As an avid swimmer and swim instructor, I have a healthy appreciation for the danger of undertow.
But we need to beware of the other types of undertows:
In the office....
The boss and upper management announce policies and procedures expecting enthusiastic implementation. Beware the undertow of staff who are not on board.
The new employee joins the staff but the undertow with rumors, animosities and resentments are ever present from day one.
The diligent, hard working employees sense the undertow from the slackers and the clock watchers.
In the schools….
Same scenario as described above concerning the office undertow:
Superintendents, principals, teachers all announce policies and procedures but the student undertow undermines their best plans, intentions and platitudes.
New kids, transfer kids and the student leaders (student council, valedictorian, etc.) are all victims of the undertow (and some don’t even think they’re victims).
In the community, in the neighborhood…
The mayor makes proclamations. On the streets the undertow could care less.
The police chief announces an initiative, the undertow of citizens don’t care and the underworld undertow knows better.
In the nation…
In a binary system of politics where it’s a winner take all situation…
The winner may win but the undertow relentlessly flows for 4 years
The far right calls the far left calls them wimpy, socialist, Marxist, incompetent, elitist
The far left calls the far right racist, fascist, elitist, war mongering.
Poke each other enough and the undertow only gets stronger.
In foreign affairs….
Here’s where the undertow is most dangerous and most significant.
You underestimate the undertow and you have seriously miscalculated. Examples are as follows:
- Overestimated strength of the Syrian resistance to it’s dictator. Miscalculated strength of undertow.
- Underestimated strength of Taliban
- Overestimated strength of Arab spring undertow.
- Underestimated the Viet Cong, North Vietnamese
- Miscalculated the Russian fear of NATO expansion and underestimated the undertow of Russian sympathy within Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.
- Overestimate the strength of undertow that will support democracy in historically undemocratic nations.
So here’s the take away, the bottom line:
Don’t over or under estimate the UNDERTOW. To avoid this losing scenario, do the following:
- Have boots on the ground and your ear to the rail (touching a vibrating rail can alert you to an oncoming train that’s still out of sight).
- Be sure to talk to and listen to the underlings, the little people. Don’t just talk to the leaders, the big shots, the talking heads. Don’t believe the leadership public relations.
- Be observant, be strategic, fight the next war not the last, be sure you know who you can trust, be aware of whose got an axe to grind, who is allied with whom and who is the enemy of your enemy.