People are outraged that fundamental human rights, our “freedom to assemble” is dismissed due to coronavirus restrictions. Others are furious that President Trump doesn’t model good public health behavior. People are angered that supplies of life-saving medical equipment and protective gear are in short supply. People are indignant that disadvantaged communities are suffering disproportionately. People are offended that the ‘fake news’ media is spreading lies just to weaken the president’s re-election chances.
What do all these infuriated people have in common?
They are people.
They, and (I’ll switch to “we” now), are upset because we’re human. With no guidelines, uncertainty and fear make some things worse than they already are.
However, justified, your outrage is not justified. Not about this, not right now.
When people are polarized, few recovery plans or technical innovations can emerge. The focus is always on in-group and out-group, drama. Blame is thrown. Scapegoats are everywhere. No way out of an emergency is found.
In past plagues, violence, and even murder, flared, as beggars, religious enemies, and actual witch hunts focused time, energy, and creativity in the wrong directions.
Leaders who show a human, vulnerable side are more likely to receive cooperation from others. The “I am one of you,” approach makes them relatable. Biomedical director Rick Bright warned the USA should collect emergency supplies and is now relatable as yet another one of us to lose his job for his efforts.
By Not ‘Don’-ning a mask, Trump displays that he is not one of us. That he is above, or better than, others.
Trust is not won by those fomenting revolt for “freedom” when they have health coverage, available testing, and treatment, and you do not. When Trump attacks “fake” media, or pushes false cures, he sows confusion, not cohesion.
But with effective leadership and community cooperation, the opposite effect occurs. China received aid, in January 2020, from other nations. Then held a great supply of protective gear in reserve. Reciprocity becomes not just diplomatic, but life-saving. Quiet heroes obtain supplies.
Only calm coordination ensures the highest level of cooperation and collaboration possible. As social beings, we are more are likely to share than to loot. Good leaders encourage that. We just require them to remind us of our tendency toward the common good.
Imagine your house is on fire. Firefighter Bob says, “Come to the west window, it’s safest.” But firefighter Barb says, “No, the east window is safest.”
Before you know it, Bob calls Barb a nasty snake. And a liar. Barb simply says, “Come.”
Go with Barb. Barb may feel outraged indignation, but she is a true leader to whom safety is more important right now, so, she stays calm.
Barb is more likely to have the safe route. She is not acting under anger, but focus.
Police officers who stay calm kill less. Journalists, not retaliating, stay heard. Dr. Fauci, staying calm, stays credible. Truth and science, not partisanship, instills hope.
Cooperation, not competition, saves us.
This post was previously published on Equality Includes You and is republished here with permission from the author.
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Photo credit: Christyl Rivers