I have an uneasy feeling that I just can’t shake. I watch the reaction of much of the world in utter disbelief. Are my values so out of whack? Are my 8 decades of experience betraying me? Is my analysis flawed? I feel like Doremus Jessop in Sinclair Lewis’ 1935 novel, “It Can’t Happen Here.” Am I just paranoid while walking down a Manhattan street while wearing my Dental Volunteers For Israel (DVI) pin that my life might be in danger?
My scientific-based reaction is to look at causality. Why is this happening? I don’t believe, as some do, that this is the fulfillment of some “end-of-times” prophesy. I do think there’s much to learn from people’s actions. As a consultant/coach, I try to adapt this approach to help dental practice owners/leaders avoid some of the chaos we’re seeing from happening in their practices.
None of us operate in a vacuum.
My diagnosis of the current rise in Antisemitism and Anti-Americanism around the world and at home, is that there is highly communicable disease spreading.
TIME-FOCUS IMBALANCE SYNDROME.
An extreme focus on one aspect of the past-present-future continuum, can result in contracting this illness. It’s accelerated by another disease, hate.
Some people focus on a specific period of time, either past, present or future without enough thought about what impact that might have in present reality. That perspective is limiting dangerous, as it does not account for many of the unintended consequences.
Is the past so glorious?
Why do Hassidic Jews wear the garb they do and grow their side-curls? They yearn for a return to 18th Century life in Europe where the Rabbi was the village chieftain and wore such clothes. But they forget that during that period they were the victims of frequent pogroms from various groups who saw them as “other”. Their time-reversal and insulation have risks and prevent some in their communities benefitting from modern medicine, technology and integrating into society. They stand out and hence are still targets.
The Jewish settlers in the West Bank have a focus on some period in the 2nd century BCE, when there was a Jewish, Hasmonaean Kingdom, and the West Bank was referred to by the civilized world (Persians, Greeks and Romans) as “Judea” and “Samaria”. The New Testament parable of the “Good Samaritan” is about someone from that land, and most inhabitants of “Judea” were called Judaeans, what we now call “Jews”. They forget that the Romans dismembered that land because the Jews fought amongst themselves and caused trouble for their administration. Life then wasn’t such a bed of roses in Judea and Samaria back then, despite what the Bible might have promised.
Islamic extremists and their sympathizers focus on the times of The Arabian Nights (8th Century CE), ignoring that reverting to that reality also means removing all the women’s rights that have been gained in most countries over the past century and would put homosexuality back in the closet, amongst other onerous restrictions. The “Islamic Golden Age” (750-1258) brought many advances but were not as golden to non-Muslims who experienced legal inferiority and outbursts of violence. (Cohen, Mark R.. “Prologue. The “Golden Age” of Jewish-Muslim Relations: Myth and Reality”. A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations: From the Origins to the Present Day, edited by Abdelwahab Meddeb and Benjamin Stora, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014, pp. 28-38. https://doi.org/10.1515/9781400849130-005)
An extreme focus on the past ignores the perils that were present then and ignores the challenges of how that past might interact with the present. And at what exact period in the past would one wish to focus; 2nd century BCE, 8th century CE, 18th century, 1947 or 2020?
The past is, at best is a lesson. Reliving it is a futile endeavor. Trying to do so is pathologic.
Rather than learning from the past, people infected with this disease are doomed to repeat the problems of the past.
An imbalanced focus on the future is dangerous as well.
Climate-change activists focus on a future where sea levels and temperatures will rise. Many forget that today, most people in the world cannot afford the actions that would moderate carbon emissions or reduce greenhouse gasses. Most can’t buy electric cars, give up their wood or coal fires, or feed their families with carbon-zero foods.
How can there be a balanced approach to help change the destructive nature of modern society, while still maintaining the dignity of those who are vulnerable to the decisions of the elite?
An extreme focus on the present is exemplified by the support for Hamas, or other terrorist organizations like Isis, Hezbollah, Houthis, Al-Qaeda, Islamic Jihad, etc.. Of course, the process of eliminating them is painful, as the US learned in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere post 9/11. There are innocents caught in the crossfire of these culture wars. It’s hard to watch this “present”.
But what if they win?
There’s little or no appreciation by the protesters and supporters of Hamas of what their administration has meant to the people under their control (past) or what would happen should their ambitions come to fruition (future). (read about Manar Al-Sharif’s Gaza exeperience.)
What does the commonly promoted “From the River to the Sea” mean for the future of that land? Will women have their rights rolled back, Jews be either killed, displaced or unable to visit their Holy sites? Would it be a land devoid of LGBTQ rights? What would it mean to the Ayatollah’s “Great Satan”, the United States?
And what about the Israeli government? How is their actions in the present going to insure their safety and viability in the future? What’s their vision for a secure and peaceful Middle East?
Most people fail to learn from the past; many learn the wrong lessons for the present and fail to anticipate future consequences. Just look at what lead to 9/11. What of its aftermath and the price which we are all still paying? How many of today’s protesters know why their trips through an airport takes so long?
What is playing out today is a manifestation of the same underlying disease that led to 9/11 and the aftermath. There’s an ideology that is aimed at eliminating freedom. It’s another manifestation of a Time-Focus Imbalance.
What can a dental practice owner/leader learn from such misapplications of time-focus?
As in many areas of life, balance is the best policy.
Of course, one should learn from the past. An analysis of “what has worked” can result on pouring fuel on those actions and promote growth and increased profitability. That was the first exercise we had in our Mastermind sessions. Our coach, Dr. Charles Martin went around the room so that everyone could benefit hearing what had been successful in each member’s practice. Why not learn from others’ successes and avoid other’s mistakes?
A focus on the present means looking at your team’s happiness. Most Americans live paycheck to paycheck, so dental employees are most likely focused on their present. A leader should appreciate and acknowledge the day-to-day challenges their teams face. Their happiness will greatly contribute to the happiness of the patients and the success of the practice.
At the same time, it is helpful to promote the practice’s vision of the future, with particular emphasis in how it will enrich the lives of the team members as well as the practice’s.
A strategic look towards the future allows for adapting to the trends that will impact the practice and towards an eventual transition. Such future-focus might look like investment into new technology, CE or adoption of new communication or marketing systems.
A healthy combination of looking at the past, present and future is part of the balancing act a dental practice owner/leader must practice. A balanced 360° perspective is healthy and helpful.
I have an uneasy feeling.
There’s a disease, primarily spreading through our young people and in college campuses. They are being lured into a time-focus paradigm that could have significant negative and lasting consequences. I don’t have the answers for the world. I just know that there needs to be a better balance of past-present and future.
As with any disease, proper diagnosis can lead to a cure. Better yet, it can ultimately lead to prevention. What is the diagnosis of what’s happening in your practice? If you’d like a past-present-future perspective, schedule a complimentary strategy session.
“Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped.” -Isaiah 35:5
Towards balanced vision and a peaceful future,
P.S. If you’d like to talk about volunteering in or supporting the Jerusalem DVI clinic, let me know. My 40 years of experience there changed my perspective about the Middle East.