Burn the witch!


There’s an unread book sitting on my bookshelf that I’ve dipped in and out of when passing, and read some extraordinary statements like these:

“Killing people is too superficial”

“Compliments are life-alienating “

I love anything counter-intuitive so I know I’ll love this one when I get round to reading it properly. Problem is, from people who’ve already read it, I imagine I might have to change my mind, and therefore behaviour, about things I quite enjoy like righteous anger and withering scorn. I’d miss them, they’re great fun.

So when I saw that car (above) a few weeks ago, I thought it a right old hoot. But imagine it was real. Some kindly old woman who’s been healing local villagers with her herbal medicine has her Peugeot defaced cruely by emissaries of the Witchfinder General. Or more likely, somebody who has been blamed in some way for something unconnected with witchcraft.

It occurred to me, this is a bit the same as me calling categories of work colleague “barn yard cattle”I thoroughly enjoy this, but it hasn’t actually helped in any way.
So I may have to try another very different tactic, and this book is as far away as you can get from current tactics, so I might have to read this book now.

Here are some things the book says may not work when dealing with people:

  • Moralistic judgments implying wrongness or badness on the part of people who don’t act in harmony with our values. Blame, insults, put-downs, labels, criticisms, comparisons, and diagnoses are all said to be forms of judgment. (Moralistic judgments are not to be confused with value judgments as to the qualities we value.) The use of moralistic judgments is characterized as an impersonal way of expressing oneself that does not require one to reveal what is going on inside of oneself. This way of speaking is said to have the result that “Our attention is focused on classifying, analyzing, and determining levels of wrongness rather than on what we and others need and are not getting.”
  • Demands that implicitly or explicitly threaten listeners with blame or punishment if they fail to comply.
  • Denial of responsibility via language that obscures awareness of personal responsibility. It is said that we deny responsibility for our actions when we attribute their cause to: vague impersonal forces (“I had to”); our condition, diagnosis, personal or psychological history; the actions of others; the dictates of authority; group pressure; institutional policy, rules, and regulations; gender roles, social roles, or age roles; or uncontrollable impulses.
  • Making comparisons between people.
  • A premise of deserving, that certain actions merit reward while others merit punishment.


Funny thing is though, soon after I took that photo I noticed a plague of frogs in the cul-de-sac and everyone’s milk turned sour. I am assembling a fearful and angry mob at dusk, bring a pitchfork and a flaming torch.
This is generally how these things start in reality.
Fearful and angry, no pitchfork required.

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