Happy Independence Day!




  “Good morning. In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world. And you will be launching the largest aerial battle in this history of mankind.

Mankind — that word should have new meaning for all of us today.

We can’t be consumed by our petty differences anymore.

We will be united in our common interests.

Perhaps its fate that today is the 4th of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom, not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution — but from annihilation.

We’re fighting for our right to live, to exist.

And should we win the day, the 4th of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day when the world declared in one voice:

“We will not go quietly into the night!

We will not vanish without a fight!

We’re going to live on!

We’re going to survive!”

Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!”


I flat-out LOVE ID4.  It is the epitome of cheese, but announces its intent when it plays “It’s the end of the world as we know it” over the initial scenes.  In some senses it isn’t a movie as much as a checklist of tropes, a “greatest hits” of all the things we’ve ever loved from alien invasion movies.


But…if you think it isn’t SF, I think you’re missing something. One of the most consistent tropes in science fiction is the notion that “If the aliens attacked, all mankind would drop their differences and pull together to defend Earth.” I submit to you that ID4 is the first movie or depiction of this idea that actually believed it.


I find that a fine notion. That most of our differences are petty tribal squabbles, only important if there are no higher values on the table.


Well…we have higher values on the table. Our survival as a nation, as a planet, as moral and ethical beings capable of rising above basic animal concerns.  Our ability to rise to the heights of possibility, embrace freedom, live up to the dreams our ancestors dared to dream…even though they often could not live up to them themselves.


Today, remember the sacrifices of those who came before.

Today, honor the men and women who fought, and loved hard, and prayed their children would enjoy a world in which poverty is measured by obesity rather than starvation.

Today, hold those who are dear to you, and take some time to just…relax. Be.

Grill those burgers, watch those movies, play on that beach, kiss your sweetie, watch the sunset and relish the explosions, the bombs bursting in air that symbolize the destruction we were willing to risk to create a world worth passing to our grandchildren.


The struggle is real. And so are the rewards.  Tomorrow, it is back to the fray. Today, relax and renew.


“We will not go quietly into the night!

We will not vanish without a fight!

We’re going to live on!

We’re going to survive!”

Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!”



Steven Barnes



The Danger of “Woker Than Thou”

I had a friend. White guy.   Brilliant writer, Liberal activist.  Nominated for high awards in his field, but certain that he knew what was right.   In a discussion of black voters, he was certain that they were voting against their own intents in a particular sense.   When I suggested that he ask them what they wanted, he was so certain he knew what was right that the very suggestion seemed to agitate him.

This happened quite a bit. How dare I not accept he knew what was good for black people better than they did?  Or I did?   He just felt he knew, to the point that he denigrated black people who disagreed with him.   He actually stalked me around Facebook, arguing with me about everything I said, until one day I challenged his “wokeness” and reminded him that our first conversation had been about his decision to “whitewash” a character in a  literary work he wanted to adapt.   I’d understood his position, but it was hardly earning a certificate of Honorary Negritude.  He blocked me pretty fast, and that was the end of that friendship.

Oh, well.  Toxic is as toxic does.


A couple of days ago I questioned a   meme about how Democrats don’t care about the safety of immigrant children, suggesting that the children themselves, and their parents, would be the best people to ask to determine what they want IF their welfare is the question.


Just today, in a conversation about arranged marriages in Islamic cultures, amid a bit of hand-wringing I suggested the same thing: talk to the women and see their opinions about it.


Oddly (to me) there was resistance to both notions.   I’m afraid that I don’t trust people who think they know what is good for you better than you do.  Sure, sometimes they are right, but some really ugly shit happens when people think they can torture you to death for the sake of your soul, enslave you to civilize you, rape you to teach you love, throw you in a re-education camp to make you a happier citizen.


Tell you that your culture is wrong.


Is “Stockholm Syndrome” a real thing?  Sure.  But slaves were taught they were subhuman, and they still ran away often enough that slave owners had to create “Draptomania” to explain why those pesky, unappreciative Negroes kept running away. Needed Night Riders and Fugitive Slave Laws and whipping runaways to death to stop it.  And former slaves joined the Union Army in droves to free their cousins and get payback.  And clearly documented the horrors they had suffered.


Talk to them.  Be sure you’re away from the thumb of the oppressor when you do it, and you might need to actually respect them, gain their trust and rapport.  But trust that people know what is good for them.


Otherwise, you risk playing the precise same game as someone who abuses you for your own good.  And that…is the road to monstrosity.




People ask why I dialogue with snakes and monsters.  Can you really wonder when even my “allies” think they’re better than me?   Who the #$%% was I supposed to talk to, when I’ve always been  surrounded by this crap?

Also… I am committed to survival, and if tigers talked, it would be wise to speak to them.  Behind bars or with your rifle handy, of course.


