Short cut to nowhere


This is a summary of a book that synthesizes works like THE PRINCE and THE ART OF WAR to the end of presenting a list of characteristics that lead to power.  Frankly, it is fairly accurate, IMO–the tactics would do that.  On the other hand, what they wouldn’t do is lead to success.


Some are quite good over all: Law 5: So much depends on reputation guard it with your life.


Some are troubling: Be wary of friends – they will betray you more quickly, for they are easily aroused to envy. 


And some show the real hand:  Law 7: Get others to do the work for you, but always take the credit. 



In other words, it actively encourages dishonesty.  Now, if one is interested in power, what’s wrong with that?  Well, nothing, unless you ask the next questions.


WHY do you want power?   There is only one answer: to decrease pain and gain pleasure. To be happy. That’s the only reason anyone ever wants anything.


And what is it that makes us happy?  Here were have obvious room for argument and interpretation.  But I’m willing to say that the general path laid out by the Chakras, Milton Erickson, and Abraham Maslow are to be taken seriously: To master our bodies and environment, open our hearts, sharpen our minds, join with our communities, raise our families and age with dignity.


Power is GREAT for escaping external pain.  Not much for that internal journey.   A person who plays according to these rules might be considered a predator, a wolf among sheep.  He can find and mate with another wolf, and raise wolf pups, all of whom will have the sense of isolation: inability to be their real selves.


If they live among other wolves, its fine.   Then you only have the  problem that they are a tribe apart, and must always fear that the “sheep” will wake up.  CLEARLY there are people who live this way.  Better believe it.


But if you think that this path of power leads to something you find appealing, I have to suspect that you haven’t thought it through.  His insistence on “crushing your enemies completely” is tempered a bit by asking you to hire them in preference to friends.   But…what kind of world is he building? Just how cynical a view of human nature can you have and think that way?


And what can you think of yourself?  Your sweetheart? Your children?


If you work backwards from the outcome: “To be happy”, I fail to see how you get the real rewards by splitting your attention between “who am I?” and “how do I appear to the marks?”


While someone who follows these rules will certainly have a great chance to gain power, it seems to me that that power will never let their heart open. Which means that they will always be apart, alone, lacking the very thing that makes life for the rest of us so satisfying.


Is that success?  If it is, go for it.  But…I suggest you not be fooled.  True wealth is health, security, passion, love, honest connection, clarity, and a sense of contribution to the world.


Those are the qualities I would support.   And while any person, perhaps EVERY person would be ACCUSED of acting according to those qualities, and perhaps even does from time to time, they are hardly principles to be lived by unless the accumulation of power is its own goal, separate from its actual usage: to diminish pain and gain pleasure.


Ask yourself what your ultimate values are, and what kind of life would give you the most of it.   After you make about 100k a year, the value of money drops off rapidly–the rest is health, and love, and a sense of connection to the world.


So this book would probably be of great interest to the InCel community, but it is ultimately the kind of map that takes you off the edge of the world.

On Prince’s “Gold” album there is a song about having been to the mountaintop. He could sell out a stadium any time he wanted. Create a bestselling album without a major label’s support.  I’d been to his “party house” and it was an amazing mansion, but dwarfed by the place he lived, which was up the hill like a castle.


When he played for us, he asked us to dance and enjoy the music–not look at him.  And I think that when he played, he was there for the music, to make beauty with his friends, and just wanted to be with others who enjoyed this beautiful thing as well.  When he died, countless people came forward to say how much he had quietly helped their careers, how gentle and hard-working he was, how loyal and supportive to other musicians.


You could say: “it all ends in death. What matters is the toys.”  And you would have the right to live your life that way.  But I remember that song on “Gold”.  Prince said he’d been to the mountain top, and there was nothing there.


What matters, what really matters, is the scenary along the way, the people you meet, the love you share.


There is another path, of course.  I feel sorry for you if you take it, though.






Semi-Final Ultimate School Curriculum

I’m getting closer to that “Steve School” curriculum.  The problem with education IMO is that there is no agreement on what it should accomplish. So I’m going to lay down my own thoughts on the subject.


  1. The system cannot survive if the students cannot pay back in taxes what it cost to educate them.  So…that’s important.  The creation of self-sustaining adults who can produce goods and services valued by their communities.
  2. In a democracy, those adults also need to be able to vote responsibly.
  3. The tribe cannot survive if its members cannot reproduce biologically, and raise those children to become self-sustaining adults.  We don’t need everyone to have kids anymore, but at the very least they should be able to protect or nurture children indirectly…and never be a danger to them.
  4. The individual cannot survive without understanding how to care for physical and emotional health.


That’s one way to look at it.  Another is the Chakras. The idea (roughly) is that you can start from Survival “up” or from the heart “Out” but NEVER from the top down (intellect or spirit)

  1. Survival
  2. Sexuality (to be able to satisfy our sexual needs with integrity)
  3. Power (to be able to control our environments. Basic food, shelter, etc. at the minimum.  Ideally, enough surplus to take care of two more people)
  4. Emotions.  Self-love, and love of others.
  5. Communication. Reading, writing, speaking honestly.  Creative expression.
  6. Intellect.   A constantly refined map of reality.
  7. Spirit.  Life in the context of death.  A sense of the structure of the universe.


