Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Are we rats on a sinking ship?

What is that saying about rats and sinking ships?

As I hear the latest news about the tragedy unfolding in Italy, my mind wanders to what a leader should look like.. . and I don’t mean whether male/female, tall short, blonde/dark etc. I am talking about what qualities we should be seeking in our leaders of tomorrow.

The captain of that stricken cruise ship off the Italian coast is a great example of what we should NOT be looking for. After all, in modern ships, the captain’s job is not so closely aligned with the steering of the vessel through dangerous waters as it was in the past. With computer controlled steering, and pre-set safe passage waterways, the ship is certainly able to navigate the waters without human intervention. When it comes to docking or traveling into difficult ports, pilots are provided to steer the ships in…pilots with very specific local knowledge and well-practiced skills.

So it seems to me that the captain no longer needs to know much about steering the ships or navigation. His skills are necessarily more directed toward ensuring the safety of his passengers and crew.

It is only when something happens to take the ship off its preprogrammed course, that any sort of navigational skills are required.

It is possible that in my ignorance, I am simplifying the requirements…and I suspect that ships captains all around the world will be howling in disagreement right now. Of course, they have a profession to protect whereas I have no vested interest either way.

In any event, the captain is the main go-to guy to make decisions when something out of the ordinary takes place….like running aground on a reef when the ship is nearly 4 miles off course because the computer controlled navigation had been manually over-ridden.

I am not going to get up in the rights and wrongs of who did what that caused the ship to be off course. Nor am I going to sling blame about that. But I am going to look at the qualities required of a captain when something untoward took place.

We have all heard the adage that the captain is expected to go down with his ship. There is a reason for this. The old time thinking was that if the Captain must be the last to leave the ship, then he will do everything possible NOT to allow the ship to sink…his own self-interest will ensure he will make the best decisions he can – if for no other reason than his own personal safety.

Maritime law continues to require the captain to ensure the safety of his passengers and crew first. He is required to stay on his sinking vessel so as to co-ordinate rescue efforts. He is expected to direct evacuation procedures, maintain calm, co-ordinate communication between his crew and the passengers and the coast guard/rescuers.

When all has been done…he may leave the vessel…after every living person has left, not before.


Sometimes it is forced by self-preservation, sometimes enabled by bravery…sometimes through sheer guts and determination, sometimes through enforced regulation.

But NEVER has it ever been said that cowardice has any part of leadership.

The cowardice of the Captain in Italy ensured he was not only one of the first off the ship and taken to safety, but it prevented him from doing the job that he was paid to do, the job that his passengers believed he would do, the job that his crew expected he would do, and the job that his employers demanded he do.


Cowardice has brought down many a good man. And it is only when ones mettle is tested, when one must walk into the fiery furnace, that a man or woman will know for sure whether they are a coward or not.

I wrote a post back in August last year that looked at leadership and looked at how important it is to know who you are. I have included excerpts below….

“I have spoken many times about the need for personal responsibility and personal accountability. I have intimated that liberals/progressives want government to bear that responsibility and accountability and that the individual is not to is the system that caused them to be the way they are.

Yeah, right.

In 1971 Don McLean released his song American Pie. This was a very important time in my life and was the catalyst for me knowing who I am.

I was in 10th grade at school (giving away my age here) and my English Literature teacher was one of those guys who could have stepped straight out of Woodstock, or the summer of love. He was the long haired hippie type we all aspired to being. As a new teacher he had yet to learn the restraints that the education system was going to place on his teaching methods. He believed in teaching English Literature in the context of modern developments and was extremely good at taking pop culture and dissecting it into bite-size portions that could then be compared and analysed by reference to traditional English Literature (the classic novels).

As wet behind the ears 10th graders, whose only experience of English Literature up till then had been the classics, it was quite a shock to find our first study requirement being A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrik's brilliant 1971 movie based on the 1962 novel by Anthony Burgess.) We studied songs by The Who, The Rolling Stones and of course, the one that made sense of it all, American Pie.

