In Praise of Tall Poppies

In Praise of Tall Poppies

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Having not written in some time, I figured that the reader would feel cheated if I did not indulge in a bit of the classics on their behalf, and mine. 

*The Tall Poppy concept comes to us from Herodotus' Histories where he recounts the story of Periander of Cypselus. Periander sends a herald to the elder Thrasybulus to ask about how to best handle the Cypselus' government. When he arrives, Thrasybulus, (ever the raconteur), takes the messenger to a sown field. As he walks through his crops trying to coerce the herald into telling him why he has come, he begins to cut off all the tallest ears of wheat. The messenger surely expects that if he speaks, he will quickly meet the fate of wheat that surrounds him. Thrasybulus notices that his gesture has confused the poor lad and abruptly sends the herald away without uttering a word of advice. When the herald returns to Periander, he tells him that Thrasybulus must be a madman. He is wandering around, philosophizing, and destroying his crops. By his silence and odd behavior, Thrasybulus means to convey to Periander, "that it is sometimes necessary to make away with the eminent citizens in due course of leadership." Whether or not it is a threat is up to the reader.

At the core of everything and anything that goes without a turn signal are misunderstood sentiments. That is why one must be careful, lest one gets their head (or poppy) chopped off. One expects that in a free country, (even if corrupt buffoons lead us) that civility is the norm, inside and outside of the workplace--and that one can still speak freely without being accused of "micro-aggression." That is a reasonable expectation, yes, but speaking one's mind is the obligation of citizens, en masse, in a functional democracy or optimal work setting.

Does the modern worker fall prey to "Tall Poppy Syndrome" and live comforted by silent rations of regret in the food-truck line? 

A reader once told me that they could not speak out at work for fear of losing their job, or for fear of offending their betters. She was afraid to speak up about the discrepancy in her pay and bemoaned that she would never speak up, because, "she had made a career out of not getting her needs met." You might laugh at this. I find this self-depreciation saddening. The woman told me, "You do not knock on doors in Silicon Valley, you have to kick them down."

Advice for the reluctant:

"Free your mind, and your ass will follow."

At times, life rightly apportions indignation. It is up to us whether or not we use it correctly and if the receiving party is ready to listen. 

Advice for the listener:

Are you irritated by the rebellious? Are you dullened so much by mediocrity that the slightest requirement of your humanity feels like martyrdom? 

All praise brave, tall poppies!

If this sounds like something from an Orwell novel, you are either well-read or share a bizarre sense of humor. As I write this line, I imagine automated, driverless trains with loads of blandly dressed, mute workers staring at their cell phones. Not a pretty thought. Thank G-d for tall poppies, because if they did not exist, I am afraid we would quietly extinguish ourselves entirely, or at least slowly congeal into a fiber-optic encased blob of artificiality.

I hope that some are emboldened to flair the third finger with all of it is bony, human irreverence when the situation requires it. Either way, no matter what you do today, do the thing that assures you of your pulse. 

You are either standing up or falling down. And by the way, everyone is watching. 

*Herodotus' Book 5, 92f, Aristotle's Politics (1284a), and Livy's Ab Urbe Condita Libri.

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