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Service Leadership is Do-good Feel-good

July 15, 2015

A Feel Good Philosophy

Jimsecor recently read an article on a feel good philosophy and sent me the sage words. Me, A Servant Leader? is by Yves Johnson, president of an international leadership and consulting organization: Christ is My Savior Ministries.

Now, Jimsecor is somewhat cynical, so Yves Johnson’s “sage words” is heavily laced with satirical coloring. My cynicism is far more predominant than his, despite his long history of social activism. On one point, though, we are in full agreement: both of us agree with Mark Twain’s assertion that people who don’t read [and can] are more dangerous than people who can’t read.

Me, A Servant Leader? is about Service Leadership. Service Leadership is a religious-centred philosophy, though it is passed off as simple social leadership for everyone. So Yves Johnson states and so it would appear.

He is trying to counter the idea that some people are leaders while most people are followers. A very simplistic philosophy. US-Americans like simplistic. Nuance is just too. . . shaded and confusing. Questions and considerations are not answers and US-Americans like answers. US-Americans like black-and-white. So, it is nice Yves Johnson is attempting to rid his US-American fellows of the inferiority inducing idea that most people are followers; that is, most people are not the best. This Leader-Follower philosophy he seeks to eradicate smacks of Social Darwinism. So far, good for him.

Yves Johnson shows us that we are all leaders. He gives examples. So we should feel better about ourselves. I suppose that we can extrapolate this to the belief that we are good (better people) and, therefore, do do good. And, indeed, he does speak to this Service Leadership as doing good in society, doing good for others.

I am reminded of Winston Churchill’s and George Bernard Shaw’s and Oscar Wilde’s and Mark Twain’s and Ambrose Bierce’s warning to run like hell when you see a do-gooder coming, for, in fact, they do not have “your” good at heart (they have their own). They tend to wreak havoc with their narrow single-minded approach to problem solving—and “your” good.

Though humanity does need to feel better about itself considering the horrid, soulless teachings of Richard Dawkins who maintains (outside his raging pseudo-atheism) that as there is no meaning to nature, there is no meaning to animal life and, therefore, there is no meaning to life period. We’re just here, The End. We are just expressions of DNA and genetic make-up. Us and all life.

There are many philosophers who do not agree with Richard Dawkins. In fact, they note or imply that Richard Dawkins does not like life, human life, at all. Amongst this group we find Boethius, Hepatia, Aristotle, Plato, the Humanist philosophers of the 12-13th centuries, the Romantic Writers, Carl Popper, Joseph Campbell, physicists, astrophysicists—how long is this list?

Richard Dawkins is a viciously stripped down version of Skinnerian Behaviorist Philosophy: we, humans, only react; we have no motives (a true conundrum as the Behaviorists have motives; cf Friends by Abe Kobo and Skinner’s own writings, along with post-Milgram sociologists); we are no more than machines. In Dawkinsian language, expressions of the machinery of life, our genes.

Yves Johnson’s article counters this trend to meaninglessness and directionlessness in modern day life. And this is nice. We need to think of ourselves in a more edifying manner despite the hell our governments are raining down on us and the world in the name of good, right and justice. But Yves Johnson goes too far: because, he maintains, if you have done just one thing good, because you have “been a leader” even once, you are a good person. And, so, you are a Service Leader. I find a horrifying parallel here to the belief of Amida Buddhism that if you speak the name of the Buddha Amida before you die, you will be quit of all your sins and gain entrance into the Western Paradise (Heaven). (There are other religions that follow this very same system of saving your soul.)

Yves Johnson’s Service Leader philosophy has no standards, no boundaries, no discrimination: anyone who engages in doing social good in even one instance is a good person. Hallelujah! And it’s good to feel good.

I find Yves Johnson’s philosophy little different from Epicureanism which teaches that one should do what feels good. This often gets confused with hedonism but, in fact, was not so physically focused. Besides, feeling good about what you’re doing, feeling good about yourself, has a distinctly physical quality to it.

The idea of doing for others, becoming involved in service, is for the benefit of others, not for your own good feeling, not for your uplifting ego fulfillment. That kind of service is selfish. That kind of service has nothing to do with others; in fact, the others are nonhuman things. That kind of service is face, a prideful, boasting face. That kind of service is piling up good deeds so you get a better deal after death, in the afterlife; a better chance in getting to Heaven. That kind of service is not Service Leadership at all.

True Service Leadership is involvement. Service Leadership is commitment, no matter how major or minor. Sometimes, Service Leadershp is not lifelong; but, generally speaking, the experience and commitment never leave you.

