討論逐字稿 Apathy & Compliance, Dignity & Participation

This is the first discussion about Saul Alinsky's book, Rules for Radicals.
Here's the quotes and questions we were discussing.


Discussion:
I think if people want to do something, they will organize the thing by themselves, when they have the feeling of responsibility.
I totally agree.

What's the main thing happening in these two quotes? What state of being is the author describing?

In my opinion, it's about the…in a group, if you don't do anything, it's a benefit for you, so if someone says we can cooperate together, then maybe you can do it. But before that, everything thinks it's not my business, and maybe someone else will do it.
And it occurred to me, there's a tv show from japan. In that show, there's a group of people, they need to serve a mission together, but it's free for everyone, you can join or not. So you can see people are enthusiastic to solve the mission, but other people will think, that's not my business, and there must be someone else to do this, so those people will not do anything. But if the rules of the game changed, that everyone has to solve the mission together, then at that time people will solve it together.
So you have to force people to join it?
Or you have to make it so that if they don't join it, they will lose money.
Many years ago, I joined a conference, and Tsai Yingwen had a presentation at the conference. She said that for government, or political people, if you want to change the situation, you have to make people think it's a big problem, it's everyone's problem.
Yeah, actually in this book we're discussing parts of, Rules for Radicals, he talks about this very issue. He's like, if there's a situation where mostly people have the same opinion, there's just a little difference, you can't make people move on an issue if you're like, "well, there's very little difference between what people think". You have to make it like, there's such a HUGE difference between us and them, we have to DO something about it. You know, this book was written 40 years ago, and the way the Republicans in the US run their campaigns now, it's all about dividing people to motivate them on an issue. I guess they read his book, right?

Do you agree with what the author is saying?
I think if we want to motivate people, you have to tell them what's the benefit for them. Because people will think about what can I get out of this action. If you don't tell them what they can get from it...
Or what will I lose, if I don't do it.
I think both are important.
I heard about a psych experiment, there's a difference between getting something or losing something.
Wait, is that the one about the groups of monkeys? There are two groups, one group will get a certain number of grapes, and the other group, sometimes they get more, and sometimes they get less.
And the result was they're more afraid of loss than about not gaining.
So the feeling is different.
So the political people, if they want to do something new, or start new policies, the better way is to let people feel, if they don't choose this new one, they will lose more.
Huh!
Because people are afraid of loss.
So that's why we have so many penalties? If you don't do something you need to pay.
Probably.
If you don't follow the rules, you will.
My takeaway was that promising people something was more effective than threatening taking away. But now! I'm not sure.
But if my office asks me to do some mission, I'm not that willing to do this. But if my office promotes, or has some motivation for me, I would like to do the mission.
So, like what has motivated you in the past?
For example, when I was doing research, my officer asked me to write an article, but I wasn't that enthusiastic about it. Ok, finish it before tomorrow, just write something. But if my officer said, oh, you're good at writing, I want to hear your point of view, i'll be more willing to do this thing.
Maybe another example, if your boss wants you do to something, and if you don't you lose 100, or if you do it, you'll gain 100, which would you choose.
So there's no loss in the second one.
Well, actually, I have a real life example of this. The kindergarten I worked for had a penalty system, you lost 10 NT for every minute you came late. But one of the workers convinced the boss to do a reward system. You got 5 NT for every minute you came earlier. Strangely enough it worked. Lots fewer people came late. Although people didn't really come that early either, but at least they stopped being late! But I wonder now. Was it a success because of the system, or was it because the coworker designed it and we felt like in control of it, it was our choice to implement it?
So it's not so much about the punishment or reward, but the level of commitment people have to the system?
I heard an experiment about this. It's because people want to show that they will do it. So, if you get people to write it down, then they will do it, because they want to be consistent with what they say.
It's in my experience, you ask people, what are you willing to contribute to this, and they usually follow through because they've said it.
I sort of feel like it's a real commitment, because it's an invitation to invest in the process. So once you invite people to agree on something, it's from their own free will, and people want to honor their commitments.
Because like little kids, every time their parents promise something, but don't do it, they make the parents feel guilty, they say, but you promised!
That's why I try not to make promises these days. Less guilt!
Yes, it's about consistency.
In the article, people are asked what do you think how to change some situation, or something else, and people seldom answer the questions. I think it's a kind of related to promises. Some people will think when they say something, they bring out an idea, it's a kind of promise. If you say, I think you should do it this way, people will hold them to the implied commitment.
Wow, yeah.
It's the same of the group oriented marketing. If you want to buy something you have no idea about, and a lot of people say it's good, then it's a shared responsibility, if the thing turns out to be good or bad, you can blame it on the group. "Well, people said it was supposed to be..."
Yeah, some bosses like to do this. They don't like to make decisions, they will guide the people to make the decision, and then agree to it.
But I heard the news in NYC, 15 years ago, a guy was killed on the street, and no one called the police, and later they found out 52 people saw it, but didn't call the police.
Well, you know about that study, where they put someone in a room, and made them believe there was no one else, and then there was an emergency, so they would act because they beleived there was no one else, but if they thought there was someone else, then they wouldn't do anything.
No one wants to be the first one.
Because no one wants to take responsibility for it.
That's why we like heroes, like superman.
That's why superhero movies are so popular. They take the responsibility!
That's why I was wondering about Martin Luther King, because when he made that speech, more than 10,000 people came. Before the speech, lots of people agreed, but didn't make the action.
Yeah, so you have to catalyze people. Like epoxy resin.

