Last week while I was in that semiconscious state of falling asleep with the TV on, I heard the TV pundits talking about Odysseus and how he was the classic hero. The pundits went on to discuss how humans love heroes. Then one pundit questioned the other “What do heroes always need?” The answer was: “Problems. We have to have problems so we can have heroes.” That’s when I bolted upright and said out loud – “That’s what I always talk about!”
Years ago, I wrote my version of the male-dominated workplace Odysseus – the Great American Alligator Slayer. He is our traditional hero. He is strong, dominating and intimidating. In most companies he is found in Operations departments – the “make it happen” departments. Whenever the workplace is up to its waist in alligators (problems) he is who we turn to – he slays the alligators and makes the problems go away. We can count on him to always comes through!!
But in recent years, our classic hero has been challenged for his top status. In my article Baby Boomer Men – Status Driven, I discussed that there are now 3 additional groups of men – Planners, Geeks/Nerds and Intellectual Elites – who each believe they are worthy of the top rung on the status ladder. They want to redefine which male characteristics determine a Hero.
Since I already named two of the groups Great American Alligator Slayers and Swamp Drainers, I decided to have a little fun and call this new battle for status “Swamp Wars.”
In Swamp Wars, there are 4 players:
The Great American Alligator Slayer (Operations): He is our classic Hero. He is a combination of Teddy Roosevelt and John Wayne. He will kill the alligators and solve problems with his big guns and larger than life personality! He’s a man’s man, hard-charging, he calls it as he sees it and runs over anyone that gets in his way. He is both feared and respected. On his office wall hangs dozens of alligator hides – his trophies – for all to admire and be in awe of. Through human history young boys dreamt of growing up and becoming the next Great Alligator Slayer – of slaying an alligator larger and more fierce than any ever known before and becoming the greatest hero in history.
Swamp Drainers (Planners, Analyzers, Researchers): They believe the Great American Alligator Slayer is obsolete. They believe alligators (problems) exist because of the environment, because the swamp exists. if they figure out how to drain the swamp then they can make the alligators go away. They can design processes and procedures, they know six sigma, statistics and financial analysis. They can design and refine the swamp draining so all the alligators leave, negating the need for men with big guns. Swamp Drainers rely on their brains and ingenuity not brawn to conquer alligators.
Swampers (Geeks): Originally Swamp Drainers, Swampers broke off and bases their identity on technology. They live in the swamp and know it better than anyone else. They understand its complexity and how to navigate all the waterway networks. They know all the plant life, animals and fish. They know where the alligators nest and breed. They only care about alligators in the context of understanding how they fit into swamp’s ecosystem. They identify and understand the components of the swamp ecosystem so they can integrate them and continue to navigate the swamp. They live apart from the rest of the world, content with the separation and interacting with other Swampers using languages and a culture outsiders don’t understand.
Naturalists (Intellectuals): Naturalists identify with Plato’s Philosopher-Kings. They attend expensive and prestigious universities. They attend lectures and hold discussions. They write papers based upon papers they read and their internal discussions. They are not the get your hands dirty type – they visit the swamp but it is in a guided tour with luxury hotel accommodations outside the swamp at night. (This visit checks a square so they can say they have been to the swamp.) They spend their careers in Naturalist groups far away from the swamps. Naturalists believe their superior intellect allows them access to the best information on swamps. It is through this extensive academic study of the swamp, that they consider themselves swamp experts. And in keeping with their identification with Philosopher-Kings they believe they are worthy of governing the swamp and all other characters.
Alligator Slayers have been around since the beginning of man but it wasn’t until they came to the western hemisphere that they found the expansive space they needed for their true greatness. This vast untamed space demanded heroic men of great courage. It demanded Great American Alligator Slayers. Throughout American history, the Great American Alligator Slayer enjoyed extraordinary prestige. Whatever he wanted to accomplish, he led the way and made it happen. There was nothing he couldn’t do. His victories made all of us feel victorious.
But then some very smart and creative men who called themselves Swamp Drainers got together and discussed new ways to rid the swamps of alligators. Since hunting and slaying alligators is messy and expensive, wouldn’t it be better to just eliminate the alligators altogether?
Swamp Drainers reasoned that if they could drain the swamp, then the alligators would stop breeding and go away. Besides eliminating alligators draining swamps also changed the environment – there was new land that could be built on! Old swamps could now become land for factories, resorts with golf courses and housing developments. Swamp Drainers proved that we didn’t need Great American Alligator Slayers to control the swamps because we had the power to change the swamp.
As a society we may love our Heroes but the idea that we had the power to change the world we live in was even more enticing! This new found power gave Swamp Drainers their status and prestige.
Swamp Drainers proved we could conquer, mold, invent, recreate, teardown and rebuild according to our plan. We no longer needed to live within the existing environment, we could imagineer it into whatever we want!
