Going To The Source – A Manifesto

I am struggling with my faith, not specifically in my church, my community, or even in society per se.  In the context of this blog, I am struggling with those who administer, those who interpret the needs of others, and those who teach what is supposed to be the infallible word of how to provide our service from its lecterns, regardless of career or volunteer, urban or rural, American or anyone else, among other things. 

While I am not questioning the principles of how we provide emergency service, or rather any service to those we are charged with protecting, any effort to ask the hard questions instead of simply criticizing more often than not labels one as a troublemaker, a rebel, or worse (at least in our nation), unpatriotic.  In many circles my desire for enlightenment would label me as a heretic, I suppose, which is a big reason why I’d just as soon do this at arm’s length from the people I am close to, including those in my own circles, who are blameless in these observations.  So I guess this becomes a manifesto, of sorts.

Speaking in regard to the fire service, I have been a leader for longer than I care to be, sometimes, because frankly, it says that I am part of the problem.  I am not, however, what I consider to be even a passing expert in anything regarding the psychology of those I lead.  This blog site, called Firehouse Zen, actually describes my “religion”; I seek enlightenment, I ask questions, I challenge “authority” to do a better job, I seek positive change, and I am healthily cynical.  I want to know how and why something works so I can better apply it myself, and I am absolutely NOT a sheep, driving along in the fast lane below the speed limit, mouth agape, oblivious to the line of traffic behind them.

To those of you who would label me a cheerleader by way of the positivity I espouse, I say to you that you completely miss the mark.  I am a cheerleader of best practices.  I am a cheerleader of just leadership.  I am a cheerleader of strong values and ethical decision-making.  I embrace positivity because it is the right way to be.  But as usual, I give to you my disclaimer: While there are those who are optimists and are constantly dismayed by the selfishness of society, I maintain my skepticism and thus am pleasantly surprised on the infrequent occasion someone rises to greatness.  Or just does something for the right reasons.

My struggle is actually in the willingness of society to ignore the bigger issues of our world as a whole.  I think our leaders at all levels of government are more engrained in meeting their own personal enrichment and extravagant egos rather than leading the people who sincerely need their guidance in these times.  I see this ego-driven leadership from the top to the bottom; from those who govern our superpowers down to the lowest firefighter, cop, or EMT.  But since we are charged with serving others, and our missions in every single one of the organizations you are affiliated with involve serving others, I find it hypocritical that many of the "leaders" we seem to have turned to for the answer on how to do this are more concerned with protecting the status quo.

Lest you think this is some grand indictment of everyone on the planet who provides the service we do, it is not. I see daily the efforts of those who rise above the pettiness and the hurdles placed in front of them to do the right things.  I try to let them know whenever I see these actions that these are right and just actions they are taking.  I encourage their efforts.  But they are in many cases the exception to the rule.  In fact, if you have read this far, I think one of the most important things you can do as a brother firefighter, law enforcement officer, or EMT is to actively encourage those who you see as making right and just decisions, making efforts to alleviate the suffering of others, and those who use their legitimate power to make things better for others.  If we at least take the time to recognize these examples, maybe it will cause others to emulate those qualities.

So this actually begins a little change in the discussion about my issues with the delivery of service to our communities and all its history, tradition, and strongly held beliefs.  Since I have over thirty years in the business, I guess that enables me to speak to the subject, since I have seen the wide scope of how we have "done the job" and I can certainly say things that will quickly become controversial. But again, my purpose isn't to say these things are anything other than values we need to question, because in questioning, we either better understand them for their accuracy, or we expose them to be fallacies.

This should be an interesting ride, so I would say to spread the word and invite everyone to watch (and participate), and let's have a healthy discussion about what makes our industry tick.  Who knows?  You might be the one who convinces me of something I otherwise held to be true.

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