So..what are the most basic things, that if I taught someone those things, I believe they would have a foundation for everything else?   Well…from the maps above, I only have to deal with the first four. The others will take care of themselves:


  1. Survival
  2. Sex
  3. Power
  4. Emotion


All of these come to someone with a healthy mind and body, healthy emotions and empathy for others, and so forth.  While I personally would discourage anyone from having sex before they are self-supporting,  the early stages of the mating dance are set very early.


So…after all the conversation, what are the most basic things?  If you like the idea of six periods a day, then let’s look at the six classes which might be the best.  Call them “PRIMARY” classes, the foundation for whatever follows.   Here are my six, and my reasonings.


  1. Body/Mind.   All learning begins and ends with the questions “who am I?” and “what is true?”   Our bodies are our first tools of exploration and experimentation.  We have not only sight, touch, smell, hearing, and taste, but also proprioception.  Knowing how to connect mind and body is critical, and gives the greatest “bang” for the buck in terms of time and energy–two hours a week can make a massive difference.  So we’ll start there, and set a foundation for a lifetime.  Two parts: a basic, short-duration hyper-efficient exercise body-mind exercise system (Five Tibetans and FlowFit are examples of what I mean), but opening to larger, deeper and more complete systems like dance, gymnastics, yoga, and martial arts.
  2. Reading/Writing.   Open the door to communication and learning for a lifetime. Anyone who cannot do these two things is basically not engaged with the world of ideas.
  3. Math.  Basic to advanced. Theoretical to practical and applied.   Readin’ , Writin’ and ‘Rithmatic make massive sense to me as the core mental skills.
  4. Success.  There are a wide range of tools here: goal setting, value alignment, memory skills, brainstorming, modeling, speed reading, organization and more.  Things that increase the efficiency and effectiveness of study time massively.  And yes, rote memorization is a core to all learning. When you  know WHAT you want, and WHY you want it, the rest is just details.  You could simply rotate between these subjects to give students a taste, then have electives where they can specialize in Jr. High.
  5. Art/Music.   A meld of craft, personal expression, and empathy.  Valuable on many levels.
  6. Big History.  And here is the last academic subject I’d include in the basics.  “Big History” was a class first taught at San Diego State (I believe) pioneered by David Christian. An  amazing class that starts with the Big Bang and travels through physics, chemistry, astronomy, geology, biology, primate biology, paleoanthropology, anthropology, to history until the present moment. Along the way, any human knowledge can be “slotted in” to the overall structure, which is laid out in several books, college courses and a 50-part lecture series from the Teaching Company.  I could easily see covering one or two levels a week every semester, starting with first grade with light overview dipping into subjects kids find most fun, but going deeper and sideways on more important topics: but always relating to the overall structure of existence.  “What is true”


Those would be primary.  Secondary would begin in Jr. High (perhaps earlier) and consist of expansions on the earlier topics.  Civics and Government makes good citizens. Critical thinking skills, rhetoric, speech and debate all grow out of the basics as well. Homemaking, which includes crafts and shop classes, cooking, personal finance and so forth would have to be addressed before leaving high school.


So that’s it.  The “Primary” basics will give you the tools to live a high-energy, healthy lifestyle of constant learning and growing, and if you diversity in Jr. High and later (it is negotiable precisely when) but I would suggest that anything a person could want to learn or do is contained in seed form, as well as a structure for all human knowledge.


Not bad.




Stop arguing, start winning

  1. Love yourself
  2. Love at least one other person
  3. Understand history without guilt, blame, or shame
  4. Support your tribe, stop arguing with  sleepers, and snakes.
  5. Win with integrity


On number 4…




A married couple, the Browns were walking down the road when they came to a river.  Two boys were thrashing  in the water.   A woman stood on the river bank, sobbing: “I can’t swim!  Save my children!”


Mrs. Brown kicked off her shoes and dove in.


But…there was also a  man by the river.  He was saying: “there is no water.  There is no boy.  The boy probably wanted to drown.   How do we know water is dangerous?  Perhaps drowning is a good thing…”


Mr. Brown engaged with him in conversation, arguing about whether water existed. Whether there really was a boy out there.  Whether he might have been trying to commit suicide.  Whether water was really dangerous.  And on, and on. Every time one objection was addressed, another arose.


Until the second child simply…drowned.




I would rather rescue children than argue with people who think water isn’t wet.   There are bystanders, and if I can appeal to those who also believe in rescuing children, fewer children will drown.  YES!  From time to time I might dive into dirt, or maybe that kid I see is an illusion, or maybe they were trying to commit suicide and will sue me.


But I am willing to risk those things. Because I also know that while some of the people who argue are genuinely and honestly deluded, others really don’t care about the kid, and is simply enjoying arguing.  Others actively dislike kids and are happy to see them struggle, having an academic interest in how many of them can save themselves.  Purely an experiment, don’tcha know.


