Search This Blog

CCE in brief

My photo
Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Friday 29 March 2013

The Enablers of Rob Ford: Not a Human Failure, But a Social One

National Post

Toronto's Mayor generates lots of stories.  One that I think gets too often overlooked is his bid to help someone get Oxycontin.  I think this story actually tells us a lot about the Mayor that everyone, especially his own enablers, should pay attention to.  

If you've ever worked in an organization that relies on volunteers or, even better, in an emergency situation, you'll be familiar with the individual that really, really wants to help, to do something, to be part of something, but either their personality doesn't seem like a good fit of they don't have the skills you need.  At the same time, they're volunteers - nobody is paying them to participate, it's a genuine human interest in the issue at hand.  We really should want people to engage.

Rob Ford strikes me a bit as one of these.  He really means well, from his own point of view.  I've even heard from (former) members of his staff that he's a good boss, making sure to provide Raptors' tickets and the like in recognition of hard work.  

At the same time, it's clear he has trouble seeing the bigger-picture impact of the choices he makes.  Helping someone get Oxy outside of the health system ignores the broader health record of that individual.  Maybe they need it, maybe they're overcoming an addiction to it, maybe his doctor is attempting an alternative that might be short-term uncomfortable but better in the long run.  We don't know.  Ford didn't know - and he couldn't have unless he'd done his homework.  But potentially breaking the law to help get a potential addict access to the drug that could destroy him isn't help - it's dangerous enabling in the absence of content.

But as we know, Ford doesn't believe in doing his homework.  He's got the mindset of a (granted) entitled entrepreneur; the rules don't apply to him because he's the guy getting stuff done; if he worried about every bit of red tape, he'd get nowhere, and getting somewhere matters. 

Lindsay LohanSo, it's subway or nothing, the money will sort it self out.  Get the guy what he needs, the individual will be able to sort themselves out.  Don't worry about a rule book on donations or use of staff property - government should work like a business so he's just going to keep on keeping on.  

Having just completed an online course explaining Emergency Management Ontario's Incident Management System, I can tell you that the Ford approach to complex challenges is not the best one to use for solving crises and generating solutions.  Instead, it tends to make existing problems worse.

As an individual, Ford demonstrates little self-control; he can't hold off in texting while he's driving and gets snippy at people who pester him to be responsible.  He creates unnecessary challenges in Council and gets himself into trouble, regularly, over his personal conduct.  Ford seems to have two defaults - flight or fight.  Like a toned-down Lindsay Lohan or a Charlie Sheen, the Mayor's pattern of behaviour does demonstrate a consistent trend towards self-destruction.

There's a general profile that goes along with this sort of behaviour; the myth of indestructibility, self-control and maybe even a better understanding of the real world than other people.  The risk of this delusional profile is that people who could otherwise succeed and make positive differences frequently leave messy wakes in the shadow of their self-immolation.  Just look at Michael Jackson.

The Gloved One provides a great example; here was a guy with a legitimate gift to offer, but with proclivities and insecurities that were eating at his mental and physical health - not to mention the public's perception of him.  Team members, particularly his doctor, may have thought they were giving the Hell-Of-A_Guy they worked for what he needed to keep performing and stave off any challenges to his continuing on in his own way.  The uncomfortable truth they face is that they killed The King of Pop just as surely as if they'd forced the pills into his mouth and washed them down for him.

I have an uncomfortable feeling that the Ford story will have a messy ending; there are a number of scenarios that could unfold, all of them unpleasant - and all of them fueled by well-meaning people that have fallen in to the role of enabler.

So, essentially, this post is more for Rob Ford's staff, friends and family than for the Mayor himself.  If there are no substance issues, if there are no control issues, if there are no behavioural ticks, where did all the media (not just "left wing" but Sun commentators too) start from?  If there are issues, are they strictly caused by outside factors related to the job?  Is the role of Mayor not Communicator-In_Chief?  If the bad people who interact with The Mayor daily are the unavoidable problem, is the mayoralty part of Rob Ford's problem?  

If it goes deeper than that - if Ford is battling issues for which there are both diagnoses and treatments that could help him; are his enablers, be they allies or staff, actually "protecting" the Mayor at the expense of getting the Man the help he needs?  It strikes me that the staffer calling other schools above fits this category; looking for alternatives for a man who really doesn't need to be in that space right now at all for optical, functional and legal considerations.

Should it come to a real emergency for Rob Ford, then the question will inevitably rise of "who helped shield him from addressing his problems?"  No one person "builds that" - not the success of an organization, nor the fall of one of its members.  The people who have helped facilitate Ford Nation, ranging from staff to consultants, campaign teams to radio show producers should start asking themselves if they're really trying to back the Mayor, or use him for their own gain?  What consequences are they prepared to face?

Michael Jackson DiesAnd there will be consequences.  Depending on how severe the fall is, they could be legal, life-altering consequences for colleagues, staff and partners that enable the Mayor's decline

I would be happy to speak with anyone in that circle honestly concerned for the Mayor's well-being on steps that can be taken and agencies that can be approached for discrete and tactful advice.  My promise in return would be to communicate nothing of any such conversations unless obliged to, by law, and under oath.  

I don't make promises often, but when I do, I keep them.  It's not hard to find supporters who will back that up.  As a side bar - if I know I can be part of the solution in a more direct fashion, there's little point in my continuing to offer advice here.

The goal, in my mind, should never be to tear a man down, nor should it be to isolate him and allow him to erode on his own.  That's the system we have in place now and it's proven not to work.  

We need to move past this "objective" view of individuals and look at society as a system - what impacts one of us impacts all of us.  We therefore all have a stake.  We can fail alone, leaving many victims in our aftermath, or we work together.  By this token, we can reach out to each other, or we can fidget uncomfortably in silos of our own making.

I'm not hard to get a hold of should anyone want to reach out.  If it isn't me, though, it should be someone.  Mayor Ford shouldn't have to face his trials alone, or with the well-meaning but ill-informed advice of enablers, even if they're family who really and truly believe they know best.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this insight. "Enablers" of individuals with very obvious and worrying problems really need to take a long, objective look at themselves - quickly, before the person they are enabling hurt themselves seriously. Not too late for Rob Ford, hopefully. Maybe his weird actions today will finally help him shake off these people who support his delusions - and finally get some real help.