Tidings of the Season
As a nation, the tidings – the news – has been shocking and we are each in our way coping with how to celebrate our holidays in the knowledge that for some there is no way to celebrate.
The event of the recent shootings penetrated deeply into our consciousness because it is unfathomable that seven-year- olds would be butchered for any reason on earth. Yet human history is strewn with such hideous acts. Twelve years ago I wrote another book titled The Limits of Violence in response to the atrocities in Sierra Leone in which so-called rebels cut off the hands and arms of hundreds of children. I wept, and then I wrote.
The events in Connecticut this month did not even have a revolutionary pretext. Unfortunately, the closest we may ever come to an answer will be found in the writings of Ernst Becker in his books, Denial of Death and Escape from Evil. He postulates that what terrifies humans is not the prospect of dying but the prospect of leaving no trace behind that we ever existed.
Most of us deal with this prospect through progeny or through civic or scientific or creative works that outlive us. Some conclude the way to be remembered is to create mayhem that will be talked about and written about widely. Genghis Khan, Adolph Hitler, Napolean, all succeeded in this regard. If there is a modicum of truth in this theory, by revealing and repeating the Connecticut perpetrator’s name a million times we sow the seeds for the next wave of deranged mass murder. Yet how do we avoid this in our information-addicted culture?
I cannot bring you tidings of a breakthrough answer. I can only continue to do the work I have found to make some difference in the use and abuse of power. I can be grateful that today I received an e-mail from the United States Army Command and General Staff College asking me to comment on my model of courageous followership. It will be included in the course being developed for future field grade officers on the importance of developing appropriate followership. That is a good tiding.