And a vicious few actually threw the kid in, or know who threw the kid in, and don’t want that kid pulled out because then the kid might talk.


I’ve made my decision before I reached the river: if I have to make an error, I’ll err on the side of saving kids rather than supporting monsters.


And THAT is why I find it pointless to “argue” with trolls, sleepers and snakes.


1) Internet “debates” are not debates, they are screaming arguments.

2) In a debate, your objective is NOT to convince the opponent of your position. It is to sway the judges or the audience.

3) If the opponent can convince you that you have the responsibility to change her mind: SHE WINS.  Instantly. And most of the time…you lose. Before you even start.

4) It is reasonable to lay out your reasons for thinking as you do.  But when people say “they don’t understand” or “you haven’t convinced me”…well, that’s interesting. But its not my responsibility to help you understand, or to convince you.  Remember?

5) Never, ever play a game without knowing how you can win.  Never play a game where the rules prevent victory. Never play a game where your opponent determines the rules.   Internet “debates” are just this kind of bullshit.  Trolls win if you play by their rules.  You have your best chance of winning if the conditions of victory are under your control.

6)  Remember that if you convince 60% of people, you win, whether your opponent agrees or not. The most extreme 10% will try to convince you that you need to convince them. You do not. They will claim that if you don’t, horrible things will happen. If I were you, I’d look at this the same as someone who makes a New Years resolution to lose 100 pounds or save 10% of their income, or meditate 30 minutes a day.   Sounds good, until they get smacked upside the head with reality.   And…about 5% of ’em follow through, if that.

7)  Some will try to convince you that your dream is impossible.   But EVERY dream has had its detractors.  People have a failure of imagination.  They grow rigid and tired.  If you have a dream, and can convince others to move in that direction, and honestly believe it makes life better, you have the right to speak your mind and see if you can attract a majority.

8)  We can win.  We don’t need to convince everyone.   “They” win if you believe you have to convince them.  Or that your dream is impossible.


Don’t believe them.





School proposal

Today’s clarification of the Steven Barnes Charter School:

The intent: at the least, to produce a citizen who can pay back, in taxes, what it cost to educate them.

At the most?  A balanced, healthy, aware, autonomous adult human being capable of raising and nurturing healthy adult children and grandchildren.  So starting with kindergarten, the following subjects, roughly prioritized but overlapping:

  1.  Body-Mind Dynamics.  Dual phase: a brief, intense, universal practice for basic fitness, and a broader selection for general expression, fun, sport.  Meditation and emotional control are a chunk of this, but always through managing the body, not “pure thought”.
  2. Reading/writing opening to a second language by 4th grade.
  3.  goal setting/success dynamics for career, physical health, finances and personal relationships.  Perhaps a different subject every month: memorization, speed reading, critical thinking, outcome management.  Personal communication.  Meditation.  Many of these can be beautifully introduced in no more than a week.   Most are not taught at all.
  4. Math. Leading to physics and the sciences on the one hand, and personal finance on the other
  5. Art and music (appreciation and creation).   By 2nd grade.
  6. social studies including history and interpersonal skills.  Leading to the understanding of our political system. By 3rd grade.
  7. Some sort of home-building/shop class for practical skills and maintenance.  Possibly also building maintenance and helping with food prep.

The physical is listed first because it is foundational, NOT because it is more important. The theory is that if you begin with the body, you are modeling the process of child development as well as the process of social evolution from the primates.  Both the Chakras and Maslow’s hierarchy.

If you start with the head, you can stay there. But if you start with the body, you naturally move through the other levels.  I know not a single life-long athlete who does not read and think. But I DO know life-long intellectuals who are “brains in boxes” with no contact with or appreciation of the physical, absent food and sex. They are blind and deaf, but think they can see. Its tragic.





School of the Future

The conversation about schools arises from a conversation I had with Jerry Pournelle many years ago, asking what I’d do to fix them.    First, I didn’t necessarily agree that they were broken. Let’s say “improve” them, something we can all agree upon.


The problem is that there is no unanimity on what the schools should be teaching.  There just isn’t. No single standard for what they should accomplish.

So, I’ll step around the need for agreement, and create my own perfect school, and I’m workshopping it.  This school will probably be the base for a school in a book I’m working on set in a future Kenya.


PURPOSE OF EDUCATION: To create a self-sustaining adult citizen.

OVERT MEASUREMENT: To be able to pay back, in taxes, what it cost to educate you.

SECONDARY BUT NO LESS IMPORTANT: To be able to be physically and emotionally healthy, sustain a relationship, produce goods and services your community finds of value.


Approach: Pedagogy recapitulates phylogeny. The process of education should mirror the process of a baby’s earliest learning, as well as the process of social evolution from the primates. The following order of business might well handle this.  Focus is on the most basic four:


  1. Body/Mind (physical and emotional health)
  2. Success/Survival  skills (goal setting, modeling, organization, critical thinking, memorization, brainstorming, etc. etc.)
  3. Reading/Writing
  4. Math


NOTE:   The kids would participating in maintaining and cleaning their school environment.  All subjects are related back to the most basic body/mind  and survival skills, integrated as play and practical usage, so that all skills are emotionalized: the kids KNOW why they need them.

