Enlightened Conflict

How do you solve a problem when one half absolutely hates the other half?

February 10th, 2017

Polar Opposites conflict

 

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I want people to think about our politics here in America, because I’m telling you guys that I don’t know of a single nation in this history of the world that’s been able to solve its problems when half the people in the country absolutely hate the other half of the people in that country.

This is the most important country in the world, and people in this body cannot function if people are offending one another.

Marco Rubio

 

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Well.

 

Polarization can create some pretty foul conduct.

 

Polarization can bring out the worst in people.

 

Polarization can create stillness within turmoil when movement within teamwork is needed <and desired>.

And.

 

Polarization within leadership is a virus that infects everyone in the organization … not just in leadership.

marco rubio speech on respectful conflict

I was reminded of this as I watched a completely underreported and under the radar speech Marco Rubio gave on the senate floor after <I believe> Elizabeth Warren had been asked to stop speaking.

Warren gained all the headlines where Rubio actually had the words we should have all been listening to. It is maybe 8 minutes long and worth every second.

 

 

Please note that I believe this message is more important than just one directed toward the Senate … it is a message which all Americans should take note of.

We are fortunate to have the privilege of freedom of speech & thought and we should embrace that freedom as one to permit healthy discussion, debate and disagreements … all of which should enable healthy, positive decisions.

 

Freedom is a tricky thing. In the United States of America we have the unique opportunity to “criticize a president without retribution.” <as past President Obama said to a group of military people at MacDill Air Force base>.

 

But our freedoms are being challenge by Trump and his attitudes & behaviors in ways we haven’t really seen in a very very long time.

 

The Trump Affect ripples way beyond simple executive orders and specific friends unfluencers ripples2actions that will have an impact on the people of the country. The more dangerous ripple effect is one of attitudes & behaviors.

Within this dangerous Trump affect ripple,  the freedom to freely criticize is a little less secure … and the way we criticize, debate & discuss in the Trump era appears to be one of not listening, not respecting and not believing that there could possibly be a way to do something differently than the way “I believe.”

 

Trump and his merry little band of morally corrupt liars suggest that there is no middle ground for “ladies & gentlemen to disagree with ladies & gentlemen” <note: this is a rip off of the Ritz Carlton motto>.

 

The Trump Affect has trickled down into his direct organization … the congress.

 

And within that ripple Republicans either embrace the bully opportunity or simply privately watch in horror as leadership decorum and leadership example <which, by the way, IS important as impressionable children and adult seeking cues on how to be leaders watch closely>.

And within that ripple Democrats screech & gnash their teeth in impotent frustration over not only having no power to shift the tides of change but also because, in their heart of hearts, they know this is not the way business should be conducted.

 

Balance has disappeared.

compromise balancing actWhile people can bitch & moan that decorum, in the past, has only encouraged stagnancy & lack of action they should not confuse with what business is conducted and how business is conducted.

Just as I am more accepting of my high school football coach if we have a losing season but the players play with respect & dignity and go to class and show signs of growing up with a healthy personal responsibility … I am less accepting of the coach who permits poor behavior & lack of respectful competition even if they win more.

You can have all the good in this case. But balance has been lost.

 

In fact.

 

We should face the fact that balance deserted us the day Trump stepped onto his golden Trump Tower escalator last year to announce his candidacy.

 

And that is why Rubio’s speech is so important. Without actually saying it he suggests that we shouldn’t let Trump drag us down into some dysfunctional squabbling amorphous blob of indignant jerks.

 

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“Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do.

Both are nonsense.

You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”

 

———-

Rick Warren

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I like conflict and I think conflict is healthy.

creative spark light bulb

It is a basic Life truth that conflict is the positive friction that often creates innovations and new thinking and new ideas.

But, as with most things in life, there are degrees of conflict.

 

The kind of conflict we need now, more than ever, is the productive type.

 

We need to better embrace the valuable contradictions in life.

Things like:

 

Smart and funny.

Silent but says a lot.

Liberal conservative.

Cynical optimist.

