Think Before You Shoot- Sane Advice-Reflecting on the Political Landscape

Eliot May
Eliot May
Oct 1 · 7 min read

Shooting from the hip vs. thinking before you shoot

It is too common these days to shoot from the hip. To let loose one opinions in an unfettered way without checks and balances. And the west supposedly is a culture of ‘individuality.’ Then why are we so reactive right now? Where is the sense of vision? Look at our president’s twitter account as an example of this cultural phenomenon I’m speaking of. While this produces a certain showman or show-woman panache, it can lack critical self-reflection if it is simply automatic reactivity… and nothing more. Therefore it is good to think before you shoot or at least practice & refine your shooting.

A Night in Mexico

A Night in Mexico

The political arena these days reminds me of a night I had in the small town of Malinalco for a Mexican independence day. I had an amazing time drinking tequila with friends from high school, driving with the headlights temporarily turned off down a dark country road while yelling at the top of our lungs, entering the town square at midnight where fireworks sparked in front of us into adjacent food vendors tents, hearing gunshots roar into the heavens, and seeing the flash of a big brass band careening through the town square. There was passion, excitement, celebration, drunkenness, disorientation, and a sense of controlled/uncontrolled danger. It was great for a night, depending on your appetite, but I have to say I was glad I still had this precious human life the next morning, even with the horrible tequila hangover. Breathing, feeling, sensing…call me uncourageous. If you’ve ever had a night like this out on the town, and you end up getting a taste for this kind of excitement down the road, you may start to wonder if you want to live in this kind of environment every night? Just as in the life of an adventure-seeking partier, so as in political life, there has to be a process of growing….(the fuck up)? Otherwise, we are unmoored in a sea of explosive reactivity, like unlimited fireworks being given to a pyromaniac 9-year-old boy with a BBQ lighter.

Agency…it’s important.

We are all culpable and we all have agency

While I mentioned the president in the opening paragraph, one of the central things many have commented on since his presidency is that he is not the only person ‘guilty’ of over-reactivity, hyper-showmanship, aggression mixed with lazy thinking, revisionist fact making to justify bad habits, and the list goes on… Despite him being the obvious ornament, alt-right groups, radical leftists at universities, and basically anyone out there can succumb to these traits in a habitual fashion. Including ourselves. It’s the unfortunate but correctable truth of being human. Correctable in the sense that we are not fundamentally bound to be tormented by our own self created ignorance, passion, and hatred. They are removable.

What to do?

The question once we observe this now is what to do, how to make sense of landscape given this self-knowledge of our pitfalls, in particular, in the political arena? How do we create an environment where people can talk with each other, and not purely shoot from the hip …at each other…into a so-called digital void…or by ourselves in an apartment?

A simple tip. Focus on the positive characteristics of other political points of view. While these do not incorporate the complete list of positive aspects of the ‘right’ and ‘left’ wing, they show important aspects of why each wing is important.

Strengths of the Left Wing

The strength of left-wing politics, in general, is looking at causes and conditions. Left-wing thinking emphasized looking at ‘systems’ which produce challenges for beings and augmenting those systems to produce positive results for beings. Think the essential movements around gender, the environment, race relations, power structures, militarization, labor movements, etc. The goal of the left-wing perspective is to improve the cause and conditions around the relationships we have in all of these areas of life, massaging them out so to speak. That is a generally good aspect of left-wing approach to issues in the political or governmental level of existence.

Strengths of the Right Wing

The strength of right-wing political thinking and acting, generally speaking, is the emphasis on personal responsibility when it comes to change on any level, whether it be personal, familial, or societal. Right-wing approaches tend to be connected to entrepreneurship, familial prosperity, manifesting one’s destiny, and removing obstacles to personal freedom. Right-wing thinking in the political landscape encourages one to develop personal agency, meaning an internal compass and boots to protect one’s feet in order to navigate life.

Two Wings to Fly.

Two Wings to Fly

If we don’t develop a balanced relationship with these two wings of thinking and acting we will be operating in life in a lopsided way, which will not allow us to take off and appreciate our internal environment as well as the nature outside. If we over-emphasize personal responsibility we may start to walk around the world holding onto the illusion we are in control, everyone can tell that we are fooling ourself yet they may just not have the courage to tell us. We are stiff, tense, and trying to hold it all together. We are holding onto ourselves in a frozen tight ass manner yet so much change is taking place all around us, we can’t let go, we feel like if we did we just might pop. If we overemphasize left-wing thinking we may become obsessive and pedantic about the causes and conditions we find ourselves in, so much so that we may become prone to blaming the most minute conditions for our own well being. People may feel we are delicate as a snowflake as that is the aura we radiate and feel like they must comply by holding their breath and speech around us or else we will melt. We become too sensitive or want to maintain particular connections so much so, that we want others to cleave away any personal will power before spending time with us.

Appreciating Paradox

One aspect of a life well-lived according to wise people of the past, in particular, many of the sages of ancient India, was that it's important to appreciate paradox in all aspects of life. The paradox of the current political climate is that we are so obsessed with being a tribal member or tribal thinking, while masking this as an individual persona, that we think we are appreciating paradox and have a comprehensive view. It's a total joke though and the joke is on us. Really, we are fomenting the causes of the destruction of our own sense of true well being individually as well as collectively due to this farce. It's like beginning to believe your Halloween character is who you are 365 days a year. And really believing it! No wonder we are panicked! How limiting! Alas!

Enlightened Self-Interest

The Dalai Lama has spoken extensively about the idea of ‘enlightened self-interest.’ While this may be nice as a rosy idea because it has the word ‘enlighten’ in it, it is a deep concept. The idea of enlightened self-interest is that we don’t need to butcher the distinction between us and them for happiness and well being to take place altogether. In fact, it is the other way around. We need to have an integrated understanding where we see others’ well-being is the cause of our own well-being and vice versa. This is a profound form of psychology, political action, personal agency, etc. that much surpasses dualistic frameworks upheld to shore up a shaky sense of ‘decent society.’ When we start to practice ‘enlightened self-interest’ while navigating the political landscape we no longer need to be duped by fundamentalists with a narrow view, confused by trying to figure out what kind of trip they are laying on us. We can feel genuine compassion for them because we see through their lopsided games.


In conclusion, if we play with some of these ideas described above in our day to day lives we may find that we can develop a saner relationship to the political landscape we find ourselves in. This may create the possibility of changing our collective direction, which seems rather emotionally drunk. For people who are too hard-headed, you could consider CHALLENGING YOURSELF to strengthen your sympathy for the other ‘softer’ wing of yourself as well as the country. For people who are ‘soft’ and prone to feeling entitled to certain results from the phenomenal world, it may be worth it to CHALLENGE YOURSELF to appreciate the strengths of your personal agency as well as the countries.


This article was inspired by ‘the influencers’ I follow. Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, Dungse Jampal Norbu, Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, Joanna Macy, and Anam Thubten Rinpoche. Thank you for being a beacon of sanity for me personally and I’m sure for others. Best wishes to everyone! We are all in it together even if we are all trapped temporarily in the particular workings of our neurotic karmic patterns which nobody will ever know.

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