Pulling Leaders Out Of Our Arses
Of the many factors that contribute to making a good leader, one of the most important has to be a solid philosophical underpinning; a basis of thought that guides actions and determines the nature and method of approach to achieving an objective. A good example is Martin Luther King. A strong and charismatic leader, King campaigned for Civil Rights guided by a philosophy of the intrinsic value of man - a philosophy which he exhibited by pursuing his objectives through non-violent resistance. The strength of King's leadership was determined by the strength and coherence of the philosophies he adhered to.
Clearly, King’s greatest asset was the philosophical wealth that he inherited from both African-American philosophers (W.E.B DuBois, William Fontaine, Alain Locke) and various religious philosophies (Jainist non-violence, Christian compassion). There was a circulation of philosophical ideas and ideals throughout the African-American community that tackled issues of racism, morality, colonialism, identity, and cultural expression. From this dynamic richness of philosophical thought African-American leaders seemed to emerge almost as a necessary consequence of it.
By contrast, we in Asian-America are often left to wonder about the dearth of charismatic Asian leaders. If it is indeed true that philosophical richness can provide fertile ground for leaders to emerge and that there is a dearth of Asian-American leaders, it’s unsurprising to find that there seems to be a dearth of Asian-American philosophers also. What exactly is the philosophy of Asian-America? Are we shapers of American destiny or the implementers? Are we in the vanguard of a new America that looks to the East with affection equal to its affection for the West? Is our future full assimilation? Do we need a semi-autonomous United States of Asian-America? What is our vision and who are our visionaries?
In short, I would submit that as a community our need to reassure the xenophobic mainstream that we are “people, just like them”, may perhaps have stifled the development of an Asian-American vision and stunted the emergence of a hotbed of philosophical ideas competing against one another to be the best guide for our future. This may be because of fears that Asian-Americans with new social or political ideas would contribute to xenophobic fear and reprisals against the community. Yet it seems to me that the first step in the emergence of a consciousness has to be through the examination and evaluation of ideas, even those that are scary or uncomfortable.
Clearly, our lack of leadership may be partially but directly attributed to a lack of philosophical richness. A necessary part of that philosophical richness has to include the exploration of concepts and ideas that are uncomfortable, ugly or even frightening. Yet, in the spirit of free inquiry we must be willing to do this regardless of the consequences – if we can’t be free with our ideas, then we’re not really free. We need to move beyond supporting existing paradigms and become the creators of new paradigms.