Sunday, November 26, 2006

Attack of the Process People!!

As a youth, this Baby Boomer saw hundreds of horror and sci-fi movies. The giant mantis, Rodan, mole people, killer shrews, blob...all of which may explain much about me.

Nonetheless, I can't seem to run fast enough to get away from the relentless Process People. Boston is home to a frightening number of them.

In today's Boston Globe, one even admits that he is one of them. Ceaselessly until the Constitutional Convention (ConCon) leaves recess on January 2nd, we shall hear their alternating whines and monotones. Process. Process. Process. You must respect the process.

You're heavier, lighter, taller, shorter, richer, poorer than I. Concepts be damned. What can we measure?

Process People in Pews

My judgment of process worshippers focused when I served on the board of a large, troubled downtown UU church, and then chaired the board for two years. The Process People were congregants, volunteers and even staff.

The church was only a few hundred yards from the UUA headquarters. There are several UU churches downtown, including one that seems pretty Episcopal to me and another for Yuppies that subscribes to Martha Stewart Living. Instead, mine was the rabble-rousing, social-activist version.

It was the one that many UUA staff members attended, so many if fact that those at 25 Beacon called the church The UUA Chapel. At the time, over 10% of the members were UUA employees and many of those were also ministers as well as non-profit bureaucrats.

So when you had even one of those at a committee or board meeting, you would hear process spoken in insistence and reverence. Up at the UUA, process is king and queen. One should never shorten a procedure nor skip a step. Channing forbid.

How They Think

Instead, in dealing with the Process People, one must either:
  1. Accept the mire and muck of wading through the process with them, even when the destination is in sight and there is a firm footpath beside the process swamp, or
  2. Get them to chill enough to tell you how wrong you are to abbreviate the process but not cause too much trouble.
In fairness, this is the way they think and feel. It is likely that most Process People cannot distinguish between their perceived reasonableness and their emotional need to touch every book on the shelf on the way to the one they know they will check out and read.

Various psychologists, physicians and sociologists come at Process People (aaaaaargh) from different angles with different descriptions. Some would typify them as Myers-Briggs S (Sensing) types and others could call them left-brained. In either case, they tend to have low tolerance (or no tolerance) for ambiguity. They typically can only begin to understand a whole when they think all the parts are assembled and displayed.

That's a way of thinking. That's a way of feeling. That's a lifestyle.

They do think differently. Simply presenting a larger view will never convert one of them. The tension between Process People and the rest of us emerges whenever there is a conflict.

Deval and the Process People

That is important at the moment, particularly during the anti-SSM amendment debate. That Globe column today had Sam Allis calling himself a process liberal. Likewise, over at Blue Mass Group, David made much in numerous posts and comments about how much he respects process above all.

The balanced-brained and right-brained folk can argue or laugh or sit with wrinkled brows, but Process People can't hear. They will instead remain with their iron underwear on the line and rusting by the moment. There is a right set of procedures and they know what it is. Likely, they can point to a constitutional article or a regulation or a precedent. So there.

In this particular case, an irony is that Governor-Elect Deval Patrick seems balanced in his view of the same-sex marriage debate and the ConCon. He has stated clearly and repeatedly that plebiscites on the civil rights -- particularly existing ones -- of others are uncalled for and impermissible. Had he been governor, this spiteful amendment would not have gotten so far as a ConCon.

Yet, Patrick certainly seems to have the ability to see the big picture and to tolerate even Process People without buckling under to them. He can listen to their advice and opinion, and then take what is worthwhile from them.

We can be sure that he won't suddenly be converted into one of those let-the-people-vote types who would sacrifice the commonweal on a stone altar of procedure.

As scary as the Process People can be when they lumber and attack, they must find life difficult. What they see as necessity often does not occur. They lose in their literal interpretations of complex situations. The battle is finished and the armistice signed while they are still arming themselves. Lackaday.

So, in the matter at hand, the Process People will have to work through their own resolution. If they find that getting free of this odious effort to strip rights from a group of citizens violates their sense of process, they can carry on about it -- sincerely but to no effect.

Fortunately, most of them may well carry a grudge but continue to function. Plus, they get to feel superior, knowing they would have done things differently. So there.

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Ryan Adams said...

Oh, this was good. You really summed up everything I've been thinking about people obsessed with process. They just can't see the big picture.

Sadly, they see neither the vast amount of others who are willing to steam role the process to get what they want nor the fact that minorities have been asked - over and over again - to wait a little longer and sacrifice a little for the cause. Suddenly, a little becomes a lot. This is one instance where I can say "enough is enough."

I was willing to see this move along, but it didn't. The process people should have just accepted the fact that this is one case where it's not moving forward - and thank goodness.

While I'd rather play by the rules all the time, I'm not going to complain when a foul ball goes my way. Too many, too often, go in the other direction. See Virginia, Wisconsin and 4 other states from just a few weeks ago.

Laurel said...

When you mentioned a process-oriented person's aversion to ambiguity, my thoughts lept to religous fundamentalists. You know, the ultimate "by the book" people. It had never occurred to me that "process liberals" and fundies are in a way opposite sides of the same coin. But if that is true, the question that remains is, what makes each land on their respective sides of the coin? And could this explain the occasional news story about an ultra conservative switching sides? Perhaps they are switching viewpoints (rule books), but are still staying within the procedural mindset, and so in a more fundamnemtal sense aren't changing at all.