Monday, September 25, 2006

Lead, Follow, or Get out the way

I Can't say why this phrase came into my mind today. Nevertheless, I'm certain that its an appropriate phrase to describe the current state of affairs, not just in religion, but also politics, and various other socio-economic idioms.

The first time I ever heard this phrase was in the Marine Corps, and to me it symbolizes the very essence of all that I believe as it relates to life.

To me, stagnation is equivalent to death, because something with no aim nor purpose is for all intensive purposes dead and void of life. We live in a universe full of motion and it would be unnatural to be beings that are against motion. Everything lives under the laws of cause and effect, pushing and pulling, ying and yang, etc. Therefore, our individual beliefs as it relates to our personal philosophies, choices, and life must follow these same laws.

Leadership is strongly needed in this world today especially, in the realm of politics and religion, two subjects I frequent if you haven't noticed. But what kind of leadership is needed and how do we describe that leadership in the first place? I have been taught that leadership is the ability to effectively influence a unit or bloc of people and move them from one place to another in a variety of fashions or means. If this is in truth the definition of leadership, than what kind of "influence" must the said leader have and what kind of "people" will be moved by it?

A good leader is also a good follower. In order to lead, one must know how to follow. How can we expect others to be of service when we have never served ourselves? The true test and question is what are you following in the first place? An effective leader follows a principle or set of principles that instills within them with a sense of duty that makes them eager to serve in a capacity so great that this becomes the forethought of every action they take. These principles are so great that they manifest to such a degree that others pick up on this and want to follow this particular individual.

Granted, I'm just quoting and re-hashing things that many may already know and believe, but I think that in a time like this, we have to seriously engage this subject, because it effects our everyday lives.

There are core values and principles that I think we all should adhere to. In the Marine Corps, we identify these as Honor, Courage, and Commitment. A strong leader or I dare say a great leader, should exude these characteristics and or traits, and be a dedicated adherent to these as an everyday philosophy.

Honor can be summed up in two words: Justice and Integrity.

A leader must have the capacity to be able to see the world and people in such a way that they realize the universal need and urge for balance. Balance is only maintained by justice and integrity. In the political sphere, we see increasingly that things are neither just nor fair, and we all know that most politicians have thrown integrity out the window a long time ago. How can we continue to stomach the systems under which we subject ourselves to or associate ourselves with that no longer if ever, represents the needs of the people? What good is pseudo representation? The masses cry out in one direction, yet the "leadership" steers us in another direction, I don't see the justice in that. In religion, especially my own, we have allowed wolves to lead the sheep. These wolves only seek to devour and conquer. How can we say we represent a God of Peace, and we do, if we allow these wolves to show and do otherwise? This is not just in Islam, but Christianity, Judaism, and many others. Peace, true peace can only reside in a world where there is justice and integrity. Any leader that doesn't understand and actively engage in this, my dear friends isn't just the opposite of a leader but is lacking seriously, in the honor department.

Courage is having the quality of mind or spirit that enables one to move forward, even in the face of adversity no matter how great or small the odds.

It should be of no surprise that all the characteristics and ideas I have expressed so far involve motion. A leader must move forward, if they plan on leading effectively. In order to move forward one must espouse courage. There are times in life when we feel too tired, we just want to give up, and we question the road ahead because of the difficulty that awaits us. It is in these times when we must press on. In the Bible, it is written that we should let this mind be in us as it was in Jesus. One of the first questions we should be asking as it relates to this verse, is what was the mind of Jesus that we should have? What we read of Jesus, whether we believe in him or not, was that he had the mind to move ahead, stay the course, and press on regardless of adversity. He believed in his mission so much that even at the threat of death he did not waver. His message was one of peace and paradise, he wanted to restore the balance of humanity, and at all costs he pressed on with this mission. Who are we, that we don't have the courage and conviction to say what needs to be said in a time like this? Is our faith in our beliefs so weak, that we fall not only silent, but become prey for our enemies? Isn't it about time that we choose or become leaders that have the courage to look adversity in the eye and speak the truth of peace and justice, no matter what? This is what we should earnestly seek and what we must earnestly demand. Any who compromise in this area, is not worthy of leadership.

Commitment is a pledge, promise, or obligation.

I don't have to go in depth on this one, but what good is a leader that doesn't keep their word? In politics especially here in America, our "leaders" swear an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Any leader that does other than that isn't worthy of their position, rank, or title. If I cant trust you to keep your oath, than how can I trust you to make decisions on my behalf? In religion, our "leaders" profess and sometimes take an oath that they will express and act in accordance with the teachings of their religion. I have yet to study a religion or system of belief that doesn't believe that the Supreme Being, God is a Merciful, Just, and Peaceful God. Granted there are a few "fringe" groups like Satanists...but you get where I'm going with this. Any Rabbi, Priest, Minister, or Imam, that speaks or teaches anything other than Mercy, Justice, and Peace, is not only not of God, but are open adversaries of God. We should not allow for such leaders that openly break their commitment and yet say they act on our behalf or our beliefs. If we allow such, what does that say about us?

Everyone believe it or not, is a leader. There are just different levels in which we lead. Everyone is also a follower in which the same is also true. Just as we should examine who we allow to lead us, we must also examine ourselves to see why we are lead and if that "leader" is really representing us or what we believe. Either way, leading or following are paths of motion, even if it is backward, God forbid, but it is motion nevertheless, and where there is motion, their is life and the potential there of.

If we have become so content or so stagnant that we don't do either, then we ought to get out the way, and just exist as the zombies we are, the living dead. We live in a culture of death that promotes the adverse of life and increases the lethargic activities that lead to physical and mental death.

We are a humanity in need of two things: Leaders and Followers. However, we have to be willing to do what is necessary to establish virtuous leadership and followers, we have to have the Honor to know which is which, the Courage to point out the difference, and the Commitment to follow through. Otherwise, we will just be as it is written in the scripture as tinkling brass and symbols, pleasant sounding entertainment.

For us Muslims this is Ramadan. Ramadan is supposed to be a time of introspection. The physical fast is in truth, more spiritual than anything else. This is the time when we are supposed to be training our minds to have the discipline to act in accordance with what we believe. Controlling ones lower desires, hunger, lust, etc. gives us the ability to express the higher desires or oneness with our Creator and exemplify Peace, which is the result of Freedom, Justice, and Equality for all Humanity. If these things aren't on our agenda, its time to take a serious look in the mirror. These things have to be on our agenda.

If we aren't for the oppressed, if we aren't for the abused women and children, if we aren't for the homeless, hungry, sick and shut in, if we are not for Justice, Freedom, and Equality for all of Humanity no matter the ethnicity, nationality, or ideology, then we must accept our choices and the consequences thereof, most importantly we have to decide to and recognize that its time to Lead, Follow, or Get out of the way...

Peace be with you and yours,

Ramadan Mubarak

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