Is there anything going on with immigration that hit me harder than, say, Trayvon Martin?  Nope.  Or a thousand other insults I heard about half the country excusing or even praising?  Nope.


So…I was supposed to spend my life in a sense of burning outrage?  Anyone want to guess what that would do to my blood pressure?  My sense of joy in life?   And unless I am applying those emotions directly to an action, would I be accomplishing anything other than killing myself young, as countless black men have for centuries?


Sorry, I won’t collaborate in my own destruction.   I’m sure that disappoints some of you, but that’s the biz.


If you are in a war…if the situation is real, life-threatening, not some bullshit game…


You stay calm. Gather information.  Know your opponents.  Train and nurture your troops.  Define victory. Built alliances.  Pick your battles.


And…love your family. Raise your children well.


Frankly, sometimes I watch people run around screaming, and wonder why they weren’t paying attention before. Precisely when was life great for everyone?   Where was this magical land and time?


If you are just waking up, congratulations and welcome to the real world.  But I woke up in first grade, when the white teachers sorted us into reading groups based on race.   A horrible thing for a child to realize, that young, that the people you are supposed to trust think you are sub-human because of your skin.  And these really were NICE people.  Just trying to help.   People have tried to get me to go back to sleep many many times. I won’t.   Now, I’m quite sure I’m oblivious about many topics.  I’d have to be.  But on this one…I’m pretty sure I’ve been paying attention.

But if you just woke up, please don’t assume I’m still dreaming.  I haven’t had that luxury since I was seven years old.










There is a story about a game preserve in Kenya. The young bull elephants were running amok, attacking the females, tearing down buildings, and threatening humans.  One set of administrators advocated shooting them.  But a game warden had a radical notion: there were no older bulls, and without them, the young bulls had no guidance for their behavior.    They trucked in older bull elephants from another preserve.  And in short order the older bulls had dominated the young ones, corrected their behavior and gentled them down. All was well, the natural order restored.




The link above leads to vileness.   I can understand why it would be easy to consider these men inhuman.  Frankly, I’ve had the precise same thoughts when strolling through racist forums, where men and women (disproportionately but not exclusively men) say even worse things about blacks.  And IMO the vileness comes from the same space: fear.


The answer is the same, as well: strength and love.


There are things to be said about this being a “human” problem, and it is.  But MORE of this problem is about male-male transactions, especially laying out road maps for navigating the maze to get the relational cheese.  Fathers, grandfathers, and men who have “solved the maze” of healthy, passionate, lasting relationships need to speak up and stand up.    These Incel guys are clueless, and frightened of the degree to which the world is changing/has changed/will continue to change. No going back.




I would say that 80% of the real problem is in 20% of these guys.  The other 80% can be reached.   EVERY human being is motivated by pain and pleasure.  Every human behavior, no matter how terrible, is ultimately a cry for connection with a deep wellspring that some call “God” and others might simply call “peace.”  Yes, I suggest understanding, and compassion.  Always have about racism, and can see even less reason to consider sexists outside the human species.


Yeah, I’m bundling them: want me to consider men evil?  I’ll raise you drawing the same conclusion about Caucasians.   Don’t start nothin’, won’t be nothin’.


We are what we are, as a species. We want the same things.  What we’re seeing is the cost of upsetting an order that has existed for generations, and in all probability, EVERY time you get a sea-change like this, there is push-back, and panic, and anger, and the potential for violence.


The solution is love.  But…FIRST the solution is strength.   Be safe.   And then, come love, to love yourself enough to hear what people are saying without accepting guilt, blame or shame. That’s their shit.  But you’d better understand your opponents, or you are helpless to affect their behavior.   Even if you thought they were animals, hunters understand the psychology of their prey if they want to eat. Soldiers must understand the psychology of the enemy if they want to survive.


Know your enemy and know yourself, one can go through a hundred battles without danger.  Know not the other, yet know yourself, the chance of victory is only half.  Know not your enemy, and know not yourself, every battle is certainly a defeat.”–Sun Tzu


This is human stuff, things we’ve dealt with since the beginning of time: violence stemming from anger stemming from fear.  Those who need to demonize the broken souls will not be a part of the answer. The answer will be implemented by those who see the abnormal as on a continuity with “normal” ranges of human thought and action, who can see where these young men have gone wrong, what they are really saying behind the bravado and venom.  If you can’t see that, then I don’t blame you for simply consigning them to another species.


I don’t have that luxury.  Never did.  And cannot do it now.







A Letter To My Younger Self

I’m finally creating my full Morning Ritual program.  Part of what I need to do is unpack it so that I can really understand why so many of my teachers insisted on a Daily Ritual of physical motion, emotion, and mental focus across a balanced set of goals.  The Morning Ritual is magic, a body-mind sigil of transformative power.  It doesn’t care if you believe it works, only that you do it. If you do, you will change.

