Era of Paranoid Wussies

Here is a good documentary essay from the Wall Street Journal on the corporate phenomenon of fear of risk, and related stifling of freedom by legal paranoia.

No corner of government, school or corporate processes is immune. Creative innovation suffers most from fear-driven management; and risk-taking is a concept declining asymptotically toward zero. Governmental “leadership” culture certainly illustrates this well. [Simply substitute, say, “IT security” for “lawsuits” in framing the concept, if you are a government worker.] No wonder red tape bogs down innovation with ever more suffocating effectiveness. And a teacher can’t hug a crying child? This is just plain wrong.

On a personal level, undue aversion to risk also involves the fear of potentially offending someone, socially or professionally. Heaven forbid we either show an edgy sense of humor, engage in courageous decisiveness, or even worse, directly challenge others in any way, for fear of offending somebody. Quiet, facile compliance is the easy and all-to-common way out. It’s also the hidey-hole of the spineless pansy.

Will fear-driven practices of engagement and rules of conduct in the workplace, schools and social settings nudge us into effectively becoming the United Wussies of America — populated with and managed by sycophants who are professionally paralyzed for fear of any real or (more typically) imagined repercussion? Is this how Aldous Huxley’s eerie vision of mass enslavement of drones will be realized?

Or will we turn the tables, get back to boldness and original thought, and tell the easily offended what they most desperately need to hear? “Grow up. Get a thick skin. Think for yourself. Discover courage for once. Be excellent, not just adequate. Get tough, or get the hell out of the way.”

So what do I fear? The growing possibility that there never will be another Teddy Roosevelt…


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