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A Philosophy for Everyone
October 7, 2018
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This essay serves as the Conclusion to my collection If I Could Convince You of Only One Thing. 'Who gives away the last chapter to their new book?' I hear you ask. I do, because this is important, and there's an election coming up. If you agree with me, please share, and maybe buy a book.

Hoping beyond hope that we would finally elect a woman president, I was cautiously optimistic in my final blog posts of 2016. Maybe our country as a whole would acknowledge that a full one-half of the population have had no role model, no one to represent us in our highest office, ever, since its inception. Maybe the time had come for voters to change that narrative.

Did we change anything? The election was not won by the woman candidate, yet a majority of the votes cast were cast for her. Meanwhile, the spectacle of the campaign, truly a mass media bonanza, has been kept alive with political controversies and investigations into the legitimacy of the process and the integrity of the new regime in Washington. Once-trusted journalistic institutions, subjected to increasing financial pressures, appear to have let us down; while the new technologies that challenged the old, and which had been perceived as bypassing those establishment gatekeepers of news, culture and information, have proven to be equally vulnerable to corruption. Welcome to Democracy. The onus is on us citizens, as it has always been, to be properly informed and routinely involved with the business of our communities and our country.

We are living in a hyper-connected world. Our desire for privacy, even our understanding of privacy, is being whittled away by mass media and advertisers who are desperate for us to "share" in order to gauge our likes and dislikes. Government agencies also want to know all about us, hopefully for legitimate administrative and security reasons, but sometimes in response to overblown threats, or to serve the ambitions of those seeking to hold or keep elected position. On a more positive note, we have been through a liberating psychological shift with regard to privacy as well. Nonconformity and casualness rule; many social taboos have fallen. We no longer have to suppress our individuality or hide our alternative lifestyles. In this more open and easy-going environment, as much as in the buttoned-down past, we need a shared ethic by which we are able to pool our knowledge and talents, yet shield ourselves from unhelpful distractions and unnecessarily personal judgments.

The term that comes to mind is "professionalism." It's more than a work ethic -- more like a working-together ethic. Professionalism can be applied to every aspect of life, and should be now that workplace activities can be conducted anywhere. Employment, household business and recreation frequently alternate and intermingle as we interact with many people near and far through our phones and computers. Plus, we can respond to almost any media instantaneously and publicly, and we are encouraged to do so at every turn. We may forget that our spontaneous reactions do not dissipate as quickly as they are vented -- they propagate, and then linger in the virtual world indefinitely. We would be wise to show some restraint in personal communication, just as we do in a professional setting.

Professionalism is more than dedication to the job, it has a lot to do with comportment. I like to think of it as floating lightly on the surface of social interaction, as opposed to diving into the depths of interpersonal sharing. This allows us to get things done cooperatively, without a lot of intense emotion, and without judging one another. It amounts to keeping in mind the context of one's dealings with someone else or a group, and staying focused on the objective. Professional courtesy and integrity keep important tasks rolling along, and allow us to appreciate our associates for their creativity and practical know-how. This leads to our mutually encouraging each other rather than competing and tearing each other down.

In the political arena, we can set aside ideology to evaluate candidates and their parties by their level of professionalism. Our elected officials have jobs to do, after all, paid for by our tax dollars. When we elect them, we are really hiring them; and as their bosses we should demand quality service. The political parties act as our Human Resources departments. We should expect due diligence from them. Has the candidate been fully vetted for trustworthiness? Does the candidate have relevant experience? Has the candidate demonstrated the skills required for the job? In short, is the candidate qualified? H.R. managers who repeatedly, or even once, select employees who are unqualified or unfit for the job tend not to hang on to their own.

What do we expect of new hires and re-hires? Conscientious work. Basic civility. Honesty. Integrity. Elected officials are our representatives. They represent our interests in the business of our country, and they represent us to the world. Employees who offend coworkers or clients, or who bring bad press to the firm, are usually let go. Professionalism involves mentorship -- training and nurturing those who will carry on the work after us. Both major political parties, and the alternative parties as well, have failed in this area. They are always looking for new voters -- to vote for the same old politicos. And they wonder why their candidates are tarred with labels like "establishment" and "status quo."

As I watch one "old boy" after another step down or get hounded out of political office due to sexual misconduct and other bad behavior, I keep thinking: Why didn't he retire a decade or two ago? I do see how someone in a job of long standing would not willingly leave their comfort zone, but there is nothing comfortable about defending discredited practices, or in exposing a laudable public career of former times to the sharp personal scrutiny that today's mass culture demands. Our public servants would serve us better if, rather than clinging to power, they would work harder to share their expertise and empower a new generation of leaders.

Make room for younger colleagues, encourage them, instruct them, boost them. That's how a legacy is made, that's how the future is made. I call it professionalism. It amounts to respect -- self-respect, respect for the task at hand whatever it is, and respect for all of the helpers, observers, and consumers who are participants in that task.

The great thing about respect is that it is not a depletable resource. More for some doesn't mean less for others. I continue to hold out hope for better times, when we will all demand, and dispense, more respect for all life on the planet.

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Copyright © 2018 Zelda Gatuskin

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