EGI Notes

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Criticizing "Movement Leaders"

A contrarian view.

In response to this, I would like to make a few comments.  As usual, Hood writes a good essay. There is much there to agree with.  However, there is one paragraph and a few other related comments that are not so clear cut. Here I refer to Hood's comments about overt "movement leaders" and the sacrifices they have made, and the (implied unfair) criticism they have received.  There is an implicit suggestion that these are our leaders and that they, and their sacrifices, deserve our support, but we, the lesser fry of Der Movement, have given these fine and heroic leaders only the critiques of ingrates.

Let us consider together.

One often hears professional athletes scorn the criticism of sportswriters and fans with a contemptuous snort: "they never played the game."  Inherent in that attitude is that someone who is not actually "doing it" has no right to criticize those who are. Hence, there are many in the "movement" who like to quote Teddy's The Man In The Arena speech, and all it implies.

But, we can ask: do not sportswriters and, especially, fans (who in large part directly and indirectly pay the athlete's bloated salary) have the right to criticize a poor athletic performance?

Do people who have not even run for political office not have the right to criticize their presidents, prime ministers, and chancellors?  Do we deny the right of the common German to oppose Merkel's evil?  

So, yes, we can acknowledge the legitimate sacrifices of "movement" leaders and provide to them the level of support they deserve. But they cannot be immune to criticism. They have chosen to put themselves forward, and for that they can be commended, but it also means they have a heavy responsibility and this includes accepting the criticism of those they purport to lead.  This is even more true given that many of these individuals ask for support, including financial support.  Nothing wrong there, full-time activists should get such support. However, it means that they and their actions must be open to scrutiny from these same supporters. And apart from all of that, immunity from criticism leads to stagnation, impairs improvement, and hampers success. Lack of criticism leads to exactly the type of conformist dogma that characterizes Der Movement.

And further, who is to judge the relative level of everyone's sacrifices?  I have known activists who have lived - and in some cases died - in obscurity, but who have nonetheless spent most of their adult lives fighting for the cause, making serious sacrifices along the way.  Just because such individuals are not the "rock stars" of Der Movement does not mean that their efforts and sacrifices have been useless and unimportant, nor does it mean they do (or, did) not have the right to criticize those who have taken up the mantle of leadership.

Those who are "leaders" are in the position to do much good, but they are also in the position to do much ill. They should not mind honest criticism that promotes the former and avoids the latter.

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