Sunday, April 1, 2018

Talk More, Smile More

There are two lines from Hamilton that are frequently quoted but which have limited utility in the real world. The first is:
Jefferson: If there’s a fire you’re trying to douse/You can’t put it out from inside the house
This is a catchy line except I checked with a friend of mine who's a firefighter. If you're trying to douse a house fire, you have to go inside the house. The only thing you can do from outside the house is keep the fire from spreading to other structures.

It's also wrong metaphorically. If there is an organization that is doing something wrong, the only place that change can really occur is from within. Sure, you can protest or boycott or legislate, but all of those things simply apply pressure so that those who are inside will create the change you desire. If you apply enough pressure from outside, you may simply cause the organization to collapse taking the good with the bad, which is often an undesirable outcome.

So, dousing fires: must be done from inside the house.

The other is:
Burr: Talk less, Smile more. 
I've been more reticent than I would normally be for two reasons. The first is that my business involves acquiring clients, and it is important not to offend prospective clients with strong political views. The second, more recently, was that I was trying to save an event, Steampunk Worlds Fair, in the face of an angry mob on the Internet.

For the first issue, I find that I offend when I talk a little, such as sharing a partisan meme or short video clip, but I rarely offend when I speak in long format such as a blog post. This may be because people don't like to read a lot of words so they don't actually read the posts, or it may be because a longer format gives me the opportunity to fully explain the issue and the nuances of it, discussing common ground and possibly educating rather than just inflaming. Either way, it works better to talk more.

In the second effort, I was unsuccessful. In retrospect, I believe that part of my lack of success was because, as an organization, the team I was working with chose a strategy of reticence. Official statements were few and far between meaning that rumors, offhand comments, and other scraps of information could not be clarified or explained. We were helpless before the winds of rumor, tossed in a stormy sea of innuendo and suspicion which is born of silence.

Thus, all signs point to the conclusion that I must talk more. Now that I am no longer involved officially with any event running organization, it is time that I share some clarifying details and background information which may not have been shared previously, and which I feel may help to inform the ongoing discourse.

Even in other arenas, I feel that I have something to contribute. I had become frustrated trying to discuss political issues because I had been doing it in the wrong format. I have spoken elsewhere about the tragic descent of discourse when we moved from Live Journal to Facebook and Twitter. Live Journal was a shared journaling platform. People communicated in long form, at least a few paragraphs. Now we communicate in 140 characters or a meme or image. We've devolved from arguments to schoolyard taunts and our society is all the poorer for it.

I, for one, shall be returning to the longer form of discussion. You will agree with some things I say. You will disagree with others. My intention is not to make everyone agree with me by any means, but simply to make them understand where I am coming from.

Perhaps you shall join me, share your own views in long format. I am eager to read them.

If there is something you'd like me to write about, please reach out to me at

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