Why dealing with your like-minded political friends exhausts you, in one chart

Maybe you’ve been angry since November 8, perhaps quite a bit before. Every day brings a new outrage, a new betrayal, a new moral low ground. It’s exhausting to think about fighting it, especially when you think you might be fighting your own like-minded friends about it. But why is that? Why aren’t you always in alignment with those who share your opinions? While hosting a JoCo Cruise panel about the 2016 election with Ted Leo, Rhea Butcher, Max Temkin, Cameron Esposito, and John Roderick called The Night Everything Broke, I drew a chart to show why this happens.

The chart shows three phases of dealing with an outrage: REACTION to something that has gone wrong, ACTION to address the problem, and INACTION to process what has happened. Each always follows the one next to it, as long as there are new outrages to react to. (Protip: There will be.)

The thing is, there aren’t any arrows on the chart. That’s because people go through this loop in two different ways. The Reaction-Action-Inaction loop is when people jump to respond to a problem, act, and then rest afterward. (“Let’s do something before it’s too late!”) But just as many people go the other way. The Reaction-Inaction-Action is a look-before-you-leap approach. (“Let’s figure out what to do and then make it happen.”) Both are valid approaches, but they are in conflict.

There’s no avoiding the Inaction step; no one can fight all the time. But when inaction occurs is important. Those who prefer the clockwise loop can’t understand why their friends won’t act immediately; those who prefer the counterclockwise loop can’t understand why their friends act without thinking. Fingers are wagged on Facebook and Twitter, friendships are damaged, alliances are undermined.

There’s no need for that division. Fast actors gain attention and marshal supporters. Slow actors figure out strategies and implement them fully. Without fast actors, the slow actors will never get the attention to effect longterm change; without slow actors, the fast actors will burn out and dissipate before accomplishing anything. Together we can act effectively, if not always harmoniously.

Allowing your friends to fight in different ways than you do is the first step to accepting them as allies. If we could all accept that there is no right or wrong way to fight tyranny, we might be better at fighting tyranny.

Mike

P.S. Midway through the panel, while Ted was making a very serious point, this easel supporting this chart collapsed, revealing a previous event’s document entitled “Enormous Penis Choir.” And so goes the JoCo Cruise.