19 November 2010

Darwin & Daffodils

A Quick Lesson in Leadership

The notion of "social Darwinism" is quite overused, just as our several other scientific principles when folks try to hammer them into social systems. Nevertheless, I see some parallel between extended Darwinian kinds of concepts and leadership.

One such concept to which I heartily adhere is that leadership is not grasped, declared, proclaimed or bragged about, it is simply exercised. In other words, the person who yells out “I’m the leader!,” has already relinquished any control. The leader who will be followed, in my experience, is the one who simply gets out and leads knowing that his or her lead will be followed. This week has furnished West Virginia with an excellent example of this principle in action..

Those of you in the flat lands may be unaware of the triflingly unusual situation in the executive branch in the government of West Virginia. Our two-term governor elected in 2004 and 2008, Joe Manchin, was just elected to serve out Sen. Byrd’s unexpired term in the United States Senate. (Incidentally, I consider this a very good choice for West Virginia and for the nation. For instance, with the arrival of now-Senator Manchin, the ill-considered concept of “cap and trade” is dead on arrival in Washington.) Sen. Manchin's selection left a vacancy in the governor’s chair. The West Virginia Constitution provides that in the event of such a vacancy, the president of the Senate shall act as governor. The statute is not a model of clarity on this point nor is the rather fuzzy statute which recently designated the president of the Senate as the lieutenant governor. Likely, someone will bring some sort of petition to the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia to clarify the situation and determine, among other things, whether there shall be some sort of special election for governor in 2011, right before the general election for governor in 2012, and whether the president of the Senate will be serving as governor, acting governor or shall act as governor (See? The nuances are somewhat complicated.) in the meantime.

But into the thick of this bothersome uncertainty has stepped Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin. As soon as Sen. Manchin moved out, Mr. Tomblin moved into the governor’s office and just started doing the job. He has brought in his own staff, made some changes in administration leadership positions and has wasted no time in putting his stamp on the governor’s office. I don’t know Gov. Tomblin, and have never met the man. But I do think that this is a darn fine lesson in leadership. If you wait for your critics to give you permission, you'll never even get started.

2011 is going to be an interesting year in these mountains.

Anonymity & Timidity

The Good Lord Himself (OK, Herself?) personally knows my many weaknesses. Absent from them,I am happy to say, is faint-heartedness of principle.

Today’s Charleston Gazette reports a lawyer disciplinary case of some note and controversy. Some nasty comments to the story are from lawyers writing under pseudonyms. (One styles him/herself the “great american,” lowercase theirs. Holy Cow, chutzpah on the hoof.) Writing criticism anonymously, I believe, demonstrates a certain kind of weakness of character.

If someone reads something I write and thinks that the writer is a stupid, arrogant SOB, they will damn sure know that Roger Curry is the stupid, arrogant SOB that they are thinking about.

Dumb, De-dumb, Dumb

One of the myriad weaknesses I must cop to is the occasional intransigent shortsightedness.

Some few years ago, a “Gateway Connector” highway was begun through a moderately rundown area of East Fairmont in order to provide a more direct connection with Interstate 79. It has long been my unshrouded opinion that this was the Road to Nowhere and a bloody awful waste of money.

Okay. They’ve opened part of it, and I drove up the Connector yesterday. I was wrong. Just plain, flat wrong. This darn road is such a benefit in opening the downtown area to outside access that I have to say it was worth the money. I still think with regret about some of the older people displaced from homes which they continued to carefully tend in a steadily deteriorating area. On the other hand, some of the structures razed were blatant slums when I was last in them 25 years ago and had not had a hammer or paintbrush cross their thresholds from then until the time they were bulldozed to make room for the road, so good riddance to them.

Someone please write this down and remind me the next time I appear to be just absolutely dead bang certain about something.

Asses Watching Other Asses

America has a tradition of free speech and town meetings and so-called ordinary people standing up on their hind legs and saying extraordinary things. These were the pamphleteers of the colonial and Revolutionary eras; these the acid writers of the 19th century; these even the new thinkers published by small houses in the 1950s. And these traditions were given such a quantum boost by this universal soapbox and printing press right before your eyes.

Not only has the written word flourished through the blogosphere, radio-like opinion has now started to take off (e.g., blogtalkradio.com) and of course there is the Everyman medium, YouTube and similar entrants into the Visual Marketplace of Ideas.

And where goes humankind goes Gresham’s Law. There are now, and I kid you not, videos on YouTube showing video games imitating real-life which gamers have played and want to display – So we have an opportunity to sit on our asses and watch the effects of other people sitting on their asses while pretending to participate in Reality.

Ben Franklin? Thomas Paine? Are you there? Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

Dodgeball and Daffodils

The director of the West Virginia's “Office of Education Performance Audits” is a bold crusader against . . . dodgeball. When he visits a school, he examines even the lesson plans of physical education teachers to ferret out apostasy. The summer, he was quoted in the Charleston Daily Mail:

"Dodgeball ... is not part of the West Virginia 21st Century physical education content standards and objectives. This practice had the potential to cause physical and emotional harm to students and was not of an educational nature."

Mind you, when the teams lined up at dear old Parkersburg high school to play dodgeball, I had trouble getting out of my own way. It was not an unheard-of circumstance that my handsome visage had the reverse imprint of “Wilson” planted somewhere. But give me a break – it’s dodgeball. I tell children with whom I interact that the occasional bangs and bruises are parts of growing up and indeed some of the good parts, because they show that you’re really living. Tell me, is that a terribly passé attitude? When I got creamed with a dodgeball, it may have hurt my little feelings but it also pissed me off. Somehow this seems moderately educational to me.

What’s next? Shall we change the name of school sports teams to those of harmless herbivores, pastels, flora and other vanilla things? Will the Fairmont Daffodils edge out the Charleston Chipmunks in a gentle game of tiddly-winks or croquet? And will the winner then have to apologize? After all – we don’t want to upset anyone.

So is sitting on one's ass watching other people sit on their asses and play video games such a great surprise right now?

Perking Up

It will be a nice fall day in West Virginia for a walk in the woods Saturday.

Pippa passes.



sheila222 said...

I'm running up the road on Saturday to Athens, and back down Monday morning. Stopping in at the Bob Evans there off McCorkle Ave south of the Yeager Bridge between 9 and 10 if you care to join.

Roger D. Curry said...

I'd love to, dear friend, but I'm 140 miles to the north of Charleston. But let me know when you're in WV, I get down there a lot.