This morning’s thoughts deal with a tiny piece of that puzzle that transformed me.



I’ve talked about the fact that it took me seventeen years to earn my first black belt, due to bullying in my childhood.  And that it was a simple visualization exercise performed for a couple of months (visualize a glass tube filled with water. Glitter is suspended in the water, swirling. Watch until it all settles) that set me free.


And what I saw was that fear wasn’t the problem, it was (as Terry Letteau had said) lack of clarity.  I thought that the fear MEANT something.  That I was small, or weak, or cowardly. That I couldn’t, or shouldn’t, or mustn’t.  I had experienced not just fear, but guilt, and shame, and confusion, and other secondary emotions, each of which drained away the energy I needed.


If I’d had the resources THEN that I have NOW?  Simple.

  1. I would have realized that what I was experiencing was an emotional storm designed by my ego to protect itself.
  2. I would have used “the Spider Technique” in my heavy-bag workouts.  Basically, spend ten minutes imagining the toughest guys at my school cleaning my clock, beating the hell out of me.  And then…work on the bag, working myself into a lather for 15 minutes until I entered second wind.


Just do these two things, and I’m using my fear to power my practice, raising my game. That is what fear is SUPPOSED to do–“Fight or Flight”, remember?  Aid in your survival by making you more prepared for combat, or fleet in escape.


Depression, from this perspective, is fear with no one to fight and no where to run.




I was in an emotional knot for SEVENTEEN YEARS because none of the therapists, gurus, biofeedback specialists, coaches, or instructors understood the body-mind as deeply as I needed.  There were answers…I just hadn’t found them. And once I did, it was obvious I’d been pushing a door marked “pull.”  There really are answers.  You just need to believe that, and keep asking until you find someone who can help you.



But there is another question: WHY COULDN’T I QUIT?  Why?  If I believe that we seek pleasure over pain (and I do, totally) then wouldn’t the sensible thing to  have done is just stop spending time, energy, sweat blood and money to practice odd Asian arts of…well, of hurting people?  WHY DID I KEEP AT IT?


I remember CLEARLY driving down La Brea avenue in Los Angeles, tears streaming down my cheeks, totally miserable, and praying “God, will you either take away my urge to practice these arts, or just let me do it???  Please??”


I couldn’t stop.   I couldn’t go forward.   WHY COULDN’T I STOP?


I know now.  I didn’t then. Man, I wish I could send a note back to myself when I was about twenty-five.  This is what I would say:


Steve, this is your future self.  I know you feel emotionally trapped.  Let be explain what is happening to you.  When you were a kid, your Dad wasn’t in the home, and you had no brothers or uncles to explain male hierarchical behavior to you. Those bullies? They don’t hate you.  They’re just looking for where they sit on the hierarchy of power, which will influence the money they earn and the women they can attract.    THEY ARE AFRAID they will be low. May have been told that at home, or by society. So they will step on you if they can, just to raise themselves up.  If you’d kicked their ass back behind the gym?  Most of them would actually relax, knowing where they are, and make their peace with it.  A very few would keep coming at you. An even smaller percentage would try to snake you when your back was turned…but that can be dealt with, too.


What is important for you to know is that it wasn’t your fault.  You took it the wrong way. In some ways, the negative attention was a complement.  They KNEW there was something special about you, and had to try to take you down. What they sensed, but could not understand, is that you won’t be stopped.  Won’t quit.   Ever.   They hungered for that, and I promise you that if you encounter ANY of those guys twenty years after high school, not one of them will have kept the dreams they had in school. 


You, on the other hand, will.   That’s who you are.


Why?  Because at some point in your life, you made a decision: “I want an authentic life.  Not an easy one.”


Understand that?  Your entire experience of existence is built around answering two questions: “who am I?” and “what is true?”


And you understood long ago that the kinds of men you respect, and the kinds of women you desire, will not be attracted to you if you cannot be authentic. And you have identified an area where you lack authenticity.   You are an intellectual head case with scrambled emotions that prevent you from having a direct, simple connection to your animal survival drives.   SOMETHING HAPPENED TO YOU along the way: you had pain, fear, shame and a warped, twisted view of yourself hammered into your nervous system.  You found out that if you put your head up, you became a target.  You are very very smart, but afraid to really shine: your Mom, bless her heart, helped to imprint that self-doubt on you as an attempt to protect you from a racist world.  DON’T BE TOO EXCELLENT. “THEY” WILL KILL YOU.   When people mock the ‘don’t achieve’ meme in some inner cities, they never ever ask why that belief exists. How it protects from pain.


How is it protective?  Because there really are people that would threaten your life if they could.  Some are white, afraid of your mind. Some are black, who have internalized racist standards, are afraid to even try to achieve, and are intimidated by anyone who shakes off those chains.


