The brotherhood of fire and rescue is but a microcosm of the greater part of society. In turn, a visit to any un-moderated site will reveal that the general public isn’t any better about being civil, so we probably shouldn’t put a whole lot of worry into the declining civility among people who profess to be part of a brotherhood. It’s just become a norm of our victim society that it’s okay to be self-righteous and it’s okay to go after anyone who doesn’t think like us.
You would think a group of people who profess brotherhood as a redeeming value would be a little slower to throw one of their brothers under the bus when something goes wrong, but as I mentioned in the Tuscon post, that is obviously not the case. In the event that an individual within our ranks does something completely against the grain of our collective morals, like set fires or engage in child pornography, I am entirely understanding about the emotion involved in that rage. It is proportionate to the offense. But since I’m sure you all have heard of cases where the other side of the story ends up being a compelling explanation, we need to take care and exercise caution about expressing our condemnation, because, as we command officers tend to say, the truth actually lies somewhere between Points A and B.
I’m not a hypocrite by any means; I am right there with you. I just happen to also take a little bit of time to rein in my passions a little. If you were standing next to me at the moment I got the news of a “firefighter declining to respond to an incident”, I’m sure you’d have seen another side of me. However, the luxury of the internet is not only real-time event coverage, but the ability to pause before re-communicating your opinion, especially since unless you were there, it is your opinion and based on conjecture, not on tangible evidence. You might not be able to take back what you just blurted out of your mouth, but you can certainly check yourself before clicking the radio button. Very few of the stories I hear are actual prima facie cases. Since these stories unfold so quickly, we often find that there is more to the story that doesn’t get revealed due to the emotions choking the lines of communication.
It brings up the topic of this page, however, since some of the e-mail (I typed in “e-mal” in my draft – was that a slip?) doesn’t seem to agree with me and of course, there are those who can hide behind their pseudonyms in the comments. While I am sure the act of someone failing to go to an emergency challenged our beliefs in what was good and right about our profession, on lesser occasions, the anger and vitriol for say, someone not wearing their gloves in a picture, is a little over the top. And I say “a little” in my most sarcastic tone of voice. Some of the comments from the peanut gallery are also those who, given their profiles, probably haven’t seen too many incidents more challenging than a dumpster fire, and even then, they weren’t even in charge of that.
Individuals these days, in this moment of instantness (you like that?), are quick to react instead of reflect. They simply don’t have the patience for the whole story. They want their news, their blogs, their everything instantly and then they act on that information accordingly. In a time-compressed environment, there is only a moment to digest what we have heard and then to regurgitate it so that we can be the first to make a comment. The first to comment must be the best informed, right? The self-appointed subject matter expert? The one on the inside, right?
For me, I see it in the type of readership I get here at FHZ. The comments are usually thoughtful and agreeable. I post every comment, pro or con, so long as it isn’t spam. And although I may not agree with you, I consider your perspective on the issues as valuable and enlightening. But I get the impression that the few individuals who have seen fit to be trolls (with one notable exception) haven’t read farther than the first paragraph anyway. Anything over 140 characters for a lot of these individuals is a lot of wasted time reading.
We don’t do controversy here on this blog. We are interested in a bigger picture. If it is an event that is truly worth discussing and there are alternate points of view, we engage in another time-wasting effort: dialogue. We ask questions. We pose thoughts. We engage in critical examination. We remain open-minded. It’s a little too much for some people, I am aware, but it keeps the riff-raff out.
The readers of this blog generally have proven to be those who I could sit down and have a beer with and talk about something other than the fire service, or have a conversation about the fire service in say, the context of a retail business, or a day care, or the University of Life. They can see things for more than what is printed on the face. They possess deeply considered ideas or are able to see that there are advantages to listening to the opposition. The readers of this blog are those who I consider to be the hope for emergency services to evolve out of the tar pit of whackerdom and rise to the level of professionalism.
If you know of someone who operates on a different playing field than the norm, send them here and ask them to say their piece so we know they are here. But most importantly, we are looking for readers (and commenters) who have ideas to share and innovative ways of looking at things. Just because the issue appears to be obvious, it isn’t often the case. We want to talk with REAL leaders, those of you who consider enlightened leadership to be a desired trait, not a hurdle to our position. We need engagement, not brick walls. Haters and groupthinkers need not apply.