“Paid Gladiators” or Unpaid Peacemakers:There Must Be a Better Way




But, the fighting goes on and accelerates infrequency and intensity. The people, our sense of community, and the forest are bruised and battered in the process. The gladiators never tire of the fight – it is what they do. The fight itself provides their sustenance. I detect, however, that many concerned about forests we collectively own have long since approached exhaustion.

That may be good news, for with exhaustion, there may come a willingness to seek an answer to the statement made earlier, “There must be a better way.”

That better way can be built on new knowledge and past experiences and on changes in personal and societal concepts. And, that better way can be embraced because the old way has led us to a place where we cannot stand for long.

Shakespeare said (Julius Caesar, Act 1, Scene 2) “…the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves…”

If the fault lies within us, the solution also resides in us as well.

Jack Ward Thomas, (1992, in Forest Management Approaches on the the Public’s Lands: Turmoil and Transition) here.

I was reflecting on Dr. Martin Luther King and what he might think of our natural resource situation. I was also thinking of the dangers of partisanizing these issues and what happens when we consider people with different views “the other”; not to be spoken to, but to have their moral character questioned. I hope in some small way this blog helps have a safe discussion about some of these issues.

At the same time, I was speaking to an associate who was going to DC this week. I asked him about the objections rule and where it was. He said to me something along the lines of “why don’t you write your elected officials and ask them to ask the Chief where it is?”

This was a bit of a shock to me. After 32 years of federal service, including a year working for Congresswoman Carrie Meek of Florida, I realized that I had adapted to my role in the understory of policy. Now I had been released (to put it into silvicultural parlance, as this definition here) but was I responding to the freedom and the nutrients and light? Not really.

From my time with Congresswoman Meek, I remember how seriously constituents were taken. So I went on the web and wrote two notes to my two senators, basically asking where the objections rule is (given that Congress asked for it in the Approps Bill last year). It probably took me all of 15 minutes to write it. I made the discovery that one of my senators has a category for natural resources/public lands and the other did not, I had to file it under “environment”..which I found interesting (I am saving my Representative for working with OPM should I run into problems with my annuity, so that’s why I didn’t contact his office).

What my associate opened my eyes to is that I don’t need to have or be an organization, I just need to be an active constituent. When I worked with the Forest Service, I often had to answer questions posed by various Congressional staffs either at the behest of industries (ski or energy, generally) or environmental NGO’s. But this is open to regular people as well. And groups of regular people with ideas. I don’t think we’ve had as much of that as we could, and if we depend on our elected officials to reach across the aisle, well, let’s just say that we might not have the desired results as expeditiously as we might otherwise. That, to me, would be the power of local collaborative groups, but also the power of each one of us.

“Unpaid peacemakers” arise! And through kindness and understanding, let us make beat the swords into some riparian remediation implement.

6 thoughts on ““Paid Gladiators” or Unpaid Peacemakers:There Must Be a Better Way”

  1. In response to your great suggestion about working with (talking to) our fed reps, I have to share from an Idaho perspective. As you likely know, Idaho has gone totally to the right, with extreme GOP control at all levels, county, school boards, House and Senate. OK, I accept that we of the other persuasion are vastly outnumbered.
    But I have, on a few occasions, emailed my federal reps in DC. Their electronic sites are a real test of how determined you are to finish. Layer after layer of background and categories before you can insert your message. And you go through this again and again, each time you want to confer. Can’t help but wonder if all this preliminary junk is really intended to screen us out so we won’t “bother them”.
    And knowing that I and “them” are so politically separated, my efforts are half-hearted. Tried the phone a few times, but again how many comments to some intern answering the phone are really passed accurately to the congressmen or senators. Doubtful.
    A real challenge to be an environmental Democrat in Idaho.

    • I feel about writing your elected officials the same way as the old joke about prayer.. here it is the was Thomas Friedman (no relation that I know of) in his New York Times column.

      The Joke:
      “There is this very pious Jew named Goldberg who always dreamed of winning the lottery. Every Sabbath, he’d go to synagogue and pray: “God, I have been such a pious Jew all my life. What would be so bad if I won the lottery?”
      But the lottery would come and Goldberg wouldn’t win. Week after week, Goldberg would pray to win the lottery, but the lottery would come and Goldberg wouldn’t win.
      Finally, one Sabbath, Goldberg wails to the heavens and says: “God, I have been so pious for so long, what do I have to do to win the lottery?”
      “And the heavens parted and the voice of God came down: “Goldberg, give me a chance! Buy a ticket!”

      I do feel for you, though. If your elected officials feel that they don’t have to find common ground, then your efforts to dialogue may go unheeded. That might happen to me, too, but Colorado politicians tend to see both sides and look for common ground (not always but enough to give hope).

      As we’ve talked about before, I really liked Keith Allred’s approach in his group Common Interest. It seems like it’s still a good time when “raging moderates” are needed more than ever. I wonder if they are still active since he ran for Governor?

  2. Some of the best forest activists I know of aren’t paid, but volunteer their time because they care about their public lands and how they are managed. Are they “unpaid gladiators” then?

    • Here is Chief Thomas’ answer:

      I AM A PRETTY “LITERAL” KIND OF GUY. What did I mean by the term “Paid Gladiators.” Let’s check out Webster’s.

      The definition of “paid” is “marked by receipt of pay” or “having been paid for.”

      A “gladiator” is a “person engaging in a public fight or controversy” or “a trained fighter.”

      So, a “paid gladiator” is one who is paid and, likely, trained or experienced in fighting.

      And, that is exactly what I had in mind.

      “Paid gladiators” get paid to fight battles or espouse causes on behalf of their employers. As get paid as long as they carry out their duties – preferably “winning” in the process.

      “Paid gladiators” may believe deeply in the fights they fight or they may, much in the tradition of lawyers, merely pursue the aims of their clients.

      “Paid gladiators” fight as hard, with as with as many troops and avenues of attack, as the treasuries of their clients allow. Fighting is what they do for a living.

      “Paid gladiators” can be honorable dedicated people and believe in the cause for which they fight – or not. But, they are – in either case, to some degree, “mercenaries.”

      A “mercenary” is one “who serves merely for wages.”

  3. Matthew, JWT was using the term to refer to people who seem to be more interested in the fight than in the solution. Unfortunately, I can’t copy the quotes from the Google version of his book here. You can, like I did, search on “gladiators” to get a sense of what he meant.

    But I’ll write him and see if I can get him to expound on what he meant in more detail.

    And I am also unpaid, but I don’t see myself as a gladiator, but rather one of many helping to create resilient forests and communities through transparent, open and honest dialogue and compassion for people, the Earth, and all beings.


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