Philosophy Tuesday

While our group classes and gatherings have been completely kaiboshed during these unusual times, I’ve continued to Kung Fu it up in my backyard (including weapons and all).  It has been a pleasantly productive time, with growth and new avenues opening to explore and with a wonderful handful of delicious insights.

But there’s an interesting thing about insights:

You never know when they will show up.

You can’t plan for them.  You can’t predict them.  And you can’t force them.  All you can do is go out, practice, practice, and practice some more.

And, of course, that means to practice with intent.  Be the force that is pulling for it.  Create the conditions for it to show up.  Lay the foundation and do the digging and look inside and be mindful and keep looking for what’s missing, what’s next, make the adjustment… and then put it into practice, practice, and practice some more.

Until, without any preamble, there it is.  Something new arises!  An insight, an epiphany, a shift, a transformation.  It might be accompanied with an “Ohhhh,” or a “That’s interesting, what’s that?” or maybe it’s so grand the skies part and the angels sing.  Whether it’s low key or a glorious emergence, it’s nevertheless unmistakable.

And it’s yours forever, to move forward into the world with that new understanding, new vision, and new ability, and to enjoy all that comes and flows freely from it.  All the while, being ready to lay the groundwork and to continue practicing, practicing, and practicing some more towards the next one.

This is the veracity of Kung Fu, as it is the veracity of any art or skill or ability, including the realms of philosophical transformation and even that of societal shifts.

It is also a counter to resignation and capitulation, taking solace in that uncertainty.  It rarely looks like somethings progressing until it moves.  And then it does.  And it’s glorious and totally worth it for the great days ahead.

Philosophy Tuesday

There are a lot of important conversations to be held right now.*  And you, we, may find ourselves getting into a lot of them, which is great!  With this question to keep in mind:  Is this indeed a conversation, a discussion, or even an argument?  Or, instead, is it a debate?

For there is a distinction here.

A debate is a particular and specific thing.  It is something that occurs between a few people (often two), on a stage (or otherwise in front of an audience) with the intent of making a case that then persuades an audience.

And that there is the big thing about a debate:  it’s a performance.  It’s an act designed to play to and then convince those watching.  In many ways, it could even be said that debate is theater.

Which is fine!  _IF_ that’s what our intent is in engaging with someone about a topic.  And if we have an audience.  Because without that audience, a debate is pretty much futile and a waste of time.

A debate is all about the outside.  About that outward play.  There’s no engagement.  No communication happening between those involved.  It’s not about consideration or growth or challenging or imagination or learning or refining or exploring or deepening or anything of the sort.  It’s not contemplative at all.  At best, it’s only about how do you destroy the other person’s argument.  At worst (and maybe common), it’s about how do you destroy the other person. So out come all the rhetorical devices.  Out come fallacies by the truck load.  Out come traps and gotyas and buckets of dismissiveness.  Ad hominems are deployed en masse.

Debates are something that are waged.

And for those participating in the debate, there’s no change.  It’s a statis.  The very thing to do in a debate, the very premise, is to reject, immediately and categorically, everything but your own view.  Hunker down, put up sandbags, and deploy all weapons at anything and anyone that approaches.

Which is why getting into a debate with someone when there is no audience (and when the intent isn’t to play for the audience**) is such a worthless endeavour.  We can lance at each other all night and it will be all for naught.

To truly affect the other, to bring forward contemplation and possibilities, to open up empathy and humanity, to bring clarity and awareness, to move the needle forward in so many areas needs great conversation and discussion.  Even heated discussion!  But discussion grounded in exchange, with a willingness for examination and consideration and reflection and thinking.

And when things veer towards debate, all that goes out the window.  At that point, continuing – or even starting – is folly.  Either work to bring things back towards discussion, or step away.

The same applies whether in person, over the phone, online, social media, whatever.  If our authentic intent is to engage, then remaining watchful for thing sliding towards a debate (whether instigated by them or by ourselves) is important.

