I am a very decisive person. Probably because I frequently have an eye toward the future. I do not struggle to imagine future outcomes and I am well practiced at taking those future outcomes and walking them back to connect with the options of the present moment. Does the group need to pick a place for dinner? No problem, I have a method. Trying to arrange couches in your new space? Easy peasy, try this and see if you like it. Responsible for crafting a health and safety policy in the midst of the ever-changing Covid situation? I got you, here's a framework.
As adept at decision-making as I am, I still sometimes get stuck in an OODA loop. OODA is short for Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. It describes one kind of decision making process humans go through. First we see or notice the situation (we observe). Then we orient ourselves to it, drawing on past knowledge and experience. Once orientated, we can decide what to do about it. Finally, we take the action we decided to do. It's a concept I have written about before and explored in a martial arts context.
One way I enjoy taking advantage of this natural human process in sparring is to shift my attack strategy constantly so my partner can never fully orient to what I'm doing. If I can switch-up my timing, speed, intensity, or strikes in an irregular pattern, my partner will have just oriented to one thing when I'm throwing something completely different and they have to orient all over again. If they never get to the decision part, they probably won't get to the act part and I can score a point before they fully realize what's happening.
These days, a lot of political "discourse" feels more like sparring than conversation. Maybe it always did, depending on who you ask. But for me (and a lot of other people), trying to engage in a discussion with someone who holds conservative political or social views is like being stuck in an OODA loop. I have tried to engage with curiosity, but they switch tact at the speed of light employing one logical fallacy after the next. Just trying to stay on-topic is a mammoth task, let alone untangling the spaghettimess of logic holding a dehumanizing worldview together.
And it's difficult not to lose patience with that process. I have definitely given up on some people who are determined not to meet me anywhere remotely near common ground, ultimately deciding it wasn't worth continuing to beat my head against a wall. But what about the times when giving up is not an option? Take the current situation in the PAWMA martial arts community I wrote about recently. The current board continues to insist their nonsensical tale is the full explanation of what's really happening, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
The board has attempted, in an increasingly desperate manner, to control the discourse within the community and silence dissent instead of engaging with the honest inquiry from membership who can see their story doesn't add-up. They have also tried making "positive only" posts in the Facebook group to drown-out the posts and comments from the membership asking for accountability, transparency, and explanations. It isn't working because pretending you don't need to answer to the community doesn't make the community stop having questions.
I called the tone of one such "positive" post into question and the author edited it to include the statement "this is not political." She is clearly failing to understand that everything she does (or doesn't do) in the community space is political, whether she wants it to be or not. The situation is highly contentious and she is in a position of power and influence. Pretending the problem is something different than it is and giving all dissenting voices the electronic silent treatment is a political statement no matter what inspirational videos or memes you post.
The board continues to make incorrect or harmful statements, so I have to continue pointing out the problems. In the public discourse, I am basically playing the role of broken record: your explanation includes inaccuracies, your statements don't make sense, please be accountable and transparent, please accept this loving feedback and consider the consequences of your actions for our fellow community members. It's important for someone to be doing this part of the work because combating injustice requires diversity of tactics, but this battle of rhetoric alone cannot resolve the issue.
Ultimately, there needs to be a power shift. How to accomplish that with the community intact is the challenge. To explore some options, I joined a discussion group for the book "From Conflict to Community" by Gwendolyn Olton. It's a book about resolving conflicts in ways other than simply outsourcing resolution to an authority. One of the major take-aways I have from this book is that it's only possible to use a different system if the parties in a conflict all agree to try something different. Unfortunately with PAWMA, the current board started out by wielding their power and engaging an outside authority.
In an oppressive system, you can only engage in change-making through peace if the oppressor agrees to participate. Otherwise, you're left speaking softly to a wall. That's why everything we do is political. No one in modern society has the luxury of abstaining from the system. It's critical you remember that every choice you make furthers a particular outcome. Whether that's an outcome you want to create or just what eventually happens, it's the culmination of your every action and inaction. You don't have to change the world all by yourself. Fortunately, all our individual choices add together with everyone else's choices. Please make sure your contributions are the ones you want to be contributing.
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Jaydra is a human in-process, working to make the world a better place. Sharing thoughts, feelings, and observations about the human experience.