Everyone loves a hero -> Everyone wants to be loved -> Everyone wants to be a hero

Postulate: Everyone loves a hero. Corollary: Everyone wants to be a hero. Climate change is the current “disaster” – or is it?

Postulate – Everyone loves a hero
Corollary – Everyone wants to be a hero

What drives so many to join the military? Do they really want to “serve their country?” There are surely a lot of other, safer ways to do that. Do they want to prove that they’re tough or brave? Or, one of a “few good men?” My son was lamenting the fact that he could not be in the military, because if he was, he could be a hero, like his grandfather was. Which gets to my point – everyone wants to be a hero. Just not all of them are willing to die for the privilege.

Politicians want to be heroes too – or at least be seen as heroes – because we all like leaders who are heroes. Of our 44 [now 45] presidents, 31 were in the military. About half were considered war heroes in their day. I think we can add Lincoln to the list, not for his short military time but in his role as commander-in-chief. When was the last time we had a President who was a war hero?

Dwight Eisenhower was a hero, for leading the European war effort for the Allies. John Kennedy was a wartime hero. Some would also add that he was a hero for standing up to the Soviets during the Cuban missile crisis. George H.W. Bush was the last, only tallying one term.

Despite the fact that the electorate is less enamored with war heroes since the Viet Nam era, politicians, like others, want to be remembered as heroes.

Gee, what can I do to be heroic? Well, maybe I can knock off some dictator that is killing off his people. Hmm, well really that is leaving all the heroic work to my pawns – or drones. Then, maybe I can save the world from some really big disaster. That’s got to be super-heroic. Well, I obviously can’t stop hurricanes. And, I certainly can’t prevent earthquakes. What about saving the planet from environmental destruction? That’s been a big thing for the last, oh, 50 years!

But, what can I do to prove I am a hero? Maybe I don’t really need to prove it. If we can define a big enough disaster, and do something really big, that will at least look heroic.

Thus is born the unholy alliance between politicians and climate scientists. Politicians are always looking for something really scary so they can look really heroic. Climate scientists want to be heroes too. And, it doesn’t hurt that it can be quite lucrative – or at least finance their career. The problem with climate change is that it is not scaring very many people. Perhaps it is that change is so slow that it is not really noticeable. Or, perhaps people remember that 40 years ago, the alarm was a runaway snowball earth. Now it’s runaway greenhouse? Yeah, wake me up when you have something that affects my daily life.

Featured image is Captain Planet, a 1990’s cartoon hero, who materializes to save the Earth from pollution when summoned by his teenage followers.

I Want To See You Be Brave

My favorite music video is “Brave,” by Sara Bareilles. It was written as an encouragement to a friend. But it can apply to anyone who is afraid to speak out.

“Say, what you wanna say, and let the words fall out. Honestly, I wanna see you be brave.” Recently I heard on the radio the song “Brave,” by Sara Bareilles (written along with Jack Antonoff).  I first heard it a couple of years ago and it is probably my favorite music video – the one where people are dancing at various public locations around Los Angeles.  She was inspired to write the song as an encouragement to a friend to speak out, and not be afraid. But, it can apply to anyone who is afraid to speak out.

Hearing “Brave” made me think about people who are afraid to speak out because they fear reprisal. On college campuses students and professors are being targeted if they are not politically correct, which often equates to not being sufficiently liberal politically. (Who knew that liberal arts would mean you must be liberal?) Now teachers and students are targets if they say anything that might in any way be construed as a criticism of or possibly offensive to anyone else. I call it “intolerance for tolerance’s sake.”

In climate science those who disagree with the notion that most of climate change is man-made are ostracized, have difficulty getting funding for research, and their research may be denied publication. Government employees are afraid of reprisals if they speak out or reveal unlawful or unethical conduct by senior management. This is still the case, despite assurances by high officials and even President Obama that they would be free of reprisals for whistle-blowing.

When I worked at the Department of the Interior I would speak up if I thought something could be done better, but also if I thought something was not right. That included how employees were left out of decisions and opportunities. It also included questioning decisions made by senior management and political appointees. I was able to do this without reprisal. Perhaps I was respected because I was careful to speak against policies or practices and not make personal attacks. Was I being brave or foolish?

Others would come to me and ask me to express their concern or complaint. If I shared the concern I might do so, but if it was not a concern of mine I would tell them they must to do it themselves. Most were reluctant to speak out; they were afraid of reprisals. Were they justly afraid?

I read in an article in FedSmith (fedsmith.com, a private-sector newsletter for government employees) that whistle-blowers were often subject to reprisal, and when they took their complaints to the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) they almost always lost. It is apparently extremely difficult to prove that adverse personnel actions are a reprisal for speaking out about illegal or unethical behavior, even if that behavior was proven to be true and the alleged reprisal immediately followed. So the FLRA is reluctant to act to protect whistle-blowers.

From what I know the fear of reprisals is justified. The fear of professors on college campuses is justified. Will that change with a new administration? Possibly, for government employees, but I doubt it. For the fear on campuses it will require a change in the public dialogue about what is okay to say in public. It really comes down to our First Amendment right to free speech. We all need to be brave enough to say what we want to say, and confident enough in ourselves to withstand what others may say. I want to see you be brave.

Featured image from http://www.directlyrics.com/sara-bareilles-brave-news.html. You can also see the video at this site, or search for “Sara Bareilles Brave.”