the wrong direction.

And that was before the recession was officially announced, and blame assessed.

And before Obama was even nominated.

The sentiment crossed ideological lines. Amazingly, it was something about which the majority could agree.

Thomas Woods was recently on C-Span. He is the author of Meltdown: A Free-Market Look at Why the Stock Market Collapsed, the Economy Tanked, and Government Bailouts Will Make Things Worse.

We’ve now watched his presentation 4 times. He had so little positive to say about much of anything over the past 30 years, that it made us stop and think about the views of other commentators over the past 18 months.

Then we asked, like the Logistician, “Why aren’t these people leading us?”

Of course, hindsight is always 20/20, and some are simply Monday morning quarterbacks.

But shouldn’t we be concerned that despite the personal successes of many of our leaders and captains of industry, our country as a whole appears to be in such a precarious state?

Does our current political climate or system discourage the true best and brightest from running for public office, and seeking the helm of our major industries?

Does the public scrutiny of our leaders serve as a disincentive for the “truly qualified” to share their wisdom and insight with us for the public benefit?

Maybe a nation really does deserve the leaders that it gets.

And here the rest of us stand, growling, and fighting like Dobermans for scraps of raw meat.

During our preparation of this piece, the words of Simon and Garfunkel kept swirling in our heads:

Where Have You Gone Joe DiMaggio? A Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes to You, Woo, Woo, Woo.”

You critics, who have figured it all out, and find others to be incompetent, please step forward and participate in fixing this mess.

We need you.

11 comments:

  1. “So many today claim to know, with certainty, how we got here economically, why and how this or that President was flawed, and why we will fail as a nation if we do X”

    I am not one of the ones certain of anything where the financial mess is concerned. I *think* we got to this economic cycle/place because of greed and stupidity on the parts of many parties. Greed applies to the lending institutions that handed out mortgages to those who would have a difficult time paying them back and stupidity on the part of those who blindly (or otherwise) accepted loans that were beyond their means to repay.

    However, beyond that I don’t know. I don’t understand much of the complexities of places like Wall Street and I don’t understand the whole AIG/Goldman/Lehman thing. It is simply beyond me how they could find themselves needing government help to make ends meet.

    “How are these people able to come up with evidence which only supports their position?”

    I don’t remember seeing any evidence. I remember reading about thoughts, ideas and speculation. Evidence, at least for me, means they have proof that this will work or that will work, when you want to remedy a situation. How to fix the economic crisis? Not a clue from my corner. How I would fix my own, personal, situation if I faced such an economic crisis does not necessarily apply to how one would go about fixing something that is a global issue. I don’t know that it is as simple when you are dealing with countries vs. one household or intermeshed global finances vs. an individual account.

    “There’s no shortage of “incompetents” according to the critics”

    I noticed it especially in the post that I participated in regarding Suleman thread. Children Services did not do what the participants wanted, the doctor didn’t handle it right, apparently nobody was doing anything right.

    One of the things I have learned from my job is that it is highly probable that I do not have all of the facts in nearly any case that is brought to the public, simply from what the news media says/writes. Thus, I err on the side of caution.

    “But shouldn’t we be concerned that despite the personal successes of many of our leaders and captains of industry, our country as a whole appears to be in such a precarious state?”

    I am concerned. I just don’t know what to do about it.

    “Does our current political climate or system discourage the true best and brightest from running for public office, and seeking the helm of our major industries?”

    I don’t know that it is the political climate, and I also don’t know that the best and brightest are not in office. I am also not sure what definition of “best and brightest” would apply here. Are we talking GPA’s? Are we talking “experience”? Are we talking overall or in a specific arena?

    I know I do not want to step up there and take any of those positions to “fix” things. I am fairly certain I’d be overwhelmed in about 5 minutes.

    ReplyDelete
  2. We, the best and brightest, are presently engaged in living according to sound principles in a manner that transcends the the present chaos. It is our desire, not to run a corrpupt system, but rather to strive in what is often the opposite direction, to open doors, in hopes that others may follow.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I am curious... Is it only the US that's involved in this? With rare exception, countries all over the world are experiencing a downturn in their economies. Some have been in a flat or poor economy for many years prior to this. Many (perhaps almost all) of the free (relatively speaking) market economies experienceds a real estate boom and bust, coupled with mortgage crises, coupled with the problems caused by derivatives. What really triggered the crunch? Was it the deflating RE bubble on its own? Was that bubble simply going through a correction when we were sucker punched by the incredibly rapid (and excessive) increase in oil costs? Did the result of that combo trigger the other countries' economic woes or were they first to go? So many people blamed the Bush administration (an easy target) but I saw economic problems throughout the world, a number pre-dating our own. Did our faltering economy just make an economic correction worse? Were our reactions to it what made things worse? I suppose I have more questions than answers and cannot point any fingers of blame. But I do have one more question:

    If the Bush administration's "trickle down" economics and support of "big business" got us into this mess, if the excessive spending by that administration caused this, why are bailouts and deficit spending (4 times the previous adminstration's) going to get us out?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Americans don't want leaders. Americans want efficient managers.

    ReplyDelete
  5. True, rodak, and what we get is neither, it seems.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Good thoughts. I'm sorry I can't disagree more. However, true leaders are out there. Take a look at my blogs on leadership, which references Jim Collins' excellent book, "Good to Great". His work shows that the best kind of leaders don't get great (read "any") press. They just lead in their competencies and passion. Not mind blowing stuff, but foundational. We don't see leaders because we are getting fed the wrong stuff. The press is not a good source for seeing leadership because its gotta be newsworthy. Good leaders need our help to be seen and heard.

    http://tinyurl.com/b8oo9g

    John

    ReplyDelete
  7. We don't see leaders because we are getting fed the wrong stuff.What you are saying here is that all true leadership is local. That concept is not really different from I mean by "good managers."
    But the blog post wasn't about that, I think, but about national leadership--leaders who use the media to move the masses.
    To my way of thinking, that type of leader is never particularly effective in America, simply because most Americans resist becoming followers. Rugged individualism is the core trait of the paradigmatic American. (This is also, incidentally, why we need have no fear of true socialism ever being adopted here.)
    The few sheep in our midst will follow clowns like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush because that is as far as their limited intellectual capacity will take them. But the "real" Americans will hang fire through such regimes, tending their own gardens and waiting for a better day.

    ReplyDelete
  8. We do not question the existence of leaders or competent people. Our question is whether they are motivated to devote some segment of their lives to public service or public office?

    The other issue is whether the general public feels that competent leaders are making the appropriate decisions in government and industry.

    Is this just a downturn in the economic cycle which no one, even competent corporate and government leaders, could have avoided? Could society have continued to grow and expand without ever going in the other direction?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks to all who shared comments responsive to this article. We are trying a new method of dealing with comments. Instead of responding to each, individual comment, we hope that you will engage others in analyzing the issues, and we'll just pose additional questions along the line.

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    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete
  11. Good thoughts. I'm sorry I can't disagree more. However, true leaders are out there. Take a look at my blogs on leadership, which references Jim Collins' excellent book, "Good to Great". His work shows that the best kind of leaders don't get great (read "any") press. They just lead in their competencies and passion. Not mind blowing stuff, but foundational. We don't see leaders because we are getting fed the wrong stuff. The press is not a good source for seeing leadership because its gotta be newsworthy. Good leaders need our help to be seen and heard.

    http://tinyurl.com/b8oo9g

    John

    ReplyDelete

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