But here is the truth: you MUST be the best you can be.  You must grow up, wake up.   Because otherwise the forces of evil win.


And you cannot allow that.   You could write and be a great writer.  You could marry and be a decent husband and loving father.  But if you never make your body alive, never reclaim that part of your psyche that is pure primal male animal…first of all you will NEVER attract and hold a primal female animal (and you know damned well that’s what you want) because you will never know who you are.


You will never have access to all your emotional and physical energy: you will have access to PART of it, but skitter back from the full “white light” of human experience, the balance of human and animal, male and female that actually drives excellence, creativity, sexuality…everything.


You were programmed by your society to be a partial human being.  But the other thing your Mom gave you was a connection to Spirit.  You sense that you were born to be more…we ALL were.  That anything less than the best we can be is a denial of life.  You crave an answer. When you see masterful martial artists, you know you hunger for that kind of confidence and power. For the way others, male and female, respond to such men.  And if you don’t discover how close to it you can come, you will have cheated yourself.


When faced by a choice of ‘should I try?” “Should I have goals that large?” Ask yourself one simple question:


How long am I going to be dead?

And…armed with the answer to that question, dare to pursue your dreams. ANY dream that anyone else has ever accomplished with roughly your resources and origin point is possible.  You cannot live a life small enough that death will not notice you.


You wonder if the struggle can possibly be worth it.   The answer is: yes. There is NOTHING more important than knowing who you are.  Completing yourself as much as possible in the one life you have to live.


There’s this thing called the Spider Exercise I want you to try…


And know that when you are on the other side of this problem, you will understand yourself, and human beings, in a way few do. Because most people turn back from the challenge of shedding their skin and being reborn. They identify with their histories, or their emotional storms, rather than their true Self.


Do this thing, and what you learn along the way will be able to help people in a way, with a clarity and power you cannot dream of.  YOU WILL KNOW things that theorists can’t dream of.  Because because of your past, martial arts are a cauldron for you, a forge that tests your heart in ways that no one who can practice it easily and simply could ever do.  You may not be the “fighter” they will be…but you will learn to fight for the things that are most important to you: honor, dignity, truth, love…and be as lethal IF THOSE THINGS ARE AT STAKE as any of them can be.  But most of them will never learn this, because they are blinded by the prizes along the way, the trophies, titles, and money, which are fine as long as you don’t lose your perspective on what is really important:


The Two Questions: ‘Who am I?” and “What is true?”


Who are you, Steve? 

A damned fine answer:   You are a human being, standing in the center of a wheel of archetypes, all the potentials of life. Healer. Artist. Lover. Teacher. 




 What is true?  That you like all animals was born with an innate instinct to preserve personal and genetic life.   And that ANYTHING scrambling that signal is an interruption of a billion years of evolution, millions of generations of creatures who could hunt, fight, or evade predators surviving to have sex and reproduce. It is your heritage, your terrible birthright, just as is the tenderness with which you hold a newborn child. 

The two are linked. The children are not safe, unless someone can face the wolves.


 Keep going, Steve.   What you feel, what you are, is part of that authentic journey.  Keep asking your questions: you will find the teachers you need.  Keep loving, and hoping and striving, and at the end of life, either you will have missed your goals but had an amazing ride…or you will realize that your life has been more than a blessing to yourself and others, it has paid respect to the uncounted generations of men and women who came before you.


 You stand on their shoulders, and can therefore see further.


You have no right to quit.  You have an obligation to discover everything you can be and have, and do in the world if it is in alignment with your values and ethics.


 Go for it, young man.  The world is yours.


 And that primal woman you seek?  She’s looking for you. How can she find you if you do not shine?






Cliff Stewart Day

“Our very dear friend and martial arts icon, Maha Guru Clifford Stewart is going to be honored at the Martial Arts History Museum in Burbank next Saturday, June 2nd from 4:00-6:00pm.

If you’ve never been to the museum, this is the perfect opportunity to check it out and enjoy an afternoon of honoring a true giant among men.”



I will be there.  Let me tell you why.  Sit back a while: this will take some time.




Let me tell you a little about what I owe Cliff Stewart.  First, let’s get it out of the way: he is a genuine martial arts master, with FIFTEEN advanced black belts, as well as real-world experience as the bodyguard to Muhammad Ali, Wesley Snipes, Joan Collins, and Mr. T.  As Peter O’Donnell (“Modesty Blaise”) said about the most dangerous villain in the entire series, Simon Delicata: “Built like a rhino and moves like a cat.”