And if there’s no willingness to remain within the realm of contemplation, then we can save everyone’s time, energy, and passion by ignoring or walking away, and giving our time, energy, and passion to those who are willing and whom we can reach.

 

* And a lot of important listening

** This is important to remember on a social media platform.  We may think “haha, I’m debating this person for the masses!” but are we, really?  Is this really an effective debate venue?  Are those watching more apt to become part of the debate (and thus bunker down) rather than contemplate and engage?

Philosophy Tuesday

I’ve spoken a number of times before about the amazing power in apologies (including and especially in relation to a particular movie that I hold in great regard).  And apologies do indeed hold great potential for healing and to create wonderous new possibilities.

As long as they are actual, true, authentic, apologies.

So there are good reasons to examine the flip side:  the disingenuous and bad faith apology.  Or, as I like to call them, non-apology apologies.*  Because they’re kind of everywhere right now showing up in all sorts of places – media personalities, well-published authors, supreme court justice nominees, CEOs, presidents of certain countries, and police union spokespeople.  And they tend to follow this particular pattern and strategy, known by its acronym of DARVO:  Deny (or Deflect), Attack, and Reverse Victim & Offender.

It’s pretty much what it says on the tin.  Whatever comes in, deny it happened in all sorts of colourful terms, or, as an alternate, deflect it onto something else (the common “whattaboutism” fallacy).  Then attack, either the person, their credibility, or just something else entirely.  Make up false stats and statements, have people question their own sanity, call the kettle black, and etc.

But the last one is the one that really stands out, where the polarity of things is attempted to be reversed.  Suddenly the injured party is the one at fault, and the offender is now the victim of everyone’s mean words.**  Never mind what the issue – and let’s not forget, the harm – is, no, the real thing we should be talking about is how terrible it is for me.  That’s the strategy.  It’s all a smokescreen to distract from the harmful actions, results, and culpability, all while attempting to gain sympathy by making everyone else the bad guy or gal.

This is the very opposite of an apology, to be sure.  Often it is quite blatant (or at least becomes blatant once we’ve armed ourselves with this DARVO distinction so we can be mindful and see it when it’s being employed) and other times it is more subtle, slipped in between an “I apologize” type statement that, when considered in full, is doing anything but.***

Apologies (and forgiveness) are sacred and beautiful things, the mark of a truly powerful, strong, generous, and self-assured person.  DARVOing is the poisonous opposite, that furthers harm, stokes conflict, and erodes trust.  Being mindful of this tactic, we can avoid falling for it and not let slide what shouldn’t.

 

* And if I can just single out the one type I find most egregious in this non-apology apology trend is the “I apologize if anyone was actually offended” and its close variation “I apologize if I hurt someone.”  This is such absolute caca!  Neither of them takes ownership or responsibility or show any remorse, or even semblance of conception that their behaviour (and therefore them) is the or at issue.  It’s all foisted upon everyone else.  Especially in that first one, which effectively says “I think you’re all lying or wrong, and fk you all, I am perfect, and I’m the real victim here because you all suck.”  It’s DARVO par extreme.  Ugh!

** Which is another tactic that grinds my gears.  “That’s not the right way to express it…” tactic to divert attention from the actions/behaviour/world view/etc that caused harm – or is ongoingly causing harm – and instead turn the conversation about how it is expressed and oh how unfair it is that you are so mean to me.  Even worse when the person refuses to articulate what the appropriate means might be… but it’s all diversionary BS to avoid the real conversation about the very real harm.

*** Some of the recent examples of this can be kind of funny especially when you take the transcript or the statement and do word counts to see how often they mention themselves instead of others, how often they say sorry instead of unfair or cancel or my life has been hell, and the like.  No surprise, it’s more about how terrible it is for them than anything about being present to the impact their actions had or are having.

