I had a thought while attending the Texas A&M – LSU game this last weekend.  An epic, barn-burner of a game.

A&M scores a touchdown on the last play of regulation to tie it up at 31.  Then goes on to win 74 – 71, in 7 overtimes? Are you kidding me?

And it couldn’t have happened between two better teams, both in the SEC and with avid fan bases.  And in a venue that is arguably the most spectacular in college football.

Kudos to both teams for one that will go down in college football history.

But back to my thought (actually, two thoughts): this, during the pre-game playing of the National Anthem –

(1) why are the players not on the field for the Anthem?  Seems a simple hat-tip to patriotism, nationalism and such.  And this at a university steeped in military history.

And (2) – what if someone other than Colin Kaepernick had been the first to take a knee during the National Anthem back in 2016?

What if it would have been someone like Payton Manning, or Brett Favre?  

What if the subject of that being protested were different?  Something YOU identified with?

Or what if instead of taking a knee (a very submissive pose, by the way), Colin would have stood, fist overhead, like Tommie Smith and John Carlos in the ‘68 Olympics 200m medal ceremony.

Can you imagine JJ Watt assuming that “solidarity” pose during the National Anthem?

This isn’t a post about what’s right or wrong about Colin Kaepernick’s actions.  Whether or not his actions are justified; whether he’s a turncoat or a patriot.

This is about how your gut-level perceptions call the shots for the after-the-fact narrative painted by your conscious mind.  And how you’re likely not to be swayed from that initial perception, no matter the evidence to the contrary.

In fact, I find it very hard to find anyone to discuss this issue with because it is such a volatile topic.  Again, because that perception has triggered something very deep within everyone.

The same can be said for global warming.  Hillary’s emails. Russian collusion. Liberal values.  Conservative values. Immigration.

The list here is endless…

First, there is the sensing, the emotion, the gut reaction.  This is in the microseconds before the conscious mind even knows there’s something to either cheer or be insinsced about.

Then, from that caldron of emotion, a narrative is created by the conscious mind to support that feeling.

Now that the conscious mind has a compelling story, it looks for validation to help cement that idea in the mind.  Look for a tribe and you’ll find it. Or, in this day and age, the tribe has already been pre-curated for you.

Controversy being the best marketing tool ever “invented”.

Then, the vetting process.  For instance: we dissect a counter-leaning study for signs of statistical manipulation, p-hacking, faulty study design.  

Which is good, of course.  IF we do the same with studies that validate our own pre-existing convictions just as meticulously.

It feels good to be in an echo chamber of like-mindedness.

But what if Truth is actually what we seek?  Over and above validation of our position. And would we ever point that out to our tribe?  Identifying a weak underbelly would make our tribe antifragile, no?

What if continually questioning our most deeply held convictions were the norm?  Can we be comfortable being… uncomfortable? Can we be cool with being… wrong?

Too often, we take the lazy way out.  We memorize the status quo (the party line) and hammer down on our preconceived notions (cognitive bias) instead of challenging those notions to better understand how the world works.

It’s safe in the echo chamber.  We’re surrounded by our tribe. Our flanks are defended from the horde.


Too often, when the world around us changes, it’s convenient to stop looking for the bleeding edge. To blame the outcomes and fail to do the hard work of truly understanding the system.

Heal thyself, harden thyself, change the world –

Keith

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