This is not a post about Michele Bachmann so much as a reflection on the interior of a nation generating leaders who are reflections of our own most discomforting emotions – vengefulness, paranoia, rigidity, fear, and most disturbing, an addiction to the light. And by addiction to the light I mean a wish to believe that there is one path to the divine and that path must be obeyed without reservation. Ms. Bachmann calls this path Jesus or Christian but I strongly suspect these are just symbolic words for believing that one is more righteous than others. We all have these feelings at times – a self righteous sense of being better than others or conversely not feeling valued enough by others – but when this becomes a group phenomenon it carries with it a great wave of destructiveness.
How do I know these interior feelings are gaining traction in the collective rather than simply being about the person of Michele Bachmann? Well, because one of the Republican candidates for President, Tim Pawlenty, told me so. On his leaving the presidential race he acknowledged a slight misstep. He thought he brought a “rational, established, credible, strong record…” However, he added “But I think the audience, so to speak, was looking for something different.” So much is suggested when a Midwesterner uses the phrase “so to speak.” The words that come to my mind as different from “rational” “credible” “established” and “strong” are irrational, unreliable, temporary, and desperate. How is that for a shadow job description of a role considered the most powerful in the world?
The collective has a way of flirting with disaster by generating leaders who exhibit extreme forms of polarization. The leaders themselves are often empty vessels for the collective, opportunistic and inflated about their talents, accomplishments, and vision. No wonder politicians, literally the manifestation of the people, sometimes get a bad name.
What has become particularly clear is that the collective ability to engage the irrational, unreliable, temporary, and desperate is not a matter of compromise. It is a matter of necessity, and it takes compassion. You say what?
I say compassion, but an unrelenting compassion that goes for the jugular, meaning an ability to cut to the throat of the matter. This is a form of compassion that uses speech, as opposed to physical violence, as a means to break the trance that carries groups to the edge of the cliff and beyond. This is a particular kind of speech that uses humor, surprise, sojourns into common sense, and makes the most of persuasive skills to make a point, counter a false argument, and rally the collective to something larger than itself. It is not simply telling people it will be hard or that it will take compromise. This is common sense but it is also paternal and patronizing. We need to wake ourselves up, find new images, and take on directly those dark emotions that are smoldering in the heat of uncertainty, ambiguity, and flickering violence. And it is not a job for one person but for all of us who care about birthing a new consciousness.