Body-Mind would be two parts:

1) a hyper-efficient and effective movement system designed to provide all basic fitness and health components.  I suspect this can be done in 15 minutes a day.

2) An aesthetic-based activity to take this fitness energy into “Play” or “self expression.”  Not everyone has that natural connection to their body, however, so a minimum configuration (#1) is critical.

3) If you start with the body-mind connection, working through the body, you automatically trigger the growth response, and will automatically trigger the higher levels. However, the reverse is not true: trigger the mind first, and many people will never explore their bodies. Frankly, they are functionally “blind” to an entire range of human experience, and it is sad to watch.



The sciences grow out of basic observation and interaction with the natural world.  The arts grow out of communication skills connected with reading/writing and body/mind.


So…foundational, and then practical and theoretical and aesthetic.   Marching up Maslow’s hierarchy.   All basic pieces can be in place by first grade.




Too many choice? Or not enough?

  1. Love yourself
  2. Love one other person
  3. Understand history without guilt, blame, or shame
  4. Find and nurture your tribe–don’t waste time arguing with trolls
  5. Win with integrity



There  was a great short story writer. You’ve read his stuff.   Known for his creative brilliance.   He started using drugs and alcohol to “fuel his creativity” and by the end of his life could create a hundred ideas at every decision point…but no longer had the executive facility to choose between them.  Became paralyzed.  He could still write some basic fiction if guided by an editor, but his brilliance was…gone.


I think that this happens to nations.    While it is clear that if you have NO ideas, you cannot move forward. But you can also have too many ideas, and without a way to prioritize and filter them, you are paralyzed.


So that is part of the problem: to brainstorm enough to have ideas to choose from, but have a means in place, a strategy, to choose between them.


And remember: you have enemies. Snakes. People who don’t want you to move forward.  Among their tactics are two nasty ones:

  1. Claim there are no answers.
  2. Suggest infinite answers and insist that you consider them all before you act.


Balancing between them is art, not science.



It was fun yesterday.   Someone reposted my comment that racists will be flushed out with the question:  “Under the same historical circumstances, would whites have been damaged as much by slavery, or complained about it as long?”


I said that people who believe in human equality can answer a rapid “yes.”  Those who do not will stall, stutter, obfuscate, refuse to answer, say it is “impossible” to answer, or start ranting about Jews and Irish slaves.   As they don’t have emotional or social permission to admit to racist attitudes, they might blame “Liberal social policies” for the statistical performance issues…but never, ever blame history in  the South.  Never. Verboten.


(Note that I didn’t say that ONLY racists will be unable to answer. It is possible to be genuinely uncertain.   But I frankly don’t trust people until they’ve made a choice, as there are too many liars and people who hold opinions they don’t really want to discuss publicly.)


What happened?   When last I checked in, one guy went through a painful list of damages suffered by black people, and concluded the question was impossible to answer.


Another first blamed the Democrats for mentally crippling black people (leading to one of my favorite formulations: Democrats are “the real racists”, you see, for holding such low expectations.  Implied: slavery wasn’t much, white people would have gotten over it, the only reason blacks haven’t is those Dern Lib’ruls.


Back up a step: what they are saying is: “we’re the ones who really respect black people, but they are too stupid to figure it out.”  I think that’s a riot.  I really do.


Anyway, after saying this he then said that he hadn’t read the essay because it “bored” him after three paragraphs.  Bingo.


You don’t argue with these people. You simply allow them to identify themselves, and make tribe with those who refuse to ride the pale horse.



More engagement yesterday on gun violence. I don’t claim to know an answer. But I do have confidence in certain processes that lead to answers. One is trusting the next generation: adults have frozen thought patterns, are often incapable of thinking sideways the way kids do naturally.  Establish a clear sense of the problem, then, and the answers will present themselves to younger, more flexible minds.




So for reference, there is a “Primary Quad” of factors influencing gun violence.  Four  that are direct:


  1. Guns
  2. Ammunition
  3. Targets
  4. Motivation


Remove any one of these, and the others can remain but there is no gun violence to speak of.


Then there is one more.  It is  more general, a little more difficult to nail down, but still important.


  1. Culture.


Its own subject, dealing with images, values, thresholds of action, coping mechanisms, expectations, and so forth.  Very complex.


My intention was to identify the factors, NOT prioritize them, NOT propose specific solutions.  First things first.   Then, in the same way that fire fighters work to disrupt the  fire triad by removing heat, oxygen, or fuel, the factors can be examined, re-combined, re-ordered and poked at.  You can look at situations in other countries and see which solutions approached which factors, in what order.


The discussion will be had between those who are not the 20% most radicalized on either side.   60% in the middle are more than enough to get this done, and those 40% would love you to forget that.  Love you to think that you have to make EVERYONE happy before you move.  No, you don’t.    And your “internet debates” don’t have to convince the person you are arguing with.   NO.    Debates aren’t about convincing the opponents. They are about swaying the judges, or the audience.


