Chapter 1 and 10: Purpose and Strategy
Proper character development is based on an individual awareness of their flaws coupled by the effort they make to rectify them as well. David Brooks’ chapter 1 “The Shift” involves and in-depth examination of character and what it takes to build it, hence its strategy. According to the author, character is primarily built from an individual’s struggle against their own weaknesses. Brooks makes reference of Immanuel Kant’s ‘crooked timber’ implying that nobody is born perfect such that ‘out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.’ Therefore, Brooks’ strategy in the book revolves around empowering people to realize the ultimate character development through awareness of their flaws. The fact that less self-celebration was experienced when the US won World War II than a two-yard gain in football reflects the essence of character through handling individual flaws. More so, the lack of character is further emphasized in the contrast of Adam I and Adam II regarding satisfaction. For instance, while Adam I aims for happiness, Adam II understands happiness is insufficient.
Societal changes stem from individual efforts. Therefore, it is important to focus on oneself despite the need emancipate the entire society. Chapter 10 revolves around the impact of culture on repressed societies. Cultural shift is vital in raising the aspirations of the people, thus essentially leading to self-discovery. In explaining the significance of the cultural shift, Brooks strategically concentrates on the creation of a vacuum whereby humans must over-compensate for the shift. By highlighting the cultural shift in 1950s and 1960s, the issues of pride and self-esteem dominate it. For instance, the culture shift was vital in fixing social injustices among groups that were previously repressed. More so, social injustices against the poor, minorities and women created a culture that crucial in helping the groups believe in themselves and raise their aspirations.
Chapter 1 and 10: Key Concepts and Ideas
The concepts of wisdom and happiness are referenced in chapter 1 of the book. Wisdom alludes to the moral quality of understanding what one does not know and finding out the best way to handle it. Building a strong character presence involves an in-depth understanding of oneself amidst the challenges mostly emanating from personal struggles. Happiness can be defined as a sense of well-being or contentment. Brooks ultimate message is for people to discover themselves through character building despite the challenges they are likely to meet. It implies realizing happiness amidst the prevailing difficult circumstances. Contentment and well-being must be deeply reflected in the road to character building.
Self-expression and identity are some of the critically explored concepts in David Brooks’ chapter 10 of the “Road to Character.” The emphasis on the big image message is reliant on self-expression which implies making one’s opinions, views and beliefs public without being controlled and guided. Identity is further emphasized in this chapter because the cultural shift in the 1950s and 1960s led to a new wave of self-liberalization giving repressed groups an opportunity to find their own identity in a society that largely neglected and tossed them aside. Identity is thus, occupying a specific niche that is both unique and distinct in the society. The cultural shift witnessed in this era was particularly based on finding the specific roles of these groups in the society, for instance, women, the poor and minorities.
Identification of Virtues: Chapter 2 to 9
Harmony is one of the most significant virtues identified by David Brooks in chapter 1. It alludes to individual awareness of societal expectations. However, it is preceded by understanding of self and the circumstances surrounding a particular event. The fact that there minimal celebration was experienced after the United States won the Second World War as opposed to a two-yard gain in football highlights the significance of living in harmony. Frances Perkins decision to alert the people trapped in the blazing fire resonates with the significance of harmony. Apparently, Perkins’ decision involved postponing her own commitments at a time everybody was an onlooker. She did not busk in the glory of being the one that instructed others to urge people to stop jumping from their windows and succumbing to their injuries.
Brooks points out the virtue of moderation and its role in helping an individual overcome deep personal concerns. Furthermore, Brooks indicates that moderation is the awareness of the inevitability of conflict. People can only bring change through moderation. Ida Eisenhower’s long standing relationship and eventual marriage to David Eisenhower is perhaps hinged on the awareness of inevitability of conflict. However, it is through self-conquest that both Ida and David enjoy such long periods of success together.
Brooks focuses on endurance in chapter 4. Suffering is the window to happiness. However, for people to enjoy happiness they must endure the suffering. In this case, endurance implies resolute belief to overcome suffering. People are held captive by suffering because they make zero efforts to endure it. Dorothy Day’s experience right from her childhood, during the San Francisco Earthquake refers to an enduring individual believing that despite the prevailing circumstances, better end will come.
Brooks examines the virtue of self-mastery in chapter 5. It implies having a deeper understanding of one’s abilities and shortcomings in all situations. For instance, once a person understands themselves, they can easily find “a haven in a heartless world.” It is incredible that George Marshall is remembered for his audacious plan to rebuild Europe rather than the destructions he reportedly ordered. His life represents a case of self-mastery, understanding oneself despite the circumstances.
Dignity is the most dominant virtue in chapter 6. It connotes to the impossibility of humiliation if a person is incorruptible. Philip Randolph’s prominence in organizing civil rights in America at the height of Command Performance was notably consistent with the dignity he portrayed. Not once did the political establishments convince him to betray the cause pursued by his group. He remained a dignified figure even when he faced threats to his life and his family and remembered for his vocal attack on the political establishment perceived to racially discriminate against the African-American community.
Love is the ultimate virtue emphasized by Brooks. It is defined as a connection of the minds turning into an emotional fusion. People must create their own wisdom to experience this connection. Brooks example of Anna Akhmatova and Isaiah Berlin indicates and intellectual connection. It indicates “a meeting of the minds.” It gave them an opportunity to understand the world in a manner it connected with them as well.
Brooks’ chapter 8 delves into the virtue of grace. It alludes to an inner transformation which involves exploring past accomplishments for measurement of an individual’s values. Augustine’s dedication to serve God and rebuke worldly possessions firmly explain the power of grace in his life. He understood suffering, individual destruction and the importance of confession. These aspects resonated with the quest for an inner transformation as divulged by Brooks.
Self-examination represents a crucial virtue that directly corresponds to an individual’s self-discovery. Chapter 9 of David Brooks’ Road to Character focuses on the virtue of self-examination in which he states as choosing to conquer one’s vices and live uninterrupted life. Self-examination is hugely dominant in a community. Samuel Johnson’s embodiment of character building within the community attests to Brooks’ emphasis on societal awareness. It propelled Johnson to write the first English dictionary. Self-examination further connotes to the route to find inner wisdom.
How can the modern society create a culture shift that can liberate the vulnerable members of the society as similarly observed in the 1950s and 1960s? To what extent is the society responsible for brainwashing women into believing that the needs of their children and husbands must always come first? In what ways does meritocracy focus on the external self over internal self? How can we possibly limit our self-evaluation to a specific period of time and achieve desired results? What do we need to love and still remain in control? How can people practice and maintain dignity in the course of their entire lives? In what ways does suffering allow us to avoid superficial happiness in order to find the fundamental happiness? How can one achieve a level of balance when pursuing moderation?
How can people embrace suffering for the ultimate realization of happiness? How can people ensure their presence is felt for them to realize the greatest relationships? What do people require to experience an emotional fusion, and does it exist? To what extent does grace lead to an inner transformation? Based on the virtue-conquers vice, how can individuals realize a situation where virtue lives with a vice?
Implication for Leadership and Character Development Questions
When an individual’s character is in a direct conflict with the leadership model in place, how does character bail him/her out? How can endurance guide favorable character manifestation of a leader? What outcomes can be tied to the relationship of character and leadership in a position of authority and influence? How is character a major cog in aligning leaders with the interests of the masses? What are the causes and consequences of a strong character and how can an individual’s response reveal their ethical and moral values? Is what is being measured leadership in character or character in leadership and what is the difference? How is character development a fundamental aspect in determining leadership styles and the response of the masses?