"John, if you were King for a Day, and could have any Constitution, or form of government, you wanted, what would be it be? Plutocracy? Autocracy? Monarchy? Dictatorship? Keep the Constitution on ice to protect it, while we declare martial law?"
For my fellow Values-Based Consultants to Wealth and Power, please note the way I begin with a vision building open ended question to get the the client day dreaming in an expansive mood. I watch as John's eyes dilate with pleasure, and his body shifts and relaxes into an open stance. I get him talking, less and less guarded, to build confidence and trust. As a subordinate, he may not always get the benefit of the interlocutor's full attention. So, I lean forward to show him that every word he speaks is fascinating and profound. As his guard drops, I can begin to see the rising energy of his great dream, his fantasy, of which he himself may not even be fully conscious. Then, did you notice how I pivot right into to my list of closed ended questions? When I tick of each form of government, I watch what we call for "tells," the little signs than indicate we are getting closer to the heart of the matter. I see him lick his lips as I say, "Dictatorship," and see his flash of teeth as he smiles fleetingly, before reassuming his dignified legal persona. I see his eyes glint. Perhaps he rises from his chair, opens his collar, and begins to pace and mutter and gesticulate. When I get to "martial law" I know I have him as a client. I know what gets his motor running. I go on to clarify his preferred role under martial law. Head of the Secret Police? Chief Justice of the Kangaroo Court? The legal role seems best, judging from his modest demurral, "Well, I would certainly think my name would be on the short list, though I would be one of many qualified candidates, I am sure."
Now that I am clear on John Yoo's vision of a better life in a better world, it is my job to come back with a plan. Sometimes it will be a business solution; sometimes we will go with social capital markets; sometimes we will work through Fox News, talk radio, or some other media outlets; sometimes we will go with a Think Tank, like American Enterprise Institute, to lay down the talking points; sometimes we will work through a nonprofit organization of experts, like The Federalist Society; sometimes we will go out to autocratic donors and raise money for ordered liberty as we might call it; sometimes we will work with scholars to draft legislation, waiting for some crisis, some terrorists event, or natural disaster, to drive it through Congress in a heated rush. Sometimes, of course, we when the enabling legislation has been passed piecemeal, and the pieces are in place, and we have a good pretext, based on some unforeseen event, we just go with the military option, jail and torture or opponents, suspend the Constitution to protect it, and do whatever we damn well want with the legal sanction provided by John Yoo, or some other qualified person, from the highest court in the land. Who would stop us at this point?
In this way, with proper planning and hard work, even a kid from Korea, who starts out with nothing, can get the world he wants, right here in America. It is a great country. As a values-based planner, I am glad to play a small role in helping my clients' dreams come true.
Phil, I thought you might enjoy this: "Does sarcasm work?"
Posted by: Jeremy Gregg | April 22, 2008 at 01:01 PM
Thanks, Jeremy. The piece makes good points about how to make friends and influence people. The challenge one has, though, is that when the "reality frames" have been built by professionals to exclude or marginalize important issues, the frame has to be broken, or accepted. You can operate nicely inside a frame, created and held in place by established systems, and expect to have much impact. The strategies for frame breaking cannot easily be reduced to a formula, like "play nicely," or "don't offend established pieties," or "sound reasonable."
It is always worth asking who has faced similar challenges in earlier eras and how they got the job done. What rhetorical devices do work, beyond acceptance of the status quo and its prevailing decorum?
Fable, parable, satire, just so story, carnival, humor, allegory - all are potential models. Then you have your slogans, bumper stickers, soundbites, jingles, white papers, celebrity endorsements, even handed recounting of warring views, etc.
"Snark does not wor," is true, what works is going along to get along. Some of us are willing to take big losses to learn the limits, and how to transgress them successfully for the public good. That is one reason I can't stop thinking about the relationship between the arts and philanthropy. Different means, same ends, perhaps - both instrumentally and expressively, and both may involve a gain to society and a loss to the giver.
Your blog and that of Dr. Larry James set an excellent example of upsetting people in a good cause and doing it with grace (maybe in more than one sense of grace.)
Posted by: Phil Cubeta | April 22, 2008 at 06:24 PM