The 7 C's: Contemplation, Courtesy, Communication, Co-operation, Cajolery, Control, Coercion
"Political spectrums" are used to diagnose and categorize attitudes toward government. This 7 C's "ideological spectrum" I've been contemplating for some time, I perceive as a broader tool relating to social attitudes or human relations. It seems reasonable to suggest that individuals generally lean toward one side of this spectrum or the other, and that as a majority (the herd) in society shift their thinking and behavior toward using Courtesy, or toward Control and Coercion, its institutional mechanisms gradually reflect those shifts.
Therefore, if there's a key to "changing the world," I think people generally have the idea backward. Unfortunately, it seems most would rely on Control and Coercion -- try as they will to hide that fact behind smiley faces and snappy slogans. They'd rely on government coercion (legislation and enforcement) to propagate their ideas and enact their idealistic policies, happy in the assumption (or the faith?) that it'll all work out "for the common good." Gandhi had a brighter idea: he said, "Be the change you want to see in the world."
Actions DO have consequences. Thoughts (presumably) precede actions, so thoughts can have consequences too. So can words: ask someone like Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke, or Hank Paulson, whose lightest remarks can send ripples through the financial markets. Granted, not many people can have that sort of effect by talking -- but that's fortunate for most individuals, who don't have to be so mindful of each casual utterance. Ideas can be incredibly powerful -- but they've got a power all their own; if they need to be forced on people rather than adopted freely, they're almost certainly shortsighted ideas to start with.
I'd like to think of this spectrum as a potential "rainbow bridge" to a brighter future, but that's up to the idea itself -- all I intend to do is "put it out there" to see if it takes on a life of its own. I'd also like to think of Contemplation and Courtesy as being to political rule, or the forces of Control and Coercion, what Gold and Silver are to fiat money. It's surely no accident that the relentless expansion of government in recent decades coincides with Nixon's severing of the dollar's ties to Gold (money of inherent, VS illusory fiat, value), and the escalation of inflation in the years since.
It's in the power of individuals to freely adopt Contemplation, Courtesy, Communication, and Co-operation in their human relations: to transcend the use of Coercion, Control, and Cajolery in their interactions with others, and to view Co-operation in a less idealistic and more realistic light.
Now, a quick look at each of the "7 C's:"
Contemplation: Truth be told, my initial version of the 7 C's opened with Courtesy, until upon -- hah, of course, Contemplation -- I was struck by the dreadful omission. Vitally important as Courtesy is, I think Contemplation clearly transcends it in importance here. For Contemplation (i.e., reflection, observation, study, deliberation) is the prerequisite to thoughtful and considerate action. It's key to developing the understanding and empathy that lead one to rely on Courtesy, Communication, Co-operation, and compassion in one's relations with others and the world at large -- and to eschew Cajolery, Control, and most particularly Coercion as unworthy tools or tactics for interacting with others.
Absence of Contemplation is characteristic of attempts at "social engineering" and/or "central planning" schemes, whose proponents (if not consciously) use as their core methodologies, Control and Coercion. Coerce-and-Control type projects may involve thinking and planning, but unlike manipulative schemes undertaken with an agenda, Contemplation is open, honest inquiry. Coercion is the antithesis of Contemplation.
Courtesy: If the last refuge of the scoundrel is politics, the first resort or "default setting" of the gentleperson is Courtesy. Out of courtesy, one respects the property and personal boundaries of others, and refrains from coveting others' belongings or intruding on others' privacy; one avoids making inappropriate demands upon others' wealth or labors; one honors voluntarily undertaken contracts and commitments; one refrains from aggression or threats against others. Out of courtesy, one accepts responsibility for one's own actions and acknowledges consequences when at fault. Courtesy, lest anyone misunderstand me here, does not refer to stuffy formalities or soft effeminate behavior: anyone who's badly put off by "Courtesy" might reasonably substitute the word "chivalry."
When Courtesy is lacking in social interactions, laws to govern them may seem desirable. However, it's vital to recognize that laws work (to the extent that they do) by means of the use or implied use of Coercion. Each time Control or Coercion stand in as a proxy for Courtesy, another thread of social tapestry succumbs to the unraveling or rotting process. Control is the antithesis of Courtesy.
Communication: Here, I also considered "Commerce," "Connection," and "Compassion," but finally settled on "Communication" as seeming most apropos. Commerce, after all, is a crucial form of communication: in a free market, the price that buyers are willing to pay is critical information to sellers, etc, etc. Connections between individuals generally arise by means of Communication, unless those are biological or happenstance. Compassion, I think, more properly belongs as a midpoint or intermediate shade between Contemplation and Courtesy. Communication implies an exchange, or give-and-take; one respects what another has to impart, or at least listens or reads and responds carefully. Communication greatly differs from Cajolery, where others are seen merely as potential receptacles in the quest to spread or reproduce one's ideas, attitudes, or beliefs: the cajoler has no particular interest in changing or challenging his own mind -- just other peoples'.
Lack of Communication results in ignorance or lack of awareness regarding other points of view; without a flow of fresh perspectives to reinvigorate one's own pool of ideas that pool begins to stagnate. The antithesis of Communication is the closed-minded, one-way valve of Cajolery.
