Confusion is the Enemy

Nobody likes being told what to do. But we can shrug most of it off.

“I like your hair better short.”

“Maybe not the red tie?”

“You should do your lawn like this.”

“Your breath stinks, man! Chew some gum or something!”

No big deal.

But when it comes to questions of morality or right or wrong? Things that we maybe should be willing to listen to outside input about?

“You know, maybe sleeping with fifteen girls a week, sans protection, isn’t the best idea.”

“Fraud is wrong. Knock it off or I’m turning you in.”

“Crack is wack, yo.”

We go nuclear!

Why?

The mere mention of anything touching these dimensions can make even the most self-proclaimed, brave, “I-never-get-offended” free-speech proponent go bonkers and try to shut you up.

Why? Continue reading “Confusion is the Enemy”

“Be Nice . . . Until It’s Time To Not Be Nice”: Surviving in the World with your Principles Intact

By nature, I am slow to anger and quick to forgive. This might make me a good Christian and a rather pleasant guy to be around, but in any kind of conflict or war I know I would be a liability–a good man but not good at being a man, as Jack Donovan would say.

The thing is, I do think we are in a war. Emotionally, I do you logically, spiritually, and increasing the physically, it is a reality, both at the national and international levels.

At least here in America, we are more divided than ever. I have tried, but I am sick of trying, to demonstrate to people that I do not hate them. Some people are going to hate you no matter what. How you deal with them is still a mystery to me, although I have my ideas.

Anyway, it seems that a sad fact of life that you were decency will always be used against you. Always.

I don’t think this used to be the case here in the United States. Cynicism is a very un-American trait, but I think we as a nation could afford to be more open, honest, and trusting if there were higher levels of trust and more social cohesion. Now, for a variety of reasons, society is breaking down. We are witnessing it in real time.

Paeans for unity are meaningless, because lots of the people who make them really want division, anger, and distrust. If there was actually unity, these people would be out of a job.

So is the only way to survive to be cynical? Distrusting?

I have a problem with this because this is not my nature. Both as an American and a Christian, I’d prefer to be decent and to treat others the way I would wish to be treated. However, given the hatred that I see and receive, I feel my basic outlook changing and I don’t necessarily like it.

With these thoughts bouncing around my head, I recently completed a two-day negotiation training course for work. In it, I had a little bit of an “Ah-ha!” moment when, in discussing game theory, I learned about Robert Axelrod‘s negotiation strategy.

How did something from the world of mediation and negotiation help with this internal dilemma? Let me explain. Continue reading ““Be Nice . . . Until It’s Time To Not Be Nice”: Surviving in the World with your Principles Intact”

Magic Words and Wizards in Black Robes

The recent Orlando shootings . . .

First, let me offer my prayers for the dead and for the living. This is a monstrous act of barbarism and hate that must not be allowed to happen again. My thoughts are still too incoherent an rage-filled to write about it with any sense of perspective.

What I can write about is the reaction to it. Americans DO NOT LIKE IT when this happens because we are a good and decent people. Gay, straight, black, white–mass murder is WRONG and it is EVIL no matter who does it.

Orlando nightclub massacre

The reaction I take issue with isn’t even the so-called politicizing of this tragedy: Some things need to be politicized because the causes of it are political.

What gets on my nerves is many people’s insistence that laws could have stopped this. If only we had the right laws, the thinking goes, this never would have happened. Such laws, apparently, will also have the power to stop future terrorism and violence.

Laws are magic spells apparently!

This is amazing, since law school was the furthest thing imaginable from Hogwarts. They never taught us mystical incantations in law school.If there were magic classes, I must have missed them.

hogwarts
Pictured: Not law school.

All the laws in the world aren’t going to work. Why? Simple:

Laws do nothing to change human nature.

Laws provide disincentives for law-abiding citizens not to break them. If you’re a criminal–you know, the kind of person who generally ignores society’s rules–why would a certain combination of words stop you?

Laws are useful after-the-fact mechanisms for punishing, and sometimes rehabilitating, the wrongdoer. As the theory goes, making an example out of lawbreakers will deter others from engaging in the bad act. There’s also the theory that society needs to see wrongdoers get punished in order to have faith that the state is looking out for its best interest.

But generally speaking, laws don’t solve problems–if there did, there’d be no drug addition in America, right?

What really changes people’s behavior are not laws, but culture.

If you really want to change the world, go into entertainment.

But since most of us don’t have that option, we need to focus on what we can do.

Continue reading “Magic Words and Wizards in Black Robes”