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  • Writer's pictureDavid Redding


How people approach Chaos and Pain depends upon where they dwell on the Con-Prep Continuum

Chaos is uncontrollable circumstance and Pain is emotional or physical hardship. The Con-terminus of the Con-Prep Continuum is Control—the perceived power to dictate people’s behavior or the course of events. The Pre-terminus is Preparedness— getting ready for the unexpected while being ready for the unexpected.

By nature and nurture (probably more of the former), every person occupies a point on the Con-Prep Continuum that forms their outlook on Chaos and Pain. High Control people tend to see Chaos and Pain as “Problems” that can be collectively solved while High Preparedness people tend to see Chaos and Pain as “Conditions” that must be individually endured.

Problems and Conditions are similar in that they are both Disadvantages, which are inferior circumstances caused by nature, un-Virtuous Leadership or inertia. The difference is that a Problem can and must be remedied while a Condition cannot be significantly effected through human endeavor.

High-Con and High-Prep people will often agree that a particular circumstance is a Disadvantage but will generally disagree as to whether it is a Problem or a Condition

The farther toward either termini of the continuum two people are, the larger their disagreement will be. Toward the middle, the disagreement will be smaller and the opportunity for compromise will be greater.

Although rarely addressed, the Con-Prep Continuum is the source of virtually all civil strife and political rancor. High-Cons tend toward the left of the political spectrum and High-Preps to the right. This flocking tendency is reflected in both groups’ rhetoric and policy prescriptions. Take their varying approaches to three long-standing societal Disadvantages: violent crime, out-of-wedlock births and human-induced climactic change.

The left tends to see these as Problems that can be solved, promulgating Control-based solutions designed to limit gun ownership, inhibit or terminate pregnancy and restrict economic behavior that contributes to global warming. The right tends to see these as Conditions that must be endured, offering Preparedness-oriented policies designed to deter crime, bolster individual responsibility and export capitalism and economic freedom to developing nations.

High-Cons tend to view High-Preps as cold-hearted and selfish bastards who would let the world burn away as long as they had enough electricity to run their own HVAC system

And High-Preps tend to view High-Cons as soft-headed power-mongers who want to run everybody else’s life. Both sides view the beliefs and policies of the other as dangerous and idiotic nostrums that are beyond the realm of rational discussion, which leaves the people in the middle—whose minds are not yet made up—in a quandary because they need information.

When High-Cons and High Preps shut each other down and demand fealty to their viewpoint inertia sets in.

And that is where we currently find ourselves on COVID

High-Cons see it as a Problem that can be solved by Controlling its spread among the entire population. High-Preps see it as a Condition that must be endured by allowing it to spread through the segment of the population to whom it presents little threat of death, while protecting the vulnerable members of the population until such time that we have a reliable vaccine and/or an effective treatment.

Now, anybody who knows me at all knows that I am a High-Prep, but (I hope) also knows that while I have strong beliefs, I hold them loosely. As a Collision Learner, I am always in search of a good Argument—which is the forceful juxtaposition of opposing viewpoints in order to Persuade. I can learn facts from a book or a classroom, but to gain wisdom I need Argument, adversity and failure.

While I disagree with High-Cons on most things, I don’t want to shut them down, I want to engage them in Argument—for three reasons

First, I am an American governed by a Constitution that enshrines freedom of speech as its most important civil liberty. Even though, as a private citizen, I am not in violation of the letter of the law if I shut another man down, as a Leader I am in violation of the spirit of the law and that is actually worse. If I really believe in the ideals of the Constitution than I have an obligation to see them upheld even though I hold no government office. Every citizen should be heard and his statements treated with a respectful hearing even if I find them disagreeable, particularly (in fact) if I find them disagreeable.

Second, self-governance is dependent upon Argument. Whether it is a courtroom or legislature, the deliberative bodies that we rely upon to preserve our civil liberties require active debate in order to function properly. We wouldn’t want a judge to rule without hearing from both sides. Nor would we want the majority in Congress to pass a law without granting the minority the opportunity to be respectfully heard. Our daily interactions, whether disciplining our children or responding to tweets should reflect the same adherence to democratic notions of open and respectful debate. To act otherwise is a form of mini-tyranny that is incompatible with Americanism.

Finally, I don’t really trust myself all that much. As a man of flesh and blood, I am bristling with biases and preconceived notions of all sorts—many of which I am barely aware. While I am governed by a set of bedrock ideals (like protection of the vulnerable) I know from experience that I am very likely to change my mind over time as I learn more. To learn, I must seek adversity, court failure and most importantly engage in Argument with those who believe otherwise.

High-Prep that I am, I am dependent upon the views of High-Cons to hold me back from the tyranny of my own self-regard. I need to Argue through the Con-Prep Continuum to get to Wisdom.



Jan 17, 2021

I too (surprise, surprise, Sargent Carter!) am High Prep. I think the only way we REALLY learn is to put things into practice and sink or swim! As for argument I have said and continue to believe that we get to the truth by healthy skepticism and robust debate, not group think. And that suppression of speech and thought against one party is suppression of speech and thought against all parties. As a hard science professional I find suppression as an expression of a weak position that cannot withstand rigorous debate and analysis. Hence my distaste for "consensus" especially in science. I also believe (and have practiced this) that saying "I don't know" is no sin and I question any…


Dec 26, 2020

I really like this perspective. I engage in argument/debate by generally positioning an extreme on one side or the other of someone’s perspective. I do this to see if they will pause and then logically present their case. Unfortunately in several recent cases I’m just called names for challenging adults positions rather than accepting their positions. As a high school debate judge I’ve learned that it is the role of pro or con to successfully present their case using facts, sources and logic. When an adult can’t do what I see high schoolers do multiple weekends a year my tendency is to simply walk away to limit conflict.

I do wish healthy argument would be embraced my more folks regardless…


John Orton
John Orton
Dec 26, 2020

I look for the chance to have dialogue with you on a subject on the ConPrep Continuum. I will have to be prepared to have a cogent perspective. One thought I read someplace is that part of the problem or maybe it is a condition is that our lawmakers used to stay in DC (federal level) more and were in close proximity to each other (their kids went to the same schools, they lived in the same neighborhoods, went to the same clubs) vs having the ability to travel home more frequently and not have proximity outside of govt buildings. Maybe one way to improve cooperation and understanding is to build in ways to increase proximity? I'll keep thinking.

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