The Role of Criticism and Self-criticism in a Life of Public Service

by | Oct 2, 2020 | Community Organizing | 0 comments

In the United States, a deadly fissure within the personality of many public servants pressures some to choose indifference over love.  The lifestyle of constant exploitation for personal gain, privilege, and profit has shattered many personalities which have broken into seemingly irreparable pieces.  In short, too many who serve the common good have little sense of their inner conflicts between the emotional and psychological forces of selfishness and those of other-interestedness.  For most of those who serve, this has resulted in an inability to commit to the hard, sustained, and discipline work necessary to arouse, educate, and organize tens of thousands for the struggle for peace with justice.

Dr. King and many other revolutionary leaders of servantship organize with cautious optimism.  It is essential, they claim, that public servants develop the maturity that permits humanist change.  King says, “One of the sure signs of maturity is the ability to rise to the point of self-criticism.”   The optimism holds that we, the people, in the United States and around the world, can defeat fascism.  However, it requires groups of genuine transformed nonconformist.  One of the ways to reunite our individual personalities into a coherent, positive, and purposeful human being is to practice the science of self-criticism.  It is necessary to develop the capacity for collective criticism.  A lifestyle of exploitation and greed creates a damaging defensiveness.  One becomes closed to any assessment of his/her actions or thoughts that point to the possibility that one should/could change conduct or consciousness.  One becomes argumentative and refuses to dialog or to mutually investigate individual and social purposes, strategies, and tactics.   Defensiveness and arguing solidifies one’s life into the bedrock of the status quo. 

Public servants and community organizers should have an authentic critical spirit.  One should not accept herself/himself participating in criticism part-time; participating when s/he is angry for personal reasons, but declining to participate in lovingly criticizing others for their own growth and success.  An authentic critical spirit stems from a dialectical analysis of one’s role in social, economic, and political relationships.  This spirit strengthens unity.  Clearly, a public servant should not criticize to harm or hurt; such criticisms are actually attacks and have little to do with love and genuine assistance.  On the other hand, defensiveness can be so strong that even a loving and genuine criticism is taken as an attack.  Such defensive equally harms and hurts others and collective unity.

Genuine public service requires sincerity, attentiveness, and honesty.  Many times servants approach serving without the attentiveness and thoroughness that sincerity demands.  Servants display sincerity by addressing themselves to problems or confusions when they occur and not waiting until a time when s/he feels that addressing the problem will cause little tension.  It is insincere to think you see a problem yet wait to discuss your view until it is too late to resolve the problem.  Waiting and speaking up later equals gossiping, which is the solvent that breaks down community.

Sincere criticism, based on love and compassion, allows for the overcoming of weaknesses and errors, and adds to the individual and collective effort to understand and act upon international, national, and local injustices.

The very necessity and nature of public service is based on the reality that human beings naturally care for other individuals and the whole of humanity.  The role of public servants is to organize human, economic, political, and physical resources for more equitable, ethical, and just ways of collectively caring for one another.

Identifying problems is a long way from solving them.  Everyone is someone’s daughter or son.  We are someone’s niece or nephew, aunt or uncle.  We are someone’s neighbor, co-worker, or friend.  Dr. King, and many other revolutionary public servants, point out that everyone is a sister or brother to all human beings.  Life is interconnected.   What affects one directly, affects all indirectly.  For servants in the process of transforming and becoming transformed nonconformists, the utilization of dialectical, analytical investigation, helps individuals and groups see solutions to economic, political, and social conditions of injustice. Just as important, the conduct inherent in such investigation adds to the collective effort to intensify the struggle for a more just, sane, and livable world.

The practice of criticism/self-criticism is one of the necessary activities that permit the transformation that is capable of making a better world and a robust, interracial, inter-generational, and international democracy.

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