Categorized | Features, General

De Ole Dawg – Part 3: 2018 – We need good leaders for the upcoming storms

Moving beyond “business as usual,” “resilience” and “growth” to needed reformation

BRADES, Montserrat, February 14, 2018 – Today, Montserrat needs not just “resilience” and “self-sustaining growth” but reformation. For, “business as usual” and “go along for peace sake” etc. have not worked. Indeed, business as [nearly] usual in the face of the volcano crisis clearly contributed to our losses twenty-plus years ago.

And no, it was not just “de British” and “DfID.” We, too were implicated and we continue to be part of the problem right down to today. 

But, a reforming leader as a rule has to be “the good man in a storm” – often, a disaster triggered by marches of folly undertaken in the teeth of his earlier unwelcome advice.  On much history, such a leader will be turned to only as a last resort, and will therefore face the challenge of having been right when more favoured figures were wrong. Wrong, at awful cost. And, being newly at the helm when further disaster strikes is always a big challenge.

Sir Winston Spencer Churchill

That is what confronted Sir Winston Churchill[1] on May 10, 1940. The Neville Chamberlain Government actually won the Norway fiasco Parliamentary Debate on the Adjournment, but was fatally weakened. So, Churchill was – reluctantly – resorted to. (For many years, he had been seen as little more than a proved failure and annoying dinosaur past his stale date. He would prove to be the greatest Prime Minister for centuries, at Britain’s “finest hour.” And yes, the phrase is his. Insightful, sound, visionary eloquence was a key part of his leadership.)

Let us therefore again draw on key lessons of history.  It starts on May 10, 1940, Churchill’s first day in office. For, that very morning, Hitler’s Panzers began to roll westwards. France was soon out-smarted and shattered. By June, the British army was only saved by a miracle of evacuation under fire at Dunkirk.  Over the next three months, the Spitfires and Hurricanes of the Royal Air Force backed by a primitive radar system were the slender margin between defeat and survival as Hitlers bombers and fighters came over in daily waves from their new bases in France.

The UK then had to stand alone and take a further pounding until the Japanese attacked at Pearl Harbour, in the Philippines and at Hong Kong in December 1941.  Many more terrible disasters followed. But Churchill stood firm, and with American help multiplied by Hitler’s folly of invading Russia, the tide began to turn across 1942.  Churchill would go on to win the war, but was defeated by Labour’s Clement Attlee in the 1945 election.  It is only in 1951 that Churchill would actually win a UK General Election outright. And yet (despite many flaws and failings), he is rightly regarded as one of the greatest leaders in not only UK but world history.

Clearly, unpopular leadership by one who the “natural” leadership classes despise is a difficult task. For, someone like that has already suffered defeat after defeat in council and will be widely disregarded or even mocked.   That kind of leadership is a delicate, difficult job at best.

To succeed at this time, we have to now acquire a taste for Churchillian reformation leadership, much as we had to learn to eat our veggies. So, to understand it at a deeper level, let us turn to our region’s most common history book for a case study. As, soundly presented real world cases have a subtle richness of detail due to forces in play that a generic model such as SWOT simply cannot communicate on its own. (That is part of why we need to study history.)

Paul, in Acts 27, was the most eminent leader of a controversial Jewish sect. One, that was admitting Gentiles without circumcising them and bringing them under the full force of Hebraic customs and law. He had been pounced on as a turn-coat and was being mobbed in the Temple in Jerusalem in 57 AD, but was rescued by Roman soldiers. He was then held in gaol for two years while undergoing trials and fending off assassination plots. He finally appealed against the Jerusalem leaders to trial as a Roman citizen before Caesar’s seat. Soon, he was on a grain ship full of wheat heading from Egypt to Rome. Adverse winds forced them to stop in Fair Havens, Crete. It was late in the season and the port and town were less than desirable. (Sounds familiar?)