To what are you committed? Are you doing anything about it?

Because Yves Johnson’s Service Leadership has no definition and no discrimination it is boundless. Such open-endedness makes the opinion that leads you to ban books Service Leadership. It is not. It is uninformed opinion. It is ignorance, as most such people have never read the books.

Such open-ended Service Leadership can include terrorism, because you believe it is for the good of humanity.

Such open-ended Service Leadership can include abuse and hatred, intolerance. All because you are involved in something that you believe is socially edifying. Joseph McCarthy and witch hunts and the Inquisition become Social Leadership statements.

There must be bounds, boundaries, else there is nothing.

Jimsecor has been a social critic/satirist and activist for 50 years. He, like me, is dedicated to social justice. We write—mostly, I direct—and we have found a particular cause, if you will. We are involved in disability activism—which is not always violent or confrontational, though with disability issues, confrontation is more or less the more edifying behavior—accessibility issues and fighting the social prejudice surrounding being disabled. DISabled: Not able, Not normal, Something less than normal.

The leading officers in George Washington’s army were disabled; they were the reasons Washington won any battle. One had one eye, the other had one arm.

Able bodied people enjoy a better life because of stupid little victories like curb cuts, automatic doors, elevators that ding and/or count off floors, telephones, phones and computers and clocks that speak to you, typewriters/keyboards (not pianos), baseball umpire signs, American football huddles, pedestrian crossing lights, kneeling buses, development of “driverless” cars and vocal directions to operate car accessories. . . .

But the disabled have to fight for jobs and equal pay, signed church services, Brailled menus and announcements, wheelchair access—inclusion, just simply being allowed to be part of society. And we detest this prejudice, this mindlessness that keeps so many people sidelined.

Jimsecor has taken things a step further and become focused, due to his manic-depression that is unresponsive to medication intervention, on mental health issues. Like. . .why is every portion of our physical body treated and covered by insurance while mental health issues are not so worthy? Doctors and psychiatric workers who “opt out” of Medicaid and/or Medicare are not—are no longer—Service Leaders; though, for Yves Johnson, they would be considered so because once they did accept such health insurance coverage.

They are, however, not Service Leaders because they practice exclusion, they practice Social Darwinism, they perpetuate prejudice. Religions that exclude are godless; they are not Service Leaders. I think that includes most religionists. . .and most so-called atheists. Most people have not been taken as far as Jimsecor—I certainly haven’t! Most people haven’t been targeted and made to pay, as it were, for their Service Leadership. But Jimsecor does not consider himself to be a leader. (I consider him so.) He just calls himself an engaged Buddhist. Most Buddhist aren’t “engaged”; nor are most religious believers who prefer talking about injustice and prating about their high ideals but do not get their hands dirty. Engaged people are out doing.

Most people are not leaders, like most people are not heroes—thank god! What anarchy! What chaos! What a fucking mess! Nothing would get done. And, more to the point, if everyone was a leader, there would be no leaders. Why? Social definition comes from others: a hermit is only a hermit because of others, the people around him who don’t isolate themselves; misers are defined because other people are not so tight; a leader is a leader because other people aren’t.

Social Leadership is a label others give to you, not a label you give yourself.

We think Yves Johnson may be on to something, something that might spur people to actually becoming socially involved; but Yves Johnson has not given much thought to his Service Leadership idea. We wonder if Yves Johnson has, in his preaching and business development, included the deaf, the blind, the physically handicapped, those with a speech impediment, the mentally handicapped. If not, then by excluding others, he is not such a good example of a Service Leader. Nor are his new Service Leaders.

It takes more than thinking yourself good to be a Service Leader.

It takes more than one or two instances of involvement to be a Service Leader.

“I was a boy scout troupe leader for a year. I’ve done my bit. I’m a Service Leader.” (Which implies, “Follow me.”)

I feel good about myself bullshit.

Okay. Let me give you a real example. . .

Jimsecor’s sister is married to six figures. Upper six figures. She lives in a high end condominium in expensive northern Virginia. She took into her house a homeless man. She let him live in a basement room, albeit with facilities. We don’t know where he ate or even if he ate with the family. He was ferried about, if need be, in her expensive, high end SUV. It sure would not do to have him roaming around such a rich, prosperous neighborhood. At the end of the year, he was let go. Her time as a committed service leader was over. But she never lets you forget her goodness and involvement. I’m not sure, having heard her express herself on this topic, if she’s hyped over feeling so good herself or about her superiority for having done good to one less fortunate. Once.

Service Leadership à la Yves Johnson.

And I suppose that’s good for business, right?

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