On politics, for today: 8-20-17

I haven’t written a post in awhile. I’ve been thinking, and most of my writing is saved to my hard drive and unpublished. Lately, I’ve been keeping to myself.

I’ve decided to publish this post as of today, perhaps because my way of thinking has evolved, or perhaps out of boredom. I do want to see where this goes:

8-20-17

“How do we get people to behave more ethically?” is a question that I tend to see in the background of progressive thinking. All too often in liberal politics, I hear notions that I would label “calls to virtue.” An example would be something like theoretical Person A stating to theoretical Person B: “You should do this or that because it is the right thing to do;” that is, whatever behavior that Person A is attempting to elicit from Person B produces the most ethical result for society as a whole, and therefore, Person B should or must engage in this behavior. For Person B not to do so is considered by Person A to be unethical, and Person A will often argue their points to infinitude in order to convince Person B to engage in said behavior.

Looking through the scope of history, I find that—more often than not—people don’t respond well to “calls to virtue.” You have to remember that, in our society, people are bombarded with solicitations to behave a certain way based on moral principle, and, more often than not, a person will not respond to your “calls to virtue.” They might consider it, feel guilty about not responding to it, or perhaps argue against you. None of these responses will elicit the desired, or the most ethically-valued, behavioral response. Most of the time and effort spent in these arguments seems utterly wasted.

So, how do we convince people to behave more ethically? I’ve drawn up my own conclusions from lessons I’ve taken from both sales (or, “economic theory,” if you prefer), and evolutionary psychology. In Matt Ridley’s book The Origins of Virtue, he goes into great detail theorizing how humans developed a capacity for trust and the mutual exchange of both material goods and philosophical ideas. He refers to the concept of virtue, on one page, as “exclusively pro-social behavior (pg. 6).” He also states that building trust is important: “trust is the foundation of virtue” (pg. 265).

Being able to trust another person or group is often difficult. I could go into the ins and outs of all the “prisoner’s dilemma” paradoxes, but for now, I’ll digress. I do agree with Ridley’s arguments establishing how important trust is in terms of both virtue, and in terms of cooperation between groups: if you can’t trust someone, you’re likely not going to cooperate with them.

Going back to the question of “How do we get people to behave more ethically?” I posit this: Rather than attempting to appeal to the person’s morality, we must focus on their self-interest.

I’ve been to sales seminars and have taken online courses that focus on this concept of what they call WIIFM: that is, “What’s in it for me?” While liberal-minded people tend to—at least, in my experience—view “sales” as this sort of slippery, gimmicky, “how can I trick someone into buying something?” approach, I tend to veer toward the concept that, in sales, we salespeople meet needs: that is, we discover what the person wants, understand how the person feels, and figure out if we have a product or suggestion that might help the customer solve whatever problem/s they might have. I don’t at all look at my career in sales as underhanded. Rather, I look back, and I think to myself “I feel privileged to have been in a position to give this person information that they might otherwise have not have had access to. I’m glad I was able to talk to this person, and help them solve their problem/s. It has been a great honor to help them.”

In the WIIFM approach, you have to look past what you’re trying to offer, and instead look at what the other person wants and why they want it. This is usually some base, primal need. In doing this, you have to put your ideologies on the side: you just have to listen to them. Sometimes, people get emotional. They say and do irrational things. At the end of it all, and underneath our abilities to be rational, ideological people, we’re just a bunch of apes trying to figure each other out. And, in the WIIFM approach, you don’t insert your “conjectures,” or “argue your polemics:” you simply listen, and then you restate what the person just told you in your own words.

Let me give you an example that could play out in the political landscape of things. Suppose you’re talking to someone who is adamantly convinced in securing what they would refer to as “My Second Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution.” You might ask them “Why do you feel that it’s important to be allowed to own a gun?” To which they might respond “Because it’s my Second Amendment right to be able to own one.” And there would likely be an exclamation point at the end of that sentence.

This is what I would refer to in sales as a “smokescreen.” That is, this person likely doesn’t really care about the Second Amendment, the U.S. Constitution, or any other document, ideology, political stance, or what have you. Instead, the person has an emotional need: maybe they feel threatened by the government, or liberalism, or criminals, or even the potential threat of rattlesnakes nesting in their front yard. Maybe they feel the need to protect themselves from some perceived—or real—threat, and maybe they feel that some person or group of people is attempting to take the ability to do so away from them by taking away their “right” to possess a firearm.

