Don Quixote, Hero of the Resistance, and the Danger of Not Tilting at Windmills

Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno defined quixotic pessimism as the refusal to let the odds of success determine the value of the fight, according to Mariana Alessandri’s opinion piece that ran on Memorial Day in the New York Times. This is a truth we should consider anew as the injustices and dangers of the Trump administration continues to add up. As Alessandri points out, the worthiest causes of all are often the lost ones.

The word “quixotic,” you might recall, is derived from the Miguel de Cervantes romantic hero, Don Quixote de la Mancha. Don Quixote had a fondness for tilting at windmills, believing them to be giants ravishing the countryside. His loyal squire, Sancho Panza, was constantly trying to talk the noble knight out of his obsession. But it was Panza, not Quixote, who was the lost one. Panza had no interest in trying—his defeat in life was absolute.

Instead, we must use our quixotic pessimism as a shield and charge onward against those windmill-sized dangers. Alessandri writes, “Cultivating moral courage amounts to learning to shift our attention away from those who confuse criticism for action toward our own judgment of what is worthwhile, based on thinking a whole lot about what kind of world we would like to live in and the kinds of people we’d like to be. It is worth noting that Quixote went mad from reading books, and this is precisely the type of crazy that Unamuno supports. We may not be able to improve the world, but we can at least refuse to cooperate with a corrupt one.”

I would charge all revolutionists and resisters to embrace quixotic pessimism. As Mohandes K. Ghandi said, “…it is possible for a single individual to defy the whole might of an unjust empire to save his honor, his religion, his soul and lay the foundation for the empire’s fall or its regeneration.” We just have to keep attacking those windmills.

Andrew Faas is the author of From Bully to Bull’s-Eye: Move Your Organization Out of the Line of Fire

Photo credit: BIGSTOCK

The Art of the Bully

All the king’s threats and all the king’s ultimatums couldn’t put this humpty-dumpty of a healthcare bill back together again. As of 4 p.m. Friday afternoon House Republicans scrapped the American Health Care Act, aka Trumpcare, after House Speaker Paul Ryan made a hasty trip to the White House to inform Donald Trump that they just didn’t have the votes.

It looks like endless threats and ultimatums weren’t enough to overcome poor planning, the evisceration of medical benefits, and the steadfast determination of an electorate that called, wrote, emailed and even faxed their pleas to save the Affordable Care Act to their elected officials. In the end, the Republicans decided to save themselves from embarrassment, and save members in divided districts from losing re-election, by not allowing the bill go to a vote.

The magnitude of the bullying involved with the ACHA has been mind boggling. Trump’s last-minute visit yesterday to the conservative Freedom Caucus included forcing chair Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) to stand and declaring, “I’m going to come after you” because “honestly, a loss is not acceptable.” This is how bullies—not talented businesspeople—cut deals: through threats and false promises.

The Republicans tried to make excuses for Trump’s behavior or laugh it off, but the Democrats weren’t having it. U.S. News & World Report quoted House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer as saying, "When Trump threatens people, he usually means it. I see no reason to believe he was kidding… that was a threat, not a wink and a nod."

In the end, credit goes to Americans who are resisting Trump. In my book, From Bully to Bull’s-Eye: Move Your Organization Out of the Line of Fire, I devoted a chapter to how people can fight back against bullying in the workplace. The most important thing to know is not to try to do it alone. You need allies who will support you and back you up. Today the American people and the caring members of Congress teamed up to resist the gutting of the ACA. None of the bullying made a difference.  Perhaps Press Secretary Sean Spicer put it best when he told the press, “At the end of the day, you can’t force somebody to do something. At the end of the day, this isn’t a dictatorship.”

Let’s hold him to that. This is just one victory, but resisting tyranny is never a race—it’s a marathon. Rest up. We have a lot more work to do.

Photo credit: Associated Press

Canadian Generosity Can Inspire Americans to Resist Authority

 I am an immigrant to Canada from The Netherlands, and cannot be more proud of my adopted country and its whole-hearted embrace of Syrian refugees and pride in being a multicultural nation.

I’m also a part-time resident of the United States and based on numerous discussions I have had with many Americans, as well observing the protests and reading sources from honest journalism, I believe the majority in the U.S. are more like Canadians than not.

In the research I have done in workplace dynamics, I have come to understand how people become entrapped in an authoritarian culture. Stanley Milgram, in the Perils of Obedience put it so well when he wrote, "...ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of mortality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority."

This is why it is so critical for people to unite against the shift to totalitarianism. My new book From Bully to Bull's-Eye: Move Your Organization Out of the Line of Fire  directly addresses how everyone can provide leadership as described by Mohandes K. Gandhi when he declared,  "It is possible for a single individual to defy the whole might of an unjust empire to save his honor, his religion, his soul and lay the foundation for that empire's fall or its regeneration."


The Revolutionist of the Week: The Marchers

This week's Revolutionist of the Week goes to all of the people who participated in the Women's March.

