Observations of an Observer

Observations of an Observer

For half of my life I was fairly quiet and had a tendency to exist in “the background.” Although I was never meek or mild, and never had any problem (whatsoever) expressing my opinion, my preferred space in life was off to the side a bit and in the back, positioned such that I was not in the midst of everything, but distanced enough to see the whole. In retrospect, I believe I was this way because I saw insanity of our world very early on, and believed that the best way to “get through it” was to stay off the radar, keep my nose relatively clean, and try to understand and adapt to the madhouse of society.

Homesteading provides a myriad of opportunities to sit back and observe, and mastery of livestock involves plenty of this.  Hours can be spent watching your animals in different scenarios: How do they get along?  What does feeding look like?  Can small personality differences be observed, between each animal?  Absolutely they can.  The strong ones tend to bully the weak ones.  The timid ones hang out on the outskirts, never quite gaining equality. On the farm and in the office, the practice of observation will allow you to respond appropriately, to a wide range of people and situations. It’s a skill worth refining.

If you think about how we all go through life, we tend to ride our strengths and downplay our weaknesses. We pick out a hammer or two when we are young and spend the rest of our lives trying to figure out how to squint such that everything looks like a suitable nail.

I know several men with work ethics that are absolutely off the charts. For these guys, their answer to everything is “hard work.” You find them at all levels of the socio-economic ladder, ranging from the “git ‘er done” 70-hour-a-week blue collar worker right up to the leaders of the world’s largest corporations. When presented with any problem, these people want to get to work quickly, want to work hard at it, and want to start working immediately. The key word is WORK.

Another sort is the person with a more theoretical, intellectual approach, one who stands back and, rather than immediately work, assesses the most efficient means to achieve the goal, maths ‘er all out, and THEN expends energy, as required. When things work out properly, you can see incredible results here, with much less effort than a “jump in and start sweating type. However, without the drive of a worker, nothing gets done, and things can remain in a theoretical state forever.

Of course, some people develop much worse habits, much worse hammers.

There is the chronic excuse maker. I have worked with several of these people and to a person, they were decent to be around, often funny, gregarious, and in many respects, valuable team members. However, early on in life, these people learned that you can get by a LOT of life, these days, by making excuses, by blaming someone else, by passing the buck. It’s only 80% done because I got busy with something else. I couldn’t get a hold of him for a week! I got sick! I had to have my tonsils out again. These people never really accomplish things: they just exist, moving on from excuse to excuse, producing the odd bit here and there, but ultimately, incapable. Justin Trudeau, whose aboriginal nickname is “The one who Keeps Trying”, is a great example of this. His nickname could be re-worded slightly and it would read “The one who Keeps Failing” or “The one who Can’t Quite Succeed.”

Weavers of Bullshit. This is a very interesting class of person, one that operates primarily through deception, by ensuring that those around them are kept in a state of uncertainty, half knowledge, and never having the full picture. They are secretive, they lie, and they frame events to reflect their view of reality (when any normal person would look at the situation and see something completely different.) Again, Weavers of Bullshit come at all levels but share commonalities: a lot of regular little lies, big lies, failed spot audits, inconsistent performance, and a need for outlandish explanations to explain repeated failures. Weavers of Bullshit are the dominant class in this world: why do you think a select few can be so off-the-charts-successful while the rest starve? It’s because a whole bunch of people have been telling a whole bunch of lies.

The Harmed Party. Always pissed off at something, wronged grievously on a weekly basis, this person is convinced that the entire world is out to get them. Easily offended, quick to snap or feign offense, with a perfect understanding of “the rules of the workplace” and “the exact letter of my job description.” Being offended and harmed is the central tool in this persons life and will manifest in each and every aspect of said life. Though they may make “gains” of a sort, they are always at great expense, and no one ever really feels good about helping these people. They are horrible in the workplace.

The Bully. Central to this persona is a feigned aura of strength, and a sustained willingness to use physical, intellectual, sexual, economic or spiritual advantage in order to get their way. Right and wrong are completely secondary, and the only important thing is achieving the immediate goal, by any means necessary. An “ends justify the means” sort of person, the good ones learn to regularly apologize for their behavior in order to prolong its acceptance.

The Special Interester. These people pick an area, make it their central focus in life, and yank every other aspect of their existence through the lens of this special interest. Their mate, friends, industry, fashion, and job will be directly related to whatever their special interest is. This will often be a minority interest, or something that is politically popular and hard to argue with, publicly. This person will then use this special interest as an excuse for all sorts of terrible behavior, and will often do this for extended period of this, as no one has the courage to attack the behavior of someone protected by the shield of whatever the political flavour of the day. I have found very few special interest type people who could argue their positions with even rudimentary clarity or coherence.

The Noodle. This person stands for nothing and will do as they are told, for extended periods of time, no matter the consequences to themselves or to others. Central to their existence is “giving other people their way.” They often see themselves as martyrs, “taking one for the team”, or “suffering silently.” The conflation of these concepts is in error: the Noodle ALWAYS takes one for the team, ALWAYS does what is asked, no matter what. As such, their actions cannot be viewed as positive or self-sacrificing: they are weak, and passive, the only action possible because there is no actual spine there to do anything other than what they are told. These people are highly coveted in all kinds of ways, as they are very easy to control and manipulate. They also suffer from tremendous phantom fear, equating simple confrontation with being eaten by a lion. Schooling, television, diet and societal reinforcement are all aimed at creating this persona, so there are many of them.

The Professional Pretender. This sort is often well dressed, well spoken, moneyed, educated, has all the right credentials and all the right connections. They’ve figured out the game. However, they do not deliver on what their appearance would suggest. They rely on their past achievements and stale credentials, expecting everyone to pay them great respect just by virtue of what they appear to be. They deliver the appearance of value and credibility, but it’s just appearance. James Clapper is a wonderful example of this, a bald faced liar who faked great hurt at being accused of being such. The Professional Pretender, along with the Weavers of Bullshit, rule most aspects of our society, and never quite deliver on their promises. The thing that improves most is their bank account.

There are many more examples: this is a small sampling. The key thing is, everyone has a central way of conducting themselves, a natural way of being, an inherent theme. The bullshitter bullshits. The pretender creates illusions. The Special Interester gets offended. The Bully bullies. By recognizing that this central theme exists in people, and in ourselves, we can liberate ourselves from it. This liberation can come in many forms, but simply:

If you become aware of your tendency, you can change it.

If you become aware of the tendency in others, you can counteract it.

The ultimate program to run is one that adapts as needed. There are times when the only answer is hard work. There are times when the only possible hope is extended, abstract thought. There are times to hold your voice and do as you are told, and times to ROAR, such that no one within earshot dare breathe a single word (when these times come, you will be stunned at how your voice sounds.) Sometimes, the only way to beat a cheater is to out-cheat him. And sometimes, people need illusion.

By recognizing, thematically, that we all prefer to operate in certain ways, and do so without thinking, we liberate ourselves from this inherent bias, and shield ourselves from others who operate the same way, unaware. Though awareness is only half the battle, it’s a big half.

If you liked reading this you might also like: Homestead Lessons: How to Learn Faster and Better.

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