So, there was a ship’s council on whether they could slip 40 miles down the coast to a better wintering port, Phoenix. Paul, already a survivor of three shipwrecks, intervened:

“Ac 27:10 . . .  “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” 11 But the centurion [Julius, a warrant-grade officer in the Imperial Messenger Regiment] paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. 12 And because the harbor was not suitable to spend the winter in, the majority decided to put out to sea from there, on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing both southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there.” [ESV]

Clearly, money, bought- and- paid- for technical henchmen and clever words can often manipulate officials and the crowd alike. Paul warned against the folly, but lost the vote.  And soon enough, a gentle south wind came up, so they set out on the 40-mile dash to Phoenix. They didn’t make it, a hurricane-force early winter storm caught them. For two weeks they drifted in increasing despair.  Hope was given up when Paul intervened with a prophetic insight. Shipwreck on an island, and they needed to eat to have strength. On the 14th night, at midnight, they heard breakers at a point near what is now St Paul’s Bay, North side of Malta. Soundings were made, 120 feet, 90 feet as they come in from the East. Danger, in the dark!

Four anchors were dropped from the stern, and they prayed for daylight. On a ruse of anchoring from the bow, the sailors plotted to abandon the passengers. Paul again intervened, and Julius now had learned who is a good man in a storm. Soldiers cut away the boat, and the plot failed. As daylight came, they cut the anchor lines, hoisted foresail and aimed for a beach, running aground on a sandbar. Then, the soldiers wished to kill the prisoners (to prevent escape) but Julius refused.  All 276 souls made it to the beach, as the apostle predicted.

Obviously, we see very different balances of influence at Fair Havens and at St Paul’s Bay. But to get there, Paul had to take an unpopular stance at Fair Havens and lose the vote. For, sometimes, the majority is unsound, and to strike a compromise with popular folly defeats wisdom. Worse, we must ever ponder Jesus’ warning to a nation: because I tell the truth, you do not believe me . . .”

Hard words, yes. But necessary ones as our nation stands at a cross-road. And it is the particular duty of those who stand in a watch-tower to sound the alarm, even at the most inconvenient time.

[1]           See: https://www.gov.uk/government/history/past-prime-ministers/winston-churchill

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Moving beyond “business as usual,” “resilience” and “growth” to needed reformation

BRADES, Montserrat, February 14, 2018 – Today, Montserrat needs not just “resilience” and “self-sustaining growth” but reformation. For, “business as usual” and “go along for peace sake” etc. have not worked. Indeed, business as [nearly] usual in the face of the volcano crisis clearly contributed to our losses twenty-plus years ago.

And no, it was not just “de British” and “DfID.” We, too were implicated and we continue to be part of the problem right down to today. 

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But, a reforming leader as a rule has to be “the good man in a storm” – often, a disaster triggered by marches of folly undertaken in the teeth of his earlier unwelcome advice.  On much history, such a leader will be turned to only as a last resort, and will therefore face the challenge of having been right when more favoured figures were wrong. Wrong, at awful cost. And, being newly at the helm when further disaster strikes is always a big challenge.

Sir Winston Spencer Churchill

That is what confronted Sir Winston Churchill[1] on May 10, 1940. The Neville Chamberlain Government actually won the Norway fiasco Parliamentary Debate on the Adjournment, but was fatally weakened. So, Churchill was – reluctantly – resorted to. (For many years, he had been seen as little more than a proved failure and annoying dinosaur past his stale date. He would prove to be the greatest Prime Minister for centuries, at Britain’s “finest hour.” And yes, the phrase is his. Insightful, sound, visionary eloquence was a key part of his leadership.)

Let us therefore again draw on key lessons of history.  It starts on May 10, 1940, Churchill’s first day in office. For, that very morning, Hitler’s Panzers began to roll westwards. France was soon out-smarted and shattered. By June, the British army was only saved by a miracle of evacuation under fire at Dunkirk.  Over the next three months, the Spitfires and Hurricanes of the Royal Air Force backed by a primitive radar system were the slender margin between defeat and survival as Hitlers bombers and fighters came over in daily waves from their new bases in France.

