In light of Senator Sanders endorsement today I’ve been thinking a lot about the inside/outside game and the spectrum between Lawful Good to Chaotic Good as a way to help give perspective to reactions #OnHere to the news. Even maybe our own feelings.
I said this in a friends mentions today but in social good work I think there are folks who choose inside game or outside game. I also think there is a wiring in people that make us prefer working inside or outside game.
I’ve managed a lot of people in this space and have watched a lot of pain from folks who are wired for pushing from Chaotic Good but choose institutions to do their work in. And those institutions will naturally run slower and more disappointingly than they would like.
I really value having a team with all kinds of folks on it. And I think you do your most good as an institution when you have folks with both inclinations pushing you. I’m pretty firmly neutral good and can play in either box to get things done.
What I notice though is that chaotic good people have to go institutions expecting the disappointment and sadness that comes from working on the inside. And without them the lawful good people would never create the friction necessary for leaps, even small ones in change.
Lawful good people are a bit more wired to believe the systems should work if you have good and heroic players. But they will be anxious about friction and what the losses from friction might look like.
I have a mentee and when she was deciding where to work I said “baby, you like outside game, go create outside game. These orgs aren’t gonna give you what you want.” Now understand, I’ve been working in non-profit my whole dang career. I’ve had moments of loving and hating it.
But I had known her since she was 14 and even at 26, I could see that she was most joyful and effective when she was pushing chaotic good.
I pay close attention to electoral politics and have huge belief in organizing there. Not because I think it will create all the change but because I have seen time and again when leadership there makes the soil softer for me to do my work and many to do their work outside of it.
I have watched for 4 years as chaotic evil, neutral evil, and lawful evil have joined forces to make the soil as hard to seed out here as humanly possible. And I’ve watched lawful to chaotic neutral allowed it. And the soil is rough out here.
The thing about the Sanders campaign that was always fascinating to me was that it was as a campaign an institution of chaotic good. In its absence 80% of the conversations we are engaged in we wouldn’t be engaged in. But it’s figure head was a politician.
A politician is a human who has firmly decided to work within systems. And not just any systems. American legislative systems. Even if you are excellent at leveraging the energy and strategy of chaotic good, that’s the life choice you’ve made.
That is a whole damn life of compromise and small tweaks. Senator Sanders himself chose a path that wasn’t big legislation. He was the amendment king. That is a life of taking the biggest bite possible under constraints.
And after a decades long career decided to use his chit by moving a lot of people to move that body further left. And by any stretch of the imagination, he won that battle.
Now, folks who are neutral good and lawful good, chaotic good can be anywhere from annoying to infuriating. That is because you can’t fathom being willing to risk the kind of risks chaotic good is willing to take to move the ball forward.
Lawful good is obsessed w/ body count. How many lives impacted. Can’t lose a single battle cause every person might have to give up more. “What does it mean if we fail” keeps lawful good up at night. In the same way that “We can’t live like this anymore” keeps Chaotic good up.
The benefit of lawful evil to chaotic evil is they love winning so much they don’t really spend a lot of time judging each other. But lawful good and chaotic good have often survived their own personal lives and identities being tied to each strategy.
When you decide in the favor of one over the other, you’re telling them the strategy they’ve used to keep their own life afloat is worthless, not just that their tactic was shitty in a moment. I’ve watched that tear whole organizations/movements apart, more than once.
Which brings me back to today and folks sweating the decision of chaotic good to not back Joe Biden and be annoyed with Senator Sanders. All I’m gonna say is folks get to choose who they are in the field and which strategy they want to use to win.
But this isn’t just selfish people on the Sanders side or dummy soldiers on the Biden side. This is folks debating which strategies will win to meet this moment. That is deeply more complex than too progressive or too centrist. It’s how people structure a whole damn life.
Meanwhile Lawful to Chaotic evil is straight chillin in the corner laughing at the inability of lawful good to harness or respect chaotic good and vice versa.
Personally, I think there are pluses and deltas to all of us and none of our shit don’t stink enough not to be able to learn something from another approach. I have worked in institutions of Lawful Good my whole life being mostly opening up space for Chaotic good to push us.
But I chose Lawful Good type institutions to do it in. I am not an artist or writer or full-time organizer. So I know I have to watch my receptivity to Chaotic Good as much as I respect it. Because I am not it.
But I also know that in the absence of inside systems people there would be a lot more injustice. There are folks at the CDC right now who would satisfy so many of us by walking out and spreading allllll the tea.
Many of us would feel righteous about that and grateful and we would hail them as heroes. But a lot more people, A LOT IN ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE would die if they did that. So there is value for both. But we have little tolerance for each other. Often.
Which is all to say Electoral Politics isn’t gonna give us our freedom but it can make the soil softer to make the changes that do. But most, if not all the people we elect our inside game people. And it would serve us to remember that.
One last thing: Joe Biden and really our countries only hope against Chaotic Evil here is that over this election he proves he can make the soil softer.
And while I think it would be inauthentic to say he was invested in Chaotic Good, he HAS TO tie progressive recovery to Lawful Good. He has to show the places where the disaster of this moment has reshaped what he sees as lawful good.
This is not the man, many of us, will be excited for. But he has to show he can make the soil softer. Or it’s a wrap.
This right here. HARD agree.
Some pushback on Joe Biden being good or evil helped me articulate this one last point. The social good space spends disproportionate time on arguments of who fits in what l/n/c box and who merits good as a title as a primary discourse because...
Good finds its identity in l/n/c and l/n/c evil finds it’s identity in the evil. And those identities make what we fight over different.
And it impacts our fights. It impacts our wins. It defines our losses.
I think in our worst selves we don’t even find our identities in making good happen we find it in being the good ones. And we do a lot of talking often to help us believe we’re in it for the opposite. Because that’s comforting when you’re in the middle of all this injustice.
Just adding on the blog post I wrote out of this thread here. I added some more thoughts that I got through all the good faith engagement here. https://link.medium.com/HKImgMFTQ5
You can follow @karlitaliliana.
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