Can we move on?  No? How about the time he was mugged by three armed men at two o’clock in the morning outside a 7-11?    Mas Ayoob, one of the greatest combat pistol shooting instructors in the world, wrote the forward to Cliff’s book on bodyguard tactics, and describes the incident as   “a critical failure of the victim selection process.”  When the police arrived, so much damage had been done to the three men that they refused to believe a single unarmed man could have done it. Fortunately, Cliff’s brother was a police sargent on duty at the time. They called him and told him that Cliff had been attacked by three men. All the brother said was: “how badly did he hurt them?”


Yes, Virginia, there really are human beings that dangerous.  And in my experience, they are also some of the sweetest, warmest people in the world. Because when you have made peace with your fear, all that remains is love.   Cliff has that Buddha Baby nature, a wisdom and calm that must be earned, cannot be assumed.  While a phenomenal technician (you should see him explain how to destroy a body’s structure.   Just genius) the only time I’ve ever seen that “killing flare” in his eyes was on two occassions.  On one, someone mentioned a man who had hurt a child.  In the other, someone mentioned someone who had hurt a woman.


Dear God in heaven.   Something SHIFTED in the back of his head. Suddenly, a 240 pound PREDATOR was in the room, and it was terrifying. Just for a moment.  Then…it was gone.




I don’t remember when I first met Cliff, but he was one of the founding members of the Black Karate Federation, formed in the 60’s to push back against racist judges who would refuse to call points on black competitors.  (On one notorious occasion, Chuck Norris was present at a fight where Steve (Sanders) Muhammad scored on the “Champion” again and again and the judges ignored it until Norris, bless his heart, stood up and screamed “give that man his God Damned points!”


Yes, I know Chuck is a little problematic these days. But I loved him for that.


Anyway, yes, things were that bad, and “Big Cliff” Stewart was one of the young men who got sick of it and did something about it. The sight of a hundred young men and women marching into a tournament in military synchrony singing “I don’t know but I been told, BKF fights mighty bold!” changed the California martial arts scene in the early 70’s. Oddly, we started getting our points called.  Strange how that happens.


Anyway, he was a big dog, I was a newbie, but when I ran into him twenty years later in Pendekar Paul De Thour’s Penjak Silat school in Arcadia, he remembered me.  I saw him move with uncanny power and precision there. The man was terrifying…but so funny it was impossible to be intimidated.


I moved away from California up to Washington for almost ten years, and while I was there studied with Stevan Plinck (another giant.   Nothing but love and respect for him and his family), and by the time I came back to California I wasn’t sure I would continue to practice the arts. I felt…oddly stalled.   As if perhaps I’d gotten everything I was going to get from them.  I had two black belts, a brown belt, twenty years of Tai Chi, ten years of Silat and three years at the Inosanto Academy under my belt…but didn’t know what to do next. Maybe nothing.


That changed when I taught a   writing workshop at the Screenwriting Expo in L.A.  A very attractive young black woman was sitting in the packed room, and next to her was a large black man who seemed familiar, but I couldn’t place.    She was Karen Dean, California State Women’s Judo champion (and a hell of a belly dancer!) and beside her was…Cliff Stewart.   He re-introduced himself, and we hit it off instantly.


In life, they say, from time to time you get a “cubic inch” of opportunity. You either grab it…or it is gone forever.  This was one of about ten such moments I’ve had. The creation of “Lifewriting” was one.  Meeting Tananarive was one. This was on that level.


I asked them to dinner, and Cliff accepted.    When they came to the house, man, it felt so wonderful, so natural.   I showed him around (I was so happy.  He looked at my office with the kettlebells and clubbells right next to my and he said: “this looks like a MAN’S office.”  Damn, I didn’t realize how badly I needed that validation) and when he asked about my martial arts practice, and how I felt stalled, he thought carefully and said:  “Steven, I am going to complete your training.”


And…damned if he didn’t make good on that.  For the next couple of years I drove out to his house, where he conducted what he called his “master class” for a few chosen students.  And there, he continued teaching me Pentjak Silat, with a touch of Within Arms Reach, his bodyguard art.   Wonderful stuff, designed to deal with a threat in front of you if you cannot use footwork and lateral movement: your client is cowering behind you.


So much what I call “good,  evil fun.”




There was stuff going on inside me, though.  I remember being in a kempo karate school, and seeing a wall chart of the various black belts descended from Master Ed Parker.  Branching off from Chuck Sullivan and Danny Inosanto (Danny taught for Parker before meeting Bruce Lee) was…Steve Sanders.  I looked at the list of formidable black belts (what a school!  At one point in the late 70’s/early 80’s SEVEN out of the top ten competitors in the California-Nevada-Arizona tri-state area were all this one man’s students!!!) and realized what was wrong.


Despite everything I’d done, and how much I’d changed myself from the little four-eyed pot-bellied nerd who had so prayed to be strong…I felt like a failure.  I had never gotten more than a green belt from Steve, the greatest karate man I’d ever known.   I realized that despite the wonderful martial artists I had known since, HE was the standard in my heart.  And I didn’t measure up.


