See responses below.
I hope you can see by now (see, e.g., Rob's response below) how good
you are at making people around you incredibly rigid. That's been
evident all along in the behavior of our chairs (Molony and Maden) in
their dealings with you--not giving an inch in terms of moving or
adding agenda items when you arrive late for meetings, for example.
I don't think that's being terribly very fair to Chris, who I feel has
been decently accommodating lately. I suspect his realization of how
challenging it can be to get an agenda out on time each month has given
him a bit more sympathy for my own tendencies toward tardiness. And you
cite David Molony's rigidity as a reproach to me, after yourself
calling him a manic depressive?
It was a little poignant (for me, at least), watching you ask, at the
October meeting, for help with DAF, as though you really didn't get
why no offers were forthcoming.
Now that's rather misleading, because several people have expressed to
me that they would help more if they had more time. There are all kinds
of things that come up in our meetings for which no one volunteers,
because the fact is that there is a lot more libertarian activism that
needs doing than there are activists willing and able to do it.
You have raised the question of the appropriateness of dealing with
some of these issues in a public forum; but the issues in question
have been very much a public concern among the activists in the LPSF,
for some time, in a way that you were rather directly responsible for.
If you experience me nevertheless as overstepping some bounds here,
I'm implicitly giving permission for you to respond in kind, if that
Yes you are, but no, I doubt it will.
I see two issues, only one of which I think holds any promise for
change. The first is simply a difference in styles, between
anal-retentive and anal-expulsive, if you will.
I think you're the only person I've ever heard use the term "anal
expulsive," and use it repeatedly about me over the years at that.
Several years ago, I called something you were doing "anal" (short for
"anal retentive") -- what it was, and whether I was singling you out or
referring to others as well I don't even recall, but it sure seems to
have left a mark. Maybe it's a generational difference, but I've known
lots of people to use the term "anal retentive" or "anal" rather
casually as they might use "fussy," "uptight," "perfectionist," etc.
I've been called anal myself at times, probably justifiably, as I can
be rather fastidious about some things. Using indents in email, for
instance might be considered "anal."
It's easy to slip into moralizing this difference (a strategy to which
libertarians, in the Randian model, are especially prone), but I see
that as neither necessary nor helpful. There's nothing wrong, as far
as I'm concerned, with showing up for meetings an hour late, even if
they're at your own house, so long as you're working with other people
who share that style and do the same.
Yeah, I've heard that one quite a few times from you now too. How
about I just waste an hour of my time listening to you tell me about it
a few more times, and we call it even?
Unfortunately, you're the only one I know among the LPSF activists who
operates that way. At this point I wouldn't be willing to serve on a
committee with you or cooperate in any other way that involved
schedules and timelines, and I think I have quite a bit of company.
Given how stressful it sounds like it would be for you, I'd hate to be
responsible for causing that kind of trauma in your life by serving on
a committee with you either.
Mike Denny is quite right that whenever any LPSF activists undertake a
project, they have to count on being on their own; but there's this
additional factor in your case which leaves you more than usually
alone. I don't see any reason to expect anyone--you or any of the
rest of us--to change personal styles in this regard. That's a sad
state of affairs, but I don't see any pay-off to anyone in continuing
to ignore or deny it.
The other problem, as I see it, is your determination--polite but
nevertheless dogged--to prevail. I don't know whether that proceeds
from (a) a sense that you're fighting here, as on content issues, for
truth and justice, (b) a sense that yielding on issues of scheduling
and the like, submitting to anal-retentive controls, would violate
your personal autonomy, (c) experiencing disagreements on these things
as personal rejection, (d) something else, or (e) all of the above.
It doesn't matter to me; I don't see any of them as justified. None
of this needs to be personal, but I have some concern that it can
You're certainly not doing much to abate your concern.
The debate over your exclusion from Free Exchange is a useful example.
In the exchange of e-mails with Jeanie Kennedy which you helpfully
provided, Jeanie, getting progressively exasperated, said at one
point, "I've had enough, get out of my face, I don't want to hear from
you for another month." Totally ignoring her, you wrote back
immediately, and then were very surprised when she responded by
excluding you from Free Exchange. I frankly can't imagine anyone in
her position doing anything else.
Well, you're definitely not in the majority on that one, because
virtually everyone I've talked to who is familiar with Jeanie or with
the history of that episode agrees that she acted very unreasonably.
She sent me a rather heated email, copied to others, after I had been
quite polite with her by comparison, and then expected me to say
nothing in response to her for a month. I don't think very many people
would have complied with such a demand unless they were making special
allowances for her being extremely thin-skinned.
Libertarians, perhaps more than most people, are sensitive about
boundaries; you crash through them like a suicide bomber and are then
surprised not to be warmly received. So you see everybody around you
setting up barricades in one way or another. That's not an outcome I
suspect any of us, including Jeanie (or Rob or Chris, etc.), likes.
But all of these people have exhibited far more patience than I have,
else there would surely have been more such breaks.
I'm surprised if you really think Jeanie is more patient than you are;
I'd say you're being rather charitable there. And I'm sorry if I have
violated your boundaries. I honestly can't think of how else I may have
done that other than not being punctual enough and once calling you
anal. Knowing how many people there are out there who are bad with time
management in one way or another -- which I know from having had my
share of times being flaked on as well -- if this kind of thing makes
you think of suicide bombers, you must have a difficult time coping.
Where things go from here I think is mostly up to you.
In a sense that is true. I'm sure if I knew I was going to lose a
finger to some mafia boss any time I was tardy on a particular
responsibility (such as scheduling a DAF speaker), I could force myself
to meet that deadline consistently. Just as anyone who really wants to
can quit smoking, even if it's stressful and unpleasant to force
oneself out of a bad habit. So yes, you could say I have the capacity
to unilaterally solve this issue to everyone else's satisfaction, or at
least the satisfaction of those who are OK with the micro-management
and wouldn't mind seeing me more stressed, and enjoying my work for the
I write out of concern that, on the present track, interactions with
LPSF activists may get progressively less satisfying for you.
If that truly is your concern, it seems to me that you aren't
powerless to change your own habits and expectations in order to help
address that concern, rather than leaving it all (or mostly) up to me.
All of us see you as potentially one of our most valuable activists,
in no small part because you actually like the crucial, nitty-gritty,
hands-on political stuff that many of us detest. That's in addition
to being a good thinker and writer, someone who often usefully
challenges mainstream libertarian attitudes and beliefs, and--I would
say--a fun person, when we're not colliding over nonsubstantive
issues. I hope there's a way for us to keep those differences from
ruining possibilities for working--if not exactly together, then at
least side by side--to save the world. There's not much hope for that
goal if we can't do a better job of managing conflict in our own local
organization. On the other hand, maybe we're all doing the best we
Well, I'm glad you still see good qualities in me. Hopefully that will
continue to be the case after you've read this email. I hope you will
come to Speakeasy on Friday and we can have a chance to interact in a
more relaxed atmosphere, because I don't think you're a bad person
either, although I wish you hadn't sent me this.
Yours in liberty,
<<< Starchild >>>
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