Monday, August 23, 2010

Arrogance and Defeat

Tales from the Hood ponders the area between arrogance and defeat:
There is always complexity and often chaos, but even so there are times when both the problem and the remedy are crystal clear, and when redress is within our power, even if only on a limited scale. ... Far too often we lack the confidence to say the hard things, to take decisive action when decisive action is needed....
Yet at the same time we are often quick to quibble and nit-pick any time a fellow aid-worker who makes a simple declarative statement without a lot of fluffy caveats and self-abasement. An unqualified opinion uttered or written in anything other than bland dispassion or grey technicalese is too easily received as “strident” or “harsh.” Beyond personal self-deprecation the language of aidspeak is increasingly devoid of middle-ground expression.
The culture of our industry continues to erode away the already narrow and precarious space between arrogance and defeat. ...

[Reforming aid] starts with attitude and perspective at the individual level: How to find the balance between acknowledging one’s own limitations with doing what one knows must be done; how to clearly appear and also to be in fact open to new thought and perspective without compromising the value of experience and those hard-won lessons about what works and – perhaps even more importantly – what does not; how to make the hard decisions, say the hard things, take the difficult and perhaps unpopular action, knowing full well that it will be misunderstood, but without going so far as to revel in being misunderstood; how to be equally honest and uncompromising about the successes as about the failures.
In short, how to manage the opposing tensions of arrogance and defeat and find the sweet spot of confident humility.

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