If you forget that…if you let your emotions get the best of you and just HAVE to win…you will waste your time, exhaust yourself and discourage your audience (“see?  Nothing can be done…”) when all you’ve really done is spent all day pushing on a door marked “Pull.”






Looking for the keys.


Back to one of my favorite stories:


A man is walking down the street at night, and sees another man on his knees under a street light. He asks: “what’s wrong?”  the man on his knees answers “I’m searching for my keys.”


The first man, being a mensch, gets down and stars looking with him. After fifteen frustrating minutes he asks: Are you sure you dropped them here?”


“Oh, no,” the other man answers.   “I dropped them across the street.  But its dark over there.   I’m looking where the light is.”



This morning I asked a question about what the primary links in the gun violence chain might be.   I identified four of them: guns themselves, ammunition, motivation, and targets.   “Culture” was mentioned, and I might agree it should be on the list, although I think we’ll find it is secondary, and doesn’t yield to the same analysis.


But…working backwards from a hundred years from now, I have confidence that this problem will be solved.  As the forces on either side seem relatively evenly matched and there seems little movement, I think it wise to step back and be sure we are looking BOTH where the light is, AND where we dropped the keys, so to speak.


I think it is critical from time to time to ask the core philosophical question “what is true?” and be sure we haven’t gotten off track.   Truth is never a disadvantage.  Anyone who says we shouldn’t ask the question is sure that the keys are somewhere under the light.  But if they become angry if you ASK…that’s not necessarily a good sign.  In fact, that is a sign of a kind of psychological rigidity.  Is it true that you can spend too much time asking such questions?  Sure.  But overall, I suspect that 10% isn’t too much. It is a little like checking the GPS, or map.  Are we on the right road? To the right destination? Are we sure? Why are we sure? Because “experts” said we are?


If the GPS says you are going north, but the setting sun is on your left, what do you believe? We NEED gut-checks, and common sense checks, and asking if the correct questions are being asked.  To look at the results and see if there is a road block. To analyze positive results other people have gotten, dissect and experiment with them.  But all of that comes back to a willingness to ask “what is true?” and not get intimidated by people who say “We’ve already decided!”


That’s nice.   Please go ahead.  Some of us think it is as valuable to check the accuracy of the map as to keep the foot on the gas.  The only valid question is: “how much map-gazing time?” Anyone who says it is no longer a matter of discussion is simply trying to tell you what to think. Anyone who tells you  not to act until everyone agrees on what to do is just trying to tell you what to do. Avoid both.



Is there a “Primary Triad” for Gun violence?

I recently saw someone say that they thought the answer to gun violence was simple, and offered his solution of focus.   I thought that it might be useful to not debate “a” solution, but rather to back up and ask a leading question about the problem.   The first thing might be to get a model that guides the conversation a bit.


With fire, there is I believe a Primary Triad (if I have this term wrong, please correct me):


  1. Fuel
  2. Heat
  3. Oxygen


If I’m not mistaken, this is one of the ways firefighters look at a situation, knowing that if they remove any one of these, the fire collapses. Fire is a far simpler phenomenon, but it may be possible to enumerate a small number of basic elements, and if we could agree on those, at least a conversation can be confined.


So to get the conversation started, a few possibilities.  I apologize in advance for any inaccuracy of thought or language.  I know there are military and law enforcement professionals on my page, as well as gun owners with vastly more specificity and rigor to their thinking.


  1. Guns (the specific tools themselves.  Their raw existence, distribution and so forth)
  2. Ammunition (variety, expense, quantity and so forth)
  3. Motivation (the psychology behind the shootings)
  4. Targets (the “softness” of the active or passive barriers)


What other primary things are there?  Such that if you removed ONE of them, the problem would disappear?  Note: I’m not asking “how do we remove them?”  This is NOT the place for that.   Just trying to determine what the “Primaries” might be.  Anyone who cannot confine themselves to THAT part of the question is demonstrating why this problem has been resistant to solution.




Morning Thoughts on the CSA

The “CSA” is the mass of justifications and evasions that evolved to deflect attention from the damage done by slavery, the “Current Southern Apologia.”  Learning to recognize splinters of these statements, integrated into complex arguments, is important to learning to cut a rhetorical problem at the root.   For those who have been interested in the way I think about these things, here is an analysis of twenty-two words said last week:

In a discussion of race and slavery on another thread, a white guy posted:  “I think black people think white people just snapped their fingers to make all our wealth, that there was no work involved.”


Ah.    Good.  This was a guy who was either asleep, or a snake.    I was quickly able to see a way to trigger him into giving me more info.  I said:


“No more than the percentage of white people who think that, given the same history, they would have done better or complained less.”


He immediately started complaining that

  1. I had no percentages, and that was therefore an unfair comment
  2. He was sure those white people were being ironic.  Then followed by saying that they felt that if they had all the welfare, special programs and reverse discrimination aides, they would be millionaires.


This was great.  An entire salad bar of possibilities.