Philosophy Tuesday

As I’ve noted here before, there is great clarity that comes from comparing who we proclaim ourselves to be (or to be about), and looking at what our actions, or the results thereof, say about what’s ACTUALLY going on.  And what’s going on right now is really showing us a very stark view of how authorities view and treat people, to the tune of 422+ incidents of overreach, brutality, and aggression* that have hurt, injured, and even killed people they supposedly swore an oath to protect.

And with that comes a hard look at how we let things get to this point.  And what to do about it.  Be ready, for the tactics and fallacies are going to get deployed real fast, in thick clouds (and yes, that imagery is not chosen by accident), trying to excuse these actions.

Especially when it may be coming from within.  So let’s look at one of these fallacies in detail, because by doing so we can both recognize it when being deployed against us, and moreover inoculate ourselves from ourselves, from our own internal monologues that may also attempt to dismiss, or minimize, some of all that is going on.  And it is the No True Scotsman fallacy:

“No true Scotsman, or appeal to purity, is an informal fallacy in which one attempts to protect a universal generalization from counterexamples by changing the definition in an ad hoc fashion to exclude the counterexample. Rather than denying the counterexample or rejecting the original claim, this fallacy modifies the subject of the assertion to exclude the specific case or others like it by rhetoric, without reference to any specific objective rule – “no true Scotsman would do such a thing”; i.e., those who perform that action are not part of our group and thus criticism of that action is not criticism of the group.” [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_true_Scotsman] **

This is, of course, nicely related to the “few bad apples” trope that is so readily trotted out.  (which, by the way, notice A) always only seems to get applied to one side of someone’s preferred group, ie, “our side has only a few bad apples, while the other side I am more than willing to tar with a broad brush and apply a single action/trait to degrade a whole group, and B) ignores that the complete saying is “one bad apple spoils the barrel.”)  But my own variant of it comes in this form:

“No climber/paintballer would ever steal my wallet.”

This comes from my days of playing paintball and, later, going to climbing gyms.  There were times where there were no lockers available, or place to stash something, or should I lock my car, or any of those kind of moments… and my mind would head straight into that fallacy:  “Well, I’m a good person, and I am a paintballer, so therefore paintballers are good, and besides, I’ve met a bunch of them, and they seem all like fun friendly people, so clearly I’ve got nothing to worry about…”  The same went for climbers.  “We’re all cool dudes and dudettes, all is safe.”

Fortunately for me, my wallet, or anything else, was never stolen.  But I’ve known others who have had things “walk away” in those kinds of situations, and I’ve been overcharged or otherwise tricked by paintballers and climbers alike.

This is a great example of what’s known as “positive bias” – instances of our hidden prejudices that favour those we have an affinity for, or an identity towards.  This quick piece on NPR is a great primer.

With these biases we can so easily deceive ourselves.  Especially as often we will do anything to avoid something uncomfortable.  Or to avoid a new truth that challenges us and our reality and our identities.  And this fallacy is an easy one to reach for.

But eating bitter is where true growth can happen.

 

* Keep scrolling in that thread — it’s a long list to get to 422+.  There’s also a spreadsheet here:  https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1YmZeSxpz52qT-10tkCjWOwOGkQqle7Wd1P7ZM1wMW0E/edit#gid=0  All noted and saved for posterity, so that it cannot be forgotten or denied.

** Also, if you aren’t familiar with all of the logical fallacies, they are mightily powerful to learn about.  Here’s one site that does it in a lighthearted fashion:  https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/  and the more extensive wiki article:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies

It’s Tuesday

I really don’t know what to say.  I don’t know what more could be said that already hasn’t been said, and by many voices and in many more eloquent ways.  And maybe it isn’t a time for me to say much, but instead to listen.

And to that, listen… if this anger is a surprise to you, then I assert you have very likely been either willingly disengaged or deliberately dismissive and smug.  There is a lot of shit happening to people for no (real, justified) reason, a lot of disproportionate infliction of suffering, a lot of power plays and asshattery and sycophancy and pathological hording and so much treatment of others as nothing but pawns and expendable nothings, led by psychopaths who have closed themselves off to human connection.

