Over and over again, I discover how we are all connected and find it to be an amazing phenomenon. Too many events happen in this universe that are beyond being explained as coincidence and in social media, it just highlights that connectivity. From experiments conducted by Stanley Milgram and published as The Small World Problem to continued observations by Tom Shadyac in his documentary I Am, it is apparent, at least to me, that there is something spectacular about the greater network of our entire world. If anything, this is all the more reason why we should strive to live peacefully and with respect for one another.
As I continue to try to bring together our leaders, I also continue to realize that Firehouse Zen isn't written for people who aren't interested in the bigger picture. Thinking that you are living in your own isolated world and that poor behavior doesn't have some potential for karmic blowback is a pretty self-absorbed way to live and unfortunately, the common vision of those who aren't focused on leading doesn't include others. Given the fact that every action we take has a number of potential reactions, deluding yourself that your interactions with others will have no effect on your life or on others is just like going through existence with your head in the sand. Regardless of whether you want to act like a moron toward others because you feel like you can hide behind an anonymous pseudonym on the internet, the action still has some effect somewhere and if you can't see the echo, the ripple, that your actions create, then you are just living in a blind hole. The same thing goes with every other thing we do, like it or not.
Take for example some of the political rhetoric that seems to have escalated to the point where hate speech is considered "okay" by some of our elected officials and others running for office. While the zealots on either side of the debate clearly believe they are in the right and nothing harmful comes from their constant and annoying fights, the effect it has on the vast majority of Americans who are stuck between these idiots is that we are punished for their unwillingness to work together toward a better future. The people who push that kind of speech are clearly aware that those who only live for a sound bite feed voraciously on these tidbits and fail to see into the more global perspective. They realize this advances their own agenda, but at what cost?
As emergency responders, we have the same issues. We have those who fail to see how their actions could possibly effect the lives of others. Take another example here, this time the recent "tattoo" incident in Seattle. I'm going to admit something I probably shouldn't, but it illustrates the issue: Personally, I think it's a little funny. If this had happened to me, personally, I would have washed it off by now and we'd still be talking about it twenty years from now. Not everyone, however, shares my sense of humor, especially a public that sometimes is just itching to find another "something" to troll the internet with and claim what poor examples of community servants we are. Again, in another case, take the simulated gun incident in Macon: to me, not so funny. But these isolated incidents that someone, at the time they occurred, thought to be no big deal, have been trotted out as examples of everything that is wrong with the fire service. As leaders, we need to see where these things lead to and more often than not, they lead to no good.
Again, as in the other day, we bring to your attention the National Firefighter Code of Ethics as being delivered as a framework for guiding our daily conduct and in relation to what I repeated about "cleaning house" the other day. There is a reason that the Code of Ethics became necessary; because these events and many others recently have brought the name of the entire fire service into disrepute. If I were the CEO of a company, let's say, Firehouse Zen Industries, and one of my associate bloggers was creating opportunities that brought the name of Firehouse Zen into constantly embarrassing situations, I'd be forced to do SOMETHING to keep the brand name from becoming a joke. Likewise, the fire service leadership, myself included, have to look at these situations that "tarnish the badge" and treat them seriously, otherwise, all of our efforts over decades at advancing the professionalism of our industry will be for naught.
Why is this so important? The credibility we gain from professionalism creates good will and that good will translates directly into public support. The public support evolves into getting our agenda pushed forward: safer communities, better working conditions, more respect from the taxpayers, and better support for our programs, projects, and to keep us in the modern age with equipment and apparatus. Oh, pay and benefits for us career guys doesn't hurt either. So if performing a rattle-can tattoo on the outgoing Lieutenant doesn't seem inherently harmful, and as I said before, personally, to me, it wouldn't be, in the big picture it is an example of the horseplay and "Daycare for Men" perspective that many have of our business. So as a leader, I'm not willing to support it as being very smart.
My blogs are always pretty long and I understand that for some, they're probably a little hard to follow. I write like I speak. I know that those who really read my blog tend to have intelligence and are desirous of a better way to create our future. These posts aren't directed at the rank and file, but at those who see themselves as the current and future leadership of the international emergency response community. The things I say aren't always popular with the troops because I am trying to shine a light on the long view, not on what is occurring at our feet. I'm one of those people who are constantly being accused of "taking the fun" out of our jobs. If you are reading this, it is likely that you are one of the people who can see that big picture and like I said, as hard as it is sometimes to not laugh at some of the stupidity, there are consequences to all of these actions that we may not yet see coming around to bite us.
Everything we do connects us to others. Live responsibly and seek to lead in a manner that brings respect and admiration to you, not to make you a laughingstock. The better things in life come to those who can understand these workings and create positive change for everyone. A little self-discipline and moderation in our lives can go a long way, especially when you find that everything you do is being watched carefully, not just by the public, but by those who follow you.