Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Influence: A Casual Primer

There's a timeless quandary (that I like to think I reformulated rather well): if the speed demon on your rear bumper is an asshole, and the Sunday driver in front of you is an idiot, what does that make you?

In the least this conundrum gives me a bridge from awareness of self toward discussing influence on the external world.

Our presence in the world has direct effects, more or less governed by the laws of physics.  The fact that our actions are influenced by ideas might be seen as more subtle, and I think it important to consider the how and when of passing advice or insight on to someone, be they friend, foe, or stranger.  How one influences and how one is influenced will vary greatly from person to person, and at least in my blog, I have some comfort in the fact that you've chosen to come here, and have the full opportunity to simply ignore the contents or to respond with a public comment or by contacting me directly to challenge the positions I present.  Most positively this creates an exchange of ideas.

In real time an act of influence can be received very badly especially if it wasn't requested.  One might fall back to the philosophy of live and let live, alas though that may serve at best as a baseline, it certainly isn't an honorable course of action when a parent is abusing their child in public, when two people are about to start a fight, or when one sees someone bringing harm to persons, property or society.  The Universe inherits our actions; I think it obvious that those actions should on whole be responsibly motivated.

Now I'm not saying one should intervene without reflection.  Jumping between two brutes is foolish when calling the police is a better option, at least for a middle class white person like myself.  Still, calling the authorities, or challenging a person or group to think more deeply upon their imminent actions, one ought to step forward, in safe fashion, to influence the situation with perspective and heartfelt goodness in mind.

My recent attempt to influence what I saw as improper involved sending a letter to an organization who I felt overstepped proper behavior (the letter in its entirety follows this post).  I contacted LAHIA (Love and Hope In Action), a proverbial soup kitchen, with the hope to improve the services they advertised.  Whether they will take heed of my gentle chastising or ignore it entirely, only time and perhaps telepathic omniscience can tell.

In the end, it is positively prudent to take sufficient time to ruminate upon the possible effects of our influence in the world, and then take courage to implement them, with reflection along the way. Indeed, live and let live is probably sufficient for most of the benign situations.  Nevertheless, there will be time when immediate intervention to prevent harm is called for and there will be times when we ought to consider, with compassion, planting shared seeds, that build upon the common ground of a better world for all.

As an afterthought, perhaps a new adage will serve:  when you expect traffic, perhaps it's better not to drive at all if only because you're more likely to talk with others on the same footpath.

Who's the fool
Where apathy rules?

You've got to want it
You've got to want it

If you don't want it

It remains the same
It's a heart of darkness
That wants to play that game
If there's no defiance
It remains insane
If it's all compliance
It's a runaway train
                                                                                                             -- Runaway Train (Geddy Lee)

To the LAHIA Management, 
      Having participated at Manna on Main Street in Pennsylvania, a food kitchen and pantry for those in need, I was looking forward to my volunteer experience at LAHIA so that I might help out the local community in need.
      Boy was I surprised.  I was saddened to witness an intimidating prelude to providing food to a roomful of people that were looking for a friendly meal.  For at least 30 minutes a LAHIA volunteer lectured these waiting, hungry people on the necessity of bringing Jesus and God into their lives.
     Please recognize the potential psychological damage you are doing by treating these people like children who must learn their religious lesson before they are permitted to eat.
      I suggest you look within your Christian belief and find true kindness.  I believe it would be appropriate to open with a minute to announce the generosity of LAHIA, volunteers and sponsors, and even to suggest these people consider attending a service.
      I am in process of writing a journalistic article about LAHIA on my GoodnessFirst.com blog.  I welcome your response that I might include it in the article, and hope a little input from me might have you reconsider how LAHIA treats the people they serve.
Brian Bohmueller

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