Saturday, February 25, 2006

You Want the Job?

One of the things about having a career in architecture is that it has provided me with the opportunity to meet people that are influential in the community.

Over the years the list of people I have met with to discuss architecture and buildings forms a list of the influential that sometimes surprises me.

I count this as a blessing in my life. And before you get the wrong impression about this post, it’s not going to be about me. In fact I suppose I do not have much influence in the world apart from providing a service that is instrumental to the influential. The influential among us build buildings. It is a part of the task that comes with influence and responsibility. I have had many opportunities to be the ‘voyeur’ or to live a ‘vicarious’ life of the influential and wealthy by being around them on professional and some social occasions.
This is beginning to sound like a ‘look at me’ post, but it is not my intention, nor is it where I am headed. As I said, I am truly blessed to learn life lessons from this fate and I consider it a fateful fortune in the positive; far more valuable than money.

However I needed to construct the groundwork for this post and so it was somewhat necessary to tell you the above.

Yesterday I was in a meeting with the Chief of Police of a large metropolitan city here in Texas. His responsibility is an area with millions of citizens. He sat on the right side of me at the conference table, the stars and stripes on his uniform literally gleaming under the ceiling lights. It was obvious that the assortment of police employees in the room were deferential and respectful to him in all ways possible. The architects and consultants, being less knowledgeable, used his first name to address him (except me) and we went on about the architectural issues without deference to his status. I have the experience of being both a police officer (different jurisdiction than his command) and an architect so I fully understood the dynamics and professional protocol in the room.

During the meeting the Chief sat quietly. He was respectful and attentive to the architects and engineers and gracefully excused himself as we dipped into more and more detail.

As I drove back to my office following the meeting I reflected on the large responsibilities that belong to him every day. I thought about the disaster in New Orleans. I thought about September 11th in NYC.

How many of us can really say we could do his job? How many of us can handle the constant pressure of a Condi Rice or Donald Rumsfeld? How well would we perform their jobs?

Bringing this personal perspective helps us see the lives of the responsible in a different manner. Would you want to be Harriet Myers, publicly excoriated by Congress? Would you want to be the mayor of New Orleans, whose city was visited by a level of disaster previously unknown in our country? How about Bill Clinton; whose personal indiscretion is practiced by millions of other men in our nation including many that publicly defiled him in impeachment hearings. Would you want to walk in any of those sets of shoes? It seems to me that we spend so much of our time in constant criticism of those that take on the mantle of responsibility and influence that we no longer see their good.

I have my own cynical streak and it is quite healthy at that, as my friends and family can quickly assure you. In fact I can be quite cynical of leadership at times.

However, I am also clearly struck with the idea that the press, whether print or electronic, has in the past two decades projected a great deal of negative judgment onto the responsible among us. When this summary judgment is expressed in a worldwide or nationwide venue it hypnotizes us and encourages us to adopt similar behavior. This phenomenon makes us all guilty.

Like a child, we can point at the press and say “Well, they started it”, but it takes all of us engaging in this negative habit to make it a trait of the society in everyday discourse.

While I am not wealthy or influential in my own right, I have learned something very important in my life by being around those that are. The list includes large city mayors, school superintendents, multi-billionaires, multi-billionaire heiresses, corporate CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies and many others. These are the people that donate, quite literally, millions upon millions of dollars to charity. In addition they make numerous personal appearances on behalf of worthy causes.

So what have I learned?

They are every bit as human as you or I. More often than not they are benevolent to and respectful of others. They might have more talent, or more financial blessing, or more of many things, but at the end of the day, they are every bit as feeling and as human as anyone else. They do not have a magical shield to throw off the negative bite of their fellow man. They do develop coping skills, but I know from talking with them that it truly hurts them, even as they work on, trying to do what is best for the larger public.

Every day I see openly hostile references by the left and the right in this country to our leaders. I see people drawing hateful cartoons. I see opinion pieces that quickly break down into personal attacks on a fellow human.

