Every time I get mad, I do some phone banking or dig up another $25 and donate it. Every time someone gets pissed off about something on Daily Kos, they throw up a diary with donation links to Orange to Blue or Act Blue or directly to the website of the cause or the candidate, and there’s a wave of “I gave!” comments all over the post. These efforts have raised millions from small donors — more than a million so far at Orange to Blue alone.
Talk about jujitsu politics; every time they make a move against us, it translates into more money and volunteers for our side. They can’t win.
I hadn’t even thought about it before I read that Daily Kos diary, and yet it’s obvious. We’ve been murdering the right wing with money this year. Every time they attack, instead of limping away whimpering and bleeding, we’ve turned their attacks back on them. We’re not using the same vicious tactics or smears. We’re just turning the force of their attack into something productive and positive.
ChristieKeith compared it to jujitsu, which is apt, but I’m thinking aikido. The whole idea is to take your opponent’s force and turn it into something graceful and positive. Here’s an excellent description of it from someone who studied aikido in Kyoto, Japan:
The subtlety of the movements have always been – I thought – a wonderful metaphor for how to approach conflict or confluence. The core principle in Aikido is that in every interaction, one is responsible not just for themselves, but also for the other. As a result, meeting force with force is not an option, as someone will always come out ‘damaged’ from the experience. The art, then, is in harmonizing two opposing forces, dissipating conflict.
Omote and Ura – Every motion in Aikido can be divided into Omote (direct) and Ura (indirect). In all cases, the result is harmony (ie two opposing forces merging into one), but depending on the situation, that path can be merged quickly and abruptly by Omote, or through a longer period of converging before the conclusion.
In a conversation, where there is not a gulf between those interacting, omote can guide you to conclusion faster; but where the gulf is wider, a longer, less direct path is needed to reach harmony.
Tenkan – this is a movement, almost a pirouette or spin, but is central to making the Aikido philosophy physical. Essentially, any attack is not met head on, but is pulled into a spiral so that direction and energy between the two parties have the chance to merge, instead of collide. This, to me, seems a critical consideration in facilitation; how do you guide without hitting head on? This is how you acknowledge, follow, then redirect.
Obama seems to have mastered this. You’ll seldom see him returning an attack without redirecting. Instead of hitting back with the same acrimony and viciousness, he draws on the force of his opponent’s attacks to get his own message through. This could be why so many Republicans and conservatives have come to his side: he doesn’t even seem to be fighting, and yet he wins. Every time.
We’re not quite there yet – I don’t see the left merging with the right just yet – but we’re on the path to it. We don’t hit head-on. Instead of smearing those who smear us, we are, by and large, diverting the energy of their attacks into something more positive. We donate to a better candidate. We canvass, make calls, speak to undecided people and allay their uncertainty. We use the lies to teach the truth, and it’s reaching all but the unreachable.
This strikes me as the way liberals need to “fight” in order to win. This is the only way we’re going to get past this insane divide between right and left, the fear, loathing and hatred the neocons have used to poison our political and cultural landscape. This is how we create something positive and lasting out of something so negative it will destroy us if it isn’t diverted.
Of course, I still practice the Way of the Smack-o-Matic. Sometimes, the most economical means of stopping the stupid in its tracks, before it can really get a good headlong rush going, is to whack it right between the eyes.
Still. Don’t be terribly surprised if you see fewer smacks and more spirals here in the future, once we’ve got opponents we can actually harmonize with.