Talk Down To Me Dept.

Yesterday's post brought some more thought to mind: Does becoming a "success" — however you might define that — make it all the more difficult, if not outright impossible, to speak truth to power? Or, for that matter, speak the truth at all?

One of the things that happens — maybe inevitably — when someone becomes widely recognized and vested with the power of authority, any authority, is that people don't see the person anymore. They see the authority, and they respond more to that than they do the human being. I suspect the same thing happens to the person trapped inside that authority: they respond more from the point of view of the authority they wield than the person they are. (The cops in Ferguson, for instance: is there anything left of the individual or the citizen in them, or are they just an extension of the massmind?)

Sometimes this is unavoidable. If you're an attorney general, for instance, you're going to want to keep your professional and personal lives distant from each other so that you can do your job well. But what if you're a creative type? What then?

I don't like the idea of allowing a role — either one you assume or one thrust upon you — to supersede whatever it is you are as a person. I'm also not naïve enough to believe you can always avoid that: sometimes it happens as a by-product of whatever enterprise you're trying to bring together. The best way to deal with it, I think, is to deflate it as often as you can — and not just by, say, cavorting around on YouTube, but by taking the power people give you and putting it right back into their hands.

Brad Warner has written and talked about this many times. He didn't like the idea of being formally ordained in any Zen Buddhist order, but he also knew that if he didn't do it, it would create problems of its own. So he had it done, but at the same time only takes it as seriously as he has to — which is to say, not very much at all. Underpromise and overdeliver, that's his motto. One to emulate, I think.

Tags: Brad Warner sociology

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This page contains a single entry by Serdar Yegulalp in the category Uncategorized / General, published on 2014/08/25 10:00.

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