 

Oh.

 

And enlightened and conflict of course.

 

We need to better embrace the fact that contradictions are powerful.

They create a chemistry ending in positive friction <when done right> and the fire for innovative thinking and thoughts.

 

In general I believe contradiction not only make life & people interesting but they also forge the kind of decisions that become the iron construct for a solid culture, civilization and country.

 

We need to embrace that conflict is part of life and not treat it as only a negative thing.

 

void embrace the unknownHumans are neither passive nor stagnant. We move. We do. We think.

 

Combine that fact with individuals are unique <although they may group together> and inevitably there is some conflict. It can simply be healthy competition or it can be staggeringly evil intended activity <i.e. there will be conflict because your point of view and thoughts shouldn’t exist and I am going to extinguish them>.

 

We need to embrace the fact that conflict can be “managed”.

Maybe call it competitive camaraderie. I call it enlightened conflict. I believe if people know more about stuff <I don’t really believe it needs a technical term> then conflict will be conducted with knowledge.

 

I would suggest that ignorance, and being close minded, guides conflict toward evil interactions … while knowledge guides conflict to responsible interactions.

 

Lastly.

 

We need to embrace that enlightened conflict is really some version of pluralism.

A pluralism in that it encourages, and embraces, freedom to learn and freedom to think different thoughts.

 

In the end I imagine what I really care about are people’s actions. They can remain mute as far as I am concerned as long as their actions respect others opinions and others lives and meets global responsibilities.

 

Look.

 

enlightened conflict ideasIt is silly to think that conflict doesn’t exist as part of our natural behavior <I apologize to all the “why can’t we all get along” groups>.

 

It is silly to think that friction between beliefs and causes is not the spark for something better.

 

It is silly to think conflict and friction is not good.

Good conflict leads to positive friction and ideation and evolution of ideas.

 

But it needs to be conducted with respect. Respectful disagreements & debate lead to two things:

 

  • Positive friction.

 

  • Enlightened conflict.

 

 

The first is based on curiosity plus friction equals better ideas and thinking.

The second is lack of ignorance plus conflict equals respectful competition.

 

We here in the United States have an incredible privilege … a freedom to say what we want and disagree and criticize whomever we want. We shouldn’t abuse that privilege by not understanding that it creates good conflict which enlightened conflict thinkenables ‘gooder’ ideas.

 

Marco Rubio did something in his speech which I endorse wholeheartedly … he tried to make an impact on his own little corner of the world … encouraging positive friction for enlightened conflict.

 

 

Marco Rubio had a stellar enlightened conflict moment … and more people should see it and listen.

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“Enlighten the people, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.”

Thomas Jefferson

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first impressions, first words and character assessment

July 31st, 2016

pooh paws truth seek

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“Pooh looked at his two paws.

He knew that one of them was right, and he knew that when you had decided which one of them was right, then the other one was the left, but he never could remember how to begin.”

 

House at Pooh Corner

 

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So.

 

I opened with this Pooh quote to talk about first words.

first impression trust last

Not first impressions but first words.

 

Sure.

They can be directly related but I firmly believe first impressions are significantly less important than last impressions. What I mean is that 99% of the time I can redirect a first impression more toward the desired last impression.

 

First words are trickier.

 

And, as with most things in Life, not all first words are created equal.

 

There are first words which are just not articulated well. These you can recover from. These are the ones that we all think about afterwards and say “shit, I wish I had said ‘this’ rather than what I said.”

 

And you know what? you can.

 

Ah.

 

But then there are the first words which everyone knows are your true feelings. The ones which put an indelible stamp upon your character. These are … well … almost impossible to recover from.

And, truthfully, you cannot recover from something which is a true reflection of who and what you are. You can stumble, mumble or offer a variety of jumbled words but you is what you is and your first words reflect who you is.

 

And that is why I thought of Pooh on this topic.

 

You receive a question.

You think.

 

And the other person, or people, can actually see you think.

 

 You know that there is a right answer and a … well … left answer. You look at both paws and just aren’t sure which is which.