No offense meant to the other instructors, who were wonderful and helped me along the path, but I realized that I would give up all my rank to be so much as a brown belt in Steve’s system.  I found myself speaking that painful truth to Cliff one day when we were alone.


Why hadn’t I earned higher rank with Steve, he asked.


I sighed, and told the truth.  “I was just too intimidated by the young warriors in that school.”  They were too fast, too tough, too aggressive.   I just couldn’t handle it.


And…Cliff laughed in my face.  “Oh, Steve,” he said.  “They weren’t warriors. They were ATHLETES, playing warrior games.  They would have been good at anything: hula hoops, basketball, or break-dancing. They just happened to be doing karate.  A warrior is someone whose word is good. Who stands for his community. Who raises his own damned children.”


And…just like that, my heart healed. For the first time in my life, I understood why Steve Sanders had always welcomed me back to the school after I dropped out. Again and again.  Why so many wonderful martial artists had been kind to me, had accepted me in their circles. I hadn’t been one of their great fighters.


What I HAD been is sincere. I had never, ever been able to just have fun practicing. Every time, every class, it had felt like dying.   Like crawling across broken glass to get something I desperately needed.  I remember driving down La Brea avenue, tears streaming down my face with shame and guilt about being unable to return to the school to get a jacket I’d left in absolute terror someone would ask me to spar with them.  Why did they want to spar with me?  BECAUSE I WAS GOOD.   But I couldn’t see that. Too much pain and fear.


And through my tears I asked God “Please. Please.  Either let me just practice this art…or take away my urge to practice it.  I’m dying.”


I knew that if I didn’t keep going, I’d never be complete.  Never be the kind of man I wanted to be. But Lord…it hurt so much.


And my instructors had seen it.  They knew was I was. That unlike the “athletes” for whom this was entertainment, or self defense…this was life and death for me.  That every time I came to class, I was laying it ALL on the line.  I was offering everything I had.  And ultimately, all it takes to get everything you need…is everything you’ve got.




So Cliff asked me what I wanted, and I told him: to be part of Steve’s lineage.  Whatever that might mean.  I know that champions had come to Steve for rank, and he had turned them down if they were unworthy. Whatever he said about my ability, I knew would be true.  So Cliff said that Steve, who had retired to Atlanta, would be in town to conduct a workshop for the Whipping Willow Association, and suggested that I go to him and plead my case.


So…swallowing my heart, that’s what I did. Just about ten years ago, it was.  I had seen Steve a few times over the decades, and he’d always been friendly and warm to me.  But when I explained what I wanted: for him to evaluate my skills and tell me where I stood, I was so scared I wanted to vomit.


He was an older man, but still a lion tamer, and conducted a BKF meeting with the kind of power and authority he had held thirty years ago.  After the meeting, he said that at some point in the weekend, we would go off someplace quiet, and he would evaluate me.


Cool.   His workshop was brilliant (of course) but there was something interesting about the Whipping Willow association’s gatherings. There would be a dozen masters there, teaching in rotation.  When not teaching, most of them would hang out outside talking to each other, smoking, or whatever.  Not Steve. He would attend whatever other workshops were being taught.   I watched people pair up in one of these, and NO ONE wanted to work with him.  Too intimidating.


So…I asked him if he’d like me as a partner.  He readily agreed, and for the next two hours or so…we played.  Oh, it was glorious.  I was able to watch the way he integrated new information, and make it his.   Wow.   THAT is a nervous system. THAT is a warrior’s mind.  And yeah, he’s a warrior in any definition you choose, from being Force Recon in Viet Nam to the Sheriff’s department, to being a pioneering karate champion to transforming generations of boys and girls into men and women, to transforming street gang toughs into solid citizens with nothing but the force of his will.  The man is just…extraordinary.


We PLAYED.  And I was so happy I forgot why I was there, and just enjoyed the fact that my martial journey had taken me places his had not, and I was able to show him some things he hadn’t seen. Was able to dance with Fred Astaire, who, it is said, was performing with Barrie Chase on a television special and when they hit “The Zone” together was whispering under his breath:   “NOW you’re dancin’!”


We were dancing.




I saw Cliff a few weeks later, and he asked me how things had gone. Embarrassed, I realized that my ego had tricked me: I had never asked Steve what he thought of me.  Cliff just about put me over his lap.   “Will you CALL the man?”


Sheepishly, I did.   And boy, my heart was in my mouth. Again.  I stumbled out what I wanted: some kind of evaluation of what I was.  I had no idea, didn’t know where I was on the map. And humbled myself, praying that the news wasn’t too bad.


So…what did he think?


