This essay raises an important question.
“If you are in a place where a social crisis occurs–an emergency where electrical power, telecommunications, food and water supplies, or gasoline availability, run out and large numbers of people panic–do you have the moral fiber to take a responsible leadership role, to ‘keep your head when others are losing theirs’?”
Why ask such a question?
EXAMPLE ONE: A Credible Nature-Based Crisis
A recent news article on the Internet reports the “U.S. Must Take Space Storms Seriously.” Scientists are warning that the Sun’s regular cycle of activity is nearing a peak for 2013.
“So WHAT?,” asks the purely self-interested adult waiting in line to buy an I-Phone or Kindle.
Now is not the time to be self-interested, with a standard “head-in-the-sand” or “deal-with-it-when-it-happens” mentality. The “So what?” attitude now may be deadly, a few months from now.
Scientists are saying this new solar cycle will produce “space weather” that will, not may, knock out power grids and telecommunications in certain parts of the world. This already happened in isolated places on February 14th. Some jets took different flight paths to avoid losing their radio contacts and other problems. The peak danger of this solar cycle will be in 2013.
Unlike other periods, now millions and millions depend on electricity and satellite-based communications. Literally life and death depend on keeping power and communications constant. Scientists in the U.S. and Great Britain are teaming up to get ready for what may happen. Read up on the potential, very real scenarios that may disrupt normal life and security for millions of people–perhaps for weeks, months, or even years.
If a solar flare, or a series of flares, knocks out power and communications in the area or region where you live, What will you do? First, your own life and family’s lives may be at risk. Second, even if you find yourself able to survive, your neighbors or others in your area may panic and be in fear for their lives. The absence of electricity and communications will have untold effects on the stability and behaviors of those affected.
Electricity drives the pumps that push water with sufficient pressure into homes. Electricity operates machines in hospitals that keep people medicated, or alive. Electricity usually provides heating and cooling. And if either telephone land lines, or cellular communications, are disrupted for even a few days, let alone weeks or months, no calls will be made to police, fire, rescue, or ambulance services.
Now some readers may choose to dismiss or ridicule these scenarios. However, the subject of these news articles is that scientists are not predicting the possibility but the certainty that these solar flares are going to create crises with unpredictable consequences. Thus, the discussions now–for some kind of preparation, to reduce the harms soon in the future.
EXAMPLE TWO: A Credible Energy-Based Crisis
Most of the time, people, at least in the United States, watch gasoline prices go (mainly) up and complain. Yet with all the different national revolutions occurring across the Middle East, any number of potential outcomes could happen. Supplies of imported oil may be disrupted, perhaps leading to a lack of availability.
In the 1970s, the U.S. experienced a genuine gasoline shortage. Cars, semi trucks carrying food and medicine, were in long lines. Many were turned away when they finally arrived at empty pumps. That was thirty years ago, so many today only fear higher prices, not fear of getting to work, or worse.
Now there is no need to go around with a long face and begin worrying about a worst-case scenario that may not happen. We already have enough survivalists attempting to buy and store gasoline (as the late John Denver did), food, water, and ammunition.
Yet to recognize the pervasive place of petroleum-based transportation, then to imagine a long-term reduction in availability–or affordability–for millions of average people, is a relevant consideration. Disregarding the question of your own gasoline supplies, or whether you will always have the money to buy gasoline at astronomical prices, you still have this question.
“If you ever find yourself and your family in a major energy-based crisis, where others are saturated with fear and anger, WHAT are you prepared to do and to advise, as a moral person in leadership?”
THE RELEVANT POINTS
Leadership Ethics Online seeks to assist leaders–formal and informal, official and unofficial–in thinking about their duties to themselves, their families, their organizations, and nations.
Whoever you are, in whatever place in an organization or society, you will not have the moral character to be a positive, sane, and constructive force in a major crisis IF you do not have the moral character today to make the right decisions in life.
A crisis, by definition, is an event of extreme stress, anxiety, pressure on those affected by it. Our nature as biological creatures is to respond–neurologically, biochemically, emotionally–from our instincts of self-preservation, survival, and protection of those we love.
Therefore, if we are to develop moral character; that is, a highly developed, operating set of values that act to control our basest instincts in a time of crisis–when we are saturated with fear and uncertainty–then we must choose wisely each day to develop our moral nature.
Based on what we hear in this news of the “space storms”–not to mention other storms sweeping many nations, and storms threatening the domestic tranquility of the United States–the world is going to need individuals who are natural leaders.
Natural leaders are those who, by daily decisions during times of security and ease, have trained themselves to do the right thing through self-discipline and not external coercion. Day by day, these persons have imposed on themselves self-control, and restrained self-interest, taking and getting. They have chosen to nurture in themselves a higher view of self, and a higher attachment to others as persons like themselves–not “The Other”–and cultivated moral awareness and moral action.
These are the people who, in times of crisis, are natural leaders. They have so disciplined themselves in times of peace and tranquility that they are ready to exercise that same discipline when times of unrest and turmoil come. These are those with the potential to engage in what the medieval thinkers used to call heroic virtue.
The Latin word, virtus, pertains to the idea of power. Heroic virtue is when one has so put the power of the self into daily subjection, control, and guided direction–when bad times come–that same cultivated, strong, disciplined Self continues to function in the same way.
This essay has been written so that readers can reflect on themselves, and how they are living today, in preparation for harder times. If the current predictions come true–if not in my area then in yours, or if not in yours then in my area–let us both be natural leaders where we are. There are many unprepared minds and souls all around us. When hard times come, and surely they will come in one form or other, they will need moral leadership from you and me.
So let us continue, or get to for the first time, the daily discipline of taming the worst within us: for the sake of our own moral development, for the goodness and inspiration we will bring to those who love and care about us; and, finally, for the good and welfare of less-prepared neighbors, who will look to us in despair, yet find in and from us, courage to Do the Right Thing!