Dave LeBlanc on what is the biggest hurdle in fire service education and dialogue.
Having spent the last month trying to avoid the endless drivel on the news about the debt ceiling, whose fault it is that Congress can’t reach an agreement, what will happen if they don’t, and who caused this problem; I have become totally disgusted with the inability of Congress to actually do anything. They seem much more interested in sounds bites and “the party line” and less concerned about the little people, you know the pesky ones that elected them, and what their action or inaction will do to them.
Then there is the ever increasing of the media to determine the “facts” before an incident has ever occurred. “Breaking News” has become synonymous with ”he is guilty”, in the media’s quest to be the first outlet with the “whole” story. Opinions are now mixed into the facts; and before long people are judged, hung and convicted before the crime scene tape is removed.
The fire service has long prided itself on being a brotherhood. It is one of the reasons so many become involved. This bond usually means you can walk into any firehouse in the country and be accepted as family. This bond transcends many of the differences that have plagued the rest of society, although there have been times when we have not taken care of our own as we should. Fortunately, in my experience, those times are few are far between.
Because the fire service is a microcosm of society, I guess it is only normal that we would eventually see behavior amongst our own that mirrors what is happening in the main stream. Even when that behavior flies in the face of the ideals we hold on to so dearly – Pride, Respect, Honor, and Duty. As social media and the internet continue to grow, the ability for us to have almost instant knowledge of events that we wouldn’t learn about for days or weeks has come to light. That coupled with the new found ability of even the most non-technical savvy person to share their life, views and ideas with the world has created a situation where instant “expert” opinions are often offered long before the first engine returns to quarters.
Bill Carey wrote about this aspect of our “new world” in Mount Up or Shut Up. Having also spent some time in the horse world, (my wife is a recovering horse addict), I have seen much of what Bill described and agree with his assessment of the parallel it holds with today’s fire service.
Earlier this week another event occurred that to me is just as troubling. This didn’t involve anonymous and his 30 second career, but yet a well known author of a controversial theory. Earlier I saw a theory challenged and in response to criticism, the oldest argument is the book was used…..”my penis is bigger than yours.” In his response to a challenge to the effectiveness of his tactic, this author replied with;
“1. How many years do YOU have in the fire service?
2. How many Occupied Structural Fires have YOU been to in the last year (that is, fires that required the stretching and use of at least two handlines)?
3. How many Line-Of-Duty funerals have YOU been to?
4. How many firefighters that YOU worked with in your company or department have been killed in the Line-Of-Duty?
5. Have YOU ever been the family liaison for a family who lost a father, mother, husband, wife, son, daughter, brother, or sister to a Line-Of-Duty Death?
Once I know more about your “experience” beating up the red devil in your living room and pulling little babies from deaths grasp in defense of your neighbors life and property, I will attempt to use both my firefighting experience and resume to help provide education on concepts that WILL save firefighters lives and teach them how to fight fires from yes, the interior.”
This is the type of response that has driven many contributors away from the various forums, where information sharing gave way to bashing and nonsense. One rule I have always used whenever I have written or posted anything is not to write something that I wouldn’t say to the person’s face, especially if they were in punching distance.
You see, we can disagree, and we will. There are many, many different ways to accomplish our mission, and what work for you may not work for me. Questions things if you don’t understand them, but question them in a positive way, as in “I am trying to understand” not “what the hell were you thinking?” When we resort to diminishing each other to make out point, well we have violated the ideal of Respect. If we cannot discuss things with respect for the others position and opinion, then we might as well all go join Congress.
While experience is certainly a big part of this job, it cannot be the only scale by which we judge our peers. And it certainly shouldn’t be the measure of whether a person’s thinking and opinion count.