Posted by: terrapraeta | April 5, 2010

Not A Leader

We’re victims of sedition on the open sea.
No one ever said life was free.
Sink, swim, go down with the ship.
Just use your freedom of choice.

I’ll say it again in the land of the free
Use your freedom of choice, freedom of choice.

Freedom of choice
it’s what you’ve got
Freedom from choice
it’s what you want.

A Perfect Circle*, Freedom Of Choice

I’ve been planning to write for a while but my heart simply has not been in it. Hopefully today marks a change in my headspace and I am ready to get back on this particular horse. Writing is good for me. Therapuetic. Healing. It gives me a tool to explore my own thoughts and feelings in a way that I cannot do verbally, oftentimes. I almost think that when I stop writing it is a sign that I have stopped thinking for a time. Maybe I need that kind of vacation, but I cannot let it go on for very long.

In any case, a couple weeks ago, Dave wrote his Manifesto. It’s a pretty good statement of his self perception, at least at one moment in time. But there was something that struck me as flawed:

I am not a leader. I do not pretend to have answers, and I do not believe in hierarchy. We don’t need leaders and heroes cajoling and coercing us and letting us abrogate our own responsibility to discover and to do what we are meant to do. I am fed up with the rhetoric of leaders who would have us believe that they or anyone is or can be in control. What happens on this world is emergent and the collective result of what all of us do. We don’t need leaders to show us the way. We need facilitators, people who care, to help us work together in community and to remove obstacles and then get out of the way.

I totally dig what he is saying, but it occurs to me that he’s missing a component of perception and so he is fundamentally incorrect. He is a leader. I am a leader. Many of the people who write against civ and hierarchy and domination are leaders. What we are not is rulers.

I think this is a word we want to take back.

Lead:”to guide,” O.E. lædan “cause to go with one, lead,” causative of liðan “to travel,” from W.Gmc. *laithjan (cf. O.S. lithan, O.N. liða “to go,” O.H.G. ga-lidan “to travel,” Goth. ga-leiþan “to go”). Meaning “to be in first place” is from late 14c. The noun is first recorded c.1300, “action of leading.” Meaning “the front or leading place” is from 1560s. Johnson stigmatized it as “a low, despicable word.” (link)

Barak Obama is not the leader of the free world as it is often put. He is the ruler of the United States. And because he is the ruler of the US, he is unofficially the ruler of much of the western world. Not because other nations, other rulers, choose to follow him, but because the systems in place often force their compliance. And when their compliance is not forced it is still manipulated, cajoled, coerced. This we do not need.

What we do need is individuals with the personality, the character, the strength to travel paths that have previously remained untrod. At least in recent memory. We need people that will blaze trails into an unknown future with creativity, integrity, fearlessness. Not everyone can do so. But those that can will be followed by others, others that have made conscious choice to be lead. Other that have not the fortitude to go first, yet have the creativity and integrity to choose a new path once it has been mapped out. This is not something we should fear. Rather it is something we need to see for what it is rather than what civ would have us perceive it as.

There is no shame in leading, nor in being led. The shame lies in force, coercion, manipulation, giving up ones own choice, refusing to make a choice, pretending we have no choice.

* Freedom of Choice is originally a Devo song and I usually try to credit the writers. However, in this case, A Perfect Circle significantly reinterpreted the song with new lyrics so I chose to link their version.



  1. Right on. Even the simplest band has emergent leaders. They change from job to job, and over time, depending on need and effectiveness.

    What they don’t have is power-hogs! 😉

  2. Thanks Vera 🙂

    I kept wanting to put something in here quoting “hey you little p*monkey… no, it’s okay… I’m taking it back!” but the text was a little too serious to make it fly. And then there was the question of how many people would actually recognize what I was quoting…..


  3. Hey tp, haven’t seen a post from you in a while – hope all is well.


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