I even spoke about it just a couple of weekends ago, about myself being table flippy from all the f-ed up parts of our systems that have been made worse and put onto stark display during the ‘natural’ event known as a pandemic.  And how much of that is supported by and held in place by our systems and how much we need to step up and speak up and especially to march to the ballot box and get our hands dirty in wrenching those systems back to serve us and not us serve a system that is designed to only serve a few.  And to that I still hold – step up, wrest control, and point things towards a world that works for everyone, with no one left out.

(And, of course, step one is to recognize that everyone includes EVERYONE.  There are no “that group/race/nationality/fandom/whatever over there are lazy or stupid or evil or lesser than or etc.”  I often think that should go without saying, but, of course as it turns out, it isn’t so automatic.  To many people, their so-called superiority is so much a part of their identity and they are willing to, and even hoping and wanting to, inflict and harm and fight and kill for it.  This is immoral, corrupt, depraved, and an absolute sin.)

But even then I must remember that I get to speak here from a platform of privilege.  I’m table flippy about many shitty things and about people being shitty, but some of those really shitty things I have the absolute luxury of not having to face.  Of not having to worry about.  Of not even having to think about them if I choose not to.

And so there is the moment to choose.  Choose to listen, to think about them, to reckon, and to support the voices, the actions, and the people who are leading things towards equity and justice.  With an absolute emphasis on the listening part, and to listen hard.  To read accounts like the one below, one filled with nothing one might consider extreme or outright cinematic, but the general, daily, so-common-it’s-in-the-background-but-it’s-always-there-like-a-sword-over-your-head experience of living in a system that is geared to make you and keep you a lessor (and potentially dead).  I likely won’t ever have this experience, but I can imagine it, and I must imagine it and listen to it and let it in.  So that I can be a more open person for having done it.  To ensure I account for any of my hidden biases (and remove them wherever I can).  And to be rightfully angered so that I never step over this kind of shit and let it slide.

This needs to end.

Please read this account by Asha Tomlinson, as reported on the CBC:  https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/raising-young-black-man-1.5594179.

 

Philosophy Tuesday

Hubris.  A great and interesting human capacity we all share (and that I’ve spoken about before here) that is responsible for 94% of all downfalls.*

And one of the ‘best’ hubristic follies we pursue is the belief that “I’m not human.”  Not literally – at least, usually not literally – but more along this flavour: “Other people might be tricked, or swindled, or taken in, but I can’t be.  Other people might be susceptible to advertising, or social media, or disinformation campaigns, or the addictive ways companies manipulate the base of our brain stem, but not me.  I’m too smart/careful/clever/advanced/enlightened for that. I’m better than them.”**

Of course, that is not only not true, but that very arrogant certainly makes us all the more susceptible to all of that… because when we’re certain it can’t/won’t be happening to us we are totally not present and miss all the signs that it is indeed happening, or, even better, that would warn us away before it starts.

It’s like one of my former roomates, who prided themselves on being a pretty good manipulator.  Putting aside the oddity of being proud about that kind of thing, the ‘joke’ was that instead, they themselves were often manipulated.  And they didn’t realize it.  To someone more skilled at manipulation (again, not something to be proud of) they were an easy target, and someone aware of their manipulative attempts could diffuse it to no advantage, again without them realizing it.  Like my theory of the Tai Chi Push Hands Skill Differential Exponential Experience Factor, all that bluster of certainty only got them into way more trouble than they could feel.  They found themselves on the floor without even realizing they were there, let alone how they got there.

We are bombarded with missives and messages every day, both genuine and manipulative.  And for the latter, both directly with unscrupulous intent and indirectly through algorithmic chicanery that is designed only to hook our limbic brain and keep our attention hooked (for the purposes of making money).  And through this time of shelter in place we’re even more exposed.  To walk blindly forward like we are an unassailable fortress is just inviting all sorts of opportunities to render ourselves fools (and to maybe let the whole world know it).  Just like “I am human, therefore I have biases”, “I am human, therefore I am capable of being tricked, hoodwinked, and hijacked to ill intent.”