 

Therefore, you answer from your truest self.

 

It is a character answer.  fixing america define yourself how

 

Simplistically , when I view another person’s first words when trapped in a ‘which paw is which” situation I attempt to bucket it into one of two buckets. Are the words a reflection from an “I” perspective <which tend to defend the “I”> or are the words a reflection from a more global view <which tend to defend what other’s may think>.

 

Why?

 

Because, to me, great character is most often driven by an ability, or desire, to view the world in someone else’s shoes. This doesn’t mean character shouldn’t be a reflection of self and what is important from your own ethical & moral compass but rather it means you are always challenging your sense of self against what matters to other people.

 

I will admit.

 

I am sure a part of me wrote about this today because of another Trump ‘first words’ response which made me not only think he was hollow empathetically but also incredibly incapable of viewing the world through anyone’s eyes, and Life criteria filter, other than his own.

 

His response to Mr. Khan’s emotional but articulate stance on the patriotism of Muslim Americans was so unenlightened, portrayed an absurd lack of empathy let alone showing a depth of obliviousness to the real issue at hand and so defensive … well … suffice it to say that first words matter.

 

I imagine he will send out a variety of tweets trying to explain how his first words were misconstrued.

and, to be clear, lest we get confused here on the issues for Trump’s comments about the Khan’s:

 

  • he assumed a Muslim American <American> woman couldn’t speak because of Islam faith. This is either blatant racism or idiotic ignorance. Pick your poison.

 

  • he made “thousands of jobs” equivalent to “losing a child” <let alone an American soldier in combat child>. In his mind somehow this sacrifice is equivalent. Drink that poison.

 

 

Yeah. First words are first words. And first words matter.

 

First words are a true reflection of character maybe 99% of the time.

 

Look.

 

We have all been asked a question and sat there looking at each paw wondering where to begin.

 

99% of the time … even if we do not get the words exactly right … the words will be in some form or fashion a reflection of how we truly feel.

 

99% of the time … even if we do not get the words exactly right … the words will be in some form or fashion a reflection of our character.

 

paw pooh truth selfI do not sit here today writing to suggest anyone should be more careful with regard to what they say first. I do not because I believe most of us are pretty careful with our first words.

 

I will, however, suggest that everyone should pay attention and think about the first words that they hear. Not to say that someone cannot revise something said at first but rather because … well … not all first words are created equal.

 

And the first words said by someone who cannot remember which paw is right and which is left and isn’t sure where to begin?

Well. Most likely those first words will be a reflection of who and what they truly are.

 

 

unpleasant way of saying the truth

July 30th, 2016

 cynicism unpleasant way of speaking truth

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“Cynicism is an unpleasant way of saying the truth.”

 

—–

 

Lillian Hellman

 

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    “Truth itself is an emergent distinction.

It’s not a noun; it’s more of a verb.”

 

————

Peter Joseph

 

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“… tell them there’s a cost … every decision we make in life, there’s always a cost.”

 

Brad Meltzer

 

 

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truth nobody is right wrong life societyNobody’s right.

 

Nobody’s wrong.

 

Conversely … I imagine that means someone is always right … or is always wrong.

 

What a fucked up world that would be.

 

Uhm.

 

It sometimes seems like we are close to that world today. And if we are … well … there is always a cost.

 

The cost?

 

Right or wrong … any statement made … even when sensible and accurate from both a moral and leadership perspective … pays a price in the current societal climate. Statements get parsed word by word scrutinized & tortured to a point where someone will say anything to stop the pain.

 

I have stated before that it is a tough time for truth tellers.

 

The climate, to me, is becoming one of steadfast unequivocal semi-truths where someone refuses to admit truth is rarely simple and complexity is rarely viewed as something to be embraced … not to be discarded as ‘silly political correctness.’ The current information climate sometimes embraces a contrary opinion as a viable reason to not accept a majority expert analysis as an accepted truth.

 

I imagine what I am suggesting is that even truth is being challenged by a divisive society.

