On October 14 I wrote about criticism and critiques, exploring how in the wildland fire world they can provide a very valuable learning experience or there can be cascading negative repercussions. The outcome depends on the venue in which it is presented as well as the social maturity, motivation, knowledge, and diplomacy of the person expressing their opinion.
That article was followed a few days later by spotlighting Theodore Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena”.
When I heard about Former President Barack Obama speaking during a panel discussion on October 29 about the “call out culture”, I thought back to those two articles. Mr. Obama may have been referring to criticism related to social issues or politics, but the concept can also apply to discussions about firefighting and forest management — even to issues as meaningless as aggressively calling someone out for not using the most current version of firefighting jargon approved by the U.S. Forest Service, which I saw happen recently (but thankfully not on Wildfire Today).
Below is a transcript of portions of Mr. Obama’s discussion, and after that, a 2-minute video clip from the event:
“This idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re always politically woke and all that stuff — you should get over that quickly.
“The world is messy. There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws. People who you are fighting may love their kids and, you know, share certain things with you.
“I do get a sense sometimes now among certain young people, and this is accelerated by social media, there is this sense sometimes of, the way of me making change is to be as judgmental as possible about other people and that’s enough.
“Like if I tweet or hashtag about how you didn’t do something right, or used the wrong verb, then I can sit back and feel pretty good about myself because: ‘Man, did you see how woke I was? I called you out.’
“That’s not activism. That’s not bringing about change. If all you’re doing is casting stones, you are probably not going to get that far.”