Thursday, January 24, 2013

Win, Lose, or Screw All That


In light of Secretary Clinton's testimonies yesterday about Bengazi and rereading Sergey Brin's Google+ posting from the morning of the election along with a great couple of lines in Larry Page's interview with Wired magazine's Steven Levy, I'm considering a sort-of resolution for myself. I say "sort-of" because instead of it being resolved that I will never ever do something (I am not Taylor Swift) or that I will always and forever every single day of my life do something, I'm thinking that this is just something I want to keep in mind and work at changing slowly.

At the hearings and afterward in the commentary, there was some talk about who "won" the showdowns. That disturbed me more than I would have expected especially since, by almost every account, Mrs. Clinton won and I'm Team Hillary (not Team McCain) anyway. It bothered me because of two things: One, this isn't a win or lose competition. Four people were murdered. Making it a Repub or Democratic problem doesn't matter. Two, the winning and losing distracts us from governing.

In Sergey Brin's Google+ posting he said that he was depressed about the partisanship that is so integrated into our politics. I don't think that he was suggesting that we all come together and agree with one another. Instead, it's about being able to disagree civilly, argue logically, and use data and information. I have no doubt that Brin has no interest in compromising on matters such as evolution or global warming. The data has settled those matters and now that we have that settled, what are we going to do? The partisanship he despises is the stuff that keeps us from even approaching a solution because instead we're fighting over who gets to claim the win and assign the loss.

Secretary Clinton let people on both sides make their speeches and then stuck to facts and figures. Her questioners blustered and, save for one moment, she did not. Bluster is the nonsense of people intent on a win.

Reminds me of the idiots on the Ravens and Patriots teams who feuded and thumped their chests. I mean really, who gives a damn? It's football, you morons. I care more what the temperature is than whether you won your game.

Which brings me to Larry Page and his interview with Steven Levy. Here's the first part that I really liked:
Wired: Steve Jobs felt competitive enough to claim that he was willing to “go to thermonuclear war” on Android. 
Page: How well is that working?
There's the crux of winning and losing versus living. Seems to me that Larry Page is intent on living and following through on his vision. I'm not saying that he's as pure as the driven snow or that this isn't about making oodles of money. I just think that he understands that working against someone is much, much less productive than working on something.

I think about this stuff in politics, in technology, and in schools. The current paradigm is to think of schools winning or losing (and this is why we accept ridiculous programs entitled Race to the Top). Kids win or lose at the test game. Teachers win or lose based on kids' wins and losses at the test game. Schools win or lose in the funding game based on how well the kids win or lose in the testing game. And now states get to win or lose based on schools winning or losing which is based on you know what.

Winning or losing have been sold as the only options. There are others.

  • Just play the game and live the life. I play basketball often and rarely keep score. I run races without a thought to winning or much thought to my times. I enjoy the games and races more this way.
  • Choose your own outcome. Take this blog. The supposed win is to get thousands of readers, quit my job, and do this for a living. Anything less is a loss. But I've decided the writing is everything and I win by writing on.
  • Finally, don't play the game. Don't quit life, just stop playing to win or lose. Radical stuff!

My sort-of resolution then is to move away from winning and losing, to focus on living and playing a whole different kind of game.

Write on.