The Warm Blanket of Ignorance

In short, there are the folks to whom I have awarded the questionable distinction of being the "we've-always-done-it-that-way warriors" of the world.

Let me recount the story of an extremely responsible fire service person, a person with great responsibilities, who was heard to say to the people around them that we should all return to the era of 1970's training methods. What? How come my friends and I have bothered to advance the cause of knowledge in the fire service through the last several decades if we were at our zenith in 1978?

Lord please Grant me strength sufficient to continue in my chosen field in the face of ignorance and despair.

There is one serious problem with people like this. They fear people who know what they are doing. Far too many are lodged within positions of authority. In addition to all of their specified duties and organizational tasks they usually pause to take on one more burden. They become zealots whose whole charge in life is to become defenders of the status quo.

As a sidebar to this, they also seek to take a crowbar to all who challenge their defense of institutional ignorance. There is another critical fact that each of you out there in reader-land who is a thinker and dreamer must understand. People who fear knowledge, and the change it can bring, are vengeful souls. I learned this first hand in an earlier life.

Those who cherish ignorance feel threatened by those who have knowledge. Groups of ignorant people tend to circle the wagons and withdraw within the comfort of that tightly defined place. Much like the settlers in the old west, these sacred folks will use the weaponry and rifles contained within the rules and regulations of their agency to ward off attacks by those pesky agents of knowledge and change.

There were many years during my career in Newark where I was bottled up within a tightly regulated area, unable to put forward any new ideas. I attributed this to the fact that I was a younger man attempting to battle the forces controlled by the veteran members. I was only partially right.

After my promotion to the rank of Battalion Chief, it was as though I had been permitted to enter a new fraternity. People who rarely spoke with me were suddenly permitting me to have a place at the table. I wondered about this. Thankfully a friend eliminated a number of misconceptions for me.

He told me that there were people in the upper ranks who actively campaigned against me. As a junior chief he told me that he was privy to meetings where my name was a frequent topic of conversation. A number of the chiefs questioned the front office as to why I was writing so much, and speaking at so many conferences.

These people told the boss that it was they who should be doing this. They were the chiefs. How come I was the one doing the traveling, learning, and teaching? The department should be sending them and paying their way to these professional fire service conferences.

When I was made aware of this proactive professional jealousy, it was as though a bright light came on and many things were made clear to me. These gentlemen felt threatened by me and worked to keep me in a box of their own making. Thank the Lord that I was a persistent pain in the patooty.

My friends, I made my own way in the world. Only once in my entire career in Newark did the folks at Headquarters ever pay for my attendance at an event, and even then I had to lay out the money myself and wait several months for the remuneration from the municipal coffers. I want you to know that I paid for every trip I made, every course I took, and every degree which I ever earned. I did these because of my desire to learn and share.

I think that these were alien concepts to these crusty municipal curmudgeons. It is possible that they were products of an earlier age where young people kept their mouths shut and did what they were told. Heck that is how I was taught to operate while I was in the military. That is exactly how I operated throughout my 22 years in the active and reserve military forces of our nation. While I never rose to great heights, I have the satisfaction of knowing I did my job.

Perhaps I am a smart ass. I know I have been accused of that on more than one occasion. However, I have always felt that I owed the people with whom I served the best efforts possible. I learned more so that I could do more. I just want to point out that doing more for your fire department comes at a cost to you. When you do more, you will get into trouble more frequently. It took me a long time to learn that lesson however I am glad I did. It made my future journeys even more pleasurable.