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Transcript: Reaction to Morning's Local Commentary

We did it! One week with podcasts every day. Put it on the board, five of ‘em. Thank you for listening. I hope you’ve found them informative, no, maybe even entertaining. Today’s show is going to be a little laid back. I’ve been hitting the academic angle pretty heavy this week, in part because there hasn’t been much local news going in, somewhat to allow people to enjoy their holidays, and lastly because it’s just naturally part of who I am. But I want to do something different today! Let’s call this a trial run for how I envision these working in the future.

See, here’s the deal. Like most people, I wake up in the morning. For a while I would read the Chronicle and then Florida Politics, and then Just Wright Citrus. But then I stopped. And it was glorious. I wasn’t prematurely mad at nothing throughout the day, I was focused on my family or able to concentrate on things that I was reading, it was great. But I miss it. I wish I didn’t, but I do. I often disagree with almost everything I read locally, and the Chronicle’s new style of social media captions, which are probably written by Mike Wright, and his faux folksy style of talking are enough to drive me insane. There’s a place for it though, so good for them for finding their niche. But you’re here because you’re not just folks. Because you recognize the need for a different perspective, even if you don’t always agree with me which is fine.

So here’s how I envisioned these working. I would get up in the morning between 5:15 and 6 depending on the workout I have planned as I do every morning, read my news for half an hour while I hydrate, then quickly write and record my reaction to that morning’s editorial content or news of the day. Bam! You’re following your routine, you do your reading, then you flip it on over to the app while you’re cooking breakfast or driving your kids to school and you get this alternate perspective on what you just read. However, the last four days of podcasts, I’ve written out the day before they were published making reactions to that day’s news impossible. Not today! We are taking off in real time now.

Because I wrote my copy in advance yesterday, I didn’t get the chance to congratulate the Chronicle. I was a little mad when police chief Dave Vincent got the top story above the fold for his announcement, something that wasn’t given to Calvin Adams when he filed and an obvious show of local favoritism, and I expected they would bury inside on A7 the Summer in the Slammer operation to hide the Sheriff’s accomplishments, it was the largest operation of his administration. But the Chronicle didn’t! The Summer in the Slammer story got the same location as the Vincent announcement and that was good of the Chronicle to do. I’m not a media partisan, the blind loyalty we talked about yesterday. When outlet’s I disagree with do something I think is good, I’m perfectly fine with saying it was good. So thank you, Citrus County Chronicle, and the local Citrus 95 radio stations as well as the ABC, FOX, and NBC affiliates for all being at the press conference. Do better Bay News 9 and CBS. But some did do better. Let’s react to that now.

I read the Chronicle editorial this morning about state workers needing to be better appreciated through higher pay, and we’ll get to that in a second, but I had this great idea that today was going to be the day that I get to say my piece in response to other commentary out there, and I open Just Wright Citrus, and it’s about how he can’t swim. Great. But the truth is it’s about something much deeper than that, which Mike likely intended to his credit, but maybe even a step deeper than what he even he thought he was getting into. It’s about something we talked about earlier this week.

On Wednesday, I explained that the hardest part of not getting the directorship at WTC was that throughout the interview process, I had started to wrap my identity around that of an education administrator. When that identity was changed by not getting the job, it took a while for my brain to reset. Some never do. You probably know these people who can’t quite shake what they once were and so almost act irrationally in a situation to anyone who views them differently than they do themselves.

It doesn’t always take getting an identity fully changed. Sometimes the mere challenge to ones identity is enough to put them on the defensive. I truly believe this is how we get some terrible policy ideas like the Green New Deal or draconian school library approval system. Elected officials fear their progressive or conservative identities will be challenged so they go to great lengths to virtue signal to their base constituencies with ideas that aren’t great in practice but that maintain appearances.

This can be very useful in politics, and it’s a surprisingly new psychological field of study. It’s only about 50 years old, and if that sounds old to you, let me phrase it this way, it was first pioneered in the 1970s. Not that old now, is it? Henri Tajfel, in conjunction with John Turner but Tajfel is better remembered, as the founders of social identity theory. Tajfel was a Polish national of Jewish faith born in 1919, and if you know your history, you know he had a tough road ahead. He never renounced his Judaism but he did pretend to be a French national when WWII broke out which landed him in a prisoner of war camp but never a concentration camp. After the war, hearing about the concentration camps his friends and some family were sent to, he became obsessed with wondering how so many German nationals could embrace the identity of Nazism. I’m going to skip over a ton of steps here, but ultimately he concluded a fundamental part of social identity theory – that an essential part of forming your own identity in society is not just what you stand for, your in-group, but also who you are against – your out-group.

This is what makes embracing a new identity so hard. Not only do you have to realign certain truths about yourself, but you have to figure out what you are against, and sometimes, God forbid this happens in politics, your new in-group might start to look like your old out-group.

Let’s put this in an example of what Mike Wright is talking about. He said that his inability to swim led to swim lessons at the Y which then led to an early morning Bible study group. He had the identity of night owl, someone who very much saw himself at odds with morning people. It was the early morning, which we’re talking 7 or 8 oclock here – not exactly an early morning to most morning people but we’ll welcome him in anyway – Bible classes that were the catalyst to change. James Clear, who is not an academic but a great writer nonetheless, talks about this at length in Atomic Habits which is definitely worth a read for anyone trying to make a major life change. It’s far more comprehensible than academic literature or even these podcasts.

Okay, okay, we’re running out of time here because I like to keep these podcasts to around 12 minutes. So how does this relate to the Chronicle’s editorial this morning? Change is about incentives, and if you’re talking identity change, the incentives better be powerful. The Chonicle’s editorial said that state workers are underappreciated, and to make them more appreciated, we should pay them better. It does cite law enforcement that is a decent point, so I’ll agree with the editorial there. But it kind of misses the point of identity. People do work in public service knowing they will be underpaid to earn that title, and this becomes part of their in-group identity, that’s not a problem. The problem is that too often they are the target of unnecessary out-group criticism. I mean, even this editorial, think of the implications. It’s kind of saying everyone we have working for the state right now sucks, and we could get better people if only we paid to recruit that kind of talent. I don’t think we’ll ever make public service part of our in-groups, nor should we lest it diminishes the bond they share, but we can at least be a little more careful about placing them in out-groups purely viewed through a financial context. If we supported them more in reputation by not assuming they are lazy, time card punchers then maybe more people would be apt to wear the identity proudly.

This conversation about identity could go on for hours, including about embracing an American one, something important coming off this week but I’ll end with this. What about the way you project yourself to others would you be okay with walking away from if it got changed or challenged? What about your internal identity do you want to change about how you see yourself? My advice? Don’t wait until tomorrow. Start now.


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