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

  1. Not sure if I can agree with the analogy. I understand that you are wrestling with how to forgive, understand, maintain a relationship with people that are clearly behaving in an unusual manner. I take it that you are suggesting that we condone or at least excuse their poor choices because they feel that their country is in trouble and that their poor behavior is necessary. You are suggesting that their misguided choices are justified, as they are only trying to navigate through the difficulty.
    I’m more inclined to think they have always harbored ill will and now their base instincts have gleaned support from a leader of questionable moral character. I do agree that the current adversarial approach is not conducive to a long term solution. I’m not sure if convincing them that there was never a crash course will be effective, especially if that was never the impetus for their poor moral choices.
    Denigrating women, supporting racism, belittling the appearance of others, separating families as punishment etc are not the actions of people making a course correction for their country. Supporting these actions is done purely out of fear and hate, not out of a desire to improve the countries course.
    Unfortunately, we may have to admit that we never knew these people and now we must distance ourselves from them. We can continue to lead by example and avoid conversations riddled by accusations and insults. We can continue to correct lies and support the truth. What we cannot do is associate with those that support a form of leadership that allows fear and anger to flourish.
    I am not a citizen of the USA and don’t mind if my opinions are deemed irrelevant. It does sadden me that fear and hate have found a base and are being manipulated for the benefit of a few. I hope that a course correction is made soon before it is too late. I hate to see a country torn apart for any reason. I hate to see families and friends torn apart because of politics. However, as some have noted before, this is about more than politics or economics. This is about the morality of society and how we coexist and live together going forward.


    1. Thanks for writing, Steve! As an artist and preacher [now writer?] one frustration I’ve regularly faced stems from the fact that any single blog post, sermon, or photograph can only address a very limited number of things. I hope you will visit this page often and especially when new posts are published. My writing here is a process. My heart is (finally) mostly right with my picture of things again and how my neighbors fit into it. I’m writing to see if I can express an image of the path I took to get here. I think you’ll find I’m trying to engage a holistic approach that will deal with a piece or two of the picture at a time. A good bit of it will not be easy to accept as it’s always difficult for us to see our own blindness’s [Matthew 7.1-5]. Hopefully some new understandings will somehow emerge over time. Common ground can allow empathy and compassion to develop. Empathy and compassion can form the ground for reconciliation. May it be so. Thanks, again, Steve! Please come back! ~ michael


      1. I am always eager for new understanding and I couldn’t agree more with your assertion that common ground can be found with empathy and compassion. My concern is the number of people seemingly lacking these traits. I realized that you were only sharing a portion of an overall philosophy. I am glad to share the planet with open minded forgiving people, which I believe you are one.
        I responded to your blog because of your question at the end: What did you hear me say? I heard you say that despite all of the negative, bigoted, racist words and actions of others we shouldn’t turn our backs on them. Taking an aggressive or exclusionary approach will only lead to a larger problem. Rather, we should use empathy and compassion to bring them back to a clearer understanding of reality. Did I get it? If so, I was suggesting that we may be past the point of trying to understand or entertain hate and evil. Instead, we might try leading by example, standing up for what is true and proper. Ghandi expressed this when he said, “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” Anyway, I will be sure to drop by and read future posts and hopefully get a better insight of your overall message.


  2. Steve,
    Thanks! I developed that question based on what I’d learned from a great communications professor back there in the day. Real communication is a bit cumbersome what with it requiring these feedback loops and all. Worth the effort, imho.

    I probably wouldn’t use the term “entertain,” however, I’d say your read-back on my meaning and intent is definitely on the right track, and that your concern is true, too. That is, I don’t see the overall leadership task right now as an either/or matter between healing vs creation, rather, a both/and integration of both movements. ~ michael


  3. First, I appreciate you taking time to provide insight free of judgmental barbs. Secondly, something that seems to be missing from our politics is the exegesis which clergy should be using to discern what is truly the will of God versus what is truly the will of politicians.
    There is no way I would vote for the “lesser” of two evils. Personally, I genuinely study and discern the qualifications of these potential leaders. If I believe a third party or independent candidate would be a better choice then that is who I would vote for. Having said that, our country has been doing awful things within a two party system for nearly 3 decades and there are clergy just as willing to pick up their crosses, along with their golden calf/donkey/elephant and be content with a system that is blatantly corrupt.
    The fact that clergy are almost militant on the right or left is as upsetting to me as it is baffling. We have a country tearing itself apart over a ton of misinformation. The two major sides of the American political landscape are convinced they are both correct yet are so counterintuitive and counterproductive that a ton of energy is being wasted doing stuff the hard way. This is exactly what Satan wants. I hope to start journaling on this because the answers are all in scripture.
    Ephesians 6:12
    Luke 17:20-21
    2 Chronicles 7:14
    Mark 12:30-31…
    Of course, I can keep going but there is one of what I call my foundation verses. This is one of the verses which I consider the cornerstone of my calling:
    “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” Matthew 5:9
    Everybody is so obsessed with being right that everything is going wrong. As clergy, we truly are not performing to task on this Beatitude which has spoken to me for years. I have only recently started listening.
    We have more potential for connection with the world and ways to fix problems than we’ve ever had and we are blowing it. Please pray for me and all other clergy that we may answer God’s call with a discerning heart and PROVE TO THE WORLD THAT GOD’S LOVE WILL CONQUER ALL.


  4. Let There Be Peace on Earth

    Let there be peace on earth
    And let it begin with me
    Let there be peace on earth
    The peace that was meant to be
    With God as our father
    Brothers all are we
    Let me walk with my brother
    In perfect harmony

    Let peace begin with me
    Let this be the moment now
    With every step I take
    Let this be my solemn vow
    To take each moment
    And live each moment
    To take each moment
    And live each moment
    In peace eternally
    Let there be peace on earth
    Let there be peace on earth
    Let there be peace on earth
    And let it begin
    With me (me)
    With me

    Songwriters: Jill Jackson / Sy Miller
    Let There Be Peace on Earth lyrics © Mccg LLC

    Liked by 1 person

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