The point that I’m trying to make here with the WIIFM approach is that it doesn’t matter what this person thinks about the Second Amendment. What matters, to both that person, and anyone who feels opposition to the way that this person thinks, is that we address how both people feel. All that stuff about “The Second Amendment this, and the Second Amendment that,” is just a bunch of iddy-biddy minutia that people get into arguments about. As a result, both people fail to solve real social problems because they’re still stuck in this ideological BULLSHIT.

My case and point in both understanding Matt Ridley’s approach to “virtue,” and the sales perspective of the WIFFM approach, is this: we can solve real world problems by putting ideologies aside for a moment, and addressing how people feel long before we engage in how people think. If trust is indeed the foundation of human virtue, we’re not going to establish any more trust by argument. Instead, we have to address how people feel, and come up with creative solutions for how to solve one another’s problems by listening to people state how they feel: whether we can justify those feelings or not. It doesn’t matter if how a person feels results in a thought pattern in that person that is illogical. What matters is that we’re able to build enough trust between ourselves and the people around us to be able to say to them: “I understand how you feel. Now, how can I help you?”

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Battle Scars

–by Derek Alan Wilkinson

You don’t hang out with your friends
because they’re fun.
Even if you do enjoy it,
that’s not why you’re there.
Nor they.

Maybe there are people
who you just have fun with.
But they’re not your friends:
they’re just acquaintances.
Just fucking strangers
on the street.

You can tell your real friends
from these strangers you meet
because you can recognize
their battle scars.
You can see the suffering
in their faces:
Sullen eyes and shrunken hearts.
You can feel the shrapnel
in their gut
like it was your own.

They don’t have to talk about
their pain,
their struggle,
or their life.
Nor do you,
because you already know it.
And so do they.
You can feel their misery,
and they can feel yours.

Like they’re always there
even when they’re not.

If you do talk about your pain,
you don’t say much
because you know,
deep down,
that you don’t have to.
They know, and they always will:
without any explanation at all.

And you know.
And that’s that:
that’s all there is to it.

Decades will pass,
and you will see their torment:
over and over, again.
Their agony will surface
in the most subtle of ways.
In a silent facial expression.
In an underhanded comment.
In a body gesture that seems
so out of place:
like a breeze floating over
an otherwise empty room.

For the times that you enjoy together,
you will have suffered apart.
And your friends will see it in you,
and you’ll see it in them, too.
But none of your friends has to say much
about the war–the struggle,
or about life,
about children,
or about death.

Because you seek it in them
and they see it in you.

So, smile you fucking assholes:
I just wrote a poem about you.
I just wish that you were here,
sometimes,
when you’re not.

Ten Quotes of Mine.

–by Derek Alan Wilkinson

I’ve compiled a list of things you can remember me by for whenever I’m dead. I should probably second guess my eulogy, but you only live once.

So, here are the quotes:

1) I don’t write for everybody—even if I expose my work to “everybody.” Usually, it’s just a very few people I write for. Sometimes, I just do it for myself. And I hope that you never see those works.

2) When someone talks about rights, I tend to think about wrongs.

3) Sometimes, my writing’s bad. Sometimes it’s good. And sometimes my audience or editor just sucks. After some deep enough thought, I’ll be the final judge–whether you like it or not.

4) What is “love?” It’s seeing all the ugliness in a person, and in the world, and still seeing enough good in that person to still want them around.

5) Don’t think about doing something. Don’t try to do something. Don’t dream. Don’t aspire. Just BE, for fuck’s sake.

6) Finding your “voice” as a writer is like learning a new language: I think that you just have to start by typing gibberish. It’ll come to you. And, when you’re done, people will criticize your dialect. Unless you agree with them, tell ’em to fuck off.

7) To assume that your life has purpose is to make an error that I can only label as “The Human Bias.” You might NOT have a purpose unless you make one for yourself. Also, I came up with that theory–”The Human Bias”–and expect to be credited for it if mentioned.

8) You can usually kill yourself if you want to. Just remember that you’re going to die anyway, eventually. In most cases, it’s better to just tough it out.

9) Most good ideas have several rough sketches. Most great ideas come from good ideas, and have REALLY rough sketches.

10) You don’t have to either “like” or “dislike” kids, but I think it pays to APPRECIATE being around children from time to time. If you can learn to do that, I think you’ll enjoy life more.

Inside.

–by Derek Alan Wilkinson

Her soft, lotioned legs held me—leading me into a womb that I never wanted to escape.  We laughed, while my semen dripped out. “I have to clean up!” she’d exclaim.

