Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Post No. 157: Does an Ass-Whipping Constitute Inspiration?


© 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

One thing we’ve learned during the past 3 years - when we suggest people are responsible for their own, individual crap, we generally receive no responses, or oblique ones.

In a recent post, we referred to the “malaise speech” made 30 years ago by President Jimmy Carter. In it, he suggested that America was experiencing a crisis in confidence, and needed to get back to basics to renew our enthusiasm.

In our view, this was just another way of saying that we were not living up to our responsibilities as citizens, which translated to our responsibilities as a nation.

One of our followers suggested that the problem with the President’s speech was that he didn’t inspire the citizens at the time. We initially thought that his response fell in the oblique sluice.

What followed was a discussion about whether all leaders should have the ability to inspire others, effectively manage the shop, or perhaps a little of both.

We must admit that we initially dismissed the possible role of inspiration in encouraging people to be responsible. We joked to ourselves that Hollywood Bad Kids, Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen, not only need to decide to participate in substance abuse programs, but also be sufficiently “inspired” by someone else to do so, so that Hollywood might be able to place confidence in them again.

It also reminded us of how many Baby Boomers, while kids growing up, had our asses whipped by our parents as part of the development of our sense of responsibility, and how it might have also constituted “inspiration.” [Of course, these “expressions of love” were inflicted prior to kids being able to threaten their parents with child abuse allegations.]

We then realized that, in some instances, motivation and inspiration might be synonymous.

We’ve been wrestling with this inspiration – responsibility tag team all week now.

Over the weekend, we saw a tweet which made us laugh. We e-mailed it to a group of friends, mentioning that it was from the “We Simply Could Not Resist File.” It read:

“What Egypt needs now is a tax break for the rich to stimulate job creation.”

Without addressing whether “inspiration” can be the equivalent of “stimulation,” one recipient responded, “I thought that such a tax break already existed, and that it was called the ‘American Foolish Dependency on Middle East Oil Act.’”

This, and our follower’s comment about inspiration, led us to rethink a few points we raised in comments to our two prior posts, whose theme was, a nation is only as responsible as its most irresponsible citizen.

Is it the responsibility of our leaders to inspire us to eat healthier foods and exercise? Save more of our income? Invent new technologies? Better educate ourselves? Or even reduce our dependence on foreign oil?

We’re going through a period of turbulence right now, and President Obama is the Captain of the Big Ship Lollypop.

Does he provide a sense of comfort amongst the citizens? Should it be a requirement of the position?

In the minds of some, the President needs to allay our current concerns. It is reasonably clear that he has not been able to do that, either domestically or internationally. [Should he be willing to lie to us to accomplish that goal?]

One thing that makes his job difficult is that there are so many people sniping at him, and second guessing his decisions. This is not a matter of whether the criticism is justified or not. It simply is what it is. A significant segment of society dislikes him intensely, which arguably bears on, or reflects, his ability or inability to inspire.

We are reminded that in the military, one can not openly criticize or question a superior officer, and there are good reasons for that. It potentially undermines the authority of the officer to accomplish the mission, and can adversely affect the morale of the troops. Is there an analogy with respect to the President, no matter who is in the office?

This past Sunday on Meet the Press, David Gregory gave us a glimpse into the soon-to-open Reagan Library. His tour guide was Peggy Noonan, one of the primary speech writers to former President Ronald Reagan.

She revealed something which the American public has never seen – the suit which President Reagan wore on the day that John Hinckley shot him, gunshot hole and all.

As the President was being wheeled into the OR, he quipped, “I hope that you all are Republicans,” referring to the surgical team.

The Chief Surgeon, reportedly a staunch Democrat, without hesitation, responded, “Today, Mr. President, we’re all Republicans.”

Maybe, just maybe, we all need to be on the same team as responsible citizens, inspired by our President or not.

13 comments:

  1. Aside from the fact that I think you have an odd understanding of the word "inspire" (it does not mean forcing people to do things through regulation and laws), I'd say you might be misunderstanding what it is to be American. We do not, except during certain instances, ignore our principles to rally around a leader. We are a contentious lot. Possibly a result of our exaltation of the individual, a mainstay of our heritage. You will note that the surgeon said "Today", not "Always", not "For the next two weeks", or anything that would imply "Beyond the resolution of this emergency." I would have rather that the surgeon said, "Today, and here, there are no politics" which I thought was his meaning.

    The reason that Reagan asked (aside from his well-known wit) the question was because of that criticism and animosity that greets presidents every day. Reagan felt that quite soon and this assassination attempt happened just a little over two months after his inauguration. He had not had two years yet in which to inflame the ire even among his base support.

    What is my point? In spite of the small segments that have overly strong feelings about him (those for and those against), he is losing those so-called "independents" who made the difference at election time. The hope and change has resulted in less hope and change that seems unpopular. You cannot blame the public for that.

