February 19, 2014

Annals of bad tactics

Lots of people in West Virginia are understandably enraged over the Freedom Industries chemical spill and the way it's been handled by everyone from the water company and the governor's office. And this surely has not been Governor Tomblin's finest hour.

Still, when a friend told me that a small group was planning on marching on his office and demanding his resignation, my initial reaction, which still holds, was that this approaches the level of the Platonic Form of Bad Tactics.

One, what do you reckon would really happen? Would the governor say "OK, you're right. I'm outta here"?

Two, nothing is more pathetic than a show of force where there isn't any.

Three, issuing demands is generally useless unless one has the power to enforce them, in which case it isn't necessary.

Four, as my beloved Niccolo Machiavelli observed nearly 500 years ago, insulting or threatening someone doesn't actually do them any harm but it puts them on guard against you and makes it harder if not impossible to deal productively with the person in the future.

He said it much better:
"I hold it to be proof of great prudence for men to abstain from threats and insulting words towards anyone, for neither the one nor the other in any way diminishes the strength of the enemy; but the one makes him cautious, and the other increases his hatred of you, and makes him more persevering in his efforts to injure you."
I think people who want to influence public policy would do well to memorize that verse. While it's not necessarily true that people who are insulted or threatened will hate or try to injure us, it's a sure bet they will be less likely to cooperate at some future point. And in places like WV, people tend to stick around for a good while and they have long memories. It's hard to unburn a bridge.

1 comment:

Hollowdweller said...

There is a really great chapter in Stephen Gaskin's book Mind At Play about this subject. I'll have to show it to you sometime.

There is also something from the bible:

Galations 6:1

Brothers and sisters, someone in your group might do something wrong. You who are following the Spirit should go to the one who is sinning. Help make that person right again, and do it in a gentle way. But be careful, because you might be tempted to sin too.