How to Win Communitas and Influence Memetic Tribes
I received some sad news this morning from James Carse's stepdaughter: James passed away last night.
I am told he did so in the home he loved, and with the woman he loved. James was a friend of The Stoa, and he tentatively agreed to be a Sensemaker in Residence for November, pending his health concerns.
He was a wonderful person, with a wonderful soul, and he showed us how to play the infinite game well. May he rest in peace.
Stoic Breath w/ Steve Beattie. Every Wednesday @ 7:00 AM ET. RSVP here.
Sex, Masculinity, and God w/ Cadell Last, Kevin Orosz & Daniel Dick. September 30th @ 10:30 AM ET. RSVP here.
Social Design Club w/ Freyja and Joe Edelman. Every Wednesday @ 1:30 PM ET. RSVP here. Join the club here. 90 mins.
Newly posted events:
Existential Kink w/ Carolyn Elliott. October 25th @ 5:30 PM ET. RSVP here.
33 Myths of the System w/ Darren Allen. October 20th @ 12:00 PM ET. RSVP here.
An event to get excited about:
Liberating Structures: Rely on Surprise w/ Keith McCandless. October 1st @ 8:00 PM ET. 90 mins. RSVP by clicking the image below.
Keith McCandless, the co-founder of Liberating Structures, visits The Stoa to discuss some amazing facilitation techniques designed to unleash our creativity.
September 29, 2020
OpenMind is an online program, which can be paired with in-person workshops. I hosted one in Toronto a few years ago. The goal of the platform is to depolarize communities, and the content is pretty good. It was co-founded by Jonathan Haidt, and it is based on his work. One of the modules mentions Daniel Kahneman’s two systems model.
In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman says we have two systems that formulate our thoughts. System 1 is fast, emotional, and unconscious, while System 2 is slow, logical, and conscious. Haidt has used the analogy of the “elephant and the rider” to describe this. System 1 is the elephant, and System 2 is the rider. On the surface it may seem like the rider is in charge, but when the elephant gets unruly, all the rider can do is follow and desperately hold on.
Kahneman and the behavioral economics scene was all the buzz at one point, and the secret (but not really a secret) they introduced to the TED Talk and other infotainment circuits is that we are not that rational, which was counter to the homo economicus models prevalent in economic literature.
Dale Carnegie always knew this. When dealing with people he recommended talking directly to the elephant, and not the rider. To reference one of his famous quotes: When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity.
I was pleasantly surprised to see Haidt mention Carnegie in the OpenMind module. He referred to him as an “elephant whisperer.” I am a trainer at Dale Carnegie, and yes, I am trained to whisper to elephants. While I am no slouch in the reason department, once you learn enough about social dynamics, and cultivate a sensitivity in how elephants operate, you reason that oftentimes it is not wise to engage in reasoning.
This is why I am so interested in these conversational and intersubjective modalities, because you have to get the conditions right first. Once you do, then dialogos may occur. For lack of better words, this is when a flow state emerges, rather than the fight-or-flight response, when reasoning together via the dialectical method. When in dialogos, the rider is fully engaged, and the elephant is supportively at ease.
Since we are on the topic of elephants, the “blind men and the elephant” parable is quite useful to discuss culture war dynamics. I wrote about this in my Memetic Mediation: The Hard Problem of the Culture War piece for The Side View:
According to the parable, a group of blind men come across an animal they have never seen before, and each of them puts his hand on one part of the beast: the trunk, the ear, the tail, and so on. Each is convinced that the part he is touching defines the entire elephant; each man adamantly insists on the accuracy of his perceptions until they all end up shouting over each other.
When it comes to the culture war, and I will dare use another elephant here: the elephant in the room is that we are all elephants, that is if we grok the multipolar dynamics of the narrative warfare going on. What you say, and who you are, is going to be (mis)interpreted in a multitude of uncharitable ways.
One thing that is triggering for most is the feeling of being misinterpreted. Being interpreted in the “wrong way,” especially through the prism of an ideology you have philosophical allergies towards, is really annoying. In one of my earlier journal entries I wrote the following: The blind men and the elephant metaphor just came to mind, along with the thought that I need to allow myself to be the elephant.
I would argue that it is a good Stoic practice to allow oneself to be interpreted in this way. Allowing yourself to be the elephant that blind men (or disembodied memetic tribes) are yelling over (and at) can serve as an opportunity for serenity training. It can also serve as an opportunity for discovering your philosophical allergies, and any corresponding “shadows” they may contain.
I will now attempt to weave all these elephants together. I mentioned the first elephant, the one with the rider, to put emphasis on the importance of interpersonal skills. I mentioned the second elephant, the one with the blind men, to put emphasis on the importance of intrapersonal skills.
If you can whisper to people's elephants, to avoid triggering them, and if you can become the elephant, and avoid being triggered, then you can start to befriend many people from various memetic tribal backgrounds.
I will have to think about this more. I do sense there is something here though, and if there is something here, I would like The Stoa to be a hub where we collectively develop these capacities. If something like this does occur, maybe I will write a metamodern follow-up to Carnegie’s famous book, and of course I will call it something jazzy like How to Win Communitas and Influence Memetic Tribes.