Episode 22: Agendas
An “agenda” is no longer a harmless work aid. Find out why.
Hi, welcome to The Uncomfortable Truth.
Did you hear those insects? Those insects are people with agendas.
This is The Uncomfortable Truth about agendas.
People with agendas turn anything into their cause.
You like Entenmann’s coffee cake? By the way, Entenmann’s coffee cake is great.
Well, they’re owned by a Korean, Obama would have used diplomacy with North Korea to disarm their nuclear bombs, but Trump will blow us all up. Yeah, that started from coffee cake! And that’s what you get from people with agendas!
It doesn’t matter which side of the aisle they’re on, whether they’re red or blue, people have agendas, and everything is drawn into this black hole of their agenda. There’s incredible self-righteousness involved with this. A woman who accompanied some friends to Japan, whom they didn’t know terribly well, turned out that she pretty much ruined the trip because she had very restrictive food choices, and she was very inflexible, and so where ever they went everyone had to conform to her agenda, her food choices – non-this, low-that, won’t touch this. And that ruined the trip for everyone, that kind of self-righteousness and that kind of self-absorption is amazing. But her agenda had to be met. Why eat Japanese food if you’re in Japan?
I wrote a column about it not being appropriate to expect to win something or to gain something or to achieve something because it’s quote-unquote your turn. In other words, you have to use talent and grit and hard work if you want to achieve something. I think the Democrats and Hillary Clinton lost the election because they simply felt it was her “turn” to win. But that’s not sufficient, you’ve got to earn it.
Yet, one woman out of hundreds of people who responded to my Monday Morning Memo and told me it’s right, you have to have grit and guts and talent to win, you can’t expect to have your turn, you can’t expect just to be “due.” One woman comes in to me, writes to me and says, that Clinton really won the election and that she’s going to unsubscribe, and she was lecturing me on the benefits of the Democrats and why the Republicans stole this and stole that. Of course, the Democrats didn’t win the election, they won the popular vote but that doesn’t win an election, the electoral college wins an election. But, nonetheless she doesn’t have to look at facts, she doesn’t have to look at anything, it’s all confirmation bias, anything that suits her agenda works, if it doesn’t suit her agenda it’s no damn good.
So, every issue has to conform to the bias of what I call “The Agenda Defenda” and the “Agenda Defenda” is someone who will take no other kind of comment or intelligence or any kind of fact if it conflicts with their agenda. No conversation can be sustained without addressing the agenda and embracing it. Which means it becomes quickly boring and ignored and actually defeats their own position. Even if your position is a decent one, if you must talk at length about your agenda at every possible moment, you’re going to bore me to tears, I don’t care what you’re talking about. This is the realm of talk-shows, this is the realm of the talk-show nut-jobs, but they’re paid well for that, you know? For all I know, these guys and women might be pussycats back at home, on TV they’re paid to rant and rave and push the agenda. That’s what gets the advertisers in, that’s what gets viewers in, but at least they’re paid for it. There’s nothing worse than an amateur with an agenda, and “Amateur Agenda Defenda.” If you can’t hold opposing ideas in your mind concurrently, can we really claim to have intellect? You know, if you can’t entertain the fact that you have a good idea, and somebody else opposes it and has their own good idea, can’t you evaluate them together? Must it be only your way, your agenda? Like someone blindly taught a certain root or belief from the time they were small, so that they believe it contrary to everything else?
I remember talking to a religious fanatic once who told me that his particular religion was the only way ever to see god and that I didn’t appreciate religion unless I became a follower of his. And I said, well I don’t think that’s very fair since I’m a Eucharistic minister in the Catholic Church, I would seem to know something about religion and he said, I don’t even know what that is. I said, “Well maybe that’s your problem.” Everything was about his agenda, nothing else was admitted. Keep in mind, that my German shepherd, Bentley, can keep two different thoughts in his mind at one time, should I grab my food or run out to the yard where we might play some frisbee, let me evaluate – the door is open, the food is here, but it looks like he’s headed for the Frisbee. Will my food still be here after the Frisbee game? Yes. If I eat my food, will he still want to play Frisbee? Maybe not, I’m going outside. He can do this at will! Of course, he’s a german shepherd. So why is there this phenomenon of “Agenda Defenda”? Why do we have this? Well, the first is what I alluded to earlier, confirmation bias. I believe this, and I will not hear anything that I learn that doesn’t validate this, but I will soak in and absorb and accept anything that does validate it, no matter what the source. So, interestingly, if you want me to consider something, agree with me ahead of time. Preach to the choir, otherwise, don’t tell me!
