Violence Part 3: Choosing the Wrong Leaders

As we have discussed in the “Paternalism” section of this post, it was a natural development through the ages that the strongest man should become the leader, because of the need for protection in a dangerous world. This pattern has evolved all the way from the nuclear family to the largest nation.

We discussed in the “Reaction to Violence” section that the victims of violence often react in irrational ways.

Thus the most logical solution for a fearful population is to cower behind someone they see as strong.

The Donald Trump Effect

So when Donald Trump suggests that all Muslims should be registered, many frightened Americans agree. They conveniently forget that registration is what Hitler did to the Jews before he tried to exterminate them. They see Trump as a strong leader, who is offering to do something about what frightens them. The fear makes them ignore the danger of having such a man as leader.

So why would even the eighteen frightened percent of the American people be so frightened to choose a leader who is so obviously not suited for the job? Because they don’t know how to choose leaders.

Leadership in a Conservative World

Conservative people, in both the cultural and political sense, tend to be worse at choosing leaders, because they harken back to the old days, and part of that nostalgia was for the paternalistic protection of the strong leader. But conservatives are not alone. Any group of people who are too lazy to take care of themselves are prime targets.

Myths About Leaders

  1. The Lion is a Lamb

Violence is not only from outside the group. It is within the society itself. The myth from the Western novel, that a man can be violent with his enemies and turn around and be gentle with his family is simply not true. As we have known – but through necessity ignored for centuries – when you train a man to kill and send him into a wartime, kill-or-be-killed situation, he doesn’t always come back the man who left. So the person who proves his (or her) strength through violence is often someone who will turn that violence on those he should be protecting. Ask any battered spouse.

  1. A Strong Leader is Best

That society we all came from had the attitude that the strong man was the one to lead us. Power struggles and competition are good, because they allow us to find out who is the strongest man, and that man will then lead. The problem, of course, is that success in the struggle to rule is not a good indicator of someone with the skills to be a good leader. In fact, it can be the exact opposite, especially in the kind of society we want to live in today.

  1. The Ideal Leader – And His Opposite

In the old days a man worked hard to learn his business, moved up the power structure in steps appropriate to his learning, and had the mental and emotional strength to be a good leader. He earned his position and proved his capability. There’s nothing wrong with that model. It still applies today.

Unfortunately, there is another sort of leader that spends his time learning the power structure and gaming it for his own benefit. Once he becomes leader, his objective is to stay in power, so he uses the advantages of his leadership position to achieve that aim. He does not spend his time and energy leading, and in fact often does not have the skills. The damage these people cause to their organizations and the people in them are incalculable.

The Problem with Conservatives

Conservatives are…well…conservative. They don’t want change. The worst of them actually want society to go backwards, to an imaginary era when Daddy took care of everyone. Every once in a while somebody spams around on Facebook with a “Life was so wonderful when we were young” list of the supposed benefits of the fifties or sixties or whenever. To which my usual response is, “Sure it was. If you were male, white, straight, and employed.”

The Modern Need

But the thrust of modern society is towards change. People want to live together and solve their problems through peaceful means. It takes a long time for people to learn to trust this sort of society, but it is happening. More and more people have stopped believing in the myth of the strong leader, and now believe in the strong society instead. People have stopped looking to a strong leader to protect them, because a certain number of strong leaders turn out to be exactly what everyone needs protection against. The model has proven faulty. For our modern society to work, we must believe that there are social and legal processes to protect us. We don’t need or want a strong man to do that job.

Otherwise the never-ending spiral is perpetrated. People who are afraid of violence look to a strong leader to protect them. But too many leaders are violent. By choosing a violent leader, we perpetrate the violence in society. More frightened people do an even poorer job of choosing their leader, because their fear overwhelms their rational thoughts, so the perceived strength of the leader becomes paramount, ignoring all other considerations.

And, by the way, while there is a strong temptation to take people like Donald Trump and slap them one behind the ears and tell them to shape up, don’t. That makes you part of the problem, not part of the solution.

The best revenge against people like that is to live well and prosper. The dinosaurs will become extinct. But don’t take my word for it. Figure it out for yourself.





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