“That is so interesting, Steve,” he said over the phone.   “I was talking to Brian Hudley, who runs the school out here with me.  And told him that while I was in California I encountered a former student, Steven Barnes. And that in the intervening years…he has become…proficient.   And I was wondering if you would accept a fourth degree black belt from us.”


I was thunderstruck. I had no words, no slightest way to respond, except to whisper…”yes.”


Which is how, six weeks later, I knelt in Steve’s home dojo and received the single greatest honor of my life. I still carry that black belt with me in my backpack, everywhere I go.   To remind me of what it cost to become who I am, and to never, ever, ever go backwards, and to never allow my fear and doubt to stop me. And never, ever forget the kindness of the men and women who SAW me, who looked past the weakness to the strength, and helped me bring it forward into the light.


Whenever people wonder why I care so much, why I take time to help whenever I can, this is why.  Because of people like Steve Muhammad.


And like Cliff, who long ago said a few simple words: “I will complete your education.”  And kept his word.


What a human being. What a man.  I am so proud to be his little brother. And will always try to measure up.


Big shoes to fill.






Escaping an ego trap

I noticed that yesterday I commented on a political thread when someone got their facts wrong, and he responded with insult.  Immediately, I felt a “flash” of emotion, and began to engage.


I noticed myself looking for all the usual things: his underlying beliefs, any logical inconsistencies, assumptions, and so on.  But there was something lurking in the back of my head.  On some level, I was thinking Sun Tzu: there are battles it is not worth fighting.  It was as if someone had called me a bad name, and I’d gotten into a fight with them when I was supposed to be on my way to a parent-teacher meeting at Jason’s school.   Yeah, I might win the fight…but wasn’t I really losing just by participating?  Hadn’t I allowed an “emotional flash” to short-circuit my logic, taking me away from my goal?


Welll…let’s take a look at that.  How can I figure out when I’ve gotten off track?


Remember the RPM system:   WHAT you want, WHY you want it.  Only then does HOW to do it have the slightest meaning.


So…what is my long term goal?  Medium (5 year and 1 year) and short term (monthly) and daily goals?  Remember that they all have to be in alignment with my values, and plausibly be steps in that direction, and BANG.  I have the enthusiasm and clarity to accomplish them.


Facebook communications are ways to speak to my tribe, as well as learn to identify arguments and conversations that are positive and productive.    What works? What doesn’t work?  It is also a way to identify arguments that lead to negative outcomes.  For instance, the “Irish Slaves” comment never ever leads to anything positive: you are dealing with someone who is using an overly broad definition of a term, as well as being ignorant of history.  They may be innocent but misinformed (“asleep”)–but they are also running the ball down the field so that snakes can try to get it across the goal line (“see, white people did fine with slavery. Something must be wrong with black people.”)  As IMO this is not a logical but an emotional/faith-based position, it is virtually impossible to get someone to “change their mind” and any argument intending to do this is 99% wasted time and energy.  If you identify the argumentation chain early, you save a LOT of time and energy.


There are lots of clues like this related to highly politicized subjects, where underlying beliefs masquerade as logical positions.   AVOID THEM.


There are also people who simply see the world differently.   Again, unless they are willing to discuss politely to build bridges of communication…WHY are you engaging with them?


Critical questions.   This person saw the world differently, AND was rude.  So…there was little chance that there was going to be a positive outcome there.  If I have finite time during the day, and a definite goal for the day that furthers my long-term outcomes, does this conversation move me in that direction…SQUIRREL!!!!!


In other words, no.  But it is IMPERATIVE RATHER THAN IMPORTANT.  It hit my emotions (the insult) and tripped my competitive sense without offering any positive outcome.  Is there ANY chance something positive would come out of it?  Sure.   But that’s like saying playing slot machines sometimes pay off, so why not spend the day at the casino rather than going to work?


WHAT is the most important thing you want from today? What is the most important thing you can achieve today?


You should know this.  Spend time defining your long-term outcomes so that you can ask yourself, every day, what the most critical thing to do TODAY might be.    The WHAT and the WHY.


Then…be sure that everything you do, or at the very least everything that requires more than X minutes, is a step in that direction.   No?  Then why are you doing it?  Ego?   Competitive nature?  Anger? Fear?


Put that anger and fear in the right place.  In sports, you have people on a team who are high and low value. The low-value players will sometimes insult and provoke high-value players on the opposing team, to see if they can get them to violate rules and get them kicked out of the game.   Sure, the low-value players might get kicked out too, but it is trading pawns for knights.  Good trade.


The same with people who get you upset, get you to waste your time and energy.  If the conversation is pointless, they win simply by getting you to engage.   You lose simply by engaging beyond your threshold.


So…wow.  Easy to get distracted.   How do you avoid this trap?