The ways we fundamentally changed the environment then created new problems which brought about the rise of the Naturalists. The Naturalists saw the Swamp Drainers as short sighted and uncaring about the negative consequences of draining swamps. They cited their research papers and used the status of their superior institutions to challenge the prestige of the Swamp Drainers. Their papers initiated a sense of fear – if humans played God too much, could they destroy our world?! As they rose in power Naturalists wrote regulations and laws to limit Swamp Drainers power. They demanded that land be returned to swamp and the natural state be preserved.
Swamp Drainers lost power to Naturalists. Alligators returned to regenerated swamps. They grew in numbers and size. Soon alligators started to expand their territory and infringe upon land that bordered the swamp where people built homes and communities. As small dogs disappeared and mothers grew fearful for the safety of their children a cry for help went out. The Naturalists have gone too far! We need these alligators controlled! A new fear emerged.
But before the Swamp Drainers could get out their drawings and come up with a 10 year Swamp Management Plan that the Naturalists would also agree to, the Great American Alligator Slayer reemerges from the swamp where he has long been banished, holding the hide of a huge alligator he just killed. Cheers break out! Alive again is our romanticized ideal hero! The Great American Alligator Slayers who spent decades in the shadow of Swamp Drainers and Naturalists have regained their power and status just like they once had in the tales we heard as children.
The fear in our culture created by the power of Swamp Drainers and Naturalists has brought us full circle back to basic survival fears. These basic fears have always been the source of Alligator Slayer power.
But the world has changed in another way too. Those alligator hides which used to be just good trophies are now valuable. Alligator belts, shoes and handbags are all in demand! This means Great American Alligator Slayers can sell their hides…or better yet also go into business manufacturing alligator products. But since the Naturalists make it hard to open up new factories they can’t build the factory next to the local swamp – they have to build the factory where the Naturalists have no influence. Oh! And while they are in this new land, they can hunt all of those alligators too!
This of course sends the Naturalists into a tizzy! Slaying alligators all over the world for profit must be stopped! They want to take on the Great American Alligator Slayers but they are not as easy to subdue as Swamp Drainers who just needed a lot of red tape. Great American Alligator Slayers have guns and aren’t afraid to use them. They also are backed by a group who is bound together by a common fear of the alligator attacks – a situation they believe was created by too powerful Naturalists. This shared fear for their security makes them zealous in their convictions. And to make matters worse, there is now a complacent public who doesn’t care about the swamps – they are driven by consumerism and buying more alligator products than they can afford.
Naturalists can’t lose power to Great American Alligator Slayers! Naturalists are intellectually superior to Great American Alligator Slayers and believe this is the age when knowledge and intelligence is the source of power, not barbaric killing. Naturalists know they cannot fight Great American Alligator Slayers with red tape, guns or brute force. In this new age a different tactic seems to work – Fear. Naturalists know this tactic well, it is what they (intentionally or unintentionally) used to rise to power – fear of pollution, of bad drinking water, of birth defects and health risks.
In order to protect their interests, Great American Alligator Slayers elevate their use of fear too – fear that Naturalists will shut down the public’s supply of popular alligator goods and let the alligators roam freely threatening their families. They also promote the idea that the Naturalists want the alligators to drive people out of their beautiful new communities and return the land to its natural swamp. They declare that Naturalists care more about alligators than people.
Yes, fear works.
So Naturalists raise the stakes. Their institutes turn out thousands of studies citing catastrophic results if swamps are drained and alligators are extinct. This heightened battle of fears between Naturalists and Great American Alligator Slayers leaves Swamp Drainers completely powerless and even worse with no respect. No one wants to be a Swamp Drainer anyone. Ingenuity, creativity and thinking in terms of possibilities are no longer valued. The world is fear driven – with the Naturalists and Great American Alligator Slayers projecting each other as evil and a threat to our survival.
This new world of fear and red tape is also complex. It is almost impossible to keep track of everything. Luckily for the Great American Alligator Slayers and Naturalists a group of Swamp Drainers saw opportunity. As the other groups were busy fighting each other for power and status, the Swamper Drainers were watching and learning. They learned everything about the swamp. They decided to rebrand themselves and came up with a really cool name – Swampers. They became masters of networking and information. If you want to find anything in the swamp, ask the Swampers.
At first the Great American Alligator Slayers and Naturalists weren’t impressed by Swampers. The Great American Alligator Slayers used the Swampers navigating and tracking devices to help them find and track alligators but that didn’t make Swampers worthy of any real respect.
