It’s Essential to Have Words to Describe Tricky Things

Without the language to describe something, it’s hard to even conceptualize the thing we may want to talk about.   We see this everywhere.   In the absence of a good frame in language, you basically have to invent a way to talk about things that are hard to make clear.  When you have the phrase — voila! — it’s instantly much easier to have a meaningful discussion.

When I heard our scarcity-based economic system called “extractive” and the sustainable alternative called “regenerative” a light bulb went on — it’s a very clear, concise way to describe an energy policy based on burning up resources that can’t be renewed, a regime that has taken us a long way toward destroying the planet we all live on– and a saner alternative.   A fossil fuel run economy is “extractive” by it’s nature.

Yesterday I heard a great phrase that explains the forces that ensured the rise, and unchecked power, of the Mitch McConnells and the Donald Trumps — “Plutocratic Populism” — unpopular policies that benefit only the super-wealthy that are ushered in by mass popular rallies of galvanized angry have-nots funded by the plutocrats, who ride these tractable hoards, booted and spurred, as their kind was born to do, in their quest for ever more well-protected privilege.    

Same with racism.   One response to centuries of deep institutional racism in our great land, an organized movement to protest regular police shootings of unarmed minority citizens– “Black Lives Matter”– has been seized on by very fine people on both sides — an overdue demand for justice;  another example of unprovoked rage by dangerous, very angry people [1].  

I am thankful to a friend who, several years back, clipped out a little definition of an odd, ingeniously descriptive term for a tricky, but widespread, problem and called my attention to it.  The concept is called Complementary Schismogenesis, and it explained a lot about a certain kind of irreconcilable difference that only gets worse the more energetically both sides try, blindly, to resolve it.  

My every attempt to calm you down only makes you more upset, and vice versa. Seeing the other incomprehensibly more upset, instead of less, we redouble our vain efforts, to similar effect, our now mutually impatient, morally obtuse-seeming responses increasing the frustration between us.   Let me see if I can find the clipping, which was sent to me in digital form.

I can’t find it.  I did find this 2012 drawing, though:

what  2-19-11003



Turns out I’d written out my take on Complementary Schismogenesis pretty clearly four years ago:   

Complimentary Schismogenesis, I am told, is when two opposites are locked in some kind of conflict, neither getting what they need out of the arrangement, the attempts of each to resolve it, coming from opposite orientations, only make the problem more intractable, tighten the knot.   The schism continues to deepen as the two struggle cluelessly in opposite directions to heal the underlying fissure.

If we assume everyone is somewhat fucked up, damaged by life, laboring under certain sometimes vexing disabilities, friends are those whose asshole side we are able to overlook.  The friend has other lovable qualities we value that counterbalance the bad tendencies we all have.  We extend the benefit of the doubt to friends, a benefit we do not readily confer on random people we encounter.  

I told a friend recently that whatever other problems we may have had with each other over the years, we both are confident that neither of us would, seeing the other strapped in the electric chair, throw the switch before insisting that every single witness had a chance to speak.  He agreed.


Only one thing has changed since then, the guy who agreed that if I was strapped to the electric chair he’d let every witness for me speak before throwing the switch, may have revised that generous offer, the witness list might no longer be very extensive.  

The precipitating reason for this recent falling out — my attempt not to get angry when hurt wound up infuriating my friend who honestly had no way of knowing how upset I was since I didn’t even fucking scream at him like a normal person who claims to be so goddamned upset!   Plus, I was an aggressively self-righteous cunt about my “right” not to be “hurt,” even thoughtlessly, innocently.

My attempt to remain mild made him wild.  

If the glove don’t fit, don’t have a snit.

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