By keeping ourselves mindful and cautious, we can avoid being hooked, avoid spreading it far and wide, avoid harming ourselves and our wellbeing (financial, emotional, relatedness, etc), and avoid destroying the very structures, institutions, communities, and families we hold dear.

 

* Note, not a real statistic, but that doesn’t necessarily make the notion entirely untrue…

** Where ‘them’ in this sense is used pejoratively.

Philosophy Tuesday

It is often good to be reminded that the little voice inside your head is not you.

(For some of you, it’s the voice that just said, “What little voice?  I don’t have voices in my head…” Yeah.  That’s the one.  That’s the little voice.  And it is not you.)

It’s just the little voice in your head

Thoughting away as a direct loudspeaker from your always-agitated calculating self.

But if you let it be, and let things be still and quiet down, the little voice grows calm.

And into that peaceful oasis can your central, authentic voice, begin to speak, in all its resplendent and radiant tones.

Philosophy Tuesday

It wasn’t long ago that I was again mentioning this… but it’s very much worth a revisit right now:

For one:  We often (as in, nearly always) talk about “the economy” in the same way we talk about gravity, as some fundamental physical and organizing force in the universe that we have no choice but to follow its laws.  Yet, from the grandest galaxies to the humble quarks that form all matter, the economy is not present.

For two:  Therefore, the economy is nothing but our invention.

For three:  We invented the economy to serve us.  Not the other way around.

For four:  In other words, money is all pretend.  People are real.

For five: “When wealth is passed off as merit, bad luck is seen as bad character.  This is how ideologues justify punishing the sick and the poor.  But poverty is neither a crime nor a character flaw.  Stigmatize those who let people die, not those that struggle to live.”  — Sarah Kendzior  [To which I add, especially those who do so to enrich themselves.]

For six:  Continuing from the above, our belief about meritocracy has some serious downsides.  Namely that when we believe so much that things are, currently, truly, meritocratic, then it becomes easy to moralize and demonize people.  Especially since things are, currently, absolutely not very high on the meritocratic scale, especially when it comes to wealth and wellbeing, and even if things were, chance and happenstance play so much a role (compounding into the future) that it is still highly erroneous to ascribe saintliness or rottenness or slothness based on that metric.

For seven: If a system isn’t working for creating what we want in the future, then – remembering that we are the authors of it – we ought to alter the system.

For eight:  If we do think the system is working correctly, then say out loud how it operates in reality and what its results are, to be sure that it does indeed match our rhetoric.  If it does not, then we have a break in authenticity.

For nine:  We are the authors.   We often forget, and we often abdicate our role, but we are.  When we participate, when we create, when we make our presence and our mark known, when we work to building a community and the ideals we say we stand for, then we are mighty.

Philosophy Tuesday

One thing I really enjoy is asking people what they are passionate about.

It’s not a common question, and sometimes it can take a little bit of prodding before they are able to answer.  At other times though, people will launch into exuberant sharing even without being asked, talking for minutes upon minutes before feeling apologetic for having, they fear, rambled on.

But no apology is necessary.  It is a delight to hear.

“Whole-hearted listening is the greatest spiritual gift you can give to the other person.”

“…if we would only listen with the same passion that we feel about wanting to be heard.”

— Harriet Lerner

There is a lot of talk “out there” about speaking strong and letting the world hear you and hear about you.  But there’s always the other side of the equation that isn’t mentioned or considered as often and yet we should and need to think about in at least in equal amounts.  Because for every speaker there has to be at least one listener.  More often it’s a whole group, which means that to really build passion we ought to spend more time listening than speaking.

It isn’t just a matter of speaking with passion – we need to listen with passion.

And it is that space that invites unexpected outpourings of enthusiasm and joy, no prodding needed.

It is a space we can create by listening for the gold and watching as vitality, possibility, and connectedness all blossom.