The UK then had to stand alone and take a further pounding until the Japanese attacked at Pearl Harbour, in the Philippines and at Hong Kong in December 1941.  Many more terrible disasters followed. But Churchill stood firm, and with American help multiplied by Hitler’s folly of invading Russia, the tide began to turn across 1942.  Churchill would go on to win the war, but was defeated by Labour’s Clement Attlee in the 1945 election.  It is only in 1951 that Churchill would actually win a UK General Election outright. And yet (despite many flaws and failings), he is rightly regarded as one of the greatest leaders in not only UK but world history.

Clearly, unpopular leadership by one who the “natural” leadership classes despise is a difficult task. For, someone like that has already suffered defeat after defeat in council and will be widely disregarded or even mocked.   That kind of leadership is a delicate, difficult job at best.

To succeed at this time, we have to now acquire a taste for Churchillian reformation leadership, much as we had to learn to eat our veggies. So, to understand it at a deeper level, let us turn to our region’s most common history book for a case study. As, soundly presented real world cases have a subtle richness of detail due to forces in play that a generic model such as SWOT simply cannot communicate on its own. (That is part of why we need to study history.)

Paul, in Acts 27, was the most eminent leader of a controversial Jewish sect. One, that was admitting Gentiles without circumcising them and bringing them under the full force of Hebraic customs and law. He had been pounced on as a turn-coat and was being mobbed in the Temple in Jerusalem in 57 AD, but was rescued by Roman soldiers. He was then held in gaol for two years while undergoing trials and fending off assassination plots. He finally appealed against the Jerusalem leaders to trial as a Roman citizen before Caesar’s seat. Soon, he was on a grain ship full of wheat heading from Egypt to Rome. Adverse winds forced them to stop in Fair Havens, Crete. It was late in the season and the port and town were less than desirable. (Sounds familiar?)

So, there was a ship’s council on whether they could slip 40 miles down the coast to a better wintering port, Phoenix. Paul, already a survivor of three shipwrecks, intervened:

“Ac 27:10 . . .  “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” 11 But the centurion [Julius, a warrant-grade officer in the Imperial Messenger Regiment] paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. 12 And because the harbor was not suitable to spend the winter in, the majority decided to put out to sea from there, on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing both southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there.” [ESV]

Clearly, money, bought- and- paid- for technical henchmen and clever words can often manipulate officials and the crowd alike. Paul warned against the folly, but lost the vote.  And soon enough, a gentle south wind came up, so they set out on the 40-mile dash to Phoenix. They didn’t make it, a hurricane-force early winter storm caught them. For two weeks they drifted in increasing despair.  Hope was given up when Paul intervened with a prophetic insight. Shipwreck on an island, and they needed to eat to have strength. On the 14th night, at midnight, they heard breakers at a point near what is now St Paul’s Bay, North side of Malta. Soundings were made, 120 feet, 90 feet as they come in from the East. Danger, in the dark!

Four anchors were dropped from the stern, and they prayed for daylight. On a ruse of anchoring from the bow, the sailors plotted to abandon the passengers. Paul again intervened, and Julius now had learned who is a good man in a storm. Soldiers cut away the boat, and the plot failed. As daylight came, they cut the anchor lines, hoisted foresail and aimed for a beach, running aground on a sandbar. Then, the soldiers wished to kill the prisoners (to prevent escape) but Julius refused.  All 276 souls made it to the beach, as the apostle predicted.

Obviously, we see very different balances of influence at Fair Havens and at St Paul’s Bay. But to get there, Paul had to take an unpopular stance at Fair Havens and lose the vote. For, sometimes, the majority is unsound, and to strike a compromise with popular folly defeats wisdom. Worse, we must ever ponder Jesus’ warning to a nation: because I tell the truth, you do not believe me . . .”

Hard words, yes. But necessary ones as our nation stands at a cross-road. And it is the particular duty of those who stand in a watch-tower to sound the alarm, even at the most inconvenient time.

[1]           See: https://www.gov.uk/government/history/past-prime-ministers/winston-churchill