  1. Be clear on your long-term outcomes
  2. Be clear on what you need to do today to bring them into existence.
  3. With everything you do, know WHY you are doing it.
  4. If you are motivated by ego or negative emotions, refine your “executive function” so that you recognize it.
  5. CHANGE YOUR STATE.  If you are getting sucked in, change your physical posture and movement (stand up, stretch, change your breathing, walk around the room), change your focus, change your internal language (check in. If you are thinking “I’ll get that S.O.B.” or what not, RECOGNIZE that yo u are in an ego trap, and change your state)
  6. Keep track of the time it takes you to get back on track.   The techniques you use to do it. The clues that you are “caught” in that limbic/ego anger/fear trap.  Anger is fear. What are you afraid of?   Do something POSITIVE to affect it, rather than getting down in the mud and wrestling with a pig. Did I say that out loud?



  1. Love yourself
  2. Love one other person
  3. Understand history without guilt, blame, or shame
  4. Support your tribe AVOID ARGUING WITH TROLLS
  5. Win with integrity.



Love yourself enough to avoid unnecessary stress and stay on track. Love your family enough to focus your time and energy and stay healthy–you WILL poison yourself if you aren’t careful. And those closest to you will feel it.   Be able to see that there are different ways to see reality, and that it is possible for good, smart people to disagree with you.  Identify the pointless arguments. And define what “winning” is and is not, and NEVER let your “opponent” define the terms of victory if they are contrary to your interests.



Do that…and if you can take just one small step toward your ultimate outcomes every day, YOU WIN.






More on Talent vrs Modeling

 (from 2007)

Now, it’s possible to “focus” on, say, writing for years and never develop good skills. Such people might focus on, say, producing 1000 words a day without reading, or getting coaching. In essence, they’ve been practicing typing rather than writing. It isn’t practice but effective or “perfect practice” that improves performance.

This is why it is important to combine focus with things like modeling in order to know what to focus ON. But even the best education, opportunities, or innate skills will fail without focus. In fact, I’ve never been close to anyone with any skills at anything at all where they hadn’t spent long, grueling hours in practice.

That said, it seems obvious that if you spend 100 hours at task X, and nine other people also spend 100 hours, there will be ten different results. Doesn’t that prove the existence of innate ability?

Well, I don’t seriously say that there is NO difference in innate ability. That would, I think, be foolish. What I will say is that the concept of “talent” isn’t useful. I usually see “talent” invoked to stop someone from even trying. “I’m not talented enough to do X” they say, instead of rolling up their sleeves.

That’s comparing yourself to others in a damned unproductive way. You should only use competition to spur yourself to greater effort, not to stop yourself from trying. If those nine other people, under the same coach or teacher, get different results, does it mean they had different innate ability? Well, probably that’s true. But what is also true is that they
1) Only apparently got the same teaching. All language is based on shared referents. The same thing said to two different people NEVER means exactly the same thing.
2) People have different foundations of experience. Someone who has played tennis is going to pick up handball faster than you, even if you have the same coach, and practice the same hours.
3) Skills can transfer from completely different domains. Someone who has mastered making models might recognize the deep flow state required for Tai Chi, and slip into it more rapidly.
4) People have different emotional needs. The activity might well trigger a deeper sense of connection in one person than another. They will give it different levels of commitment, will think about it at night while they sleep, while they eat, obsessively. They spend no more time in the classroom, but have spent three times as much time overall.
5) Some cultures contain the building blocks of success in their entertainments and family interactions. For instance, one of the reasons I’m not at all certain about black “athletic superiority” is the fact that physical motion, and rhythmic motion, is far more reinforced in black than white culture. Having gone to dances in both communities since childhood, I watched black kids teaching each other to dance from the time they could walk—in ways that white kids never did. And the dance music itself was simply far more complex rhythmically. (Latin music can be even moreso: Find me a white top-40 dance song comparable to “The Rhythm’s Gonna Get You.”) Rhythm IS coordination. And once you have coordination, you learn ANYTHING physical more easily.

So…back to my first point. To me, the central talent, if an innate talent exists, is the ability to focus on a single thing until you have it nailed. To focus through fatigue, boredom, disappointment, pain. To keep going after others have wandered away. To obsess about it as you fall asleep. To study the chosen discipline while others are partying. To step back and focus on the question of focus itself: how to enter and sustain flow state? How to block out outside interference? How to resist the guilt-tripping and obstructionist tendencies of family, friends and community? How to develop an obsessive drive that borders on mania without tipping over?

All other knowledge, without focus, will produce mediocre results. A fine mind, split into multiple tracks when you should be bringing everything to bear on the RIGHT NOW, on the MOMENT, this little space outside of time where everything happens, is pretty useless.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

-Steve Barnes, http://darkush.blogspot.com/2007/11/more-on-focus.html

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.





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.”







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.