As you know, I had a great love for reading from childhood, but this teacher (whose name I don't recall) took it further and showed me how music, movies, pop-culture, politics and the whole history of culture all play a part in how we see the world, how we understanding it working, and how we see ourselves.

One day, we were waiting in class for the next study of some wildly interesting topic, when he walked in, sat his ass on a desk and said....

"I have tried to help you discover the world and how it is reflected in popular culture. I have tried to show you how to find yourself among the confusion. Now, I need to ask you a question...

If you were caught in a raging flood, and found yourself safely in a tree, wet and cold but knowing you were safe....and then you saw someone floating past you, in trouble...drowning...would you leave your safe haven to save that stranger, knowing that you could die in the process,....or would you hang on to your safety net, and just pray that person survives?"

Wow. That was a heavy question.

He then said..."Don't answer that question now. The reality is you do not know what you would do. Most people have no idea what they would do until they are in the situation. But, I have learned that the secret to a happy life is to know what I am about to tell you is very important. Take heed. Everything you do, everything you think, everything you say...becomes a part of you. Your job is to know more and no less."

With that he stood up and walked out.

We never saw him again. He walked out of our classroom, out of the school, and out of our experience.

I will never forget that day, or that question.

I desperately wanted to believe that I would jump in the torrent and try to save that person floating past me. That appealed to my sense of right. That appealed to my sense of honor and my need to see myself as courageous. That was who I wanted to be.

Of course, most people never find themselves in those sorts of situations. Most people never find out who they really are. It took 20 years for me to find out the answer to that question...20 years of not knowing was answered in a split second decision.

1991. It was a beautiful sunny day. I was at a beach with my 5 year old son. It was a favorite surf beach but was not patrolled by lifesavers. My experience as a surfer led me to watch the waves, the sky, the rhythm of the sea before I would go near the water. On this day, the skies had a particular hue that to me looked like a storm had gathered well out to sea. The waves were choppy and not consistent. Waves usually come in sets of 3 - 6 waves. These waves were all over the place...coming from different directions, breaking in different places....just very odd.

As my eyes traveled along the shore I saw a lot of people playing in the shallows, many playing in the channel between two sand bars...a channel that I knew could change from a fun place to romp to a dangerous powerful rip in mere seconds as the bottom of the sandbar changed with every wave crashing on it.

As I watched, it happened. A mother and her two children playing with a rubber blow-up mattress suddenly disappeared under an enormous wave. When they reappeared, they were in the middle of a narrow rip that instantly started to take them out to sea. My mind raced back to that question that was asked 20 years ago...and I suddenly knew the answer.

Without hesitation I was in that water, swimming through waves, using the edge of the rip to aid my efforts to reach this family that was now struggling to keep hold of their mattress, being battered by waves that were now approaching 6 or maybe 7 feet. With no lifeguards it was up to whoever could do it, to go after them...or they would drown.

I don't want to be over-dramatic. I reached them. I screamed at them where they needed to try to get to...somehow, above the roar of the waves, they heard, and somehow remained calm, and somehow allowed me to guide them. The two small children held the air mattress for dear life while the mother found some new strength inside her and we all made it, firstly to the side of the rip, and then beginning the long swim back to shore. When I first saw this family they were no more than 50 - 75 feet from shore. When we got out of the rip, we were 3,000 feet from shore.

We reached the shore. Everyone playing there was oblivious to the dangers. I went straight to my son and hugged him tight to me. When I looked up again, the family were nowhere to be seen...vanished...not so much as a thank you. I was ok with that. I knew at that moment who I was.

On that day, 11 people on that stretch of beach were dragged out to sea by dangerous rips that appeared from nowhere. Only 8 were rescued.

I don't know who that family was. I don't know why I was the only one who saw their distress. I don't know why I was even watching. All I know is that on that bright but stormy summer day, I answered the question that had been there for so long.

So...I ask you know who you are?

