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This story was first published April 10, 2023.
COLUMBUS, Ga. — “I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think.” — Socrates.
This article is not intended to be read as a wag of the finger, but instead as a carefully-constructed exposition of sincere concern stemming from a deep love for our city, underpinned by a hopeful expression of optimism for our elected officials’ intentions.
The Fountain City may now find itself at a critical junction of political competency, with city leaders certainly undergoing a process of introspection as they examine the causes of their own recent political turmoil.
We are, of course, referring to the recently-announced retirement and months-long divisive dilemma of police chief Freddie Blackmon.
Before we get underway, it is important for the reader to understand two key concepts, along with the absolutely-necessary reconciliation between the two.
The first of these concepts is most eloquently articulated through Hanlon’s Razor, which states:
“Never ascribe to malice that which can be explained by incompetence.”
The second concept is expressed through a quote from Aristotle:
“Tolerance and apathy are the last virtues of a dying society.”
To reconcile both of these concepts is to understand that our city’s leaders are — by and large — well intended, though the measurable state of the city demonstrates just how advanced the unimportance of those intentions actually are in terms of measurable output; the years-long trail of Columbusian consequence that hasn’t only manifested itself through the circumstances surrounding police chief Freddie Blackmon, but continues to rear its ugly head throughout countless metrics of our city’s current state of affairs — be it crime, poverty, homelessness, education, workforce, per capita income, or any other.
To best encapsulate the reader’s understanding of our city’s arrogant nose blindness: have you seen the city’s logo?
Because local policy is the only discernible variable over which we as a community have governable control: all of these readily-measurable metrics — by default — result from how our local policy shapes the Fountain City’s current psyche, acceptable cultural norms, and therefrom its measurable state of affairs.
Those policies stem from the Fountain City’s demonstrated political culture of — as Aristotle has so eloquently and factually put it — tolerance and apathy: the willingness to tolerate that which we know to be malevolent, inept, or destructive, and the apathy to enable its persistence.
As any true professional from any field of study will happily tell you — be it law, medicine, engineering, or home construction — there is almost never a case of a single cause unilaterally resulting in a catastrophe; though a catalyst may be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, there must have also been an already-exuberant load of weight atop that proverbial camel for just a single straw to cause such a culmination.
No different are the patterns of behavior exhibited through a years-long setting of conditions by our city’s elected officials — all of which holistically contributed to the ‘Blackmon Situation.’
We at the Muckraker have been writing of this tolerance of apathy for quite some time, providing great insight into how this cultural kneecapper has long been ignored by city officials as it was permitted to metastasize deeper and deeper into Fountain City Society.
Here is a look at what some of those key dynamics include, along with how the Columbus City Council may so choose to seize the opportunity to sustain their newfound diligence.
YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR
Prior to the appointment of the recently-retiring chief of police, a national search was conducted from which to hopefully entice several qualified candidates. Though several candidates were in fact originally interested in the opportunity offered, none of them were willing to even consider tolerating the current conditions of our city in exchange for the salary offered — that is, except for none other than Freddie Blackmon.
Frankly: if no other outside candidate was willing to accept the pay offered, perhaps it would have been worth inspecting why that was instead of settling on the only candidate willing to tolerate the city’s apathy.
It is quite obvious that the processes of selecting our city’s appointed martial leadership have previously been permitted to lack necessary diligence.
Moving forward, perhaps our city’s leaders should consider the recently-discovered extreme consequence of that apathy and their own individual willingness to tolerate it. Perhaps they should allow their voices to be heard by their peers when such an obvious red flag presents itself instead of allowing group think and social fear to dictate the physical safety of our city. We have faith in our elected official’s newfound understanding of this concept, and we hope they prove us right.
YEARS OF INACTION
When it became clear to the most experienced of our city’s police officers that the department was in severe trouble, several of those senior officers notified their city council members.
Regardless of those council members’ sincere private words at the time: no action was taken, and the problem was left to persist.
THE SEED OF DIVISION
When officers voiced their concerns through their union — the Fraternal Order of Police — to formally express their sincere and unified concerns for not only the state of the department but for the city they swore to protect, they were disgustingly met with erroneous accusations of racism from city manager Isaiah Hugley.
Regardless of council members’ sincere private words regarding Hugley’s grotesque display of unethical and intensively idiotic conduct: no action was taken, and the problems — now plural — were left to persist.
As Hugley’s destructive and self-proclaimed racially-based agenda continued to manifest itself through organizations he himself had a hand in founding, a provably-false and dangerously racially-divisive narrative was — and still is — permitted to go unchallenged as it manipulates the public for Hugley’s own unethical and extremely divisive political gain.
Regardless of council members’ sincere private words: no action was taken, and the problems — still plural — remain apathetically tolerated and left to persist.
THE BOTTOM LINE
To Our City’s Elected Officials:
When attempting to produce a political solution — on anything from a simple purchase request to a downtown entertainment district — it can be easy to become laser-focused on producing the single desired outcome one seeks to achieve. However, in doing so, one becomes easily blinded to the many other undesired side effects that also result from such blinded focus. Often, those undesired side effects ironically wind up destroying the existence of the desired outcome.
You are leaders. If you do not lead: by speaking up through Socratic argument to arrive at sound and defendable policy; by finding strength of character to enforce accountability for the most basic ethics of our city’s government; by diligently and tactfully challenging and correcting dangerous rhetoric as it presents itself — if this is not achieved, then members of the public will surely arise in attempts to do it for you through ways similar to what we have all recently experienced.
We at the Muckraker have faith in our city’s elected officials to continue their newfound pursuit of proactive, responsible, and holistically-calculated diligence as opposed to their past displays that resulted from tolerance of apathy. We sincerely hope our city officials will display the intestinal fortitude required to prove us right.
To emphasize their importance as they so strongly relate to our city’s current political climate, here are Aristotle’s words again for your sincere consideration:
“Tolerance and apathy are the last virtues of a dying society.”
Once again, as it always will: Heavy lies the crown.
© 2023 Muscogee Muckraker. All rights reserved.
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