Bamboozled Against Gerrymandering

Very recently, I was walking in Downtown Detroit. If you’ve recently paid a visit to the D, you’ve likely at least seen or at most been pestered by a few persons with clipboards going on about how Jerry is having trouble learning Mandarin.

At least, that’s what it sounded like when I first encountered these people, given my lack of competence on the subject they wanted to raise my awareness of.

Turns out there’s a ballot proposal some overly bothered citizens are collecting signatures for in an effort to potentially end gerrymandering in Michigan with the aid of a presence on the November 2018 ballot. One member of the group stopped me and immediately began burying me in his elevator — street corner? — pitch.

I was suckered in. I knew as I signed my name that some lesson was to be learned from this. I think I’ve learned it.

A Question and Its Source

I’m a human, so interesting ideas surface when I’m in the shower and not trying to bring interesting ideas to the surface. My latest interesting idea was a question that I should’ve asked this guy while he was catching his breath from explaining his side of the proverbial story:

What argument(s) would people that disagree with you make to try convincing you otherwise?

As soon as this question came to mind, I knew the source.

I’ve definitely learned to ask these sort of questions as a result of following the work of Tim Ferriss, the man behind The Tim Ferriss Show podcast and author of such monster books as Tools of Titans and the recently released Tribe of Mentors. Both of these books change my brain with every passing line, with essentially all of those lines being either intentionally worded questions he asks his guests or their thought-provoking responses to them.

The craziest part was that I actually heard Ferriss’ voice asking the question in my head as it hit me. Surely this is why I so easily attributed it to him.

Anyways, just as quickly as I thought of the question, I was filled with regret for not handling the situation differently. My life experiences and background and such made me feel that this guy was surely collecting signatures for an absurdly large pile of crap that will never come to fruition, but that’s really not the root of my regret anymore.

I simply wish I challenged the guy a little more. Perhaps I would’ve been able to close the conversation with, “Thanks for bringing this to my attention but I’m not sure I agree.”

Instead, he took an easy tally from a teenage kid, despite the kid being what George Carlin would consider a poor American.

I’ve got this real moron thing I do — it’s called thinking. And I’m not a very good American because I like to form my own opinions.

George Carlin

I failed to form my own opinion and it was foolish. Simply foolish. However, the feeling I had when signing my name is one that I’ve experienced enough that I was able to recognize it in real time.

Hasty When New

I notice this behavior in myself in any situation that’s fresh to me.

First time filling my car up with gas? I was hasty, rushing and not paying much attention.

When a family member asks even a solid question about my personal life? I tend to not in any sort of heartfelt, honest manner, even if the situation kinda sorta calls for it.

You see this when people drop a folder and all the papers inside end up strewn everywhere. The papers end up back in the folder, only all creased and out of order.

Basically, in trying situations, most people don’t take a deep breath and lead with their values. But I think this is a necessary stage to surpass.

I surpassed the petition-signing stage and next time won’t be in such a useless hurry when I find myself in a situation like the one described above. I’ll pause, think and drop a question worthy of being in a Ferriss book.

I still can’t wrap my head around the gerrymandering concept, though my quick research makes the dude’s aforementioned pitch seem just as reasonable as it did when I cared not for a counterargument from him.

I don’t doubt that through some source I’ll eventually learn that ending gerrymandering would be a massive mistake, simply because this is how my learning tends to go, which has taught me to never be so certain about anything — hence, “holding strong opinions loosely.”

The bottom line is that I’m seeing improved modes of thinking in myself thanks to my choices in literature and I’ve checked off a key instance of not being present enough in the moment to think for myself or even truly be myself.

The upside: Second cracks at situations like this are always much better than the rookie go-around. I won’t be so dumb next time.

Published by Aaron Durant

Writer, podcaster and reader, which makes me sound cooler than some would say I am. Race cars, books, podcasts and French toast are a few of my favorite things.

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