Dayton’s culture of fear

If you’ve been in Dayton for any length of time, you’ve come to realize that we don’t have 6 degrees of separation, we have about 1.2. You’ll see it in your connections on LinkedIn and Facebook. Hardly any of my 1,500 friends on FB in Dayton only have 1 friend in common- and people who connect with me usually have a posse of shared friends. Same on LinkedIn where almost all my connections share a connection- very few are 3 people away meaning that neither of us know one person who knows us both- but that we both know people who know each other.

So why the focus on this seemingly positive, small community in a post about the “Culture of fear”- because we worry too much about what our friends might think if we take an actual stand on an issue.

I spoke to a friend whom I’d helped recently- and asked for a recommendation and got this answer “Oh, but I can’t say that publicly, I don’t want to raise any waves.” Another friend, lamented to me that despite his long-term work for a politician and strong support- he was unable to get an endorsement. Of course, if he wins his upcoming race- everyone will be his new best friends. Ask the Mayor of Dayton, Gary Leitzell, who ran against an incumbent who raised 6x as much as he did- if people talk to him now who wouldn’t give him the time of day before. Or, the supporter who isn’t willing to give $200 to your Congressional campaign because it reports to the FEC, but has no problem writing a check for $199. I’ve heard people use the excuse that they can’t support a challenger to an incumbent because they are on the board of a non-profit and wouldn’t want to risk support to their charity should the challenger not win.

Have a great idea? First question out of possible supporters- “has this been done somewhere else before” – this is from people in a city that takes great pride in being the birthplace of aviation. Were people asking the Wright brothers that question- and then ignoring the idea just because no one had ever flown in a heavier than air machine before?

Our community is paralyzed by this culture of fear. We’re immobilized forever as if caught in concrete and cast in bronze. Why can’t we do regionalization right and do it now? There are plenty of examples that government can be done in a more unified way across this country- but we still won’t act. The English had rules about the taxation of tea, did the founding fathers just sit around and accept the stupidity of laws and taxation from afar? Our rules about jurisdictions in Ohio come from the Northwest Ordinance of 1785- do you think it’s time to update them?

When will the real leaders step forward and start making changes? When will we stop worrying about not upsetting the status quo? When will we set our sights on accomplishing things that have never been done before instead of sheepishly crawling in long after the process or program has been thoroughly tested and proven.

It’s hard to be a visionary looking forward in Dayton, Ohio, when the whole culture is focused on watching your own back.

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6 Responses

  1. Dave July 15, 2012 / 12:34 pm
    The key is to focus on process and not outcome. If the process is aligned to purpose the outcome will take care of itself.
  2. David Esrati July 15, 2012 / 2:59 pm

    @Dave- welcome to esrati.com while we love comments- we’ve got a slight problem with names- by your email I know exactly who you are- but, we’ve had some other “Daves” in the past- and in the future- pick a more unique name- like Pizza Bill (whom you know) or “Ice Bandit” etc.

    The problem in Dayton is that the only process we focus on is group think. We want leadership by consensus – which gives us mediocrity by mob rule.

     

  3. Bruce Kettelle July 16, 2012 / 7:18 am
    David I want to point out that your whole story is based on the premise you establish in your first line. As a fellow marketer I think you have used too small of a sample to arrive at your 1.2 degrees of separation. I meet new people nearly every day. I don’t feel a sense our ‘community is paralyzed by a culture of fear.’ 

    I sense a community shellshocked by 12 years of Dayton devolution that essentially started with the downsizing of local GM facilities in the 90s. I do agree we need visionaries to lead us through this quagmire of changes to emerge bigger and better to create a new heyday for the region.

    I don’t bottle up all my energies lookng for the next big thing to improve our community. I try to embrace a multitude of small steps that collectively will help us arrive in the promised land. A street improvement here, a demolition there, one building at a time being rehabbed for  reuses we hadn’t dreamed about 20 years ago. I embrace the arts, recreation, and all the individuals that make up our collective.

    Dayton didn’t become the Gem City overnight. Our new future will not arrive on our doorstep tomorrow or with the next elected official. It is the conglomeration of all the baby steps each of us can take that creates the full strides to 2100.

    Yes each of us have a circle of friends that is closely related with other circles of friends. Even though they are not as condensed as you seem to beleive they are what makes us a community. When I meet someone new in town and end up realizing how we are connected I smile as we both realize how small our world is. Small is good. Lets take lots of little steps together.     

  4. Donald Phillips July 16, 2012 / 11:40 am
    A Leninist/urban planner-type acquaintance (for I have no friends) told me about a bold visionary named Richard Florida. He sounds like just the man-on-the-white-horse Dayton needs. As the popinjays-on-donkeys aren’t working very well, are they Dayton?
  5. Dave O. July 17, 2012 / 4:14 pm
    I think there’s a flipside to this too, though. It’s unfortunate to see the squabbles and wounds carried from them that prevent folks from working together to achieve something really great. Some things are worth standing up for and others are worth keeping your mouth shut.

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