I am not suggesting that we need to put ourselves in danger to answer that question. Very few of us will ever be called upon in that way. Most of us will go through life with the normal highs and lows of life, never needing to consider what they would do, and never needing to decide what they have to do.

It's ok to live life that way.

What is not ok is to not know who you are.

And this, I fear is the crux of the problem in today's America.

I have yet to meet a liberal who knows who they are. I have met many who know who they would like to be. I have met many who know what fantasy life they would like to have. I have met many who say they know who they are but when pressed do not even know what they believe.

Without knowing who you are, without knowing what you believe, without knowing why you believe will be as lost as the liberal progressives who try to tell you what you should be. Their own insecurities are seen in their desire to tell us all how we should live, what we should be like, and what we should believe.

If you truly know who you are, these pressures that the liberals apply will have absolutely no impact on you. On the other hand, if you have not found out who you are, you are at risk of succumbing to their nonsense.

The true story above is not there because I see myself as a hero. I tell you this only because it helps you understand a little more about me...a little more about why I am who I am. To help you see that self knowledge is the single most important thing in your life.

That teacher all those years ago was 100% correct...the way to a happy life is to know who you are.

When I look at our leaders, I see lies and deception. I see sorrow. I see anger. I see distrust. I see power lust and I see doubt. But there is hope...there is always the exception that proves the rule.

When I look at some of the true conservatives in Congress, I see light, I see joy, I see acceptance of themselves as who they are, warts and all, I see determination to make the world a better place, and I see love....both love for others and a deep accepting love of who they are.

These people are the heroes of congress. These people are the ones that will shape a better America...these are the ones who know who they are.

They may have never needed to answer that question that was asked so many years ago...but they have indeed discovered who they are.

That is why they will succeed.

They do not have to pretend to be something they wish they were. They are them. Sharp corners and all.

I don't want you to go on a voyage of self discovery, testing your limits, finding out what you will do in different circumstances. That is not the right way for everyone. Some need that, but most don't.

Most people simply need a few moments of quiet honesty with themselves. And then a few moments of quiet acceptance of what they found. Then a few moments of quiet confidence that what they found is good.

Then you will know who you are.

.....devereaux, August 3 2011”

So, what should we be looking for in our leaders of tomorrow?

This question is vital as we select those that will compete against the Liar-in-Chief in the upcoming Presidential elections.

We need more than just someone who looks right…we need more than just someone who could beat Obama…we need someone who knows themselves…we need someone who will not desert a sinking ship, a rat with cowardice filling his well-manicured and politically savvy body. Beware the candidates who do not stand strong when attacked by friend and foe…beware the candidate who stutters and stammers, who uses evasion or misdirection to avoid the tough questions.

Search for the candidate who knows himself, who has been tested by fire and, although not perfect (who on this earth is?) is able to express sorrow for his failings, and a willingness to learn from his mistakes.

We need someone who will lead…who will take control when things go awry, who will stand on the deck, offering help and securing the passengers safety even as his own life is threatened.

We need someone who will staunchly defend what is right, regardless of the temptation to follow what is popular.

We need someone who will defend this Country even when the enemy is already at his throat.

We need somebody who will unite the people behind moral certitudes and patriotic pride, someone who will lead from the front, loudly proclaiming the truth, even when his political enemies attack his beliefs, his sense of right and his morality.

We need someone who remains fearless in the face of public outcry, staunchly observing the principles upon which he was elected, even when that may cost him the next election.

We need someone who hears our voice, hears our compassion and understands our demands for freedom.

We need someone who exerts influence, rather than peddling cheap answers in exchange for tomorrow’s votes. We need someone who encourages his people rather than someone who drags them along through protestations. We need someone who is…in short….


As conservatives across the country are faced with a decision over the coming weeks, we must all pray that we select our leaders based on the right requirements.

We don’t need another hero – we tried that in 2008 and that didn’t work out so well…we need a leader…a true leader.

Before casting your votes, I implore you to think carefully and vote for the candidate that can unite the country behind his special brand of leadership. Nobody else is good enough!


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