What is "tactlessness" (or belligerence) controlling for?

[From Mike Acree (980126.1155 PST)]

Rick Marken (980121.1445)

People who make it [to PCT on their own] are never put off by my

"tactless" presentation of PCT.

That's a strong claim (and nothing was registering on my implied smiley
detector). It may not have led anyone already convinced of PCT to
change his or her mind about the theory, but it would strongly put me
off from pursuing the theory if I weren't already so persuaded; and,
were the hostility and sarcasm directed toward me, I would have nowhere
near Bruce Abbott's patience with it. Maybe no loss to the Net in my
case, but it still seems an unnecessary risk of alienating potential
friends.

Saying stuff that's a disturbance . . . has the purpose of keeping

_my_ perceptions

under control; the perceptions I'm controlling by doing this include

1) seeing people

get PCT right 2) testing my own mastery of PCT 3) providing

entertainment for

others on the net who understand PCT. There are probably many more.

I would agree that there are surely other purposes. These three, in
particular, sound implausibly deliberate, implying that the behavior in
question could easily be changed. I don't put that observation out as a
TCV, though it obviously creates an opportunity to prove me wrong. And
in fact I would not be inclined to comment on the issue at all, at least
on the Net, if it didn't point to a much wider phenomenon which seems
insufficiently appreciated. But, given my association with a long list
of deviant systems of thought, orientations, or what have you, the style
in question is one I have all too much familiarity with, going back most
notably to the Objectivists (Randians) in the 1960s. One often hears
people who are mainstream in all their beliefs and values (at least
within the range of their experience) complaining: "Why do feminist
women have to be so militant and humorless?" "Why do gay men have to be
so in-your-face with their swishiness?" Etc. Such mainstream people
have had little opportunity to experience what it is like just to show
your face in the world as a member of a group that is commonly deemed to
be intrinsically worthy of less than full respect. It is very difficult
under these circumstances just to present yourself in the relaxed,
natural way that others take for granted. The special vulnerability
that accompanies the anticipation of disrespect--or worse--usually
entails one of two responses: a stance of exaggerated diffidence (lie
down and expose your jugular--my first impulse in any confrontation) or
exaggerated threat. Bill's own ability to resist either of these has
always struck me as no less astrounding than the radicalness of his
theory. Far rarer than the phenomenon of neglected genius is the lack
of bitterness about it. So: I suspect that the worst consequence of
giving up a belligerent posture in this case (I have read the denial of
belligerence--(980125.2120)--without being persuaded) would not be that
the rest of us would be less forcefully convinced of PCT, nor that we
would be less richly entertained, but rather an unwelcome and
unaccustomed experience of vulnerability. Enduring that is quite a lot
to ask of someone.

When the stigma in question is a system of ideas that we are convinced
will save the world (not too much of an exaggeration of my own appraisal
of PCT), our investment also makes it difficult to see the lack of
interest or understanding, let alone persuasion, on the part of others
as other than willfully irrational. How else could they resist such
obviously important truths? Here Bill's observations (in "An Outline of
Control Theory" and elsewhere) about "the miracle of communication"
provide one good antidote to paranoia. It also helps to recall that,
contrary to the positivist model of science as simply cumulative, our
knowledge is an intricate web of mutual implications, and assimilation
of so radical a theory as PCT typically takes years of cognitive
restructuring, even for the most committedly open-minded. (As you know,
I've experienced some claims by both Rick and Bill as inconsistent with
PCT, so obviously there's more work to be done by somebody!)

Membership in a small (new) theory group contains one further trap which
is relevant here: the insistence on purity. It is extremely difficult
to watch one's baby being mangled, even by well-meaning epigons. As a
result one commonly finds theoretical innovators desperately trying to
police the dissemination of their theory, designating only certain
people as official spokespersons, and the like. It goes without saying
that this trap, like the others, tends, to the extent that we fall into
it, to keep small theory groups small. And, once again, I marvel at
Bill's equanimity--that subtle quality of nonattachment without the
slightest hint of indifference (positively stated: caring without
clinging). He would clearly have much to teach a lot of people about
managing vulnerability, if he didn't have still more important work to
do. But just setting an example also helps more than we often realize.

All best,
Mike