Monday, July 09, 2012


A few years ago a friend thought it would be really cool to have a jujutsu forum open only to people he had hand-picked.  Robert wanted intelligent people who wouldn't get into bullshit turf wars. I told him he should change the name to FORWAS-- "Friends of Robert Who Aren't Stupid."

Recently, another friend tried something similar.  He tried to create a collaborative of hand-picked experts.  The trouble is that one person's expert is another person's kool-aid drinking moron.

Everything, for me, devolves around a value/cost ratio.  Maybe it does for everybody, but if so some people are doing it really wrong.  Everything involves a certain amount of time, attention and usually aggravation.  What are you getting for it?  Facebook, for instance, is very close to the line for me.  The only saving grace is that I can ignore it, sometimes for weeks.  I gave up BBS (Bulletin Boards) while I was in Iraq.  Too time consuming.  Not a lot of new information.  When I had more time and access I found I didn't miss them.

At a deep level I'm pretty mission focused.  I like teams because they are effective.  I have a deep attachment to a small group of people but it is almost entirely based on what we have accomplished together.  I've never joined an organization or group just to be a member.

Conversely, I've almost never been uncomfortable in any group.  Not into what they were into, sure.  Sometimes with a deep antipathy to what they stood for (remember my day job for years was to be locked into a dorm with 16-190 criminals.)  But I never felt uncomfortable.  Never felt either that I did belong or that I didn't belong.  So I could hang with Kurdish smugglers and operators and criminals and cops and even a handful of people who can only be called saints.  Atheists, pagans, exorcists and mystics.  And always enjoy them as people.

But I never really understood the need that makes some people take a belief as an identity and seek out others with the same belief.  Take that back.  I do understand it.  I've watched that tribalism on many levels my whole life.  I do understand it, can predict it...I've just never felt the need that drives it.  So understand the mechanism, but not the motivation.

Some very wise person once said that whenever a new tactical team is formed, the first order of business is to design a patch.  It came up with my team once and I said, "It doesn't help with the mission.  Do that costumes and jewelry bullshit on your own time."  Completely surprised by the negative reaction.  To many people, the symbols are the tribe.

And that's one of the reasons I like the VPPG.  Just people getting together to solve problems.  Mutual respect without some kind of hierarchy or structure.  The system is for function and hasn't become a ritual.  Effort going into the tribe is not going into the problem solving.


nry said...

I see you sorted the font issue then :)

That aside, as much as it is nice to find a group you 'fit into' without having to change your behaviour in order to do so, it can be frustrating when the other members of the group don't share the same focus as you - for that reason alone, I find less desire to overly fit in with 'groups' I'm a member of, instead picking out the select few I do gel with and focusing with them instead.

shugyosha said...


Is a family a group?

Kai Jones said...

Symbols signal insider status. The signaling can be aimed at outsiders or insiders or both. Working on the symbolism can be a teambuilding exercise: demonstrates shared interest in the team, allows members to observe different working styles of each other.

Charles James said...

Enlightening, thanks.

Rob Lyman said...

The Army has an entire procedure for approving heraldry, because people want to belong to something bigger than themselves. When you get bogged down and hopeless, that little patch can keep you going if it comes with notions of tradition and the ghosts of soldiers past looking down on you today.

How many cops would run to an "officer in distress" call faster than to a "hot burglary" call? How many would leap from their cars off duty to back up a traffic stop gone bad while 3 states from home, but ignore a bar fight off-duty in their home jurisdiction? Yet the officer has a vest and a belt full of tools; he's in better shape than the average homeowner or drunk to take care of himself. The patch's design doesn't matter, but the fact that the guy calling for help is wearing one on each shoulder does.

For people whose internal motivation is not as powerful as yours, a bit of external motivation--if only to live up to the imagined meaning of a piece of fabric stitched to the sleeve--can be handy. You earned it, now be worthy of it.

It sounds dumb when you put it that way, but the purely rational man should not marry, and yet we do it, don't we?

Josh Kruschke said...

Othering for it to work you first have to build an us and them.

Jake said...

I'm pretty sure I qualify as a kool-aid drinking moron in some circles. :-)

Here's another one: are "people who don't want to be part of a group" just a different group, identifying themselves in a different way?

Anonymous said...

In one version in my mind we’re all morons Jake.  Then I think it’s maybe only 8 out of 10. Then I back off it completely …in case I’m really one of the 8 and too dumb to know it.

Once most humans realize they exist, they will spend the rest of their lives trying not to be alone inside their heads. Without that outside reference we couldn't even conceive of fitting in to our systems of organizing towards a collective purpose. But, we couldn't reject that concept either in favor of an individualistic existence. Contrast requires the existence of multiple elements. And, in developing those concepts we create complex layers of contrast for newly discovered selves to play in.

The best people I know are the ones I chose and those who chose me. The connections memberships establish come with pitfalls to always be mindful of. They can foster shallow perspectives, but they also give birth to personal purpose/mission. When you can relate to this in others it adds another layer of meaning to life.

Belonging to anything shouldn't solely define anyone though…because it is manufactured. That is difficult to continually validate when people are so very dynamic beings. However, I think it does allow important access to experiences through doorways that are otherwise closed. What people can accomplish when together is downright amazing. You don't want to be completely locked out of that either. Just have to have to be comfortable managing the movement in and out of multiple perspectives all the time to keep a grip on it.

-Billy G.

Travis said...

I want to be different. Like that guy over there. I want to be unique like everybody else.

Josh Kruschke said...

First off, by Rory's/MacYoung's definition, I'm an AssHole. I don't cultivate friendships or seem to want them. 
I've also noticed that I have strong misanthropic tendencies; hell I barely trust myself to do the right thing.

What I've observed/noticed is that groups of any size, small to governments/societies, can be very dangerious when combind with groupthink.

That the groups who perform and thrive the best are the ones that cultivate strong individuals that can survive outside of or with out the group.

Those groups that promote groupthink at the small end of the scale leads to cults and group monkey dance* like behaviour and on the large end of the scale leads to wars of agression and genocide.

We can't just build groups or join them without keeping this in mind. Just because you might have the best intentions doesn't mean those around you do.

Just some thoughts,

*To use Rory's terminology again.