Together we sat. We talked about the world’s problems, its injustices, the power of evil and all that is wrong and unbalanced.
Then we talked some more.
We imagined ways that these problems could be solved, how justice might be restored, how evil could be bound, how wrongs could be righted and how the balance restored.
And we wondered: Who would come to put things right?
Then we slept. And in our dreams we imagined that we were the heroes and the champions that we needed. We solved the problems, we acted with justice. We fought with evil and overcame it. We restored the balance.
Then we awoke. We had been dreaming. We were not the heroes we had dreamt of. We were just ourselves – tired, angry and bitter. How could we have dreamt that we could solve these problems?
Surely we must just await someone else to do the work?
It is so hard to find a common path. It is so hard to lead. It is so hard to follow.
It is easier to just sit and talk and dream.
It is easier to live in hope, waiting for someone else to act, than to act yourself.
It is so hard to lead – knowing that often you will be wrong, knowing you will make mistakes and knowing that you will end up despised and forgotten.
Is this the difference between the good and the bad?
The bad have all the best leaders – just as the Devil has all the best tunes – because they don’t care about what people think, how they will be remembered or whether they will make mistakes. Is that what they learn now, on the playing field of Eton? Leadership, however meaningless or wicked, for the sake of leadership is everything.
Perhaps we must restore to ourselves a more joyful and playful sense of what leadership might mean. Perhaps if we talked about it more – not as some profound and demanding discipline – but as just one essential ingredient of successful social action. Leadership is something we can all exercise, share and distribute between ourselves. It only becomes harmful if we try to hold on to it too long.
Afterword – One of the pleasures of the internet is to watch people agree or disagree with you. I entered into one little Twitter banter – Twantter (?) – with someone who seemed to think all forms of leadership were a kind of ego-trip. I guess this is the opposite of my point. Leadership seems to me to be full of potential for corruption (from ego-trips to Hitler) but it is also an essential and human activity and one that is fundamental to social progress – which always requires someone to at least take their finger out of the dam first.
Are we crippled by an irrational fear of leadership? I tried to find a word that described this phenomenon – but I could not find one. Until someone corrects me, I offer this neologism – anaxaphobia – the irrational and exaggerated fear of leadership, which in turn leads to submissiveness and allows elitism to flourish amongst those who enjoy leadership for its own sake.