Do you have any experience of the kind of apathy the author is talking about? Do you agree that 'apathy' in communities is kind of mislabeled, or at least that the cause is misunderstood?
Do you have any stories about this kind of community apathy?
Like the independence of Taiwan. In this case it means some people in Taiwan thinks that it doesn't really matter if we are not really independent,
Yeah, it doesn't matter if we say it one way or the other.
But rising oil prices, that's an issue, that's a problem.
I think the key is, getting people to recognize something as a problem before it gets too hard to solve.
But, do we need someone to recognize the problem and tell all the people, or should we wait until everyone knows the problem? What do you think?
Because if everyone can control the group, then they can say what the issue is. But actually it's not a problem.
What do you mean?
Like there's some other nation will fight us?
Ok, for example, housing is very expensive, and maybe the real estate people can't make the price lower, so they say, if you do this, it will slow down the economy, so they announce this to everyone, and so people say, oh, the gvt shouldn't do this...
Or the gvt will say, oh china will fight us. But the true problem is actually something else, like the poverty issue or the education issue.
You're talking about red herrings.
It means people will focus on something unimportant, on purpose, to make them not talk about the real issue.
In college, our teacher was telling us about in the us around 1930, the US economy is really bad, so at that time the us gvt got the country involved in a war, and then the us people moved their focus to the war.
That also solved the economic issue! That's a really good way to jump-start your economy. You have to destroy things so you can buy more things.
So that's why in the election, they always want to talk about scandals about the other candidate.
They don't want to talk about the issue.
Yeah, mud-slinging.

Is there a connection between 'apathetic' communities and 'compliant' children?
It's a little different. In my opinion, apathy is a kind of feeling, you think something is not your business, or someone else will do it. But compliance, you're just limited to a certain scope. No matter whether you're interested or not. Even if you want to do more, the scope is limited.
Do you agree?
Well, no. There's some connection. For this point, they don't want to get in trouble. They just want to do the safe thing. Or let someone else do it. Just do the thing they want to do, not take responsibility. So there's some connection.
What would you say the connection is?
I think the connection is they don't want to take big responsibility.
Either way, they're discouraged from it.
But even if they want to take a big responsibility. For instance, on the public servant. Even if they want to do more for the citizens, there's some rules to limit what they can do. So it's hard for them to be enthusiastic. That's my point of view.
Compliant children, they just do small things, or they don't have to have responsibility, someone has already told them what to do, just follow the rules. It's the same in these communities. If they do more, they have to have more responsibility, or if they get involved in someone's business, they're responsible for what happens.

