Sunday, June 28, 2009

politics encumbers

1029am: safari room patio, outside athens, GA.  wicker chairs and sunny arbors.

imagine if we used political labels at work.  instead of "mary, the 6th floor receptionist", it was "mary, the 6th floor republican receptionist." or, "joe, the democratic IT support guy." not to be confused with his coworker, "leah, the moderate liberal help desk girl."  

or our "democratic REALTOR from McKenearney, janet." instead of just "janet, the McKenearney REALTOR."  

imagine if you had to put your political affiliation on your resume, and were hired based on the political preferences of the current HR manager?


would we choose businesses to do business with based on our political preferences?  would we work with coworkers based on their party affiliation.  would it make for a better world?  would it make for more division among us?  or not?  if we did it, why would we do it?

if it seems counterproductive and divisive to categorize workers of the world by their political party, why do we do it in politics?

have you paid attention to a problem solving session with friends of differing political parties? normally the arguments are more about who belongs to what party--as a way to discredit their ideas--instead of the quality of the ideas themselves.  why?

paul graham essayed about argumentative hierarchy:

the most honest way to disagree with something, he claims, is to find the central argument, then to refute it.  

sound simple.  

it rarely occurs.

people attack people.  people attack side issues.  people create compelling--yet irrelevant--counter-arguments.  myriads of scenarios.  

but it all comes down to once core problem:  if you are not refuting a central argument, you are not making headway in the discussion.  no new knowledge is being created, really.  unless, of course, you choose to disregard the initial argument and go off in another direction.  most conversations go this route, by accident.   and each person ends up walking away thinking they're right and the other person is wrong.  each person honestly thinks that. 

so, back to my promise to myself:

1) what's the basic idea?  

- if it's counterproductive and divisive to label coworkers by their political party, why do we think it helps us solve public policy problems?

2) why does it matter/what's the use?

- this matters because we could make more headway in our national problem solving debates if we threw political parties out the window and forced ourselves to focus only on the ideas.  debate the ideas.  not the politics.  

imagine if hardcore democrats could be persuaded to believe certain aspects of republican ideas?  and if republicans could embrace hardcore democratic ideas?  and if this wasn't seen as political traitor-ship.

3) how can this change things?

- we're our own worst enemy.  our politics encumbers us.  

next time you're in a conversation, try to make your case without referencing politics or political parties at all.  

thought experiment:  allow yourself to be persuaded by good ideas--regardless of the camp they come from.  let yourself embrace ideas of the "other party" if it makes sense to you and appears irrefutable to you.

it will feel awkward, but give it everything you have.  tilt yourself into it.  it will feel invigorating to follow ideas to their rightful place, regardless of where on the political spectrum that place is.  

let ideas be your guide.  let soundness of thought be your guide.  

if everyone did this, our world would look radically different.  

you can lead the way.

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