Josh left this very smart comment on my newest reading list updates.
It's exactly how I feel, very smart stuff:
I had a similar reaction to Rules for Radicals when I started reading it a couple months ago. I got about a quarter of the way in and had to put it down because I found it so infuriating and distasteful. (I don’t normally have such a visceral reaction to reading things I disagree with, which is why I’ll be sure to pick it up again and finish it at some point.)
I think the reaction I had was because the way Alinsky works is the way the “bad guys” work (ruthlessly ends focussed), and what differentiates the “good guys” is that they refuse to act in ways that would violate their integrity, even when that means that they’ll fail to achieve their ends. I don’t think that means acting with integrity is always ineffective, but I suspect it might mean that the ends they have chosen are wrong in some fundamental way. That is, if the ends you’re pursuing can only be achieved by actions which violate your integrity, then you’re by definition pursuing the wrong ends.
I’d definitely be interested to hear more of your thoughts on it in a future post.
Thanks for the smart comment, Josh, I agree. I'll revisit this topic too, and maybe writeup a review of the book when I finish it. I'm reading Mao's "On Guerrilla Warfare" which is much less reaction generating because at least he doesn't contradict his own principles and values frequently. (I mean, I disagree with a lot of it, but it's consistent at least)
Very good comment, Josh. Cheers.
That is a great comment. It reminded me of a similar quote that I read on Milton Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom; I'd like to share it with you:
''A common objection to totalitarian societies is that they regard the end as justifying the means. Taken literally, this objection is clearly illogical. If the end does not justify the means, what does? But this easy answer does not dispose of the objection; it simply shows that the objection is not well put. To deny that the end justifies the means is indirectly to assert that the end in question is not the ultimate end, that the ultimate end is itself the use of the proper means. Desirable or not, any end that can be attained only by the use of bad means must give way to the more basic end of the use of acceptable means.''
Two days ago I wrote the Genius and Tragedy post. It was extremely controversial - very popular on one hand, but got some very strong visceral negative reactions. I'd like to share with you what I've learned about writing, so I can step my game up and improve. Also, I got some downright hateful comments made about me, some really bad and terrible stuff. If this has never happened to you, maybe you don't know what it feels like, and I've got some advice on how to deal with it. I also did some detailed reading and analysis of the kinds of comments I got, and there was some fascinating results that I'll share.
So, first and foremost, I made a mistake - If you're writing to help someone, it can be pretty presumptuous to do it without touching base and clearing it with them first. I made that error for a few reasons - first, two of my best posts have come from the same format, and both achieved their desired objective. ("How do I write so much, you ask?" and "I think greatness is something you do, not something you are" both publicly called people I like out - and both times it worked) - so that's the first thing, I'd had a good track record with this, however those were people I'd been touching base with already.
Second, as a general principal I believe in working really quickly. I analogize it to "fighting out of formation" - quick, lightly edited writing is always worse than well-edited best practices. But, the more you do of it, the better you get at it. And by producing anything really quickly, you get better faster. If someone produces 10 times as much content, how long until their lightly edited work is superior to the other person's highly polished work? This isn't a rhetorical question - check out "Quantity Always Trumps Quality" on codinghorror.com sometime. If you produce quickly and of lower quality at first, you can iterate and improve, and eventually your quick production work is better than the obsessively refined person's work who isn't getting as much done (and thus not learning the lessons). Pablo Picasso talked about this quite a bit, if you're particularly interested on the topic.
The downside, of course, is that you make mistakes. And I did - I should've touched base before writing that post, or had it vetted, or at least, spent more time editing it to be clear, concise, and unambiguous, and even more polite. Mea culpa - my mistake! It's okay for me to work quickly and bring errors upon myself because of it, but I need to be more careful when involving others.
Then, why is that post still up? This is what I wrote as the episode was winding down, it was well-received by the community -
I was a pretty good reader as a kid. My mom recounts me sitting in the corner reading in pre-school instead of doing whatever other pre-schoolers did. In Kindergarten, I was praised for reading more books than any other kid. Throughout the elementary school summers, I dominated the summer reading programs in all the neighboring cities.
Eventually, I started to realize that all of these books are the same. Sometime when I was 10, I started to realize every book seemed to be about some derpy kid who eventually overcame his fears and saved the world, or at least his friend group.
I had the intellectual ability to read YA and adult books at the time, but not the emotional maturity. So, I hit a standstill.
Time passes on, I get into Classics (aka: any title whose name being uttered made me sound smart). I got a Kindle and subsequently got into Indie trash, at one point reading one book per day. Then the Kindle broke and I had no clue what to do.
I went through a massive overhaul on how I thought about reading, which leads us to how I read today.