America, Get A Grip!

October 14, 2017

Some years ago, the Tribal Administrator came into my office, closed the door, and burst into tears. The Council was meeting to consider firing her, which they did. She did not understand. She was young, bright and had recently completed her Master’s Degree in Public Administration. She had done everything according to the book, yet she, for some unknown reason, had offended the powers-that-be.

As she calmed herself and apologized for coming in and crying, I explained that no apology was needed, but that possibly she had misread the mandate at her hiring. I explained that all cultures create laws, rules and regulations. That is the encoded documents that she had tried so meticulously to follow. But the laws do not create the culture, the culture creates the laws. And cultures, groups, families, tribes – any people group, is like an iceberg. 1/3rd of it is visible (encoded) while 2/3rd’s is invisible. It is subsurface. It has to do with the emotions, relationships, and the history of the culture. It is not written and encoded.

It is the subsurface that is the more powerful than the encoded documents, yet it is unknown to those it measures and unconscious to those who hold it. The culture cannot articulate or encode the subsurface expectations for they exist below the surface, but they are there none-the-less.

So, I explained to her that her failure was not in her performance but in the cultures inability to articulate their expectations. She was trapped in the vortex of unmet expectations that were also unknown.

And this is what has happened to America. While our documents (constitution, laws, regulations, etc.) remain visible and written, our expectations have moved. What used to be our balance point, our center, has not changed document wise, while our extremes that weigh on that balance point have changed radically. Yet the complication is, the shift has been rather one sided to the left. So, there is no balance point. That is, there is no agreement, subsurface, as to where the balance point is or should be. The culture of the left has gained control of the cultural subsurface and measures reality, not by the encoded norm, but by the emotional and unknown expectations of the shift. They call it Progressive. That is a misnomer, for it is only progress to the movement of the center by re-centering, not the encoded expectations of the culture but by the weight of the extreme.

The tensions we are experiencing are not open to discussion, for they are not a known and articulated cultural elements, but a subsurface expectation of the extreme. Someone is going to get fired, and they will not know why, and neither will those who do the firing. They call it incompatibility!

Any marriage counselor will tell you the path away from divorce. Identify the subsurface elements, bring them to the surface and face them. In prior generations that worked. But in our modern culture we allow the subsurface to rule and hold tenaciously to our emotional unknown rather than go through the arduous task of digging through the rubble to find the foundations.

In the case of the Tribal Administrator, there was a solution. She was doing her job. She should have been praised, but she had not met the subsurface cultural expectations which no one knew or could articulate.

So also for our nation. Unless we are able to come to ground zero and affirm our foundations and then discuss our differences of the subsurface level, we will be incompatible and will have to get a divorce. The balance point has moved and it is not progress. It is confusion and frustration and pain.

Taking a knee at the start of the football game really has no rational meaning. It addresses nothing and solves nothing. It is the rage of an inarticulate subsurface expectation without foundation. The same is true of other cultural issues, demonstrations and conflict.

We can do better than this, but we will have to affirm our known foundations and be willing to identify those expectations which we hold to so very firmly, without conscious knowledge and meaning. The problem is not with the constitution, it is with the radical cultural divide that holds positions without being able to affirm their existence in reality.

So, it all comes down to a simple question: What do you want me to do about your problem? The answer is, I can’t solve your problem! You have to. So, until you can come to grips with that, can I ask another question back to you? When will you shift your subsurface rage back on yourself and stop trying to fire me? Nothing will change until you do.