By virtue of their outgoing persistence extroverts have long ruled the world, but perhaps it is time to follow the wisdom of the introvert’s aversion to meddling.
What are you going to do about it?
What should we do about it?
What can they do about?
These are the questions that we hear in relation to problems that we encounter in day to day life. The central tenet of our belief system is that ‘doing’ is the only meaningful activity. We assume all problems just need a fresh coat of action in order to stop being problems, ignoring the fact that under all those layers of action past the fundamental problems still remain. No matter how many bandages you put on an error, the infection can spread inside of it.
Even more insidious is what it is that is usually meant by ‘doing’. In our state-based social/economic/political systems ‘doing’ often means employing the force of the state on behalf of majority interests. ‘Doing’ often means creating new systems to impose your will on others, or reforming old systems to do the same. More often than not ‘doing’ is an intrusion on individuals and minority factions, that when not upheld by direct force often entails inescapable coercion. I am not trying to sound like some natural law/rights proponent here, but the logic of political action is inevitable, despite your ideology or mine.
The old lady who eventually died of horse-swallowing, after a series of escalations following a fly ingestion incident, was stuck in a feedback loop of ‘doing’. A rational person would have stopped swallowing things after the fly (not doing) and attempted to cough or vomit up the fly (undoing) if it posed a real threat, which it did not. It was only the act of repeated doings that escalated the situation to the fatal level of whole horse consumption.
Undoing may be argued to be a form of doing, which is right in some sense, but false in others. When I speak of undoing I mean deconstructing, not to make room for building anew, but just to be rid of a thing that was not working. Too often our undoing is just part of the process of doing something else in its place. So I would suggest that what differentiates true undoing from doing is that it is followed by not-doing.
Doing nothing. Leaving things be. Minding your own business. These are things humans are not very good at. When we talk about ‘doing’ we do so with the urgency of belief that we must have a plan of action at all times. Yet we compulsively ‘do’. We need never worry about that. It needs no protection or defense. We should concentrate instead on where we fail, which is undoing and not-doing. These are the skills we should be developing as individuals and as a species.
I think the reason we have this problem is that extroverts have, by their very nature, become the default keepers of social systems and mainstream ideologies. Introverts who want to be left alone and leave others alone in the process are usually hiding out in a safe place while the extroverts are out ‘doing’ things. But as anyone whose tendencies lay nearer the introversion end of the scale knows, that ‘doing’ can make coexisting with extroverts extremely painful. Their insistence on compulsive interaction, and social systems which require and promote it, forces the rest of us into institutions and cultural paradigms that do not meet our needs.
Yet intelligence seems to be on the side of the introverts. And the internet has given a forum in which that intelligence can be heard, shared and adapted into solutions. If the pen was mightier than the sword, then the keyboard is hundreds of times more powerful. And it is here where we need to launch an attack against the primacy of ‘doing’ and the tyranny of extroverts. And to do so we must dismantle the false narrative of compulsive, busy-bodies who insist that we must keep swallowing larger critters following the unfortunate thing with the fly.
Use that powerful introvert intellect to give a voice to inaction. Call out extroverts wherever they are busy making plans that include the rest of us. Appeal not to their intellect, but to their heart. Let them know how you feel. Show them how their behaviors can be harmful to you and others like you. Point out the implications of their activity and its potential consequences from a perspective they are not privy to. Extroverts aren’t flawed, they just tend to project extrovert desires onto everyone else, because that is part of their personality package. Take responsibility for helping them to see the potential beauty in dialing their hyperactive habits down a bit.
It is time we recapture the lost arts of Undoing and Doing Nothing. This old jalopy of a planet already has enough ‘doing’ on it to keep it going for a long time to come. Before we can do anything that doesn’t just add to the problems created by doing, we must undo much, without worrying about what will take its place. Doing will happen as a course of human nature. Undoing and Not-Doing are far greater challenges for individuals and our species. Lets put our time and energy there and see if maybe we haven’t just been trying too hard and suffering from our over-achievement.