We Need a Stronger Third Eye

What do we look like to people who aren’t politics wonks?  And why does it matter?

This question is for my friends on the right. By “on the right,” I’m talking about conservatives and right-leaning libertarians. (I’m not going to debate definitions, so accept mine or stop reading.)

Developing a Third Eye

When I was an acting student many long years ago, I had a director, Don Garner, who stressed the importance of the actor’s third eye.

He wasn’t talking about make-up and special effects. He was talking about developing an ability to see yourself on stage as if you were watching yourself through a camera in the house. Great actors, he claimed, had this third eye. They could see what they looked like from the audience’s point of view. Until you developed that sense, your physical presence was at the mercy of your fickle mind.

In other words, you might look like dolt.

I think we on the right could use that third eye skill. And a third ear.

Most People Want To Get Through Life as Best They Can

When I was going through a divorce that was none too pleasant, at some point I had to stop fighting my ex-wife. I kept waiting for her to stop fighting, to be reasonable. Then someone (I don’t remember who) made a point.  He said, “it’s like goin’ through a crappy little town on your way to vacation, Bill. She’s just trying to get through life the best she can.”

He was right. That’s what we all do. We’re all trying to get through life the best we can, and it pisses us off when someone interrupts the comfortable route we’ve been driving.

Sure, some people take a stupid route to get from A to B. Some people choose destinations that are the places people like us are trying to get the hell out of. And some people drive drunk. But they’re all just trying get through life and they’re driving the best vehicle they can afford.

When we tell them their car’s ugly or their destination’s a toilet or their map’s out of date or their left blinker’s been on for the last 20 miles, they don’t say, “thank you.” They say, “mind your own damn business, ass hat.”

Why are we surprised?

The Challenger Launched

Roger Boisjoly was right. The O-rings on the Space Shuttle tended to fail during cold-weather launches. He tried to stop the launch, risking his career, on the eve of the January 28, 1986 launch of the Challenger.

He failed. The Challenger launched as scheduled. And exploded in mid-air to a nation’s horror.

We are right about much. We on the right. But being right doesn’t necessarily translate into winning. Sometimes, they just don’t listen.

Why?

Third Eye Blind

If Roger Boisjoly had developed a strong third eye, the Challenger launch might have been delayed. But he didn’t. The brave engineer expected others to see his charts and tables through his two eyes. And they couldn’t.  So the Challenger launched and people died.

The people at NASA, the families of the astronauts, the students of teacher Christa McAuliffe, were on a path through life that included a Space Shuttle launch. They didn’t want to hear Roger Boisjoly’s arcane warnings about O-rings. They didn’t want their trip interrupted.

Why Should They Listen to Us?

Government debt is is a problem, but it’s not the real problem. The real problem is freedom. Government spending is a better proxy than debt for the loss of freedom.

Government spending represents decisions that someone else makes. Decisions that obligate you and me and our kids. Decisions that limit our futures.

Every penny spent by a bureaucrat is a choice denied to you and me.

You and I can’t understand why others aren’t as freaked out about this as we are. So we blame them.

We call them ignorant, selfish, mis-educated, drunk, stoned, communist, brain-dead.  And we might be right.

Why are we surprised when they tune us out?

The NASA bosses should have figured out a way to see things through Roger Boisjoly’s eyes. They didn’t. They will go to their graves wishing they had, but that doesn’t bring Christa McAuliffe and her crewmates back.

In the end, it’s up to the person, to the people, with further vision to explain the situation in words that others understand. It’s up to us to turn on our third eye and see what about us blinds them to our vision.

It’s not their fault; it’s ours. They’re trying to get through life as best they can with what they’ve been given. If we look dangerous or crazy or mean, they won’t stop and ask for directions. Until they do, we can’t give them a better map.

That sucks, I know, because it’s hard work, and we’ve already done so much. But it’s way more productive than standing around bitching that no one sees the horrors that we see until it’s too late.

That third eye and third ear will tell us what we look like and what we sound like to people who have no idea what our little play is about. Until we turn on those senses, we’ll keep playing to an empty house.

Let’s turn them on before it’s too late.

 

4 thoughts on “We Need a Stronger Third Eye

  1. Thank you Bill. You always hit the nail on the head or right between the eyes. I have been working with a couple of liberal/progressives lately on the Paper Ballot issue and started talking to the Sierra Club folks in my hiking club and it has opened my eyes. Generally, we all want the same things, but we always talk right past each other until you start discussing a specific issue that we can all agree on. So whats the way forward ? I think it is more listening and less shouting but don’t lose your focus and determination – or don’t let yourself get preempted.

  2. Well, you gave the nail a second thwack: “talking right past each other.”

    That’s a sign of not listening to hear, but listening to argue.

    I wrote about some key insights from an FBI hostage negotiator last week on my Simple Strategies blog. The key to getting people out of a hostage situation alive is listening, understanding, feeding back, and open-ended questions.

    [LINK: http://simplestrategies.me/2013/03/15/how-to-persuade-like-the-fbis-top-hostage-negotiator/

    Done right, the hostage-taker will realize that what he’s doing right now isn’t helping him get what he really wants. But you can’t reach that point in the conversation if you’re arguing.

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