Occupiers Are Motivated, But Not By Inspiration
Many of my clients want to be more inspirational as leaders, and like most of us, they have an eye on the interesting event that started as "Occupy Wall Street" and has now spread to include tiny protests that seek to "occupy everything" in America. Is this an example of inspirational leadership, or the spread of something closer to an infectious disease?
To me, the distinction is clear. If an event brings out the best in you, and aligns with a strong set of inspiring personal values, it's likely inspirational. If it asks (or forces) you into behaviors that you'd find offensive in others, or brings out your worst, it isn't. It might be "motivating" - meaning, it might use emotion to move you to action - but if that movement is driven by negative (even evil) emotions, it's not inspiration. It's more like disease.
Peel an "occupier" and either you will find a person who doesn't really know what he's doing there, or you'll find a Marxist. Ostensibly, these radicals are protesting capitalism (though the free-market system of capitalism and individual liberty is precisely the vehicle that affords these protestors the luxury to protest)... and, essentially, what they view as "greed." Greed is a sin, to be sure... but really, where does the preponderance of "sin" reside in these occupations? With the banks and corporations being protested, or with the protestors themselves?
Leave aside the potheads who just showed up for the party, and take away the protestors who are paid to be there by unions and socialist political organizations (and who may not even be aware of the aims of the occupation). Think only about the true believers, the few who really think the inequities in the system are uniquely sinful and "greedy." Then take away the foul behaviors that cut across the broad spectrum of occupiers, from anti-Semitism to public fornication and defecation... focus only on the central idea, that capitalism is greedy and bad, and that only the growth of government can solve the problem. All the other sins and misplaced energies aside, this central idea is enough of a sin in itself to disqualify the occupation's orchestrators from the mantle of inspirational leadership.
Let's grant that there are capitalists who are greedy, and excessively so. There are many more who aren't. And the beauty of the American system, so derided by these collectivists, is that any occupier could, still today, at any time she likes, stop protesting and go start a business. Show us how it's done! She could be the next successful entrepreneur decried as part of the "greedy" top one-percent of American earners. And she could provide employment and opportunity for many other people, too, while she's at it.
Is that greed? Or is it actually more greedy to seek to use young, misguided people to consolidate power into the hands of a redistributive authoritarian state? As famed (and brilliant) economist Milton Friedman famously said, there is greed in every sort of system known to man, including socialism. He asked: Why is private greed more "sinful" than government greed? In fact, private greed actually serves the greater good when its entrepreneurship generates prosperity and opportunity for a much larger community that gathers around the original risk-taking capitalist. The collectivist state, as Ronald Reagan said, merely takes from the needy and gives to the greedy... all the while keeping all power firmly in its own hands. One wonders: for every greedy capitalist who abuses the free-market system for his own sinful benefit, how many greedy politicians abuse the privileges of elected office for equally (or more) nefarious purposes?
And is greed the only "sin" at work here? Isn't envy, of the sort whipped up in the occupiers by their class-warrior puppet masters, just as bad a sin? How about wrath? Today, as the "day of action" across the occupation turns to a day of lawlessness and violence, one need only look at the behavior of the occupiers to see that something is at work in them that's very different from "inspirational leadership." And though I'm observing from a Christian perspective, most of the world's religions recognize the sinfulness of anger, envy, and greed. No real inspirational leader, from Henry David Thoreau to Mahatma Ghandi, would approve of the "occupation" currently rioting in the streets of downtown America.
Inspirational leaders seek to bring out the very best in their followers: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. Compare today's occupation events to other gatherings - most notably the Tea Party events these events are intended to counteract - and judge for yourself where you see more of these "fruits of the spirit" on display. If, on the other hand, you look for what the apostle Paul called "the works of the flesh" - adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, envyings, murders, and the rest of the seventeen diabolical behaviors listed by Paul - you might find the whole list at an occupation near you.
Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, I ask you: Is that the America you really want?