  1. “Ironic” implies an opposite use to what is expected.  Ummm…his clarification said that, no, they thought there really were enough advantages that given those advantages they would be millionaires.   If you believe someone has an advantage, but they don’t out-perform you, what are you saying?  Can you say “lesser initial capacity”?  I knew you could.
  2. He wants percentages?  But didn’t offer any.  “I think black people” in common speech implies “the average black person…”  Better than 51%, or that statement is meaningless.  He didn’t say “some.” He didn’t say “I met” or “Sometimes I worry that too many…”  all of which have flexibility.
  3. Does he think that “white people snapped their fingers and created wealth” is an intelligent or informed opinion?  No?  Then he is saying, at the very least:  “in this arena, I believe the average black person is unintelligent and/or uninformed.”


Now, he is welcome to have that attitude, of course, but if you don’t NOTICE that’s his attitude, you’re missing the point.  Now…since we can see that “black people are unintelligent and/or ignorant” as a general statement is only another step down that road, aren’t we at the point where the little Sambo Alert button goes “ding ding ding” yet?


At this point, The Question becomes your friend. “Given the same history, would white people have been as damaged, or complained as long?”


If he hems, haws, says it is an unfair or hypothetical question or starts talking about Jewish slavery in Egypt, “Irish slaves” or refuses to answer: YOU HAVE HIM.   He is riding the pale horse, heading off on the “Nature” train.


If he fumbles out a “Ummm…Yeah…I guess…” YOU HAVE HIM.  You know what he is afraid to say.  At this point, you have a choice.  But what you MUST NOT DO is try to “convince” him. Why?  Because at the core, his position is not political, or scientific. It is A core existential “Faith” issue about the nature of the human soul. All his rhetoric will only be trying justify what he already feels.  There may be additional scrambled brains, if he has a conflict on a belief level:


  1. Black people are not as intelligent as whites
  2. It is bad to be racist.
  3. Therefore, racism is something other than thinking whites are better than blacks.


Sure: they have black friends, like Will Smith, enjoyed Black Panther.  So…they aren’t racist. Right?


Sure.  Have fun with that.   YOU WILL NOT CHANGE THEIR MINDS, because the problem isn’t in their minds, in that sense. It is in their souls. A different sense of the order of the universe.  Doesn’t make ’em bad people.   It DOES mean that they can’t and won’t watch your back in THIS particular battle.

Now, if they take the low road, and admit it, don’t get into conversations about race with them–if they were honest, it would devolve to shouting, if they are dishonest it will go nowhere.

(PAUSE: Definition of racist:  “the differential attribution of capacity or worth based on race or ethnicity.”  That is the definition I use here, and my logic chains rest on THAT definition.  Whether you agree with that definition is another subject entirely.)

If they take the high road, if they SAY they believe in human equality, then all you have to do is examine the component parts of their argument and see if they align.   For instance:


“I think black people think white people just snapped their fingers to make all our wealth, that there was no work involved.”


This statement is racist IF you believe it literally AND you think this dysfunction is something innate.


It is NOT racist if proceeded by a statement/thought like “350 years of slavery and white racism damaged the black community so badly that they can have a skewed view of what it takes to succeed. White people would be just as confused if the shoe was on the other foot.”  If you like, you can also add “and black people would be just as self-servingly oblivious about what they did.” That’s fine.


That statement might be incorrect or correct (that’s another subject), but it isn’t “racist” IMO unless you are implying that whites would do better.   Which leads me to mentioning that I was asked yesterday by another gentleman why it was necessary to add the prefix “Due to the legacy of slavery” to the discussion of dysfunction.  Wasn’t it taken for granted?  Hardly.  It is the third rail of American politics, sometimes implied but almost never stated directly on the Right.


  1. Yes, our community has damage that only we can heal, like a hit-and-run victim must do their own rehab.
  2. But if you speak of the rehab without discussing the bus…
  3. The bus driver, their descendants and allies will try to pretend the bus doesn’t exist, and never did, and accuse you of “bus-ism” if you ask if anyone got the license plate.


The sad thing is that so many people fall for it.  Black and white.  Just five days ago I had this conversation with a black Conservative, and after he tried to avoid the question was forced to admit that, yes, he was afraid that white people were “stronger.”

The poison runs deep, and the rot goes all the way to the soul.  Yes, we have to talk about this stuff until we undo the result of 350 years of denial.  When I stop being able to quote weekly repetitions of the same toxic belief patterns, THEN I will discuss stopping the discussion. Playing the “Race Card”?  sure. But black people wouldn’t be able to play it, if white people hadn’t dealt it from the bottom of the deck.

Want to avoid guilt, shame, or blame about that?  Simply believe human beings are equal, and love them anyway.  Which you can do if you see them as connected to you…and love yourself.  See how this all connects?


