Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Time to Move Past Our Siege Mentality

Battle Creek is under a self-imposed siege. It’s embodied by a sense of hopelessness that is staining the collective fabric of our community. Think about it. In recent months there has been the departure of key municipal personnel. Among them: the police chief, his assistant, and the city manager.
              That’s not all. There’s ongoing drama at Community Action, one of the largest and among the most impactful nonprofits in town: Its CEO was fired. And then fired again. Then there’s the not so grrrreat news that Kellogg Company is planning to fuel the economy of Grand Rapids by creating a new regional services center there. Oh yeah, and in the process diminish the workforce of Battle Creek, a city that has struggled with unemployment for years.

              Overseeing it all is a city council that has been operating with a business-as-usual posture. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.
              Not long ago, a rather youthful person imparted some particularly insightful wisdom: “The issue is not the issue.” That is to say, with respect to our community, the personnel purging and workforce exodus going on is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s much more going on than we can see at the surface.

              Some say all these events are independent of one another. I believe they are related and symptomatic of a larger problem – one that strikes at the core of how Battle Creek, as a system, has been working. Or rather not working.
              It’s human nature to engage in self-preservation and watch out for your own best interests. Many say do what you can for the little guy, but in the end it’s dog eat dog. You’re either predator or prey. That’s just how the world is. Or is it?
              Some believe instead that the world is what you make it. They affirm that life is hard, the world can be dangerous and if you don’t watch your back you can get hurt. At the same time, they also insist you don’t always have to meet force with force. The bottom line doesn’t always have to come down to the all mighty dollar. They suggest there are other ways of thriving; even when, materially speaking, the world is not your oyster.
              Some folks have a faithful devotion to community. They regard fellow others with trust, loyalty and as a spiritual (not religious) extension of themselves. They view the world through a lens that magnifies the wondrous concept that we’re all in this together. Like family. The human family.
              That said, some families are dysfunctional, with members that don’t value each other’s unique and special gifts. Right now, Battle Creek is such a family. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Our community’s meltdown isn’t the result of one company’s geographic business move. Nor does it rest solely on their employees not being physically ‘present,’ though it doesn’t help matters.
              There are other factors in play. Among them is the apparent inability of leaders to collectively inspire. Much of our current leadership perceives the majority of residents as liabilities rather than vital human resource partners. Want proof of how little material things can matter? Look at how much money has been poured into attempting to solve our economic and social problems.
              It’s time to think different and view our people and place with respect. Local citizen innovation has historically been poo-poo’d in favor of stale, rhetorical business and social models that may have worked in the past but fail to leverage all that is great about what’s happening today.
              Battle Creek is a jewel; a rare gem that’s been tarnished and fractured through years of spiritual neglect. How will you help repair it?

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