The reason politics, and therefore society, has become so messed up is that we do politics the same way we play games. In games and sports we do our "all-or-nothing" best to manipulate the rules and playing field to outwit, outmaneuver, and overpower the opponents. That's fine for the goal of winning a game that has a limited timeframe and then shaking hands and going home to enjoy our separate lives...
But politics isn't played in the lines of a limited field or board, and it doesn't end at the buzzer of a timeclock. The results of political fights go home with all of us and effect everything we do throughout our daily lives. That's because, unlike a game, playing politics is playing with real life in a permanent, take-home sort of way, and the losers suffer lasting harm that they can't just "shake off".
From years of this kind of political cycle, it shouldn't be surprising that the opponents have become locked into position as bitter enemies, and a sportsmanlike handshake seems impossible to imagine.
Please understand that I'm not pointing at any particular group or party. I'm calling out everyone, because we all do this. And I'm actually not just talking about government politics. We do the same at all levels of society: at the office, with our families, even within our closest personal relationships.
And it's harmful.
It's harmful to the losers in obvious ways. But it's also harmful to the winners to create entrenched enemies who will do their best to eventually turn the tables. It fills any social situation or relationship with antagonism and distrust. And there's no way to "leave it on the field".
When people say:
I'm not into politics.
I hate office politics.
I don't like playing games in relationships.
This is exactly what they're talking about.
And the competitive gamification of politics is exactly why.
But it doesn't have to be this way.
Gaming is based on competition, which seems to be a natural urge for us humans. And we should go ahead and enjoy that aspect of life with the wide variety of sports and games we invent to fill that need.
But politics isn't an artificially designed game with a clear winner and loser determined by points scored in a determined place within a limited time. It's an unavoidable negotiation about how we prioritize and use resources for all the various necessities of life.
Politics is ultimately based on cooperation. It's never perfect, but when it's going well more people tend to live better, and when it's going badly more people tend to live worse. So it's actually in most of our best interests to do be doing it well.
In a win/lose game there can be no compromise. And even in a cooperative negotiation, compromise is not as satisfying as getting everything you want. And clearly there are better compromises (everyone gets "enough" of their needs met) and worse compromises (no one really gets their needs sufficiently accommodated). But politics should be an ongoing process to keep working and adjusting those compromises to support as much of the group as well as possible.
An important flaw in all of this is the difficulty that small minorities face at the negotiation table. Some racial groups, people with disabilities, children, etc, simply don't have the numbers, recognition, or power to be well represented. This is an unfortunate reality. So it is really on the major players to carefully consider their needs and make sure that they are fairly accommodated in the cooperative solutions and policies of the whole group. This is not just the ethical thing to do, it also avoids making embittered enemies of forgotten or abused minorities who might someday rise to power with a score to settle...
So whether or not you enjoy a ruthless game of basketball or scrabble, leave those instincts on the field and try considering the benefit of all the participants when you sit down to negotiate in the town hall, in the office, or at the family table. Commit to the wellbeing of everyone to create a more stable, sustainable situation for yourself and the day-to-day world you are living in.
Redefining the root of all evil:
Pride is totally fine.
Mediocrity is actually blissful.
Being smug, everyone hates that.
How many of us would do our best to treat an autistic child with kindness and respect? I think most of us would. But even I, who has worked so long and patiently with autistic children as a teacher, can sometimes forget that there are lots of "undercover" autistic adults out there in the workaday world.
Maybe they have learned to "mask" most of their typical autistic behaviors to get along in society, or maybe they don't even know that they have "mild" autism. But they probably still end up showing some traits that many of us find annoying and irritating (social awkwardness, difficulty communicating, lack of humor, intensely specific interests, repetitive behaviors, rigid routines, emotional outbursts, hypersensitivity, physical clumsiness). And since it's really hard to know that they are in fact autistic, we pretty naturally assume that they are just irritating "normal" people getting in the way of our daily life...
I'm not going to say you're a big jerk because you unintentionally find some behaviors irritating in the adults around you and that maybe you don't always handle them well. As I said, even I don't always handle these things perfectly, and I've developed an incredible amount of patience from my long years of working closely and lovingly with autistic children.
What I will say is that when facing non-harmful but irritating behaviors in others, it's good to remind ourselves that we should really just be easygoing with everyone.
