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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Tuesday 8 January 2013

Know Thyself: Warren Kinsella, Sun-tzu and Ender Wiggin

Warren Kinsella is an artist; he's got a keen eye for detail and knows how to build emotional resonance in his audience with whatever his message is.  He's a progressive; he knows that we can do a better job of empowering people to harness their maximum potential, resulting in a stronger society.  Kinsella's also got something of an empath in him; issues aren't just wedges for propping up platforms, he gets that there are real consequences for the people impacted by them.
More than anything, though, Kinsella has branded himself as a happy warrior, someone who loves a fight and doesn't mind getting his knuckles (or his opponent's face) bloody to win.  He willingly wades in to some of the the tougher battles facing society fully knowing he's going to take some hits along the way.  Politics does tend to be a blood sport; those who survive in the political arena in the long term tend to have some fight in 'em.  Over time, as the collaborators fall off, it's the fighters that remain - which might explain the state of politics today a bit.
Which is why I find the Sun-tzu comparison interesting.  Sun-tzu's name gets bounced around a lot, as does the quote mentioned above about knowing one's enemy and never losing.  This reflects only a fraction of Sun-tzu's thinking; like Machiavelli from a different time and a different place, Sun-tzu understood that conflict is resource-wasteful (wink wink Spring election) and impacts negatively on all participants.  The wise general creates the conditions for victory before a single shot is fired - therefore, no shot is required. 
The story for which Sun-tzu is most famous is when he was called to train the concubines of the Emperor.  In that contest, the enemy to be dominated was the Emperor himself.  He didn't win by vanquishing his enemy, but by altering the power dynamic so that he ended up on top.  This didn't require breaking the established rules of engagement, but rather by using them effectively and with a deep understanding of what made the Emperor tick.
Again, "destroy" is a concept that can be viewed in different ways.  To me, there are no endings - just rebirths in a never-ending cycle of slow progress.  One could be said that Paul was destroyed on the road to Damascus, but that was hardly the last anyone heard from him, was it?  The most effective use of resources isn't to eliminate an opponent, but rather to convert them.  As a man of faith, Kinsella will understand the principle of conversion, too.
While there is a rational division between the functions of the church and the function of the state, both religion and politics rely heavily on conversion as a tool for growth.  There's a tendency to start with the low-hanging fruit, at least in politics - look for those that have obvious common ground and try to woo them with charm, some policy nuggets or hearts-and-minds campaigns.  Not only is this an easier sell, but it requires less effort on the part of the seller, too.  Political alchemy (converting the staunchest of conservatives into progressives) is a tougher challenge requiring a greater dedication of self - but it is possible.
It has to start with the removal of all barriers to knowing the "enemy" in question - including self-imposed ones.
Kinsella suggests that Conservatives are good at “masking their intentions … it’s hard to pin them down; it’s hard to see who they truly are.  This could be messaging or it could be a held belief; either way, I would suggest it's not correct.  Conservatives, like all people, aren't entirely aware of what makes them tick.  The issue is less a matter of conservatives hiding an agenda from non-conservatives as it is subconscious motivations leading staunch conservatives in a particular direction.  Just as subconscious motivations move progressives in a certain direction, too.
Which leads us back to the opening quote - it's not enough to know your enemy; you need to know yourself as well.  the tough part of this equation is accepting that you don't really get your own motivations right now, which is kinda like the approach most religions take.

The corollary of this introspective process is that when you deconstruct your own consciousness, you scale back to the same building blocks of cognition that shape everyone's world view.  From this common centre-point, it's possible to reconstruct those shared foundation stones from the ground-up and figure out how they shape the thought processes of others.  No opponent is inscrutible if you're willing to dig down deep enough to a point of commonality.

To truly understand your enemy, well enough to beat them, you need to pull back the veils of your own bias.  It's through that process you find that there really is no other and that we really do all start from the same place. 
Which is when you realize the way forward isn't the illusion of isolation, but the acceptance that the whole is more than the sum of its parts.  To achieve great things, don't waste resources, including opponents - learn how to harness them.  When the whole works together, consciously, it can move mountains.
If you don't trust people,
you make them untrustworthy.

The Master doesn't talk, he acts.
When his work is done,
the people say, "Amazing:
we did it, all by ourselves!”

People like Warren Kinsella who have the willingness to know the other and who understand the tools of communication are ideally positioned to be leaders in bridging this gap and expanding the progressive tent. 

They just need to have faith that it's possible.

UPDATE: "If you corner desperate men, and if you give them no way out, they'll do everything they can to kill you."

Absolutely true - which is why you want to design a backdoor that allows desperate folk to back out gracefully and then commend them for doing so in the most respectful way possible.  This way, they get a win about of doing things your way.  They might even come to enjoy the accolades for doing so and want to do so again.

UPDATIER:   Some Liberals (and some New Democrats) have adopted the worst tendency of the Harper era: Never apologize, never admit a mistake, and attack every critic.  Even when they know the critics are right.

Can't disagree with that!

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