Behavior Geek

Reading time – 3:19; Viewing time – 4:36  .  .  .

When I see or hear behavior that stands out, one of my first responses is to wonder what’s behind that. For example, when Donald Trump demands a military parade and faintly lauds the Nazis in Charlottesville and insults Gold Star Families and imposes import tariffs that will create a net loss of over 100,000 jobs – and worse once our trading partners react – and he lies two-thirds of the time, I scratch my head about what drives those behaviors. That’s after I calm down. Fortunately, mental healthcare professionals have offered their expertise about Trump’s behavior by demonstrating that he exhibits nearly all of the telltale indicators of a sociopath (here and here and here and here and here). Voilà! The behavior geek in me is satisfied. Mostly.

That information helps to explain Trump’s bizarre acts to destabilize others (“I like being unpredictable.”) and his destructiveness of our country, often displayed multiple times per day. What it doesn’t do is explain why millions of people dismiss his anti-social behavior, saying things like, “That’s just Donald being Donald,” as though that makes okay his Access Hollywood admission of assault of women, his constant attacks on his predecessors in office and his refusal to aggressively interdict Russian efforts to subvert our elections and to impose sanctions. Why would those who wave the red, white and blue tolerate for even one second Trump’s obviously anti-American behavior, his grabs for autocracy, his dereliction of duty?

They aren’t all racists, homophobes and misogynists and they don’t all think that mass gun slaughter is just the price of freedom. Please, get over those notions and the need to demonize those who are different from you. That’s the disease that has swept our nation and you can self-inoculate against that virus. Seeking to understand is a really good way to do that. I really mean just seeking to understand. Be a behavior geek to see the world as they do so that you can understand them. Be clear, though, that doing so is not for the faint of heart.

I recently presented my Money, Politics and Democracy: You Aren’t Getting What You Want program and had a unique experience. The program is non-partisan and focuses solely on how the Big Money people are getting what they want, but We the People are not. I’ve presented this program to groups from all over the political spectrum and have never gotten push-back. But that isn’t what happened at this recent presentation.

There were people sitting at the edges of their chairs, wagging fingers, interrupting, and aggressively going off-point, seemingly unable to focus on the content. They seemed to want to defeat what they experienced as an attack on their cherished beliefs and I was hard pressed to avoid engaging in a verbal battle. I felt attacked and wanted to hit back. I refused that knee-jerk response, though, and repeatedly tried to redirect back to the primary point about Big Money in our politics, but to no avail.

At last some clarity came to me and when the room quieted I said that in that room we were a microcosm of America today. We seemed to be unable to simply talk to one another and be heard. There was refusal to tolerate different views and insistence on being “right.” And, yes, that describes what was going on inside me, too, as the near-chaos had ensued. It took a formidable force of will not to verbalize some of my reactions. That’s why that seeking to understand business is not for the faint of heart.

The only good that I see having come from that meeting is the clarity of what we in America have become. It isn’t pretty and I don’t get what’s behind it – the behavior geek stuff – not fully.

We have to look outside our smug bubbles in order to learn, so I’m looking and will report what I find in subsequent posts. For now, we all need to understand how self-destructive we’re being on a one-to-one basis and nationally when we demonize one another; when we refuse to allow others the same right of opinion as we demand for ourselves; when we hunker down in those smug bubbles. When we’re ready to peer outside our defended zones, things will begin to get better.

For now, stop listening to the haters.


Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we’re on a path to continually fail to make things better. It’s my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

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4 Responses to Behavior Geek
  1. Joni Lindgren Reply

    Jack…..the reaction you got from your crowd is probably more reflective of their anger, don’t you think?? Maybe it is also a response to the fact that politicians aren’t listening to them anymore. Even though Trump promised the WORLD to his believers. people are still mad that they’re not being heard by their representatives and that they see that the RICH are scamming them and they don’t like it!

