Hard to free fools and be right

Voltaire said:

It is hard to free fools from the chains they revere.”


Another Chain-keh

Photo courtesy of Wendell via Compfight

It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong.”

among other things.

Why would those words matter to those of us driving change?

Because as you drive change you will encounter people who want to move, should move, can move, and yet refuse to move.  They will sit, frustrated with their current state, empowered to change it, and REFUSE TO ACT.  All your leading, your enthusiasm, your passion for the future will not induce them to move.  Maybe you’ll be able to diagnose why they stay put, but even if you can diagnose it, you can’t make them move.  They have to decide to move.

What’s worse is when those who refuse to move are those in power.  They manifestly have the positional ability to create a large change by their very position in the hierarchy, but there they sit, powerless.  Actually, powerless is really a bad word to describe them.  Powerless means “devoid of strength or resources” or “lacking the authority or capacity to act.”  Powerless implies a lack of power from outside.  What word better describes their state, a lack of power from inside?

Disempower attempts to fill the position with a definition of “to deprive of power, authority, or influence : make weak, ineffectual, or unimportant.” Yet, even there the assumption is that the action to deprive of power comes from some external force.  Funny, isn’t it, that we almost lack the words to describe a self-selected state of prostration in the face of an opportunity to act.  Adding the prefix “self-” may help us…They are “self-disempowered.”  That’s better, but heavy.

Perhaps you, good readers, could provide a word that effectively describes the state that Voltaire observed, the fools held in chains they revere, including some of their own making.

Not exactly a light note to start off the week, yet there’s a message in these ramblings, I think.  The message is: All you can control is yourself.  Being right doesn’t mean your idea will win.  That’s the myth change agents have been fed for too long.  Being right is necessary, but it is not sufficient.  You must also be willing to act even when those around you retreat to the comfort of their chains and you must be willing to be right, even when (or especially when) the authorities aren’t.

If you’re not willing, who will be?  Why not try to change the world?

Have a great week driving your change!


2 thoughts on “Hard to free fools and be right”

  1. I think much of what you describe is simply apathy (from dictionary: lack of interest in or concern for things that others find moving or exciting.)

    I believe, that when I encounter resistance to change, it is a failure on my part. It would be foolish of me to assume I am right therefore the other person must be wrong and subsequently a fool for not following me.

    Perhaps the paradigm to adopt is that the driver of change has not provided a compelling enough vision of the future. Maybe “they” just don’t understand what it is you’re trying to accomplish.

    I suggest “empathy” as a topic for driving change. IMO, a leader of change has to have the courage to challenge his/her assumptions. As much as we think we know, there’s a whole lot we don’t know.

  2. Good points Mike. Thanks for keeping me thinking of the feelings of others. I think I am, but sometimes I’m not. Between you and Julie, you always keep me honest.

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