posted by Infra on January 20th, 2013
I know that I’ve written it here, and I’m confident that people know that I meant it: I’m not one to lead. I’m not someone to follow. That’s why I’ve written things the way that I have, here. The aim has been, and I think has always been, to provide what can help others to help themselves. An educator, maybe — if the borderline arrogance of that phrasing can be forgiven — but not a teacher. As I’ve pointed out in the past, the two aren’t the same.
But that raises a question.
What if people follow you, anyway?
I don’t think that people are sheep: it’s an attitude that I’ve railed against in the past, and I still hold to that position. I don’t think that people need to be led. That they’re incapable of leading themselves. I believe in people too much to take that view. But that doesn’t change the fact that it might be what people want, and that they might choose someone who wants that position least of all.
There’s that line from The Dark Knight: “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” But I’m wondering, these days, if a person has to be in a leadership position for that to happen. If, instead, that it might be enough to speak. And that once you have, you’ve set something in motion that you can’t disown.
Especially if you’ve ever used the word “we.”
Especially if you’ve ever connected with someone else’s pain, and put it into words that they haven’t been able to say.
If people have acted out what you’ve suggested — if it’s informed their lives, or changed them in some way — is turning away an option, no matter how much you want to, no matter how much you want to avoid the position that they want you to take? (And if there’s a non-voting majority, because there are no names that they want to vote for on the ballot, wouldn’t you be creating the same kind of situation that they face, by refusing?)
I guess that the matter is this.
It isn’t that I wouldn’t accept that position. It’s that I’d want to accept it for the right reasons. It’s that I wouldn’t want to play a role in anyone’s self-deception, in obscuring their self-knowledge, or in taking away their own capabilities. Those, I think, are the risks of leadership: of becoming someone else’s self, by proxy. And that’s something that I never want to do.
I suppose that that’s the problem. I don’t think that I’ve ever had a role model, so I’m not entirely sure — Hell, sure at all, if I even have the beginnings of an idea — of what a role model would be like. Or of what the difference between that, and becoming someone else’s self, by proxy, would be.
Even the therapist whom I’ve written about: she was more of an inspiration than a model, to me.
This, in the end, is why I’ve wanted certain kinds of acknowledgment. Why I’ve insisted upon voice. Not to determine people’s actions, or to determine people’s choices, but because I need to know that if they’re going to offer some kind of position to me — friend, leader or otherwise — they’ll be able to remain independent. That it will be power with, not power over, and not power from. A sign that it won’t be a zero-sum game.
Without that, I can’t be confident that I wouldn’t be a destructive force, even if with the best of intentions.
And that, ultimately, is why it has to be up to them.