All I wanna do this pandemic summer is organize for socialism, give vaccinated hugs, and watch TV — join me!
If I were a cop trying to bring down a political activist group, I would simply encourage my fellow organizers to wallow in decision paralysis over little things. But we don’t need spies to slow us down this way, because we do it to ourselves all the time. I’ve attended countless meetings that meandered far from their intended purpose because everyone got hung up on what color the logo should be, or how we should go about selecting the next meeting time when there is no clear option that works for everyone. In some of these situations, I’ve been known to lose my cool. Like a few months ago, I drafted a phone bank script no one bothered to read until we were about to make calls. Then some of the comrades got deep into wordsmithing. That’s when I broke at least three different socialist feminist meeting norms by hollering across Zoom, “You guys, STOP. You don’t have to read the script word for word. Change it to whatever you like, but we need to get on the phones NOW.” I was not beloved in that moment, but we did begin our calls in due time. Nothing brings out my harsh yankee energy quite like having long debates about little things as the clock ticks away…
Now, it might seem like big, impactful decisions should require way more analysis. Sometimes that’s true, especially if there’s a lot at stake. I find that people struggle most when they face two evenly matched options, but I don’t have a problem with that at all. 50/50 decisions are the easiest — you just make a choice, hope it’s the right one, then try to correct course if it becomes clear later you chose wrong.
This is why I should be a starship captain. We just need to win fully-automated luxury gay space communism so I can finally achieve my destiny!
I often think of this one scene from Star Trek: The Next Generation in which Captain Jean-Luc Picard perfectly demonstrates this kind of decisive leadership. In the season 7 episode “Attached,” he and Dr. Beverly Crusher are kidnapped while making a diplomatic visit to the planet Kesprytt. After they are briefly imprisoned by the Prytt (a hostile nation state that refuses to interact with the Kes majority), a Kes spy helps them escape and provides them with a map to the border. As Crusher and Picard hike through caves and hills, they notice the devices the Prytt implanted on their necks are causing them to hear each other’s thoughts. At one point, Crusher can’t figure out which hill they’re supposed to climb over next. Picard glances at the map and points to his left saying, “This way.” Crusher gets a funny look on her face and then they have this exchange:
Crusher: You don’t really know, do you?
Crusher: I mean you’re acting like you know exactly which way to go, but you’re only guessing. Do you do this all the time?
Picard: No, but there are times when it is necessary for a captain to give the appearance of confidence.
Crusher goes on to make a mean joke about him in her head, which you can’t really blame her for (especially because — as she states in her own defense — at least she didn’t say it out loud!) But part of me is fully in the Picard Zone where that situation is concerned. Sometimes you’ve gotta fake confidence to get people on board with that 50/50 choice. Indecisive and hyper-analytic people tend to be nervous, so calmly explaining, “It really doesn’t matter which hill we choose, because those angry Prytt dudes with phasers are coming for us, and we gotta go.” Oh, hell no. They’re gonna wanna weigh all the pros and cons of each hill and try to remember every bit of relevant geographical info Data recited before they left the ship. And if they’re in the Democratic Socialists of America, they’ll wanna start a progressive stack to make sure everyone gets to chime in and say, “I just wanna piggyback on what Crusher said about the size of the boulders on that hill over there…” I can honestly see how it’s a lot easier, given the circumstances, to just fake like you know for sure so everyone keeps moving.
Alas, my dream of wielding this authoritative power will never happen in DSA. First of all, we’ve got all these anarchists who’d never put up with that kind of power structure. Second, I’m a woman, and we’re still here in the 21st century patriarchy, where I’m expected to explain myself and my reasoning because men assume (wrongly) that I’m not as smart as them. I mean, it’s probably for the best that I can’t just tell people what to do. I don’t really want that power. I just don’t wanna spend one-third of a one-hour meeting debating decisions of little consequence. My leadership ability is all about efficiency and prioritization. I just wanna keep things moving.