Either/Or Thinking

I’m particularly interested in the “Stand Off in Wisconsin” because I was raised in that state.  My first vocation was in broadcast news and I began to learn how to observe and report on political developments in Wisconsin.  (Some day I’ll tell the story about getting teared gassed while reporting on the Posse Comitatus http://www.nizkor.org/hweb/orgs/american/adl/paranoia-as-patriotism/posse-comitatus.html.)  I’ve interviewed politicians in the capital rotunda where state union employees are now protesting.

Naturally, my internal question machine is asking, “How is what we know about chronic and episodic anxiety playing out in this event?”  The standoff is a perfect illustration of a gridlocked system.

Friedman lists three characteristics of gridlock systems

  • An unending treadmill of trying harder.
  • Looking for answers rather than reframing questions
  • Either/or thinking that creates false dichotomies

It’s a good bet the third characteristic is fully present in the Wisconsin conflict.    The false dichotomy is broken down into a pure right or wrong perspective;  either union bargaining rights should be restricted or they should not.  Friedman writes. “…intense polarizations…are always symptomatic of underlying emotional processes rather than of the subject matter of the polarizing issue”.  If true, the heart of the conflict in Wisconsin is more emotional than rational in scope and nature.  Observe the bunker-fixed “we’re not moving” emotional reactivity between opposing sides.

This is not the opposite of compromise.  In fact, the healthiest solution to this conflict will not come from compromise.   If it comes at all, it will come from leaders of both movements-in-opposition finding effective leadership through emotional maturity.


2 thoughts on “Either/Or Thinking”

  1. Howard, once again, I wholeheartedly agree with your analysis.

    In my reading and viewing of the situation, I have not come across one piece that explains why the government absolutely needs to eliminate collective bargaining, other than the false notion that, “we have nothing on which to bargain.”

    So what! Let the teachers union make the decision as to how they can cut spending. Contribute to retirement and insurance or lose a few thousand members OR some other alternative that can be developed.

  2. Friedman always said to look for will conflicts as a sign of an emotionally gridlocked system. Wherever you have a battle of wills, whether it’s between a parent and a teenager or a governor and union workers, you have ceased to do serious problem solving. The level of will conflicts (in frequency, duration and intensity) corresponds to the degree of emotional stuck-ness of a system.

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