    Did you ever argue that last position: "Maybe, just maybe, we all need to be on the same team as responsible citizens, inspired by our President or not" during the last administration? Poor George was beset with animosity even before he was sworn in.

    I saw similar calls as yours by his supporters in those 8 years. I saw also the derision of those calls by his opponents.

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  2. Douglas:

    1. It never, ever occurred to us that the definition of "inspiration" is forcing people to do things through regulation and laws. We imagine that some folks might feel that way, but we have not run across them.

    2. We did not realize that there is only one understanding as to what it means to be American. We always thought that it was unique to the individual citizen. However, we've been wrong before, and we could be wrong here also.

    Thanks for your contribution.

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  3. Speaking of inspirational leaders, the History Channel will present a program tonight at 9:00 pm Eastern, entitled, "Ronald Reagan: Who Was This Man?" Too bad that it is competing against the Duke - North Carolina Men's College Basketball Game.

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  4. Inspector, the "odd understanding" of inspiration was the impression I got when you supported initiatives which include bullying (I use the word loosely) establishments to reduce portions. Inspiration, to me, has always meant performing deeds that inspire, holding to principles in times of adversity, doing the "right" thing when the conventional wisdom is to do the "wrong" thing, and so on. I am inspired by those who sacrifice for the good of others. I am inspired by those those who enlist, by those who stand up for what is right (such as the civil rights leaders of my youth), and those who do the right thing when the wrong is more profitable and safer. I am not talking about charisma here nor about posturing in a way that is designed to enhance standings in polls or improve chances for election or re-election.

    I do not see where I offered that there was "only one understanding" what it means to be an American. I was speaking of one set of circumstances and relating that to our American heritage. Perhaps I wasn't as clear as I thought. Or perhaps someone misinterpreted my words.

    I don't think shows about Reagan will change anyone's opinion of him one way or the other. Enjoy the game.

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  5. I found a fine example of inspiration...

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/02/09/us-wakeforest-kidney-idUSTRE7185ZB20110209

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  6. Douglas:

    1. You wrote: "[T]he 'odd understanding' of inspiration was the impression I got when you supported initiatives which include bullying (I use the word loosely) establishments to reduce portions."

    We do not recall doing so, and that does not sound like us. Find the specific date, page, location, etc., in one of our posts or comments, and we'll address it. To assist, you can use the white search box at the top left corner of our blog, just to the right of the orange Blogger service mark.

    2. You wrote: "I do not see where I offered that there was 'only one understanding' what it means to be an American. I was speaking of one set of circumstances and relating that to our American heritage. Perhaps I wasn't as clear as I thought. Or perhaps someone misinterpreted my words."

    We gained this impression from the following collection of your words:

    "Aside from the fact that [I] think [YOU] have an odd understanding of the word 'inspire' ([IT< THE SINGULAR IT>] does not mean forcing people to do things through regulation and laws), [I]'d say [YOU] might be misunderstanding what [IT< THE SINGULAR IT>] [IS ] to be American. [WE, THE COLLECTIVE WE] do not, except during certain instances, ignore our principles to rally around a leader." [Emphasis added.]

    3. "I don't think shows about Reagan will change anyone's opinion of him one way or the other."

    That's unfortunate Douglas. Perhaps we're a bit idealistic, but we generally like to think that education or learning new things CAN change the views of people. Additionally, from a pure mathematical perspective, we'd like to think that there is at least one person whose views might be changed. We know that OUR views regarding scores of famous people in history have been changed through watching bio-documentaries. We guess that we are the only folks so affected.


    4. You wrote: "Enjoy the game."

    Thanks, but we're going to watch the Reagan piece. We can watch the highlights of the game on ESPN, over, and over, and over again, later.

    As always, thanks for your contributions and forcing us to think.

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  7. BTW Douglas, when we saw the film footage of the actual participants in the kidney story earlier this afternoon, we were moved enough to consider generating an article. We're in agreement with you about this particular example of inspiration. Ditto.

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  8. 1. You wrote: "[T]he 'odd understanding' of inspiration was the impression I got when you supported initiatives which include bullying (I use the word loosely) establishments to reduce portions."

    We do not recall doing so, and that does not sound like us. Find the specific date, page, location, etc., in one of our posts or comments, and we'll address it. To assist, you can use the white search box at the top left corner of our blog, just to the right of the orange Blogger service mark.


    You got me on that one. I filtered your commentary through my own biases.
    One would think that the self-professed party of personal responsibility, namely the Republicans, would champion the healthy food cause.

    Researching the WH Healthy Food Initiative, I see no reason why it should be opposed (beyond establishing yet another government program in a period of financial shortfalls) and, indeed, found no evidence of that opposition. Perhaps we both spoke rashly?