    The Republicans here in my adult community don’t talk about Trump. There are no longer discussions about politics because the Republicans are not talking about the tyrant they put in place. Having said that, do I believe they will vote a Republican ticket again…..YES! These older people will vote a straight party ticket because they’ve ALWAYS voted Republican and they’re not stopping now….even though reason tells them they are shooting themselves in the foot. I have found that when I ask a Republican a question, they respond in a loud voice and walk away. They don’t have any facts to back up what their party is doing to them…..they just don’t argue with facts…it’s just anger.

    There’s nothing you say (I’ve heard you four times) that is controversial unless your audience started attacking each other and you had some hostile and antagonistic Republicans there. What I’ve come to see in Republicans is the same behavior exhibited by Trump….loud, antagonistic and ready to fight is playing out in our discourse!! That’s the way they are at our lodge……just talking Republicans now. Picture this… Wendy’s where there’s a group of men who meet once a week, a Republican got so mad at something a Democrat said that he stood up and held up his dukes and wanted to duke it out….then left in a huff!

    This country is more divided than it’s ever been and, aside from the fact that people are tired of giving the elites what they want and demand, the people are just plain angry over the political SYSTEM… that are being taken over by technology and sent overseas ….which the Republicans blame Democrats for that in addition to wages, tax money going to the top, politicians being paid off to work for corporations instead of the constituents, politicians not listening to them, etc…….don’t you think??
    The angry Republicans are blaming everyone but themselves for continuing to vote for those politicians who are not interested in what they need/want…..and the Democrats can’t understand why they continue to vote along party lines when they will NEVER get what they want by doing so. Just wait until Trump goes after their Medicare/Medicaid/ACA, Social Security next….and they will. Then maybe it will dawn on them that they are being left out of the bills the Republicans are passing like the last” tax reform scam bill” that left them in the dust while giving $1.5 T to the corporations and the already wealthy!
    Their anger is misplaced.

    • Jack Altschuler Reply

      There are many people who proudly say that they have never voted for a Republican. I’m guessing that there are Democrats who say something similar. I understand the confidence and even conceit in such a proud proclamation. Party identification can be a very powerful thing. My interest now, though, is not in party labels: it’s in the anger, the vitriol and the anti-social behavior we Americans are exhibiting toward one another.

      My next post on this topic will include a quote from a right-wing blogger who laid it bare, saying that he is angry and wants retribution. I don’t know what he thinks happened such that retribution is appropriate, but I suspect that he speaks for millions of Americans. We are, indeed, a pissed off nation and we’re killing ourselves one epithet at a time.

  2. Paul Winsor Reply

    Hi Jack,

    Seeking to understand is a mature approach to life.

    Reacting to anxiety and fear is primal. It seems there is a lot of fear in America.

    Why is everyone afraid?

    As an aside, Doug Ford just won the Conservative Party Leadership in Ontario. You guys probably remember Rob Ford, Toronto’s former crack smoking mayor. They’re brothers. In all likelihood Doug will be the new premier of Ontario In June. We seem to like random polarizIng leaders up here too. Ford and Trudeau could not be more different.

    Ironically, Doug won the leadership vote based on a weighted system of ridings. His rival, Christine Elliot won the most votes and the most ridings, yet still lost. By the way, I’ve met Christine. She’s really nice, didn’t have a chance.


  3. Joni Lindgren Reply

    I have gone door-to-door in my community for the last 5 years for signatures or to push for candidates…..but I only go to Democratic homes. This time was very different. In the past, people were “going through the motions” of signing a petition or listening with a half ear to what I was saying. I just finished pushing 3 candidates and before I even told something about the candidates, they already knew who they were going to vote for and they were vocal about the politicians they wanted outta’ there! My job was just to make sure they got out and voted, but I got the message that they will FOR SURE vote on Tuesday…..which is our community’s early voting day at the lodge. Everyone of them will be at the lodge on Tuesday!