“The Road to Abilene”
An idea for Labor Day weekend….
The week just passed, I was involved in three Zoom meetings. Another is scheduled for Labor Day. In my world, Zoom seems to have become the paradigm for the future.
Yesterday I got to thinking back to a film I had seen at some staff workshop way back in the 1980s. I couldn’t remember the exact name, but it was about a road to somewhere, and a parable of how we humans get stuck in stupidity (my interpretation).
I kept thinking about the film, in the way I think about things, and finally, about 5 p.m., “Bingo”. “The Road to Abilene” was resurrected.
I found several renditions on YouTube, not the film itself, but the one that seemed most pertinent was “The Abilene Paradox“, an actual two hour workshop in 1981 conducted by Jerry Harvey, the PhD who’d coined the phrase. “The Road to Abilene”, is based on a real family story. Harvey was a professor at George Washington University, and most likely the venue for this talk was Washington D.C. (If you have trouble accessing, at YouTube search “Abilene Paradox, Dr. Jerry Harvey, 1981”)
As I write, I’ve watched only the first 40 minutes, but I’ll do the entire two hours this weekend. It is well worth the time.
At minimum, watch the first 20 minutes, and watch it in context with the world you inhabit today, right now. You can frame it anyway you want, but watch it as if you were sitting in that auditorium today, in 2020, facing a national election in less than two months. You will relate to it, I can assure you.
Have a good day.
POSTNOTE: When I watched the actual film (on a 16mm reel to reel). I was teacher union staff during particularly turbulent times in the teacher union movement. It was half a lifetime ago for me. I’m now 80.
This week, these were the Zoom calls:
Monday, helping a friend by watching him practice his very first Zoom talk, which he’ll present on Zoom next Monday night. This first one was just he and I.
Wednesday, a one hour Zoom with seven people, from Vice-President candidate Kamala Harris, U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, MN Lt Governor Peggy Flanagan to four grass roots folks: a lady who’s a parent; two MN state legislators, a child advocate in special education; and a Service Employees Union leader. The topic was the 2020-21 school year in the age of Covid-19: safety, schedules, technology and child care (as I recall). It had the usual imperfection anyone who’s zoomed has come to expect, and there’s only so much that can be done in 45 minutes. This is new. But it was very much worth the time, and I’m grateful I learned about it.
The session opened with the words: “Kindness, Empathy and Humility”, and the participants reflected these words.
Thursday, was a regular organization meeting of a group I’ve been part of for years, who’s had to put on the shelf in-person meetings for an indeterminate, and possibly permanent time.
At the Thursday meeting, one of the “youngsters” proposed that all of us watch a movie on-line on our special interest focus, and let the rest know within a week. Abilene will be my choice, though on Thursday I had not even thought of the topic at the time.
POSTNOTE 2: August, 2020 (see archive) was my “politics month”.
This month I’m going to endeavor to publish no more than one political theme per week, this being the first. I would suggest the last two September posts, which were not posted until the end of the month are worth your time. (Trusting In Dishonest Times, 8/30, and School Opening, 8/31.)
Labor Day, I have a family recollection: Uncle Vincent’s Onions.
There won’t be regular reminders, but if you’re an off-and-on reader, something will likely motivate me to write a couple of times a week. Just call up the archive by the current month.
We’re in troubled times. Do your best (often, times of crisis bring out the best.)
COMMENTS (more at end of post.)
from Brian: Dick, yes we saw that film at the Univ. of Houston in a management class. I remember it well!
from Annelee: Annelee Woodstrom grew up in Adolf Hitler’s Germany and has lived in rural Minnesota for almost 75 years. Her book, War Child, and two others, remain available and are excellent and from the heart primers on how life was for a young person who grew up in tyranny. I comment at the end of her words:
Ah yes, I do remember that film, that is, “The Road to Abilene”, very well from some training that I received when working for the MInnesota Department of Health. As I recall, folks ended up in Abilene where none of them wanted to be simply because no one was strong enough to tell the others why they did not want to go there or something to that effect!
Dick, I was in attendance during the staff meeting you just mentioned. At the time, I remember wondering why nobody mentioned that they really weren’t interested in piling into the car and going all of the way to Abilene. Everyone assumed that everyone else wanted to go, even though nobody did. Even now, it is hard for me to think of a situation where that would happen in my family or circle of friends. It was a demonstration of how a concern about hurting someone’s feelings can have a totally opposite effect. It certainly stressed the importance of honest communications,
If one acknowledges that Black Americans are disproportionately impacted by police violence and systemic racism, then saying Black Lives Matter would not threaten the idea that “Isn’t my safety important too.?” Every life is valuable, but not everyone’s lives are in danger due to their skin color. So Black lives should matter as much as white lives.