Have you ever been to a meeting at which the facilitator asked the group, “Tell us something the rest of us don’t know about you.” For me, the first thing that comes to mind is that I was once a rock star.
My cousin Jay Grossheim played guitar, Teddy Valandingham on drums, Tony Fredrick on bass and me on keyboards. We were rock stars in our neighborhood. The girls went for Teddy and his Ludwig drums, which no other parents could afford for their up and coming musician. Jay and Tony had bargain basement equipment and I had something really cool.
I played a 32 key Magnus Electric Chord Organ as seen on TV. It had a little fan that would blow through small pipes inside, but it was too quiet for a rock band, of course, so I taped a microphone to the top, which led to an old reel to reel tape deck for a little more volume.
We played a couple of Beatles tunes, House of the Rising Sun, Little Red Riding Hood and our best, The Monkeys’ I’m a Believer. We went on the road, well, down the road to play our only gig at Mark Arnold’s birthday party. When we got really rockin’, it was time to sing happy birthday and Mark’s mother stopped us mid-song to sing Happy Birthday and cut the cake. We would have played Happy Birthday but didn’t know how.
Still we were the coolest guys in the neighborhood and with it came the adoration that comes with cool. For us, it lasted a couple of weeks before Jay quit after finding his Yoko Ono. It was a tough breakup, but after a couple of games of street football and a few games of Risk at Teddy’s house, it was all over. Friends are forever after all.
A few minutes of fame can change you. Once you get a taste of two hands clapping you chase fame like a dog chasing a cat. It’s just that little smell of adoration inflating your ego and it’s what keeps you chasing the feline of fame; craving attention until you either get the power or the pursuit ruins you. Not always in a big way but some small piece of you loses confidence and the pursuit of the elusive golden ring becomes not as important anymore and maybe, just maybe, humility sneaks in and you become a better person for it.
But what happens if you’re successful at gaining some sort of notoriety and the layer cake of the climb leads you to the sweet icing on top? Do you handle it with grace and wisdom or do you have to pay those who helped you stack your confection layer by layer?
Unlike the talent for music, acting or the arts, power is the art of manipulation. You know the famous quote “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Although power comes in many forms, I think, it lives in politics than any other place. Power can be real or misplaced and exists at all levels of government.
Those who carry humility on their rise to power are sometimes run over by those with a Machiavellian (cunning opportunist) personality. “Never tell anyone the real reason you did something unless it is useful to do so,” wrote Daniel Jones in Handbook of Individual Differences in Social Behavior.
Politicians need money to be elected or reelected. Some embedded or uncontested politicians develop war chests to assist their compatriots in winning their elections. Money with strategy wins elections. Power and influence advance their agenda.
In Chesterfield we have a mix of Machiavellians and the humble, and the humble serve their constituents well and the egotist is self serving. Those who believe their position advances their ideology above her citizens are only responsive when inundated by large groups for, or against, a particular issue.
The key for the common citizen who wants revitalization, or is trying to stop the train of unwanted change in the community, is organization, and it takes a lot to organize a group of apathetic residents. In this county it is understandable why a resident might become apathetic. I have heard more times than I can count, “Why try, they’re going to do what they want anyway,” or “It’s a done deal.”
This is exactly what power can do. Some elected officials believe that their vote is the best for their constituency, according to the officials own ideology. If not told, by a large number of citizens, those who contributed to the official’s campaign or friends who have stood by them, win. And if the general population doesn’t rise up, there is no citizen voice at all.
Sometimes your voice can be heard by a simple email or phone call. The issue is not always a done deal, but ts sure can be if you don’t speak up.
Remember, when thousands of people give elected officials their vote, our elected official becomes a rock star. They speak in front of crowds and everyone wants their ear. Yoko Ono can’t break their band of obligations. Even though an elected official takes office with the best of intentions, it is difficult for them to say no to those people who have given them contributions to be elected.
Keep those contributors in mind and bring your Yoko Ono along to challenge your most important elected official – your Supervisor. Their decisions affect you more than any other decision maker.