Echoes, today. I have an e-mail I haven’t answered in several months on the dark consequences of understanding things. This morning, writing about the roots of conflict, I felt one of my own emotional denials— using Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, even as I wrote that a serial predator could be working from the highest level of self-actualization, just expressing his true self—I wanted it to NOT be true. I wanted progress and growth to always imply nobility. I wanted to believe that becoming truer of necessity meant becoming better.
I’m a big boy. This isn’t a children’s story. Eventually, I’ll get over all the things I want to believe. As Avi Nardia says, I’d rather be a student of Reality than a master of Illusion.
Still… more echoes. Someone sent me an essay by Richard Grannon on Intent. I’ve run across Richard’s name before and like the way he thinks. In this essay he talks about modeling the behavior of some very bad people. Not modeling what made them bad, but modeling what makes them effective.
Most nice, generally good people are ineffective in extreme circumstances. People adapt to their environments. Being a good person is a good adaptation for a good environment. That’s cool. But when the environment becomes bad or dangerous, that’s a hard switch to throw sometimes.
Grannon advocates not only dissecting the very bad, the predators for clues on how to recognize them or how to prevent creating them, but also for studying and stealing effectiveness. Good guys generally do poorly in prisons, very bad people adapt pretty well. What are the differences in personality, thinking style, behavior? Can you put those in your toolbox? Not become bad, mind you. Just use the strengths.
There’s a knee-jerk reaction here, too. I want to be all good and believe that bad people are all bad, though I know more than enough hardened criminals to know this is not true. I want there to be a qualitative difference between the effectiveness of a good person and the effectiveness of an evil person. I know it’s not true—there are many ways to be effective, many tools and how those tools are used and to what ends determines good and evil. A surgeon is just as ruthless and skilled with his knife as any Rio slum assassin.
So it echoes, a little reverberation between what I know and what I want to believe, and I see it all around in little denials. Peace activists who refuse to see that violence works for many of the people who use it; martial artists who ignore even their own experience when it contradicts some ‘master’; anti-drug crusaders who ignore the advantages that each layer of the illegal industry brings to those who play… on and on.
It’s an act of will not to respond emotionally when your emotions are triggered. It is an act of trained sensitivity to recognize when that has happened. Intelligent people can bring huge resources to defend their delusions, enough that they can convince themselves that their delusions are purely logical.
More to work on.