Are they produced in similar ways? Or even, do compliant children lead to apathetic citizens?
Or even, being a compliant child leads to being an apathetic citizen?
You're saying there's a relationship between being invested in something and being responsible for it.
Children are generally not given responsibility.
But if they're given a task, they’re responsible for it. They have to do it, or they'll be in trouble.
But I think it's the environment that leads to apathetic citizens. I mean, if the environment is created to motivate people, even compliant children will also participate or contribute.
Because compliant people just follow the rules, so rules are the key point. If effective rules, and everyone follows the rules, it also produces a good condition.
That's a good point, like a well run corporation or military.

But my point is, even if they can get the reward, it doesn't mean they will do more.
You're saying they won't take the initiative.
So when the environment makes the situation that when you do more, you can feel that you are the big person, or you can get power, maybe you will want to get involved in whatever.
Wait, there's responsibility, for your given tasks, and there's initiative, to respond to an outside or new situation.
If you are motivating sb to create new things, but because people don't want to take more responsibility, so you tell them, okay, so you just contribute, then you don't have to take responsibility for the result, maybe they'll be more willing to invest in the research or the revolution. Or what?
But the point is, who will take the risk? The risk is the point, if everything goes well, then okay, but if not, then who takes the risk?
For instance, like Acer. I'm not an Acer employee, but it seems the CEO takes the responsibility and the risk, but the research group does not take the responsibility.
But in Asia, in politics, the head has to resign if the bureau messes up?
But, if something goes wrong, the employee is fired.
So it's different in business.
But what i’m talking about is responsibility for risk. So, if we want to have some revolution, but if it fails, who takes responsibility for it?
So it's a kind of boundary.
Say more!
Because when it comes to responsibly, it's jus people feeling afraid, so no one wants to go out of boundary. Everyone want's to do their own business.
So that's like compliant children, they're just in side their boundaries, don't go outside to take more responsibility.
Yeah, it's also makes sense to me. I will think that i'm just the employee, and I don't want to take more risk, so why do I have to promise my office anything.

So, but does teaching children to be compliant, lead to apathetic citizens?
But not just in school, but also in society, the authority tells me to comply with the law. Almost always for banking.
So, just go back to what you said, the hero, is the people who wants to take more responsibility on him or herself
They're not afraid of losses.
Yes, they say, yeah, I don't care if I lose money or lose my life, it's okay for them.
Why do you bring up the hero?
Because they want to take risks, they don't care about losing money.
When we talk about compliant children, apathetic society...
There's no heroes.
But if sb want's to do something,
So it has to be someone with nothing to lose.
Che Buevara?
J. K. Rowling.
Oh...okay.
The author of Harry Potter.
She had nothing to lose?
She was very poor, so she had nothing to lose, so she wrote the books.
Is that like those heroes in traditional chinese novels. People who their parents and family are killed, and he promise to be a hero?
Yeah, I think the first king of the ming dynasty came from a very poor family, and then he served in the army.
You know, that was the American dream, come from nothing, it's kind of like making everyone a hero.
I read a book they said, people from Mexico, when they move to the US they do hand labor, they can't earn a lot of money, but Jewish people when they go, they can start a small business.
But they started with capital. It's why there traditionally was a conflict between settlers from Britain and settlers from Germany in the US. The British ones usually were working class, and came with very little, but the German ones were usually middle class, and came with capital, and set up businesses and stuff.
So, when we have nothing. We can be a hero?
Or not, because when you have nothing, you're also generally trained to believe you are nothing.
But there must be some people who believe in the future.
Heroes don't have children.
Really?
Or if they do, it's after their hero thing is done.

