Michael Battalio

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Serious Conversations (Part 22):

        This series is a continuation of my conversations with an atheist friend of mine. These are my edited responses from that conversation. Time to take the series in a completely new direction. The twenty-second entry is on leadership and influence:

Change happens. And it is accepted that leaders use their influence to cause change, but where do those leaders come from? Generally people are influenced by those they respect, and each group of people has those individuals which lead the majority. I believe the reason leaders are the minority and followers the majority is that most people are lazy and are happy being told what is best for them.  Now, people are influenced by those they like or respect, but what makes someone like or respect someone else?  Is it merely the sharing of values and ideas?  Does the respected have certain virtues (honesty, integrity, courage, etc.)?  Or are we human beings more shallow (attractiveness, charisma)?  If we respect out of virtue and like-mindedness then the leader is appropriately chosen, but if we chose based on physical parameters then our decision is doomed to disappoint.  [How much of an election is based off of the physical characteristics of the candidates I wonder.]  

We are also taught that we should politely accept our differences in opinion from others, so how do leaders handle the need to change and influence topics while still respecting the opinions of others? It seems to me that influence is what most of our society is based on now. I would even argue that the scientific method is based off the need to influence fellow scientists, and moreover it is unprofessional and downright foolish of a scientist not to be influenced when they are wrong.  We should confine our discussion about topics where there is no right or wrong point of view.  In that case, I find we listen to the leaders we already substantively agree with in that we listen to those that already mostly share our views [I doubt Obama has convinced any Republican that a public option is a good healthcare proposition.].  This is why when there are opposing views there are leaders that support each idea.  [This is where I would go into a discussion of shades of gray - i.e. no leader has exactly our point of view in mind.  At that point, do we settle for someone who is close enough?  In our political system the answer at the moment is yes.]

So it comes down to what topics is it permissible to accept the myriad of opinions and what topics is it important to argue and to attempt to influence.  That is more of a personal question as to what each individual cares about.  That is a result of one's societal standing, childhood development, religious upbringing (e.g. devout Christians feel homosexuality is a sin and must be abolished due to their religious upbringing. I, being not so religious, think it is a personal decision, and at the least the government should provide no preference to hetero/homosexuality.  And there are many other examples of course.).  The point I'm trying to make is that each decision, topic, or problem is different as to whether influence is acceptable, and the reasons for that are the same reasons that define our own personal development as individuals.  In general, the more important the topic is to us, and the more fervently we feel about an issue, the more apt we are to believe it is acceptable to influence others.
2003-2016 Michael Battalio (michael[at]battalio.com)