Perennial Leading Edge Failure


“Here goes, and bear with me if at first I seem irrelevant.” ~ Ernest Everhard


“Hijacked!” Stockholm Syndrome?


Airforce One (DOD)
An Air Force One 747 jet flies over the Statue of Liberty. (DOD Photo)

A revealing analogy

I like historian Jon Meacham. His bias is toward humanity. He was recently on a cable news show panel and, in the discussion, he offered a seemingly concise description of our times; roughly:

It’s the first time in our history when a hijacker took over the plane and the passengers were on the hijacker’s side.

It’s a great image on one level. I think it rightly reflects the fact that most people see our situation in the U.S.A. right now as an existential matter. Anxiety is high throughout our society.

I am not sure what Jon Meacham meant.  He offered his image and just laid it there. It worked kind of like a Freudian gray screen. The responses of others on the panel made it clear that the image allows several unpacking options. I hope to offer a different take, one that exposes a blind spot confounding most progressive media and leadership.

Meacham’s image and most progressives fail to take into account the fact that, while it’s true all passengers feel we are now facing an existential crisis on this plane (‘our’ country and ‘our’ values), the image completely conflates the passengers’ perspectives and, therefore, the different reasons why we are all anxious. Conflation simply furthers and aggravates the projection festival that so many are engaging in these days.

So, let’s think about that image

It’s the first time in our history when a hijacker took over the plane and the passengers were on the hijacker’s side.

Think about what that says about those passengers.

Think about what that says to those passengers.

Many wonder how anyone could support what’s happening right now.

Conflation problem

In Meacham’s image, “passengers” rather seriously conflates some pretty conflicted perspectives with regard to this U.S.A. values’ plane in the context of our times.

On this plane about half (likely less, maybe even as few as 40%, cf. Robert Kegan) of the passengers’ first real, penetrating indication of the existential crisis regarding the plane (country and values) came with the hijacking.

On this same plane about half (likely more – maybe even as many as 60%, cf. Robert Kegan) truly believe the plane (country and values) has been, and is, on a crash course; therefore hijacking was the only option. From that perspective, regular values [that wouldn’t ordinarily abide a Trump] are necessarily vectored through a survival lens.

This reality reflects the failure of the leading edge to effectively lead, and that for many years.

Developmental dynamics of a dysfunction…


Each new stage of values development (in its turn) has used what I will call exclusion techniques (cf. John Braithwaite) to help in its overall effort to put any overreaches and unacceptable or unhealthy expressions of  the previous stage[s] in check. In one very early stage of human values development, the exclusion technique took on immediate life and death implications when the offender was banished from the community (tribe) and into the wilderness. Two more recently attained stages (mythic-membership and merit values) express the same energy in ways quite capable of producing consequences nearly as dire, depending on the context. Namely, through shunning -that is, being declared invisible to the community. For shunning as an existential problem today, think how an accrediting body can revoke a person’s credentials or license. Think of how we successful, merit-valuing, first-worlders exhibit our anti-poor persons bigotry by making homeless people (and/or refugees) invisible to our sight. I’d suggest this mechanism has now evolved full circle and inverted to where, like a boomerang, the present leading edge risks putting itself out of the community with its shaming of everything below – “Well, it all looks like injustice and bigotry from up here!” Very few people want to follow along with leaders of a leading edge like that.




Pattern recognition

I have what I think is a memory of a Star Trek; Next Generation episode. In the episode, the Enterprise was caught in a repeating doomsday scenario. It seems that there was an anomaly; somehow, a tear in space-time became part of it, I think. Caught in a time loop, the Enterprise kept repeating what captain and crew had somehow originally discerned was the appropriate action. With each new iteration and opportunity to try again, they simply added more intensity to the energy they were focusing on the anomaly through a phaser beam or the like. They finally somehow realized that it was their initial decision to use a dysfunctional and aggressive (control) force on the original problem that had caused the whole doomsday cascade in the first place.


Time to end it

It’s time to end communal exclusion (no matter the form of expression) as a growth strategy! It’s essentially an aggressive, dysfunctional, ineffective control mechanism. It’s an unfortunate, dysfunctional, naive expression of transcendence. It can happen when we don’t fully understand the new higher stage values we’re attempting to wield. “Jesus was all about justice!” In the present day, that often simply reflects a blue-mythic relationship with green-justice values projected onto Jesus. We want and declare utopia, yet do not understand the dynamics of justice in community well enough to create the structures that could actually make justice concrete.

So, instead, it’s, “Let’s declare what’s good in our eyes and (then, with a very broad brush) guard the line with shaming!” “Racist!” “Xenophobe!” “Homophobe!”

No, let’s not.

Still in the air

At least to date, the plane and all the passengers’ hopes are still in the air.

To the passengers who, through the hijacking, learned that there is an existential crisis with regard to the plane: your task is to do now what should have been done all along. Lead. Be ambassadors for real reconciliation. It’s time to help people truly understand that the plane was really never on a crash course. Please don’t simply continue to declare the righteousness of justice and then merely guard the line with shaming in some way, like, “You’re bigoted! Google it!” That’s how we (unnecessarily) got here.

Your thoughts?

I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say?




Airforce One (DOD)





Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box] by The Arbinger Institute

Anatomy of Peace by The Arbinger Institute


Link: Introductory Blog Post #ReturnToDecency for June 30, 2018

Link: Perennial Leading Edge Failure #ReturnToDecency for July 1, 2018

Link: Empathy Window Opens #ReturnToDecency for July 8, 2018

Link: Being “Naïve” Green (et al.) #ReturnToDecency for July 15, 2018

Link: Flatland, #ReturnToDecency for July 22, 2018

Link: There is no Truth! #ReturnToDecency for July 29, 2018

87 thoughts on “Perennial Leading Edge Failure

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