Tired of the lack of respect, the Swampers shut down their navigating devices, leaving the Alligator Slayers stranded and lost in the swamp for days. Hungry, tired and mosquito bitten, Alligator Slayers realized they needed the Swampers and gave them more respect. Soon Alligator Slayers and Swampers realized that Swampers could provide information services outside the swamp too. Swampers eventually became completely intertwined in the Great American Alligator Slayer’s business of hunting, manufacturing, marketing, and selling alligator products.
By working with Great American Alligator Slayers, Swampers learned the business of consumerism. Taking their own initiative they developed new gadgets unlike anything we’ve seen before and mass produced them. These new consumer gadgets sold like crazy – especially to Naturalists who were addicted to them to promote their ideas. Swampers lived up to the coolness of their brand.
While the Great American Alligator Slayer may enjoy public adoration and Hero status, they know that Swampers wield tremendous power. It only takes a flip of a switch for Swampers to shut down the entire Great American Alligator Slayer’s operation! Since Swampers have the power to bring the world to its knees, Great American Alligator Slayers live with them in a state of détente and respect.
On the other hand Swampers and Naturalists never hit it off.
Naturalists look down from their marble columned institutions of higher knowledge onto Swampers who work out of make-shift spaces in the swamp. Swampers see all of the gyrations Naturalists go through to obtain an elite education as a complete waste of time and money. After all, many highly successful, wealthy and well-respected Swampers dropped out of these same prominent institutions. Swampers argue that anyone can achieve an elite education if the information is made publicly available to the masses. To prove their point, the papers, lectures and discussions that were once only available through physical attendance at the most prominent institutions are leaked to the general public thanks to the hacking and networking abilities of Swampers. This infuriates Naturalists.
The discord between Naturalists and Swampers continues based on their polar opposite view of education and knowledge. If Swampers can make an elite education available for free to the masses then that threatens the elite status of Naturalists – they will become part of the common masses. But even worse Naturalists have no real skills to produce a tangible product or service. What value would they then have in society? Fortunately they master using the Swampers’ gadgets and use the gadgets to publicize their ideas and promote themselves. They convince masses of people that they are wise and to be admired. While Swampers have their cult following, Naturalists know that when all is said and done, no one really aspires to live and work in a swamp. Naturalists know most people aspire to be elite just like them.
With Swamp Drainers virtually powerless and Swampers having limited power with Naturalists, the two groups that are left fighting for power and Hero status are the Great American Alligator Slayers and Naturalists.
Who will emerge victorious? Who is the greater Hero?
The two groups have found common fighting grounds through the use of fear propelled through the use of polar opposite positions. With opposing characteristics defining each group there is a need to drive towards greater extremes. Driving to the extremes increases the perception of the size of the crisis. The situation is seen as dire – if the other side wins, the results will be disastrous – a true doomsday scenario.
We become addicted to the intensity and drama of it all. We live in an unprecedented level of crisis!! We need our Hero – only he can save us!!! The ultimate Swamp Wars victor will save us all from a cataclysmic disaster so he can claim a great victory that will stand for lifetimes!
(Isn’t this exciting?!)
Winning the Battle
How is this battle settled?
If men are left to themselves it doesn’t! It just goes on and on and on because we want the battle to produce the ultimate Hero, we want a definitive victor and villian; winner and loser. But that is a fallacy. Because Swamp Wars happens in the Blue Zone we don’t get ultimate winners and loses – we only get great big pendulum swings.
Each Swamp Wars character claims to be “winning” while the pendulum is swinging upward and their status is on the rise. But eventually they go too far – they create huge problems which brings them crashing down. This causes the pendulum to swing in favor of another character as their status is on the rise. But eventually they too go too far, create a crisis and come crashing down.
Each time a character rises in status he claims victory even though he knows it due only to the current momentum of the situation and will not be long lasting. Each character knows the crash will come but if he can keep pushing to a more extreme position, he can delay his crash and claim victory longer.
In Swamp Wars there is no incentive to compromise, problem solve or end crises. In the Blue Zone we would expect that after a character comes crashing down, he will admit defeat and concede. But that doesn’t happen. Instead, he intensifies his stance because he knows his eventual rise is not far off. He just has to be patient. The characters know that perpetual conflict keeps the pendulum swinging and will result in periodic victories. Each character is encouraged to remain entrenched in his position awaiting their turn to claim victory.
As long as our society and workplaces are entrenched in the Blue Zone, we will be out of balance and have Swamp Wars. The only way to create balance is to introduce more female energy through women who are empowered to use their female traits. Swamp Wars can only end when we work in balance and in wholeness in the Purple Zone.
If we ever want Swamp Wars to end, we have to give up on our illusion of the ultimate Hero and embrace the idea that it will take Heroines to lead us to victory.
The world doesn’t need a new Hero, it needs more Heroines.
Don’t forget to leave a Comment!!
If you want to subscribe to my articles, contact me.