A-Musings: Conditional Service

I was chatting to a very close friend who bemoaned the fact that loyalty counted for everything and nothing in today’s world. It seems that leaders demand absolute loyalty in everything; in fact every dissenting voice, no matter how reasonable, is viewed as treasonable, and punished accordingly. Conversely, the loyalty of the most dedicated supporter counts for naught if he or she refuses to accept without question actions and decisions that were, at best, questionable and, at worst, dishonest or illegal.

My friend (whom I shall refer to as HE for the sake of convenience and not as gender definition) had worked assiduously for The New Leader (TNL) since the demise of his political hero. He put aside moral and political differences and accepted, gladly at first, each and every duty imposed upon him by TNL for the good of HIS country and fellow countrymen.

After some years, the duties became impositions that interfered increasingly with HIS daytime job – HE is after all very successful in HIS own right – and HE increasingly tried to say NO whenever new duties popped up but TNL’s demands for manifestations of Loyalty did not allow Refusals. No was not an Option!

Many a night, not only an evening, was marred by phone calls from TNL demanding, begging, acceptance of some new post or other. My friend was showered with praises of the-country-needs-you-do-it-for-me-I-need-you type that HE found impossible to refuse, and so HE accepted, much to the detriment of HIS own business and personal life.

Strangely and paradoxically, it was the very qualities that had attracted TNL to HIM that brought about HIS fall from Grace. My friend is known to all as an incredibly capable professional in HIS line of business. HIS extremely broad grasp of financial and legal intricacies and his unquestioned Honesty and Integrity had made HIM an obvious choice when Government and Non-Governmental entities needed someone to turn to when sensitive, reliable, honest and incorruptible, tactful and fair leadership was required. They spoke daily, met frequently, and my friend was lulled into a false sense of security and friendship and failed to see the one-sidedness of their relationship; HIS opinion counted only when it happened to coincide with TNL’s.

And so one day, TNL asked my friend to do something that my friend considered not only questionable, but also probably illegal, and HE refused to do what was asked of him. It could not be done within the bounds of the Law and Fiscal Responsibility. It was also potentially dangerous and possibly politically suicidal for TNL’s reputation – not that TNL cared, so convinced did he remain of his own invincible superiority – should knowledge of such a questionable action ever become known to the General Public and Political Adversaries. There was, however, little chance of that happening because my friend is also discreet and loyal to the point of silence. HE would never reveal what HE knew was
going on, even though HE had refused to be the instrument of TNL’s mania. And this, of course, TNL knew: he could rely on my friend’s silence.

And that’s when Honesty, Integrity, Reasoned and Reasonable Advice, Sound Judgment and Transparency became Disloyalty, Betrayal and Treachery. My friend was not following the Three Rules as set out by TNL:

Rule Number One is that TNL is always Right; Rule Number Two is that when TNL is Wrong, Rule Number One applies; Rule Number Three states simply “My Way or the Highway”, and so my friend had to go.

In keeping with TNL’s smiling exterior and Ho-Ho-Ho bonhomie, the separation was characterized by insidious, insipid, creeping, limp-wristed nonchalance, as if lifting the phone to answer were too much of an effort in this age of Caller-ID. TNL might just as well have stamped Access Denied like some malevolent, ill-willed ATM machine across the many mails, phone calls, letters and messages that went unanswered.

TNL, if little else, is the Master of the Cold Shoulder. My friend was made to understand that HIS advice, HIS support, HIS input on any matters, however small their import, was no longer welcome. HE was to be ignored and ostracized, a shunned person, although conspicuously present, who could neither be seen nor heard. HE was, in fact, “sent to Coventry”.

The origins of this phrase aren’t known, although it is quite probable that events in Coventry in the English Civil War played a part. The Parliamentary Leader, Cromwell, imprisoned a group of Royalist soldiers in Coventry in 1648. The locals, who were parliamentary supporters, shunned them and refused to consort with them. The story is probably not true because Cromwell was a firm, stern Christian who preferred to behead his adversaries, something that TNL is not allowed to do today, no matter how much he might long to do so.

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