In my new book, From Bully to Bull's Eye: Move Your Organization out of the Line of Fire (RCJ Press; January 10, 2017) I encourage employees who work in toxic environments to become activists to force cultural transformations, invoking the words of Mohandes K. Gandhi:

"It is possible for a single individual to defy the whole might of an unjust empire to save his honor, his religion, his soul, and lay the foundation for that empire's fall or its regeneration."

The Women's March by all indicators was an incredible success in making people’s voices heard. From my perspective these events are just a beginning. Event organizers have indicated that they will be following up with other events and activities to become what in essence could be a powerful, and much needed, opposition as well as a check and balance to the new administration.

The current opposition parties and checks and balances are very fragile, and cannot be relied on to protect democracy and the hard-fought rights, privileges and core values that clearly are at risk. This void can be filled by the power of positive, effective protests and activism.

Here are my top tips for protest organizers and participants:

·       Be inclusive. What you are embarking on should not become a partisan undertaking. Given the diversity of the people involved, you should recognize that there is diversity in viewpoints and areas of concerns, and to shut these people out, will dilute your effectiveness. Also, realize that many Republicans share your frustrations and concerns; to become truly effective don’t limit your resistance to just the Democratic Party.

·       Define your purpose. Knowing what to fight and what not to fight is critical. Your purpose should be to protect democracy, rights, privileges and core values—not to mention keeping government honest and transparent.

·       Differentiate between dislikes and what is fundamentally wrong. There is no question that most people do not like the fact that Donald Trump is president. To try to unseat him because he is unpopular is not only futile, it is undemocratic. However, if Trump and/or his surrogates were complicit with the Russians in influencing the election, that would be considered fundamentally wrong—even treasonous. If this is not dealt with swiftly and according to the Constitution, then a demand to do so must be fought for with vigor. A recently launched twitter campaign to force Trump to deliver on his promises to release his tax information is an excellent example of positive and effective activism. Trump continues to ignore the demands of the people and give us the finger, as rationalized by senior counselor Kellyanne Conway, “He is not going to release his tax returns. We litigated this all through the election. People didn’t care; they voted for him, and let me make this very clear: most Americans are very focused on what their tax returns will look like while President Trump is in office, not what his look like.”  Forcing Trump to release his returns should put to rest whether he misrepresented to the electorate and his financial relationships with other countries.

·       Challenge “alternative facts.”  This term was coined by Kelly Conway this weekend over the absurd debate about the size of the crowds at the inauguration. By whatever name a lie is a lie is a lie. Bullies are masters of manipulation, deception, deflection, deceit and denial. As an expert in adult bullying, there is no question in my mind that Trump is a bully. Every time he is exposed for using “alternative facts” inundate your members of Congress with calls, letters and social media to force them to hold Trump accountable for his lies.

·       Appreciate that “right makes might.” When you stake your position, make sure that right is on your side. There are many things that Trump will do that you may not like, but they may be things that he has every right to do. Yes, these can be challenged, but at the end of the day unpopular decisions are still his right. The most effective challenge is at the ballot box. Marshal your facts, consult with experts, and form alliances with like-minded groups to make real and lasting change—with right on your side.

·       Pick your battles—not everything is equal. Be viewed as enablers rather than restrainers. A key factor in what we are experiencing was caused by years of polarization and gridlock. Legislators of both parties became restrainers. Part of the reason Trump was elected was to break this gridlock. Adding more gridlock will make you part of the problem, not the solution.

Godspeed. You are on a critically important journey.

Credit: Chicago Tribune

Predicting What Trump Will Do Next

We keep reading in the media about the utter unpredictability of Donald Trump, but I say this is nonsense. From my study of bullies and how bullying works, I know exactly what he’s going to do next. But first, let me give you some background.

Over the years I’ve become something of an expert on adult bullies—I was one early in my career until a wise supervisor set me straight, later on I sadly confess I was at times a bystander to bullying. I’ve been the victim of bullying so severe I was diagnosed with a form of PTSD, and today I’m an advocate for victims of bullying. I’ve dedicated my career to preventing and ending bullying in the workplace, which has inspired two books as well as my foundation’s current partnership with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and our joint Emotion Revolution in the Workplace initiative.

So I can reasonably declare that I’ve learned how bullies work. They are masters of manipulation, deflection, deception, deceit and denial and no one is better at bullying than Donald Trump. Bullies are particularly dangerous when their back is against the wall and the growing agitation about Trump’s connection with Russia is going to have his back against the bricks very soon. The onus is on Congress and the Republicans to force disclosure before the inauguration because it will be easier to prevent Trump from being inaugurated than to try to impeach him afterward. My prediction is if that happens he will do everything he can to maintain his power and control.  He will abuse the power of the presidency up to and including drastic things like martial law.

We only have one week to prevent this disastrous occurrence and I’m deeply concerned. I shared that concern in December when I wrote about my 97-year-old mother who was in the Dutch Resistance in World War II and whose greatest regret was that she didn’t do more to save the victims of the Nazis. That’s why I’m urging you to do what you can and inundate your representatives to demand full disclosure. Don’t let Trump and his people shut you down. Make your voice be heard before it’s too late. America’s future depends upon it.