I am hard-pressed to related this to Hinduism but here it is anyway.
Since I haven’t written anything in forever, another blogger threatened to stop blogging as well. I don’t tell you this out of a sense of pride I derived from the idea that my idleness could bring down a giant in my personal blogging world. I tell you this because it led to a funny little interaction whereby I asked if it was because he was a follower. He said that was the best way to lead. I then told him that I was becoming an Evangelical Republican, which if you know me, is absurd. He said that if that was the case then he’d be happy to, as a follower, lead me astray (from that path).
A goofy little exchange on the surface, but as often is the case with this fellow blogger, it later struck me that there was more to it. I’m not kidding, this kind of stuff bounces around in my brain when I am trying to sleep. Surely he knew what he was talking about, but I decided that to lead by following could mean one of, or all of, or any combination of three things.
- by espousing a prevalent attitude, we can lead others to adopt similar attitudes, sometimes without knowing that we’re doing it, other times fully aware that we are doing it.
- reinforcing a person’s behavior by encouraging or simply tolerating it, thereby making them feel that they are on the right track. And kind of a macrocosm of this,
- influencing a leader’s leadership by following and reinforcing the idea that said leadership is what is needed and wanted at the time.
The first bullet-point above is actually quite powerful in our time, when people are getting most of their news, accurate or otherwise, from social media – where “followers” happens to be a buzzword. Call it ‘meme mentality’. Opinions on issues like Monsanto, the anti-vaccination movement, and many other hefty issues of our day spread like viruses through social media. And they feed off of the uninformed LIKE and SHARE. How I come down on these issues is irrelevant, and not everyone who shares easy-to-digest images on these subjects on social media are uninformed. But by sharing – doing what the memes tell us to do – we are following. Two becomes a group, a group becomes a community and a community becomes a movement.
At this time is when bullet-point #3 comes in. I am just going to go ahead and skip #2 because as I said it kind of works in the same way.
Being heavily mentally embroiled in the electoral primaries going on in the U.S. – more so than is probably conducive to the meditative lifestyle, I admit – I naturally began to relate the leader/follower conversation to the last of these three. By following something that someone in a position of authority is doing or or saying, we lend credence to the direction of their leadership. That leader then comes to crave more of that. We see it all of the time in the way that politicians openly deny their conscience out of fear of how it will affect them at the polls. As politicians catch wind of the changes in attitudes among their constituents, they legislate accordingly.
Congressman Barney Frank once recalled asking another representative to support a certain bill of his, to which the representative said “Well, if it comes up after my primary, I can probably vote with you, but if it comes up before that, I have to vote against you.” This congressman was a prime example of being led by followers, to my mind. They say that in a democratic society we are in control because we command with our votes. You could say this is exactly how democracy is supposed to work; that governing bodies are there to serve the majority, who as we all know, rules. We hope for – but know better than to expect – a detached wisdom and philanthropy from our leaders that would make things work that way. And certainly there is something to that. I don’t know that that is all there is though. Not if our leaders are being led by their followers simply as a means to the end of being allowed to continue to lead.
All of these things point the way to the truth that “you get what you give.”