SNTDBIDW -- Shit Not To Do Because It Doesn't Work

So, I've been thinking recently -- many bloggers have some kind of daily or weekly video theme, or various "watches" that they do, and I thought to myself: "You know, Portly, you could do that. You could have some kind of theme -- a trademark kind of a thingy."

Then I answered a QOD at Shakesville (Question of the Day -- see? that's one of those trademark kind of thingys) -- a QOD about what single sentence summed up your personal political philosophy. I answered with this: "See what is, and do what works" -- and Voila! I knew exactly what I wanted to adopt as a ongoing series/trademark:

SNTDBIDW (pronounced Snot-od-bidow) -- Shit Not To Do Because It Doesn't Work.

I thought about calling the theme: "Pet Peeves", but I realized that this simply did not cut the mustard for me -- I didn't just want to talk about shit that pisses me off -- I wanted to get to the bottom of why it pissed me off, and why I don't want to do it, and why I don't want anyone else to do it.

I already had a list of SNTDBIDW that I had adopted for myself, and in examining that list, I realized that nearly all of them were either a) things that I had tried repeatedly with ineffective or disastrous results, or b) things that I had seen being tried repeatedly by others with ineffective or disastrous results.

When I was younger, I tried out many different forms and systems of "self-discipline", "morality", "philosophy", and "ethics". I always wanted to be a "good" person, but found that the definition of what it means to be a "good" person was so completely fluid from culture to culture, group to group, etc., that this was actually a very crappy guide as an approach to a consistent and effective system of personal ethics or pinciples.

So, I began to approach my personal ethics/principles much more from this basis:

"Does this choice/thought/speech/action actually produce the result that I say I want to produce?"

In other words: Does it work?

I decided to leave good/bad/right/wrong out of it -- and frankly, it's been a huge relief.

Hence, I will be offering my new "theme" (SNTDBIDW) from that standpoint. I will actually name the Shit Not To Do, but I will also offer my insights on why the SNTD doesn't "work" (doesn't produce the result it claims-to/wants-to produce).

Here's my starting example in Shit Not To Do Because It Doesn't Work:

Talking About People Behind Their Backs
OR
Complaining to General Mills When You Have a Problem With General Motors

We all "know" that we "shouldn't" talk about other people behind their backs. Taken from a purely culturally "moral" perspective, we all "know" that doing this means that we're back-bitey, and two-faced, and gossipy, and "bad".

Taken from a purely internal experiential perspective, I think it also probably scares us a bit (or maybe even scares us a lot), because there's always the possibility that our back-bitey, two-faced, gossipy-ness might actually "get back" to the person that we've talked about -- and if we have any sort of relationship to the person we're back-biting, that shit is probably going to result in either a) an uncomfortable confrontation with that person, or b) a slow icing-over of said relationship.

In fact, I believe that the closer the relationship you might have with the person that you are talking about (but not to), the more scared you'll probably feel, because there is more at stake for you when the inevitable shit hits the inescapable fan.

But I'd like to offer you a better reason for not talking about people (rather than to them), when you have a complaint or a bitch or a problem with them -- and that reason is:

Because It Doesn't Work.

If I have a problem with my car, and I write a letter to my cereal manufacturer, chances are very good that said letter will be so much wasted time, energy, paper, and ink.

Cereal-Manufacturer might even write me a letter back, saying how right I am about how crappy Car-Maker is, and how my outrage is completely justified, and what a dip-shit Car-Maker has been, and always will be.

Then, maybe I'll write a letter back to Cereal-Manufacturer, and say: "Yeah, and you know what ELSE Car-Maker has done to me? Blah, blah, blah de blah-blah!!!!!!" And we might carry this correspondance on for days or weeks or months or years.

But my car will still be broken.

And Car-Maker will never know I have a problem with them.

Let's compound this a bit, now, and say that Car-Maker is my neighbor, and not only am I not writing them my letter of complaint or talking to them about my broken car, but every morning, I walk out of my house and greet them with a cheery "Good Morning! And in case I don't see you, good afternoon, good evening, and good night!" -- and then we smile and wave to each other.

Now let's say that Cereal-Manufacturer and I get each other all worked up with our letters, and start blogging about how crappy Car-Maker is, and enlisting others into the CarMakerSucks.com website, so that they, too, can contribute their stories of how completely Car-Maker sucks.

Then let's imagine that Car-Maker is doing what we all do at some point or another -- Googling "Car-Maker", just to have that internet affirmation of their own virtual existence (admit it -- you do it, too), and they stumble upon CarMakerSucks.com, and start reading the blog-posts and the comments where we and our enlisted others ream Car-Maker a new one, and all sorts of thoughts cascade through Car-Maker's mind:

"WTF?"
"They never told me they had a problem."
"If they didn't tell me this, what else haven't they told me?"
"That person can't be trusted."
"That person is a fuckhead."
"That person isn't really interested in getting their car fixed -- they're just trying to ruin my reputation"

However colored with cultural/moral judgments some of Car-Maker's thoughts may be, some actual "That doesn't work" facts remain:

1. My car is still broken.
2. The likelihood that Car-Maker would ever want to fix my car is probably greatly reduced at this point.
3. The likelihood that Car-Maker will ever believe another fucking thing I say to them is probably also greatly reduced at this point.

So, if my real intention was to get my car fixed, I have done something that is actually completely counter-productive to furthering that intention.

I have adopted a personal precept in the past ten years -- a precept which I do not practice perfectly by any means, but which I strive to adhere to and improve with every day -- and here it is:

If I am involved in any relationship in which I claim that I want to experience connection, I will refrain from saying anything about that person that I would not also speak willingly and forthrightly to their face.

I chose this precept because I've found that it works (when I adhere to it) -- it works to create and expand the sense of connectedness that I say I want to experience in my life, and in my relationships.

I also chose it because I'm a big promoter of the Golden Rule, and I hate it when people talk about me rather than to me, so I figure that I have to refrain from doing things to others that I don't like being done to me.

I fuck up with this precept often, but when I do, I come back to adherance by remembering how to fuck up.

Now, there is the possibility that you might actually have written to Car-Maker in the first place, and they didn't fix your car, and you're pissed -- but in that case, tell them that you're putting up CarMakerSucks.com ---------- and stop fucking waving to them in the morning.

Here's the thing: When we bitch about someone else, it's usually because we want them to change something -- but if we never tell them what we want them to change, or we only talk about it behind closed doors with people who are not them -- then it's just energy and time and focus and talking and paper and ink and bandwidth that we're wasting when we think/talk/write about them -- and, quite likely, simply another example of SNTDBIDW.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 11:15 PM  

2 comments:

NameChanged said... September 21, 2008 at 9:40 AM  

Love, love, love this post. So appropriate, as I am currently in a family situation that has me torn about who to talk to.

The first person I will talk to is the person I am most concerned about. Then we'll go from there.

ouyangdan said... September 21, 2008 at 1:03 PM  

Perfect way of putting it, PD!

The Kid's school teaches this, and put it into action. The say it like this: I'll listen to your concerns, but is there anything I can do to fix it? You should only talk to people who can do something about your problem.

And that is something I have also ascribed to. Once I decided that I would never say something behind someone's back that I wouldn't say to their face, b/c what's the point?

Thanks for this!

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