It’s my belief that these opinion pieces are often composed by people that are essentially unknowledgeable about what they are actually writing about. I had a comically entertaining conversation with a friend about the ‘ports management’ issue. She went on at great length about the incredible stupidity of our leadership and president. When I asked her questions about her position it became clear to me that she did not know or understand the facts of the issue. For example, she believed that the US Government was selling the ports to the UAE after the British bid was rejected by George Bush and UAE ships would have harboring preferences. Wrong on all accounts.
So for starters, if you don’t really know what is going on, why are you calling the president an idiot? After digesting all of the actual facts you may come to disagree with the president. Perhaps we could just state that we disagree and leave the name calling out?

Maybe we can all find a more positive view and a more respectful position if we can find the requisite compassion to understand these people we so readily attack just might be doing the best they can, and that they are human. I offer Judge Alito’s wife as evidence of a human victim of this insufferable lack of respectfulness, even within our Senate.

And oh by the way……..doing without them might mean that we have to step up to the task and do it ourselves.

That’s a sobering thought. It is for me anyway.

The floor is open…..



Reach said...

Hello Rick,

Very well written article, today.

It remains my intension, the majority of people making the noise in opposition of any topic, are the most resistant when arriving to a mutually acceptable conclusion. Listen to any audience and you will be able to identify the non-productive members; it appears, their platform is based on the lack of progress and the suppression of reaching a coherent unity.

In the Political arena, it is better for one Party to have the correct resolve, than to maintain a combined effort and reach the same result.

Just a thought-

Not intending this to be a Political attack on any one person, I am just joining the conversation.


Seven said...

Yes and at issue here I think is if the non-productive can in fact reach a coherent unity if they cannot find an initial coherent thought; such as know the facts and form an opinion on fact rather than media instructed emotion.
Interesting and thoughtful comment.

Robert Shapiro said...

My friend, I very much appreciate your comments about the value of discernment over judgement. We can all appreciate this type of awareness because it is clear and you have helped to clarify it that the seduction of cynicism is only that which allows us to be right and the desire to be right is conditioned into us from childhood straight on through adulthood. We want to be of the same or similar opinion as our friends and those whom we admire.
It allows us to feel that we are not only approved of, appreciated, liked and yes loved but it also allows us to feel good about ourselves because we got it right. We all know that the conditioning of childhood is one that is something that happens quite naturally. A child is quite an open vessel and wants to please, wants to be loved, wants to be appreciated. We are after all simply grown up children are we not and this is not a bad thing. Still we can learn to solve our problems and your column helps us to do this.
Judgement does not serve us so very well. It can keep pain at a distance just as cynicism can seem to do so and yet what they both do is simply allow us to feel that we are right and that others are wrong and therefore we can achieve the temporary approval that we need to support in ourselves.
I am not trying to hold myself above this because I know we all do it - still what I am saying is that the seduction of cynicism and the seduction of judgement can be replaced by simply - discernment - knowing what is right for us and works for us and allowing things that don't work for us to be right for others. It is something that takes a while to accomplish yes, and yet it is worthy of the effort. Thank you for your effort and the continuing one at that.

Seven said...

That is a fine distinction, this idea of discernment v judgment.
I think it does strike at the heart of what I intended with the post. I would never advocate simple acceptance of what an elected leader or influential member of the community might tell me, but with discernement(as you say) we can separate what we believe from what we want others to believe that we believe; and thereby finder a deeper truth.
I always appreciate your ability to see clearly and even a little beyond what I try to say here.

Grant said...

Thoughts get in the way of naked emotion, which is what most people use when making political decisions. I have never seen a person change their stance upon receiving new information - they just find a way to justify their prior arguments. Of course, changing your mind in the political arena is now called flip-flopping and shows poor leadership.

Good post. You're right that most people would not be able to handle the role of leadership. Doesn't apply to me, of course, but the rest of you need to refrain from telling me what to do.

Worship me, pitiful Earth humans. :)

Denny Shane said...

Having been in politics for over 20 years both locally and nationally I have come to see many, many types of people... the movers, shakers, hangers-on, etc.

Everyone does what they do for their own reasons.

I think your final thought sums it up completely. I say thank God for "them"

Seven said...

Isn't it the truth Denny? I watch some of these folks do what they do so well, and can't help but think I'm glad they are here...and I don't have to do that job!