I’ve watched for some time now as the school district seems to melt down over every little thing. What is up over there that makes so much trouble? Chuck Young sure didn’t “fix” it. One explanation is that there are actors involved who are just chronic malcontents, making trouble with the slightest pretext.
The new superintendent is being torn to shreds on Facebook before she’s even had one day on the job. People are arguing about how she was chosen, and if any reports about her were somehow an endorsement. At some point, a look in the mirror might help these school folks. Why would the public trust any of these actors should they get power? The enemies made will surely work day and night to undo them. Zero sum game, live by the sword, die by the sword.
I see a pattern.
This same pattern can be seen in my own behavior and that of my local tribe. We have been accused of being a vocal minority, reflexively against everything the business/ tourism booster class puts forward. We don’t appreciate what great guys the capitalist donor class really are. Just because we are jerks; we have no good reasons. We’re chronic malcontents too.
With the school district, yes, I am the pot calling the kettle black. I look with a jaundiced eye as various actors carry on attacking each other. I think of Rodney King, “why can’t they just get along?” Why can’t I? Is getting along and honoring other tribes tantamount to selling out?
Both school district and city aficionado tribes, along with other chronic malcontents, have felt unheard and disrespected. We do have good reasons and critiques. A perceived non-optimal business as usual by the powers-that-be has prevailed. And like the good tribalists we all are, put me down and tear me up, the fight is on. As an Icelandic Saga quote says, “where bad can be found, the good is ignored.”
And it’s not just us. This same chronic malcontent-type dynamic unfolds among other local tribes. Rich autocratic developers and their tribal troops have an all-purpose meme that the Planning Commission and city council members are biased, and that the rule of law is not being upheld. It’s all a kind of modern tribal war where local in-groups and out-groups vie for power and control over the Sonoma Valley turf and resources. The fight is on.
Other tribes and would-be king leaders see the city as corrupt and duplicitous, every policy juncture is an opportunity to pour more bellicose vinegar into the mix. The hospital has its habitual detractors, in a self-fulfilling prophecy, these detractors find just what they are looking for, nothing more, nothing less. Local non-profits and fund raising entities are either great outfits to join, or favorite sitting ducks for acerbic critiques and judgment. In this tribal world, all is black and white; the other guys can never be any good.
It’s quite clear people are locked into their own little tribal boxes, and from these boxes habitual memes get repeated over and over. Being able to see the other tribe’s legitimate interests and points, like maybe a peacemaker would, this gets totally lost. This is where the line gets crossed into being a chronic, cynical malcontent.
In tribal fighting, an enemy-making meme gets created to rally the troops, and everything gets shoveled into that view. That’s the line to be towed. In my case, which I believe to be 100% true, the meme is that the ruling class dominates the local government and economy. The lion’s share of benefits go to a small number of people who are already plenty well off. Social equity and environmental sustainability get the short shrift. It’s unsustainable! The GHG impacts! The loss of biodiversity and extinctions… Morally despicable. I am outraged! Folks are with me or against me, good or bad.
Who and what is reasonable here? There are most definitely good and true, substantive reasons that local interest groups and modern human tribes have to justify themselves. And, there is also a legitimate basis for some of the critique of the process in place. Unfortunately, the legit basis is most-times lost when tribal partisans just keep throwing gas on the fire because they are geared up for the fight and can’t bear to lose even one small battle.
In this typical confusion and mess, those seasoned in the exercise of power and control keep quiet and let the masses carry on with their emotionally satisfying dysfunction. The messier the people are, the less likely they will come together with any strength in numbers. The more things are framed as a zero-sum game by opposing tribes, the less chance a win-win scenario can be created by any actually reasonable people. Actors are left in an all or nothing world, they can’t get along, they can’t win, nothing left to do but fight, or withdraw into various forms of medication and disengagement.
Can school district and city management adults in the room play the part of neutral referees? Can they prevent unfair, unbalanced, and harmful maladaptive public outcomes? Well, management is supposed to do what the elected representatives say to do, and if the elected reps themselves are basically tribal advocates, the whole game is shot through with tribal biases that all, even the referees, have to play up to.
What’s the cure? Ongoing nasty deligitimazation of the other guys? Stepping above the fray for a minute and taking a look in the mirror? Unfortunately, there is no cure for being human, and as long as we are ruled by a nature that at once contains selfishness and cooperation, those two poles will create the tensions we see all around us. The best we can do is to realize that the other guys are really just like us, just a different flavor. Chronic malcontents indeed.