The presentation and the paradox

The presentation was about to begin.

It was a dark night. Most attendees could not see. But this did not concern them since they had all got used to the dark which descended, whenever their so called leader delivered his rambling, nonsensical monologue. It was all too familiar. It was all so predictable. There was little or no intellectual foundation to anything that he said.

Most attendees were comfortable not to see. In fact, behind closed doors in private conversations, it was unanimously agreed that it was preferable not to look, since not looking would prevent seeing, which in a weird sort of way, could pardon them from taking on any responsibility for not challenging any comment, statement and decision that he may make. Further, not being able to see could be used as an excuse of that ‘we didn’t know’ when they would eventually be confronted with, sometime in the future, all of the evidence that revealed the incompetence, greed, narcissism and fear-mongering of their Destroyer-in-Chief.

Tonight, nature was not playing its part. The clouds lifted (much like curtains do at the beginning of a show), to reveal beautiful, refreshing light that radiated from the moon at the very moment that he uttered his first word.

‘I will keep you safe, I will protect you’, promised the Destroyer. ‘I have been your omega and saviour for four years, and now more than ever before, there is more need for me to keep you safe. The world is a dangerous place. There are internal and external threats that only I can protect you from’.

He had mastered the tactic of intensifying fear, as a way to hold onto his power and authority. It was a common tactic that all dictators used.

‘I have done a great job. Look at how well we are doing, I have created a nirvana where everyone is prospering. The numbers are great.’

He was a master of arrogance and ‘big talk’. His speech was vague, littered with sweeping generalizations so that he could create false verbal realities that in no way matched the reality that people were actually experiencing. There was such a disconnect.

Hours passed as the Divider-in-Chief ranted and raved. He had a captured audience for his one-man show; an audience that dared not utter a word, ask a question or disagree with anything that was said. But this was all too familiar – most of the crowd had ‘clocked out’, with eyes closed and voices silent.

During one of the rare moments when he paused, a courageous voice asked a question. It was not a confident voice, but it shocked the sleepy audience out of their slumber. They all knew that the wrath of the Destroyer would soon be unleashed. He was a master of twisting information around, of undermining and belittling any ideas or questions that were not in agreement with his.

‘But sir don’t you see the paradox?’

The question was asked respectfully but it riled the Destroyer. He demanded total allegiance and loyalty from everyone, not only from his sleepy audience. How dare anyone question his authority? He had already told everyone that he was a genius so why did this punk not listen?

‘That’s a nasty question, and you are a stupid person’, attacked the Destroyer. He was a master of intimidating tactics that unbalanced any opponent in front of others.

But this was no ordinary person who had posed the question. He was a tai chi master, who understood the nature of energy flow and the power of having a gentle, loving attitude to all things that he encountered. He was an integrative thinker, who understood the complexity of diverse ecological systems.

He stood in silence looking directly into the eyes of the Divider-in-Chief. He radiated energy that unnerved the Destroyer, who was still trying to make intellectual sense of the question that had been posed.

‘Don’t you see the paradox that totally undermines and destroys everything you say? And in the process, it will ultimately destroy you?’

Confusion reigned in the mind of the Disrupter-in-Chief. For the first time, he was now encountering a tai chi master who was skilled in the power of reflection.

‘Who has caused or is responsible for the turmoil that exists at present, which has unfolded on your watch over the past four years? Why do you escape into the future by creating more fear in the present so that you can promise to rescue the future, given the turmoil and chaos that exists in the present. How can you simultaneously be the savior and solver of future destruction, when in fact you are the source and the creator of present chaos?’

‘It is impossible for you to solve the very problems that you have created, unless of course you don’t believe that you have caused any of the chaos that presently exists in our country?

‘I have done a great job’, countered the Destroyer.

‘And therein lies the problem that prevents you from seeing the paradox’, concluded the master.



Dealing with an aggressive, self-opinionated energy

So the question remains; How best should you deal with someone like Donald Trump in a political debate? This was posed to me after my last blog article.