Once you get clarity on which side of the fence they are on (and it is safest, by far, to assume no one is right on the middle.  They lean one way or the other; ALWAYS.  If you don’t assume this, you’ll get shanked, I promise you)


  1. So…Look at the core faith assumption under the “scientific” arguments, and assume they are coming from one position or the other.
  2. To save yourself endless grief in cyclical arguments, never accept as truth “I don’t know”.   Just…don’t. You may be being unfair to a tiny percentage of people, but you will also miss a LOT of troll-action.
  3. Don’t be confrontational or insulting. They have not attacked you unless they’ve hurt you.   Did they trigger your fear, your anger?  That is YOUR insecurity.  On some level…you’re afraid  they are correct.   Check yourself.
  4. Don’t engage with racists about racism.   Waste of time.   I would say with no hesitation that over 60% of people are not racist, or are committed to not being racist.   Most of us don’t want it.  YOU ONLY HAVE TO GATHER THIS 60% TOGETHER.  Don’t worry about the 20% of intractables.  Just…gather and nurture your tribe.
  5. You do this by being both kind and strong.  See racism as a disease of mind, a warping of human tribalism, an artifact of an earlier time.    You don’t get angry if people are sick, do you?
  6. But racism can cause damage. Violence.  No question–it is dangerous, when combined with emotional instability.  Think of the “Incels”.   Everyone has been ‘Friend Zoned”: wished that a friend found us romantically appealing.  Only the childish and damaged think this is some evil on the part of the friend.  Only the insecure, people filled with self-loathing and mindless anger, would actually commit violence out of that fear.   But it happens.  So…your anger at words is about your fear of what it might mean. Just as an “Incel” would only be angry if he doubted his ability to find a satisfactory mate, if you have NO lack of confidence in basic equality, then the only  fear is that these words might trigger actions.  That’s not bullshit, not fantasy.  So…you must be strong enough to protect yourself, your family, and those who need your protection.  That emotional, financial and sometimes physical strength is important for healthy adults to produce, because otherwise we cannot protect the weak…and cannot recruit those who will make political hay where they feel safe.


  1. Love yourself.  Enough to trust your deepest nature.  Human equality, the unity of the human soul is a reality.  Enough to be willing to defend yourself against anyone who would harm you.
  2. Love one other person. At least.   It is the fastest way to break out of your ego shell and see the connection.
  3. Understand history without guilt, blame, or shame.    This problem is not “out there.”  It is in our own hearts.   Solve it for yourself, and you can extend that understanding to others.
  4. Find your tribe. Don’t argue with Trolls.  Why talk with sleeping people? Let alone snakes. No, just have reasonable, rational, loving conversations with your tribe. Some sleepers will awake and join the discussion.   We have more than 60%, if we can create an empowering vision of the future.
  5. Win with integrity.  Remember that from the deepest level, this stuff isn’t about politics, or science. It is about core beliefs, what people FEEL about the world. The rest is how they justify it, or implement their view of reality.  They are only BAD people if they take bad actions.  The rest is the struggle to be good and decent human beings. Frankly I think that’s 80% of us.



Just my morning houghts, branching out from a small conversation. Do I know what this person really thinks and feels?  No.  But I know that if my intention is Triage; “who is on my side?” “who might be convinced?”  “who are the honorable adversaries?”  (and the term “honorable adversaries” is used to prevent yourself from going to “who are the knaves, fools and #$%% I’m gonna have to whup up on”, which is your fastest path to creating a verbal riot, in which those who MIGHT have become allies say: “Yuck!  I’d rather stay on my side!”)


Remember.  Let’s work backwards from my ultimate goals.  To the degree that they align with yours, my thoughts  may be useful.

1) Ultimate goal: to live a happy Life

2) Long term goal: to contribute to a more peaceful and loving and happy world.

4) Medium term goal: to help correct a perceived shift toward fear and intolerance, manifesting in violence and radicalized politics.

5) Short term goal.  To share my thoughts on how to identify potential allies in personal and political life, and motivate you to take those actions in alignment with your values and intents.


Politically, the goal might be to get to 60%, NOT to convince the opponent of a damned thing.  Let ’em go their way, or surgically dissect what they are saying to reveal the beliefs under the surface for people to see clearly.  Trust that if the average person really sees the meaning of the arguments they use, they will be able to ask if those beliefs match who they want to be in the world.


Trust that most of us are good and decent, and WANT to believe in equality, even if they have their doubts.   They are restless in the dream. And if they feel safe…if you don’t break their jaw when they drop their guard…


They can be tribe.




“All That Jazz” and the Morning Ritual


There is a movie that changed my life.  I’ve spoken of it before: ALL THAT JAZZ, the semi-autobiographical Bob Fosse movie starring Roy Scheider.    In it, “Joe Gideon”, a brilliant choreographer and film director, is addicted to the high of sex, drugs, and musical theater.   He is flirting with death (literally played by Jessica Lang) and is a man turned inside-out.


Let’s say that the model of human beings in Milton Erickson’s work, Abraham Maslow’s work and especially the six thousand year old Chakra system is correct.   That is ABSOLUTELY my assumption–that 99% of people want to have healthy strong bodies, ethical sexual relationships, the money and power necessary to have reasonable control over their environment, to fall in love, raise families, understand the world around them, speak their truth, create goods and services their communities find of value, grow old with dignity and die at peace.


Yep, those are my assumptions, and some of them are more flexible than others (many people are genuinely deciding not to have children.  I notice that many of those are teachers, or doting aunts and uncles.  Same things in the modern world, IMO).