I’d had this hunger—this craving for wanting to be inside of someone soft and fleshy and wet.  Why?  Because I was and am human, and mimicking reproduction, over and over, was my way of quelling the need—which was deeper than anything I’d ever felt.

She, and dozens of others.  I didn’t want it like this.  I never just wanted to “bang some chick.” But they came, I came, and they went.

Help me…feel like I once was.

The whole thing was always—the repetition of these things—just  some dream I’d wanted to relive, without realizing it. “Born again” was a Christian indiscretion.  Those zealots didn’t know what the fuck they were talking about.  But there was this girl, and this other girl.  And I wanted to be a part of them—of their lives.  Of who and everything that they were.  I wanted, desperately and with unheeded caution, to be inside of them.  This wasn’t just to fuck them.  I wanted to listen to them talk about things—everything. To know them.

I wanted to listen to their heartbeats when we were done—to hear the drums of that old human effort, over and over.  I clawed at the double-helix of what it was to be a person.  But, in all this, I knew what it meant to succeed: to reproduce.  And, all in all, I just didn’t believe in it—to replicate such a wretched thing as life.

Yet, I craved it from someplace I couldn’t grasp.  It was something that was a deeper part of who I am that I wanted to believe.  I wanted to transcend this natural selection shit.  But, if it weren’t for the old algorithm, I wouldn’t be here to talk about it to begin with.  I wouldn’t be here to bitch.

So, the girl, she cleaned off my semen.  My worthless slime.  I’d had a vasectomy years back.  I didn’t believe in life.  I still don’t. “Ugly thing! Life!” I’d exclaim this, to myself. “I’m not having kids.  I don’t want to give this wretchedness—this need—to anyone!”

Yet, here I am—the unwilling participant in a game that disgusts me, and from which I cannot escape.

And I still, despite it all, want inside.

The Human Spirit

–by Derek Alan Wilkinson

They’d finally found it.

“The Human Spirit,” they called this entity: this carcass. Its double-helix body lay strewn across a stone slab of an examination table—which was blasphemy, if you ask me; using such a sturdy, piece of granite to examine something so…malleable. Well, I guess that’s only true if you believe in free will, or infinity paradoxes. If you don’t…I won’t waste your time in debate.

Narcissus, as always, was the first to speak up, “I think it represents all of us. Most importantly, I connect with this thing. It exemplifies the deepest parts of who I am.”

Nemesis countered (as always), “I wish I were there when it saw defeat. I’d been looking for a way to correct—to chasten—it. It always eluded me. So, I must say…I’m glad it’s finally dead.”

Hercules declared: “What was once our trusted ally was also our most feared enemy. We may have triumphed, but only by mishaps. We must resurrect this creature!”

Mars resounded, “Yes!” As did Echo.

An old mortal spoke up: which, by just about everyone’s standards, was normally considered heresy. But this guy had been around for awhile.

Lazarus said his piece: speaking through broken vocal channels, with his usually sullen and eyeless expression, “This one’s got me beat. Give it a minute, and it’ll be back. And you’ll have your hopeless war again.”

Faustus said that it was only dead because of a deal it had made with him, but he couldn’t provide the paperwork to prove it.

Mephistopheles, while having no claim, attempted to barter with both Faustus and Charon over the matter. When they’d finally reached the point of having their deal, Hercules stood up and insisted that his father would resolve the matter.

I wasn’t having any of this shit.

I ran up and grabbed the coin right out of its dead mouth, and screamed, “Let me show you what this thing is!”

And I ripped out its heart, and held it in my hands. The gods stood still. Normally, they would’ve had my hide, being a mere mortal. But I knew the thing more than they: mortality never escaped me. Only I it.

“This is the drumbeat that it follows!” I threw the useless organ down onto the marble floor. “And this…” I grabbed the thing by its head, and smashed its skull in with Thor’s hammer (smashed its skull against the hammer.  I couldn’t lift the thing), “Is where they dreamed, and what I’ve infected.” I pulled its brain out, and held it like a trophy over my head.

The gods thought up useless ways to punish me—I could see it in their eyes. They sought the means to prosecute, but couldn’t come to a conclusion: although, I saw both home and hope in Nemesis’s eyes.

So, I waited like a desert victim—for the vultures, the so-called gods—to have me.

And I’m still waiting on my death sentence—as I’ve ran, and have stolen the Pale Horse, and I’ve been riding as far as I can go to get away. I still have that coin—the one that I use to make difficult choices.

Wherever I go, I hear the rumor: “the Human Spirit lives on.”