Defending one’s honor dates back to Medieval chivalry. But its popularization in western culture was courtesy of a more contemporary influence — Leon Gautier, a 19th century French historian who developed what has become known as the “Ten Commandments of Chivalry.”
Found amongst these commandments were directives involving defending the church, loving your country, and not recoiling before your enemy.
Community Board 8 seems to be taking that chivalrous advice a different way — defending the board at all costs, not recoiling before perceived enemies, all while still loving their community.
And there’s no doubt the people who volunteer countless hours to the board love their community, and take their work very seriously.
So it can’t be easy when someone might not appreciate everything they do the way members of the board think they should.
When Charles Moerdler briefly resigned from the land use committee earlier this month, he shared some of the problems he felt were plaguing the board he’s been a part of since its inception. And Moerdler pulled no punches.
Board members have spent a lot of energy in their roles, but that energy is misdirected, he said. The board’s focus is on reaction, not forward-thinking or innovation.
And while CB8’s role in city government is simply advisory, it doesn’t mean a group of community leaders are ineffectual, Moerdler added. It simply means they need to refocus that energy on change.
Not that Moerdler required everyone, or anyone, on the board to agree with him. But at the very least, he had hoped it would open conversation.
It did. Just not what he expected.
CB8 didn’t sit down and talk. Instead, its officers curled up into a defensive position as if staving off invading forces.
The letter, which is published in these pages this week, talks about some of the good things CB8 has done in recent months. And those officers are right — we should thank them.
But doing some good things doesn’t mean everything you do is good. Different people have different ideas. And the role of the community board is to listen to those ideas, whether they are patting volunteers on the back, or being critical of how this community can be better.
CB8 chair Rosemary Ginty made it clear to a reporter that if someone attacks the board, she won’t attack back, but she will use all the energy she can muster to defend the board.
Chivalrous, in theory. But impractical when it comes to government.
While we already ask a lot of those who represent us in government, there is one more thing we need to ask these hardworking men and women: Stay strong, but never stop listening. And remember, not every criticism is an attack, and even attacks can lead to something constructive.
There is honor in defending yourself. But there is even more honor in admitting that we always can do better.