I remember I had Martha Wheatley once as a guest speaker and she was so pessimistic that she actually advised my group not to talk to anyone about their beliefs and projects and initiatives unless they already believe them, in other words, don’t talk to anyone who doesn’t already agree with you. That was her counsel! I quickly countermanded that, I quickly contravened it and quickly changed it. But that’s the philosophy of a failed 60s activist, someone who feels that her ideals were never accepted, so don’t talk to anybody else, just talk to ourselves.
The second reason for the agenda phenomenon is FEAR. It’s the possibility of being wrong and having been wrong for so long. This can’t be possible, it means I’ve been wrong for 2 years or 20 years, I can’t accept that my ego would never accept that. That’s threatening because of the lost time that I would have put into this, the lost investment and the lost reputation, there’s that ego again. So, I have too much fear to accept anything except my agenda and the items written on it.
Number three, the agenda phenomenon is subject to normative pressure. I want to be with the “in crowd,” the people I admire because I want them to admire me. And so, to get into the “in crowd” as I admire these people, I need to be admired, so I’m going to believe what they believe, I’m going to tow the party line, I’m going to carry the placard that states our beliefs, I’m going to sing the group’s fight song I’m going to be in the van on this because the pressure is such that I need to defend the agenda. I’ve seen teachers in these rabid militant teacher’s unions, who clearly don’t believe a lot of the stuff the union is putting out there, but they feel they must adhere to it, or they will be ostracised they’ll be in trouble with their colleagues, they won’t be allowed to eat in the teacher’s room anymore and so they put up with it.
Number four is the feeling of moral superiority. “I know better than others; ethically, religiously, intellectually, emotionally, morally – I know better than others. And so, I don’t care what you say, I’m better than you are, I have a better view, a better perspective, better experiences.” There’s a great quote, I forget who said or I’d give them credit, it wasn’t me, but what they said was, “No one is as corrupt as the morally certain.” And the more people that exert moral superiority, the more I suspect them. The more those preachers get up on TV and wave the book at me, the more I expect them to be hauled off to jail because they’ve sold 5 condo-units for every one they really own in the heavenly gates project. It’s because the money they’re being sent isn’t really going to help the poor, it’s going to help them. These are the morally superior though, the people who put on these fake curing-shows, these healing shows in tents.
Number five is orderliness. There’s a need to impress one’s methods and routines on the outside world, so is to be in the mainstream. So, my agenda is built on rigidity. My agenda is built on a lack of flexibility. My agenda is there because I feel if I can get enough people to buy into it and I can hit them over the head often enough, that they will then validate and verify that what I’m doing is correct, because I am so rigid myself that I’d sure hate to change my routine, it’s just too damn comfortable. You know there’s no zealot like the converted, ironically. People who follow you from the outset are loyal supporters, but people who oppose you, whom you convert later on become even more ardent supporters, hence no zealot than the converted. But those who want to be persuasive simply try to influence, the zealot tries to convert. Agendas are about converting, agendas are about polarization. You’re with me or you’re against me. You believe in climate change, or you don’t – but there’s no intermediary position. It can’t be that we’re adding to pollution as humans, but also that we’re in the midst of the huge warming cycle in the billions of years history of the planet Earth – no no, it’s one or the other. You either believe in abortion or you don’t. It can’t be that you don’t believe in it for birth control purposes, but you do for medical purposes, no no, you’re with us or you’re against us. And so, you have this polarization of the zealots and whether you’re St. Paul having completely converted, 180 degrees on the road to Damascus from persecuting Christians to representing them with a publicity like no one else in history, or you’re a food fanatic who won’t eat gluten or won’t eat fat or won’t eat salt or won’t eat meat or who knows what else she can’t eat. This blind passion can turn radically, in any direction.
And so, when we face these “Agenda Defendas” what do we do with them? Well, unfortunately, we’re not going to convert them and we’re not even going to influence them. The best thing to do is to get away from them because if you get away from them they’ve got nobody to talk to. If you walk away from a bully that person has no one to bully – you don’t give them the pleasure of making you uncomfortable when you deal with a passive-aggressive, you don’t let them get under your skin. You just don’t deal with them anymore and they’re helpless, because unless they have someone to try and irritate they’re profoundly unhappy and that’s what a passive-aggressive deserves. And so, you can’t feed the system, you can’t enable the system and you enable these people with agendas if you try to challenge their agendas because that enables them to do all the things they love doing; chat about the agenda, defend the faith, get in with their own in crowd, but you can’t do that. So, my advice to all of you is leave your agenda at home and just pack your intellect, if you haven’t misplaced it.
I’m Alan Weiss, it’s The Uncomfortable Truth.