There are some things I’ve been thinking about non-stop for over one year now since I began writing a lot about international politics, education and development issues in my program…

Duplicity

This concept really interests me. The idea that we can have two opposing characteristics in our personalities, two diametrically opposed desires, just pure contradictions all over the place.

Decision

And to think it always boils down to a decision. That we indeed choose to act on one impulse over the other – although we’re equally aware of both of them. That we literally need to cut off one idea, life choice, value, belief, habit in favour of another. (De-cide, means a de-cision as in incision, precision, to cut one thing off for another) .

…and now to my dilemma:

The thought-experiment I’ve been entertaining for over a year has to do with my relationship to power. Do I become a strategist or a tactician? Do these insinuate or expel one another; imply or mutually exclude? Strategists are those who live and exist in the realm of power- of institutions, of corporations, of economic planning or free markets. Strategists are rigid, discerning and detailed, organized and territorial. Maintaining “order” in all that they do, Strategists are capable of making plans because that is their privilege: thier gift and their curse. The gift of planning is that in addition to planning for success you can plan for the opposite which is failure – ‘risk management’ or ‘damage control’ as its called by many strategic entities in the global capitalist environment.

Tacticians on the other hand don’t make plans. They live toward, in between, along, underneath, around and away from the plans of others. Most of us are tacticians. Unafforded the gift of privilege to make us strategists – or to live in a world that encourages and praises strategy- tactitians are manipulative, smart, adaptable, creative, deterritorialized. Tacticians need to know both worlds- the world of strategy and the world of tactics. The great thing about tacticians is that since life is unpredictable, their adaptive nature makes it easier for them to cope with change. Also they are able to beat Strategists at their own game because they know it so well. Tacticians know the game of strategists so well because they have tried all their lives to either benefit from it, destruct it or both.

Just so you know what I mean:

Birth into certain social categories and life experiences designate me to the category of tacticianista. However, we are all able to make choices, as I made the point earlier and decide where to go. What if the opportunity of strategist was available? Think abstractly with me here.

If you are invited into a closed boardroom of CEOs who were about to decide on a wide-scale health policy option – weighing its pros and cons on public health, discussing the economic benefit and drawbacks to taxpayers; with all of the said ‘experts’ on hand

or

You are invited to work for a grassroots organization that aims to at least marginally affect the outcome of the decision that the health analysts will eventually make.

You see how it represents a different way of being political? And many times you can’t do both due to a “Conflict of Interest” clause in most organizations.

I think my answer is that being strategic or tactical are not mutually exclusive options. They are both modes of being when we are presented with specific problems of how to react; depending on our social position at our time it makes more reasonable sense to choose one mode over the other.

Looking at people’s options for how to act in context-specific situations helps me to understand the ostensible contradictions in life. For example,

How a person once expelled from the nation due to his role in inciting terrorism in the African National Congress (ANC), can then become president.

Nelson Mandela created MK Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), the armed wing of the ANC in the late 1950s. As Mandela put it:

“[…] I and some of my colleagues came to the conclusion that as violence in this country was inevitable, it would be wrong and unrealistic for African leaders to continue preaching peace and non-violence at a time when the government met our demands with force…” (Meli 1988: 146)

As the South African government strategized with their military commanders to disarm the ANC, the ANC tactically created an armed wing with the help of populations outside of South Africa such as Zambian nationals and other South Africans.

Other quotes revealing the tactical ANC:

“Acting as a borderless welfare state, the ANC supplies food, clothes, housing, transportation, and health care to its more than thirteen thousand constituents living outside South Africa…”

“The violence seems random and spontaneous rather than managed and purposeful.. (Davis 1987: x)

“The difficulty one faces when it comes to detailing the armed activities of the ANC is the lack of record of them, because of official concealment of these activities.. (Meli 1988: 191)

So the ANC was exiled yet continued to operate. As President Mandela then became one of the prime strategists of the nation, with international recognition and a plethora of resources to make systemic changes in South Africa.

How a person can be jailed for economic fraud and then return to being an economic giant.

Martha Stewart, for example. How is it that she makes a tactical decision to plead guilty, go to jail and then come out as one of the most creative entrepreneurs in the world today? It is a mix of tactically seeming law-abiding and regretting a crime; then using jail (and post-jail) time strategically with her network of business associates. Now strategies are her modus operandi.

Hope this all makes sense to you because to me, understanding whether a person is being tactical or strategic is one of the best ways to understand his/her motives and intentions for acting in the world. This is a meta-theory, in a way, because it encompasses diverse actions, decisions and situations and requires context-specific information in order to discern what actions should be placed under what categories.

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