Is there some relationship between the power structure of society and that of the family?
Is there some basic fault with each that they produce 'compliance' and 'apathy'? Or is it a kind of misapplication within the system?
Yeah, because we will think you have more power than me, so you should do more, you should make more decision. Or the structure of society makes us think that, people in power can change things and people who have no power cannot. It's hard to do anything.
Actually, I have a question. Do we really need to have classes in society?
Ho!
I heard that in India they have a class system.
They still do.
Because if the society is already classified like that, then you on the lower levels, you just do you what you have to do, and if you're on the higher levels, you make the decision.
Does that make society efficient?
What do you mean by efficient?
That means they know what they have to do, it's already classed by ability.
But you're implying that anyone born into a lower class won't be a genius. What you're saying is the work will be allocated efficiently. But i'm saying the human resources won't be educated efficiently. Only the higher class geniuses will be educated efficiently, all the other geniuses will be lost.
But in this society, the powerful people will tell the others what to do.
So you're talking about a meritocracy, not a fixed class system.
There's two questions that are posed by our discussion right now, the first one is what do we mean by efficiency here and the second question, is why is 'efficiency' a good?
Okay, in Taiwan, everyone wants the high paid job, but no one wants to do the labor job.
Let me reframe this. Why are labor jobs not paid well?
Because anyone can do it.
But the truth is, right now, just about anyone can be a lawyer, too.
Maybe they’re more dangerous. But those are paid more.
But being a garbage man is dangerous.
But some labor jobs are paid more than office jobs!
Just on ships!
And some traditional technical skills.
But housecleaners are generally not paid as well as lawyers. And housecleaning is hard work.

Can I go back to this question, why are labor jobs paid less? The reason is that people who do these jobs are not respected.
So that's the paragraph about the dignity of the individual.
I agree! For instance, recently, I met some trouble with the internet, because I manage our intranet website. I had to turn off the connection to get into the website, and I consulted with an IT person. He was very professional and solved the problem very quickly. And when I talked with him, I felt he was more senior than me, but when I saw his position, his title is more junior than me. It implies that he might be paid less than me. But I think, he's so professional in his job, he should get the reward he's worth. It's not related to what kind of job he does.
It's like, on the US internet, there was a discussion about labor vs. white-collar work, and one guy said, "But everyone wants to work indoors, of course!" And another guy was really upset, he was like, "But I really would rather work outdoors, but I can't find a job that pays the bills, they don't pay enough!! Why should labor jobs be paid less! I enjoy digging ditches."
So the point is, why is it paid less. Who decides this, really? Is it the market?
Yes, who decides this? Because I love working outside. I would love to be a farmer, but they get paid nothing.
But in the US?
Those guys are millions of dollars in debt!


Concluding statements:
Today, we talked about some psych experience, how in the group, people don't want to take more responsibility, they expect someone else can do it, or if they don't do it, they can get some benefits. So that's why in society we have to encourage people to do more, in order to make the world better. So that's why we talk about heroes, people willing to sacrifice benefits, or they come from nothing, so they can risk everything. And finally we talked about the class society, so we talk about why do people decide how much we can earn. Why doesn’t a farmer earn like a doctor, who decides the value of a job. Actually it's not fair, because we all can contribute our knowledge, and so the labor jobs are paid less.

I was thinking you can charge what you can get away with, what the market will bear.
I think the point is it's about supply.
So too many people can clean houses?
Yeah, so they can get lower pay.
But taiwan has a shitload of doctors, why are they still paid well.
But the percentage is lower. You still have to get your license and schooling. So it's back to supply and demand.
But it's also to social values.
Yes. It's lower respect so they get lower pay.
Yes, that's what i'm trying to say.
But a lot of people don't like singers, in traditional culture, they're not valuable, but now they can earn a lot of money.
But we value singers now. If madonna walked into the room right now, what would you be like?
So, how did this change?
Marketing. It changed the image.
Media.
Because seemingly, people on television are powerful.
Oh, yes, that's image.

I found that tonight we talk about a lot of different pieces of topics. And each of them are related. Like boundaries, and responsibility, and revolution, and level of society. And also the hero. Maybe it's a kind of...
It's a review.
It's a kind of balance that to me people are compliant to the boundary, and to protect themselves, to make the stability of the society. And there's another kind of group of people, they would like to risk their life, they don't care to lose, so they can be a pioneer, or revolutionary of our society, and contribute something new. So I think no matter we are normal compliant people or we are unusual hero-types...
Extraordinary!
...we are also needing to be respected.

Can we say the compliant people are the more selfish people?
You said it, not me!
That's a question mark!
But selfish is a kind of negative word.
I don't think selfish is negative, it's about people who can take care of things.
So compliant people are people who take care of things?


Fires you up = inspires you.

A bad scene = a bad situation, background, what's happening around them, a plight, a bad state

Plight = a condition of extreme hardship, danger, etc.

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