The “I” Wants It

May 24, 2008 on 2:08 pm

Pronouns. They pour forth from us in daily profusion, expediting thought and speech, directing the listener to a point or place, or just sharing our lives. But even in these, the shortest of words, there can be more than we intend. Indeed, Marshall McLuhan, 1960s sage of the coming communication revolution, assured us that the medium is the message.

And so with pronouns. Now I do not claim here the authority of a survey in what follows. I do, though, claim the authority of active and objective listening in all things Election 2008. And in this listening I have discerned over the course of the campaign a distinction between the two Democratic contenders. Where one says we, the other says I. Of late, the latter, it would certainly seem, never, ever says we. It is I, I, I, I, and this I, i.e., me, cannot ignore it or what it seems to scream at us: This is not a person inclined to share.

In leadership, focus is essential, as is confidence, dedication and purpose. But leadership, if it is to have any meaning, requires a group context. Indeed, leadership is a plural thing, there needing to be more in it than one, i.e., a leader and at least one of the “led.” Leadership by its nature and purpose is a we thing. I is a me thing, and the antithesis of leadership in a practical democracy.

Listen once and you will hear. Listen twice and you will question. Listen thrice and you will understand, you will know. Go forth, then, and listen…thrice.

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