In a previous article I discussed the question of loyalty and its meaning for a serious political movement. A good comrade brought to my attention an important corollary to loyalty: the expectations of behavior for leaders and comrades in the movement.
Everyone has expectations for acceptable or decent behavior in public and private. For purposes of political activism I differentiate between two standards of behavior that is illustrative of the different roles people choose to play.
I define a comrade as someone whom you know that is of like mind and wants to achieve roughly the same goals as yourself. A comrade does not have to agree with 100% of another comrades opinion. Comrades have a special path to walk. With few exceptions comrades come from different backgrounds inspired by ideas and the possibilities they contain. A certain level of being non-judgmental is necessary with comrades: one overlooks personality differences, eccentricities, or differences of opinion. Like a marriage, the long term goal is always the most important part of your relationship. With comrades one is honest, encouraging, and hopefully, always looking on the bright side of any given situation. To be comrades is a rewarding path that offers not just camaraderie but friendship. However comrades do not overlook character limitations or problems that develop in a given situation. I will add that in my opinion anyone that uses recreational drugs should be not be considered a comrade. Same for heavy drinkers.
Before I get into expectations of behavior for comrades and leaders lets touch on what leadership is. In English the word leader makes it look like there is a ‘leader’ and everyone else is merely a passive follower of the charismatic personality. This is hardly if ever the case. Leaders may be more accurately described as organizers and in our cause, community organizers. Organizing a group of people to care about each other and act in unity under more or less equal terms is far more valuable than a room full of chiefs and no indians. Simply put leaders are the people that plan and organize events and when they express an opinion on some topic people listen and discuss it seriously. It is not that they “lead” people by telling them what to do and shouting orders, the hallmark of leadership is taking the initiative and seeing how to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. Rather than waiting for someone else to do what needs to be done leaders take it upon themselves to make things happen. This includes organizing meetings and motivating supporters to attend events. For those of you familiar with this task you know that the latter is probably your least favorite part of the job. Be advised that the behavior and words of a leader is always held up to a magnifying glass and it is a requirement to be an example of living up to the highest standards and second to none. However it should be noted that just being your best won’t please everybody. Making a comment that ninety nine out of a hundred agree with there will always be the one person that will find something wrong with it and try to undermine your leadership because of it. C’est le vie.
Over time a leaders name can act as a brand name. Everyone knows what brand Al Sharpton and David Duke represent when they make an appearance on television. This is a good thing and comrades should promote the leaders that most resonates with them and not give much thought or much criticism for those they don’t feel affinity with. The role of leadership can attract the ambitious and self-serving and a political community needs to be wary of these sorts of people. It’s impossible to extract the exact motivations of a leader but I suggest a litmus test by analyzing what they have actually achieved rather than what they say or what others say about them. Have they brought more people together? Are they dedicated and committed with the resources they have or not? Have they led campaigns that give the cause good exposure? What do they discuss more, their personal needs or those of the community? From these kinds of questions a broad picture of a persons contribution to the cause can be measured.
The way in which this brand is communicated is largely dependent on the personality, experience, and predilection of the leader in question.
Now as this article is about expectations the important thing to do is this: keep your expectations within reasonable bounds and no higher. I define reasonable as whatever it takes to grow the movement. I would go so far as to say that nothing more or less is asked of you when interacting with like minded people.
When the opposite approach is taken, when expectations are so high that people you come across do not meet those expectations, decent people can be discarded as useless or never brought up to reach their full potential. This is an example of failing to be a good comrade and will probably result that you won’t be able to function as a leader.
Having standards that are too low can be even more disastrous (however that is beyond the topic of this article).
Over time you can find an infinite number of faults in the people you associate with. Find humor in it. Your comrades and community leaders are not perfect. Everyone has shortcomings and there is a good possibility of being let down by somebody due to no ones fault. I believe that a good comrade can tell you the exact areas where he needs to improve and he can tactfully point out where you can as well. I make it a point of asking my comrades “what could I of done better?”
I ask this because contrary to popular belief we (you dear reader and I) are simply not good enough, as we are, to make happen the goals we want to achieve. In order for us to achieve our goals we are going to have to change ourselves, and our community, for the better.
Having reasonable expectations of what to expect from one another is the starting point for doing what needs to be done.