Sunday, February 27, 2005

On Personal Politics

In a perfect world, everyone in politics would be altriustic and concerned with doing the right thing for their world, their country, and their power. Self, and its egotistical concerns, would take a back seat to Doing The Right Thing.

Yeah. Well, we live in the real world.

So let's say you're caught in the middle of a big egotistical catfight. Infighting. Ally vs. ally. Jane is on Jack's shit list and here's why, are you for Jack or are you for Jane? Either you're with us or you're against us, which side is it gonna be?

Nasty stuff, right? Well ... it's human nature. It happens in every group after awhile. Differences of opinion get blown out of proportion, alliances get made and broken, catfights break out. Things get difficult.

Be cold and philosophical. Pretend that it's all a Mexican soap opera. Emotionally distance yourself from it and see the whole thing as a melodrama, even though you're in the cast. If you manage to look at it that way, it can be pretty funny stuff. I once got a Chinese fortune cookie that said, "Life is a tragedy for those who feel, and a comedy for those who think." Bingo! You are completely correct, Mr. Faux Confucius, whoever you are. Think about the situation, don't feel about it, and you'll get some emotional distance.

Now, some people believe that they can't do that. "It upsets me!" they wail. "I can't control how I feel!"

I'm going to let you in on a Jedi mind trick: You CAN control how you feel.

No, really, you can.

You know that little monologue you have in the back of your head? The one that's always thinking and talking and wondering and nattering on? Your thoughts, your feelings, your observations, your mind? Well, most people make the mistake of thinking that that little voice is THEM.

It's not.

Really, it's not. You are brain, heart, body AND soul. Your true essence is something other than that babbling brook in the back of your head. If you don't believe me, learn to meditate. You'll see that babbling brook dry up and be replaced with ... something else. Deeper, wider, stranger.

Now, if you don't want to run off and learn how to meditate, you can try this. Let's say you're angry with Tina. The first thing you have to do is realize where you are. Say to yourself, "I'm angry with Tina because she totally screwed up our booth at the festival." Feel the anger, experience it thoroughly, carry it around for a bit until you're ready to let it go. (Don't talk to Tina while you're still carrying it around, and don't carry it too long either.) Now, do whatever needs to be done to calm yourself down. Let the anger go. Distract yourself. Think about something you need to get done, or something happy you'd like to do, or something interesting and unusual. Do anything but think about Tina. Next time you think of Tina, you'll probably be less mad. If you need to talk to Tina, be rational about it. Point out the problems with the behavior, not the person. And be honest with yourself, too. How could YOU have helped prevent the situation? It really helps if you take some of the blame on yourself.

Which I guess segues nicely back into the Jane vs. Jack story we started off with. As I said, don't take it seriously. Defuse it at every opportunity by pointing out the innate absurdity of it. Laugh at it. If you must take a side, do so dispassionately. Criticize Jane if you must, but do it in a kind way. And don't dis Jane's supporters. If you're aligned with the Jack camp, don't devolve into a fierce partisan. "Jack's my guy, right or wrong, rah rah!" Try to walk in between the two camps, doing your best to patch things up. Take the Middle Way, in other words. Easier than it sounds. Sometimes there IS no right answer, and the best you can do is remind people to keep their eye on the ball. "We're Democrats! We may have to get all of this out now, but let's keep in mind the big picture. We want to beat THEM, those people over there."

Oh, and before I forget, allow me to give you the cardinal rule:

Never speak ill of a fellow Democrat in public.

DON'T tell the opposition. DON'T let it get out. In public, you should only say delightful things about Jane and Jack and their compadres. NEVER allow your opponent sweet schadenfreude. If they see your weaknesses, they'll take advantage of them! By all means, let the blood flow, stab each other in the back, enjoy the blame game and cast aspersions – when you are in private, with each other. When you are in public, be all sweetness and light and good thoughts, and protect each other's back.

Yeah, this is my perfect world talking again. But if I can get more people to buy off on this, all the better. We need to learn to NOT wash our laundry in public. We need to learn to not give our opponents any opposition.

Anyway. Keep your eye on the ball. I'm not talking to the infighting ones now. I'm talking to you, the calm one in the middle. The goal is a united and peaceful group in the future. What needs to be done to accomplish that? How can what's broken be healed, how can you help bring everything through this? That's what you should be looking at.

P.S. Oh, and -- if you think you know why I wrote this? You're right, it's about THAT. Sigh. What can you do? It's either laugh at it or cry. I'm gonna laugh.


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