A FAILURE OF NERVE, Paideia Book Club – Author, Edwin H. Friedman, an ordained Jewish Rabbi, wastes no time getting to the jugular of his argument in his diagnostic treatise, A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix.
His thesis is clear, and his initial claim gives this chapter a hinge upon which to swing. “When anxiety reaches certain thresholds, ‘reasonableness and honesty’ no longer defend against illusion, and then even the most learned ideas can begin to function as superstitions.”
It is Friedman’s belief that anxiety is the disorder that has seized upon America causing her madness. America’s anxiety, Friedman’s concerted diagnosis, based upon many years of consulting businesses, government agencies, counseling and Jewish families, has sabotaged sound leadership.
The deleterious effect of anxiety renders leadership useless. Fear reigns, therefore, information and strength have the primacy.
The challenge with information and strength forging to the forefront is absent the mental fortitude and spiritual girth.
Mentality and spirituality harness individuals from going amuck, mad, even idiotic – leadership of individuals, masses or local community reflect accordingly.
Did not Christ put it straight? “Can the blind lead the blind? Shall they not both fall into the ditch” (see Luke 6:39 KJV)?
Avoiding a pedagogical diatribe, Friedman brings his commentary to a diagnostic crescent.
“Here are four major similarities in the thinking and functioning of America’s families and institutions that I have observed everywhere, and which I believe are at the heart of the problem of contemporary America’s orientation to leadership.”
It is Friedman’s postulation that “a regressive, counter-evolutionary trend, a devaluation of the process of individuation, an obsession with data and technique and a widespread misunderstanding about the relational nature of destructive processes in families and institutions,” are the four elements garnering America’s leadership vacuum.
It is suggested here, that in light of Friedman’s tour de force, one can but agree, being of sound mind and led of Christ, that America is in a strong state of reversion.
When people lose hope in the present-day, they often revert to a time in history and paint it with the most vibrant of colors; however, this is delusional since historical bliss is typically escapism.
When people refuse to accept responsibility for their present, instead of seeking the Lord, they romanticize a grotesque fabrication about life long ago.
The truth is, Americans are suffering from emotional disorientation with no godly leadership to direct them through the swiftly changing economy; the latter being the cause of the former.
Friedman says, “I will suggest that the importance of leaders’ being well informed is overrated, and that the focus on the intellect outside of an emotional context is actually anti-intellectual.”
Americans are inundated with multitudes of information and yet can not solve basic life problems. As many elders would say, “so smart ‘til ‘ya stupid!”
Edwin Friedman’s brazen literary expression gives the reader more than a little to chew on; meat for the strong with very little milk for the young.
His claims are strong, well supported and argued with terse pugnacity laced with graceful vernacular and cloaked in academic flare. Masterful!