This will save us from looking like a jerk for lashing out and traumatizing someone who actually has underlying "disabilities". It will also make everyone's day go just a little bit smoother when you can gracefully let these things go. And finally, it will lower your own stress levels and blood pressure if you can manage to smile your way past it, which is a big win for your long-term physical and mental health.
I'm not saying you should completely ignore all problematic behavior around you, especially in longer-term relationships, but next time you find yourself getting annoyed at some trait or behavior that isn't likely to cause any actual harm, consider that there may be underlying factors (autism, anxiety, depression, insomnia, an illness in the family, grief over a loss, the list is long...) and see if you can let it slide. Even if there isn't anything deeper going on, your own health will still benefit anyway--
What some awesome women with autism want you to know about their experience:
Some powerful words from my favorite person known to be on the autism spectrum: the successful, sexy, and very witty science communicator, Kyle Hill
It's the holidays-- Yay! Many of us will be visiting with family and friends we haven't seen in a while. This time of reconnections is a wonderful thing, and after we've shared a nice feast of food and drink, things usually go pretty smoothly. But those opening lines of conversation leading up to that... Well, they can actually be quite stressful for some of us.
For a surprising number of people, the "small talk" that helps get conversations going between strangers, occasional acquaintances, and distant relatives can be unbearably awkward and dissatisfying.
Some people offer strategies for overcoming this such as asking lots of questions about the other person and just listening to them carefully. This is not bad advice. But if you implement these strategies the wrong way, things could get even more awkward as you subject your unsuspecting uncle to an accidental interrogation...
I used to hate small talk too (even as a child), but now that I'm here living in Japan I find that small-talk is everything... and I have come to realize that it's just the process of building the temporary emotional connection between people in order to have a better talk about something more important, or even just to have a more connected experience of something that will not be primarily verbal (eating a meal, playing a game, or a watching a movie).
So whatever side of the awkwardness you are on, don't get too wrapped up in the content of it (how unimportant or uninteresting it might be) and just focus on the safe, caring connection that is being built by the seemingly trivial surface speech.
As a Gemini-Cancer cusper, I am both blessed with the gift of gab and yet deeply concerned with serious authenticity. So I am very aware of the struggle between wanting to communicate but being less interested in discussing the weather, the latest sports scores, or the tea we are having... and I don't want to fake it because that makes me feel unsatisfied, dishonest, and guilty.
But I also came to understand that small-talk isn't really primarily a content-based form of communication. It's really much more like animal calls, purrs, and tail-wagging. With this realization, we can be more committed to the authenticity of the underlying emotional experience than to the details of the surface statements... Commit to the connection rather than the meaning of the words.
I'm not suggesting to lie about stuff, but just let the surface flow lightly while you engage authentically at the deeper level of the emotional connection.
This change of mindset really freed me to heartfully meet anyone engaging me and connect with them where they were at, without feeling like I might be faking something...
...after that, the conversations themselves simply fell right into place without any effort at all--
I hope this helps you smooth out your enjoyment of the holidays and joyfully reconnect with your family and far-flung friends! Happy Holidays!
Last night I went to a local poetry reading for the first time in almost twenty years. I felt wonderfully outclassed and it was so pleasant to have that chance to be swimming in the spoken words and emotional currents of such skillful artists. An enthusiastic ¡Thank you! to those poets who shared their hearts with us--
I was also confronted with the reality that while my literary critical sense has grown richer and more nuanced than ever, through my personal reiki and hypnotherapy work I have successfully therapied my internal complexity and tension right out. I'm still a fun and interesting person, but I have released the layers where the engine that drives powerful poetry is moored. Along with all those wonderful books I ended up shedding through Marie Kondo, I have no regrets --I'm surprisingly happy being deeply happy-- but I suddenly realize that I am now doomed to sketching out well-crafted but simply pleasant moments in haiku.
Oh, yes, and then expressing my surplus poetics through densely complex prose in these blog posts... sorry!
Photo evidence of me smoothly rolling out one of my English haiku just after fumbling through my Japanese tanka version of the same ...all gracefully wrapped up "saying blackberry, blackberry, blackberry" sharing my favorite Robert Hass poem 'Meditation at Lagunitas'