Co-operation: It's instructive that Co-operation often appears as an ultimate good or goal in the eyes of the socialist. It seems that Co-operation is as high a point on the 7 C's scale as the socialist recognizes or strives for. "Co-operation" can often serve as a smokescreen for Control or Coercion; the police officer that holds his gun to your head may state you are being "co-operative" when it might be more accurate to say you are "terrified." When Co-operation between individual team members is genuine, it can be highly productive -- but Co-operation is also the pivotal point in this 7 C's spectrum, and I suspect it's highly overrated by many. People "work together" or "aid each other" at all levels: two or more people might just as easily team up to beat you and steal your wallet, as to nurse you after you've been beaten.
Absence of Co-operation can mean that more work actually gets done, by free individuals each in pursuit of their own happiness: how many cooks does it take to spice a soup, how many geniuses to compose your magnum opus? Sadly, all too often when "Co-operation" is required, it's because the ends are Coercive. Oddly enough, I think Co-operation stands as its own antithesis on the 7 C's scale -- as it can lean to either side of the spectrum.
Cajolery: For a demonstration of the contrast between Cajolery and Communication, just take in almost any political debate -- and then sit down for a conversation with someone you admire and respect, whose opinions you genuinely value and/or whose ideas you find stimulating (assuming there is such a person). "Persuasion" sounds more communicative, and may be so at times -- but it's often a softer-sounding term for Cajolery. Listening to someone with the aim of identifying flaws in their logic or weaknesses in their arguments in order to make a point or prove you're right lacks the chivalry of offering a friendly and reasonably sympathetic ear. A thoughtful, courteous person's foremost responsibility is to remain vigilant concerning his own thinking and attitudes -- not to prod others into doing the critical self-examination and intellectual "heavy lifting" he feels he's risen above.
See "Communication" for the antithesis of Cajolery. It seems ironic that it's so often the cajoler who laments hearer's lack of interest or receptivity -- surely they must be stupid, unsophisticated, or apathetic; don't they wish to acquire the art of talking at people too? Where would the world be without the cajoler? All those hours of music uninterrupted by shrill announcements on the radio … and those political debates, held in hushed tones?!?
Control: What is it within the human disposition that succumbs so easily to the lust for Control? Why do so many relish power and authority over others, ill prepared as most are to wield it wisely or well even in their own affairs? I don't really know. It's apparent that many people are drawn almost obsessively to positions of influence and command, where they can dominate and chastise, humble and humiliate, or can simply frustrate and annoy as many people as possible with pompous devotion to rules only a bureaucrat could love. But it's hardly just bureaucrats and power-seekers that serve as pawns in the mind, body, and spirit Control game -- to some extent, almost everyone participates. It is big, big, big business: prisons, courts and probation offices, psychiatric institutions, drug companies, public schools and universities (and private ones too), mainstream media, large financial institutions, health care providers -- all these and more play their part in keeping clients, students, and inmates "playing by the rules" (of government Control and oversight). The game is so pervasive it's hard to "opt out." The Control system depends on sucking in the unwilling, often at the hands of reluctant or apologetic players. ("I'm sorry, ma'am, I don't make the rules …" or, "We cannot open an account without your Social Security number, sir, we have no choice but to abide by the regulations affecting our industry.")
Courtesy is the antithesis of Control. It's hard to imagine the absence of Control, since it's so ubiquitous today -- here's my best guess as to how to hit "fade" on the Control button. Control gained its foothold in society as a stand-in in the absence of Courtesy: I think the way to undermine the Control game is by demonstrating its irrelevance and its dangers to civil society. Be contemplative, courteous and communicative. Many a conflict has been defused with a smile, and many a tragic confrontation ignited with fists and insults. Use self-Control; avoid leaving openings for coercive Control to step in. If Control is unjustly forced upon you, opting for Chivalrous action to get the point across may be necessary.
Coercion: Synonyms -- Force. Cruelty. Oppression. Intimidation. Whether Coercion is "for your own good," or "for the common good," or "just because," one thing is certain: you, or the coerced, have little if any say in determining what is good, even for yourself -- that's already been determined by the coercer. The coercer may claim to value freedom -- but he doesn't value yours. Coercion, like the proverbial devil, loves disguises and might assume any guise that offers convenient camouflage -- including at times the semblance of Courtesy. That finery won't fit Coercion (or Control) well, or for long -- but beware, when the kid gloves come off you'll know the difference, if not sooner. Courtesy respects you and your freedom, and insists you do the same for others: Coercion ultimately stands opposed to all freedom, including that of its convenient and Control-loving co-operators.
A world without Coercion: Isn't that what everyone wants, "World peace"? Some might say, "We have to fight for it." Some may say, "We ought to pray for it." A few may think they just need to walk down a runway and click their pretty heels together three times and the dream will come true. What are you prepared to do for a world free of Coercion? It's a good question to ponder, perhaps. After all, Contemplation is the antithesis of Coercion.
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published at Endervidualism on June 7, 2007