Singing the praises of the unsung heroes
The world is ruled by extroverts. The loudest voices, unsurprisingly, are often the only ones we hear.
The Australia Day honours are meant to pay tribute to the unsung heroes, thereby making them sung.
While the most attention is too often given to the already well-sung - celebrities, the actors and the sportspeople who make the list - there are also the local heroes, the young and the senior Australians.
Many of them we don’t know now, but hopefully we will. Like the utterly remarkable Donald Ritchie, last year’s local hero. Over five decades Mr Ritchie lived across from notorious suicide spot, The Gap, a cliff in Sydney’s East. When he spotted someone preparing to jump, he’d offer them a smile and a cup of tea, and saved over 160 lives.
But, you know, Geoffrey Rush is pretty amazing too.
It’s just a bit of a shame that he will steal most of the spotlight, while the quiet achievers lurk in the wings.
A new book whispers the virtues of the quiet ones, the introverts, and calls for a ‘quiet revolution’, a taking back of the world from the extroverts.
In Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, author Susan Cain says it’s the quiet ones who can change the world:
They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams. Although they are often labeled “quiet,” it is to introverts that we owe many of the great contributions to society – from van Gogh’s sunflowers to the invention of the personal computer.
Cain told the Scientific American that society has created an ‘ideal self’ that is bold, loud, ‘out there’. Introverts (whom she distinguishes from shy people) feel inferior, so they become fake extroverts, and the cycle continues.
So in workplaces we organise into groups to outshout each other, and meetings to out perform each other, and we sit in open plan offices with no escape into the solitude of our own brains. She calls this the ‘New Groupthink’: “Lone geniuses are out. Collaboration is in.”
Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s latest exercise, her butcher-paper brainstorming session (an echo of her predecessor’s mega-brainstorm), is a prime example of groupthink.
Cain says there is plenty of evidence we’d be better off on our own, just getting things done.
She looks at Asian-American students, who are alienated from the brash extrovert world. She points to the introverts like Gandhi, Steve Wozniak, and Rosa Parks, people who achieved what they did because of their introversion, not despite it.
She has even developed a manifesto, a 16-point guide to helping introverts triumph. Which seems a little extroverted, to be honest.
But maybe it is time we paid a little more attention to the quiet ones, and a little less to those who bang on in public … oh, I see. Right.
Excuse me, I’m just going to go over here and have some time on my own.
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