While this is a difficult question with no easy answers, it is worth mentioning that Donald Trump tends to use two basic tactics to disrupt and distract his opponents. Firstly, he attacks the person. Secondly, he stirs up emotions, in order to reduce or lower the intellectual component (which is his weakness) of the debate. Understanding this, and drawing on ideas about what it means to be mentally tough in the heat of battle in the sporting arena, some guidelines about how to deal with such a forceful, self-opinionated energy in a competitive debating context can be formulated.

In elite competition, the opponent may attempt to unsettle you psychologically, by distracting and disrupting your focus. In rugby, for example, there may be off-the-ball incidents, such as a punch or a jersey pull. In cricket, a batsman may have to deal with sledging (verbal abuse) by the fielding team between every ball that is bowled. The challenge in the heat of the battle is to have an internal focus, to remain clearly focused on what your goals are. On a simple level, you need to keep your eye on the ball and not get distracted by what you cannot control. Any mental energy that you use worrying about what your opponent is planning, saying or doing, will undermine your effectiveness.

Keeping your eye on the ball in a tough competitive moment
Keeping your eye on the ball in a tough competitive moment

In sport, there is an energy flow between competitors as the match unfolds. There are upward and downward spirals of energy flow, resulting in periods of effortless performance or times of intense struggle. It is important not to panic when you are struggling. To do this, it is necessary to connect with your breathing so that you can consciously ensure that your breathing has an even rhythm and is relaxed. Check to see that you are not holding your breath or are breathing in a rapid, shallow way. Being emotionally composed and balanced underpins exceptional performance.

The fundamental tenet of tai chi (a slow moving martial art) is to know how to use and re-direct an opponent’s aggressive energy in such a way as to physically unbalance him/her. In tai chi, you never meet force with force. Instead, you learn how a slight deflection of an opponent’s action can result in you gaining a major advantage. A slight shift in stance or position helps to give you the upper hand on which to base your counter-attack. Learning how to yield to pressure and then to quickly counter-attack is at the heart of tai chi.

George Bernard Shaw once said: ‘Never wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty and the pig likes it’. It is important not to get pulled into activities that strengthen your opponent and weaken your resolve and focus. I remember consulting with a cricket team who had difficulty in dealing with one particular individual in the opposing team. The fundamental issue was that this individual enjoyed talking and would constantly be trying to initiative a verbal exchange with any member of our team, in order to distract you. He was self-opinionated, and at times verbally abusive. He performed best if he could have an audience to listen to him. As a team, we decided to ignore him completely during the match. No player was allowed to acknowledge or speak to him while on the field. A super-inflated ego thrives on being acknowledged and listened to, and the strategy of ignoring him, removed the source of his egotistical self-validation. Without this validation, his performance dropped significantly.

In sport, an athlete should not attach his self-worth to his performance, but instead should work on detaching himself from his performance. In this way, the athlete will be able to focus on the unfolding process and not be obsessed with the final outcome. Being able to separate the sense of self, from the results in performance allows the athlete to perform in a relaxed, uninhibited and creative way. More importantly, the athlete will be able to think quickly and effectively when dealing with stressful moments during competition. Poor performance is not taken personally and instead, failure is considered to be an opportunity to learn and to grow. This type of attitude reduces the fear of failure during performance.

A political debate is full of ‘attacks and defends’ as the participants try to gain the upper hand so as to increase their support and vote of the electorate. In order to beat your opponent on the debating stage, the lessons of competitive sport suggest that you should:

  • have a clear, internal, focused strategy regarding the issue at hand
  • work on not getting distracted and side-tracked by generalized, emotive, contentious statements
  • remain emotionally balanced and composed when conveying your message
  • not try and match force with force in a dominant way, but instead unbalance your opponent by asking intellectually, insightful questions that highlight the absurdity of the emotive opinion being forwarded
  • do not take an attack on your person, personally

In his book, The four agreements, Miguel Ruiz states that ‘you should not take anything in life personally’. Anyone’s actions or comments that are directed at you, has nothing to do with you. Instead these comments are a reflection and projection of who they are. Political debates highlight this point so well.