Gideon’s core challenge then is to evolve to spirit.   He makes it at the end but screws up almost everything along the way.


  1. Survival.  He compromises his survival by putting performance above being.
  2. Sex.  An addiction, one which has destroyed his intimate relationships, replacing them with temporary, intense experiences.  But his sexuality produced a daughter, who he loves…but not as much as he loves the spotlight.
  3. Power.  He has power, but it is illusory.  When he gets sick, his “partners” are immediately looking to replace him.  He is a fabulous choreographer at war with his own body (smoking, drinking, drugs, lack of sleep, etc.)
  4. Emotion. Gideon is a man turned inside-out.  He treats his private relationships (wife, daughter, girlfriend) as secondary and his occupation as primary.  As a result, his heart is in the hands of people who don’t care about him at all, who would happily squeeze him dry, throw him away and replace him.
  5. Communication.   He isn’t honest with himself. Does he want to live?  Doesn’t he?  Can he keep promises to himself?  Can he understand his actual limits? Is he clear on what he really wants?
  6. Mind.  On the other hand, he is an acknowledged genius. Probably the only part of his life that really works.
  7. Spirit.  He drives himself partially with an awareness of death and life’s brief candle.   But although he eventually embraces spirit (as must we all) he has reduced himself to meat for the pleasure of people who wouldn’t shed a tear for him.  Their reaction would be: “what a stud. Who’s next?”



I saw that movie and realized that what killed him was  a lack of balance. If he had force himself to focus on his family as much as his work, it simply wouldn’t have happened. And if he’d factored in his body as well…he wouldn’t have had the jagged, spectacular “sparking” ups and downs, but rather a gentle uphill spiral. His contemporaries would have outperformed him…at first.  But two things would have happened (at least)

  1. He would have outlived them, and  ultimately his work would have reached levels of maturity and insight they couldn’t match if lost in entertaining illusion.
  2. He would have achieved far more deep satisfaction, away from the roar of the crowd, in the bosom  of a family that actually loves him


And I realized that as committed to success as I was, I could fall right into that same trap:

  1. That the road to success is hyper-excellence
  2. That hyper-excellence demands hyper-focus, OBSESSIVE focus.
  3. That obsession throws you out of balance
  4. That imbalance can easily destroy you with mania.
  5. And that that destruction both cuts short your excellence, and reduces the very joy you were seeking in the first place.


It was out of this grim realization that I had one of the ten greatest insights of my life:


Success requires obsession. Obsession creates imbalance. Imbalance destroys life, which derails success.


PROPOSED: The only thing it is safe to be obsessive about is balance itself.


Can this go off the rails as well?  Sure. At the far edges of obsessive behavior, I can imagine someone paralyzed trying to match equal times and amounts of energy in different arenas, or figure out what amount of time in one arena is equal to that in another.  For instance, an hour a day of exercise pretty much maxes out basic fitness potential for 99.9% of the human race.  But an equal amount of mental excellence might require four hours.


The inability to match durations, intensities, arenas, and life interruptions (among other factors) could drive someone with OCD right up the wall.


But…given that, balance is still the safest thing to get obsessive about.  The question is: how to implant?



Pills, shower, music, eyedrops, headache powder, cigarette, game face, “showtime!”


All that matters is how it looks. How “it” feels is irrelevant. A man turned inside out.


This is his morning routine, the way he prepares himself for his day, because he has defined success as something separate from health and love and life.  And  that is the path to death and destruction.


What would have worked better (for instance)


Yoga (to repair the body and quiet the mind in preparation for action)


Shower is fine. A good way to wake up.


Music is beautiful.


Eyedrops and headache powders aren’t necessary like this unless you are destroying your life with alcohol and an inverted sleep schedule.


Cigarette?  A young dancer might want them for appetite suppressant. But this has no positive contribution other than perhaps a little focus.  Caffeine would work better with less damage.


Connecting with his most important task of the day: to complete (for instance) the “Fly Me” sequence.


Why?  To provide guidance to his dancers, an experience for his audience and a return on investment to his bosses. To express himself deeply and fully to the limit of his ability. To make his ex-wife and daughter proud of him.


You pile on those POSITIVE reasons until you feel inspired. And if you haven’t destroyed your body and nervous system, you should be able to “stack up” enough reasons to fulfill your most important daily action that you feel awake, alive, juiced.   You have nurtured your body, calmed your nerves, awakened your spirit, and are ready for the day.


No, you won’t be as “hyped” as that guy on benzedrine, sex, all-night benders and so forth…but you will be more connected to your being, capable of deeper art. And you will last longer. And even if you don’t, you will experience more genuine joy through expression of self, love of family, and feeling of connection to the world.


And the purpose of life?  Joy.   Pursued properly, you find it on every level of being. If you cannot…something has gone wrong.


What you see here is precisely the WRONG kind of “morning ritual”, one designed to produce short-term performance…and misery, and death.


What you want is long-term performance, joy, and the best life possible.


Design your “morning ritual” for THAT, and you win the game before it even begins.