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  9. [had to split this up]

    2. You wrote: "I do not see where I offered that there was 'only one understanding' what it means to be an American. I was speaking of one set of circumstances and relating that to our American heritage. Perhaps I wasn't as clear as I thought. Or perhaps someone misinterpreted my words."

    We gained this impression from the following collection of your words:

    "Aside from the fact that [I] think [YOU] have an odd understanding of the word 'inspire' ([IT< THE SINGULAR IT>] does not mean forcing people to do things through regulation and laws), [I]'d say [YOU] might be misunderstanding what [IT< THE SINGULAR IT>] [IS ] to be American. [WE, THE COLLECTIVE WE] do not, except during certain instances, ignore our principles to rally around a leader." [Emphasis added.]


    As I said, I could have been clearer or you could have misunderstood. The singular usage did not (to me) negate the multiple facets of being American. Being American can cover a rather large set of beliefs and behaviors, ONE of which is not rallying around a leader simply because he is the leader. I'd like to use the example of the captain of the ship I was stationed on. The crew scored high on all reviews for proficiency. The captain said, more than once, that he would be proud to sail into any scrap with us. The crew felt less so. You see, regardless of the high scores in proficiency the crew had abysmal levels of morale and pretty much hated the man. They would have, however, been proud to go into any battle with their shipmates. They would have obeyed the captain's orders only because they must. I should relate the story of the change of command when he was relieved. I may blog that one.

    3. "I don't think shows about Reagan will change anyone's opinion of him one way or the other."

    That's unfortunate Douglas. Perhaps we're a bit idealistic, but we generally like to think that education or learning new things CAN change the views of people. Additionally, from a pure mathematical perspective, we'd like to think that there is at least one person whose views might be changed. We know that OUR views regarding scores of famous people in history have been changed through watching bio-documentaries. We guess that we are the only folks so affected.


    I speak only from my experiences. We (that collective "we") tend to filter all we see through our own preconceptions. Certainly not all of us, there are any number of open-minded people who are willing to examine new (to them) facts. But these people tend not to make firm opinions about people and issues in the first place, wouldn't you agree? Read some comments on places like the Daily Kos, the Huufington Post, Politico, Newsmax, and so on. I may have a few years on you (not many) and it has been my experience that people rarely change their opinions after watching one documentary. They usually look for reinforcement of those opinions afterward if the documentary did not fit within their basic paradigm.

    4. You wrote: "Enjoy the game."

    Thanks, but we're going to watch the Reagan piece. We can watch the highlights of the game on ESPN, over, and over, and over again, later.


    In that case, enjoy the show.

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  10. Douglas:

    Until you mentioned right now, we were not previously aware of the "WH Healthy Food Initiative." Thanks for bringing it up. When we made reference to the Republicans, we were focusing on their oft repeated personal responsibility mantra, with which we agree emphatically. Perhaps we should not have spoken so "loosely."

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  11. 'Spector,

    As usual, I am late to the ball.

    I will only contribute this: I believe that, in the modern era, citizens view the quality of personal responsibility as they view virtue -- as its own reward. For many of those who (by circumstance or by choice) are gazelles, not lions, that distinction simply does not offer sufficient equity.

    And an ass-whipping often provides no more “inspirational” effect upon them than it does a gazelle; the only difference is that they are more likely to survive it. After all, human lions (sharks, whatever) prefer their prey to remain alive so that they can feast upon it serially.

    My goodness, I’m cynical today . . .

    The Independent Cuss

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  12. I read your rather tiresome dialogue through Douglas and Inspector, and while usually inspired by your eloquence both of you, I found your repeated quotes confusing. Better, I suggest, to spend time on clear statements and careful definitions of terms as you go along. You both used the word 'inspiration' as if it was broadcast by an individual. It is not, it is received. I was never impressed that a man famous for being an ex-cowboy actor would inspire the general public for the right REASONS, but then I look for virtue in a leader's principles and in the actions they lead to for inspiration. Silly me - you can tell I am foreign.

    The word 'leader' as applied to the captain of a ship and a politician looks the same by accident of language only. They may both have charisma, it will have helped them get promotion, but the captain can instil fear openly in a way the politician cannot.

    While showbiz is in charge of your media the public will seldom (occasionally)be inspired by the actual motives and deeds of a president.

    What inspires individuals is surely more to do with the individual state of mind of the recipient as created by background, parental influence etc. than with the real virtue of any input.

    So to answer the question, Leaders MUST cause lots of people to act 'responsibly' - in a way that forwards society. This can also forward the individual. Most people would ideally feel they are making decisions willingly. An 'ass-whipping' may be appropriate for others. No principle claimed, judge each case...

    'Crisis of confidence'? Definitely. Too much then, far too much now.

    Thanks I.C. - an inspirational comment.

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  13. CorfuBob:

    As surprising as this may be (and mathematically impossible), we actually agree with 110% of what you wrote.

    The bottom line in our view is that inspiration is in the eye of the beholder.

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