 

“Nobody is right and nobody is wrong. Only one thing is right, and that is the Truth, but nobody knows what it is. It is a thing that changes all the time, and then comes back to the same thing.”

Lin Yutang

 

Divisiveness not only makes truth an unpleasant discussion but makes communicating truth excruciatingly unpleasant.

 

Now.

 

This divisiveness can very easily, and actually DOES, lead to true ‘truth abuse.’gg cyber house divided

 

And just as with anything that gets abused or when someone decided to play by different rules … it can become quite tempting to start adopting others habits, attitudes & behaviors under the guise of ‘leveling the playing field.’

 

 

Some people’s abuse of truth is no excuse for all people to abandon the use of truth – overall or for one truth.

 

Here is a Life truth.

 

Truth does not reside on an uneven playing field. It resides on one field which is level and lined with uneraseable boundaries.

Sure.

There may be exceptions in which truth may reside close to the margins … exceptions where being righteous toward some meaningful ends permits truth to be placed right on the out of bounds line itself. But you will find the ‘truth abusers’ almost always argues that their particular truth fits within the margins.

 

Let’s be clear.

 

Everyone who disagrees with something you say or believe … is not stupid.

 

In fact … suggesting so, or even suggesting that agreement of opposing views <with a bigger vision in mind> is wrong shows lack of intellectual depth.

 

 

James A. Garfield:

“The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.”

 

 

But maybe the issue isn’t truth but the inability to be able to tell the difference between truth and fiction.

 

I can honestly say I am not sure if I am a cynic, a realist or simply a cynical optimist <hope undergirds just about anything I believe and do>.

divide offen right opinion speech

Now.

 

I clearly understand that there is often a fine line between that realism and cynicism just as I understand there is sometimes a fine line between contrarianism and … well … crackpotism.

 

But here is the deal <the truth as it were>.

 

I read somewhere ‘going thru life avoiding the truth is no way to live.’

Maybe no truer words said.

But what may be even worse? “going thru Life with no truth is no way to live.”

 

I struggle to think of a more unpleasant world than one in which we have no accepted truths.

 

Or a world in which we have no accepted truth tellers.

And by that last thought I mean the real truth tellers … the ones who do not appeal to one group or another … but rather the truth teller who can speak, speak even the unpleasant truths, and all audiences accept it.

 

All of that said leads me back to the opening quote in which cynicism and truth are inextricably linked.

 

Personally I believe a thread of cynicism is healthy. It grounds you enough to insure you don’t become infatuated by the lure of some fantastical untruth which may seem appealing … as well as it insure you put real truths to the grindstone of rigorous logic.

 

But if you accept this thought. This thought that we should all carry around a little cynicism. Well. that creates some challenges to a truth teller. It suggests that telling the truth will almost always have some aspect of unpleasantness.

 

I could argue that the unpleasantness is grounded in the necessary work it should take to rationalize & energize real truth … but … to someone telling the truth <a real truth> in their heart of hearts it kind of feels like it shouldn’t take that much work.

 

Look.

 

truth victim of tolerance unpleasant

 

We should not tell the truth only when truth is needed. We should tell the truths all the time. That is how truth wins over semi truths and made up truths and actual no truths.

 

And while truth tellers must try to get the truth across in a respectful way … they must also accept that truth, in general, almost always has a slightly unpleasant taste when fed to someone.

 

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“The choice to give up bitterness is not easy, but it is simple: peace or poison.

And don’t wait until you feel like making it. You never will.”

 

Brent Weeks

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Truth has never been an easy concept.

 

Some could even argue that people, in general, are quite happy with a robust portion of Truth being fairly malleable.

 

Regardless.

 

Despite the fact we often bemoan the fact that people are too accepting of what they hear and don’t utilize the internet to research their own beliefs … we can’t expect every individual to always fact-check, question and investigate every single statement or bit of information ever encountered.

 

People will always take some shortcuts and it is silly to think people will not.

 

In the good ole days the shortcuts were leaders, the authority and a range of experts. Nowadays that shortcut is … well … the wisdom of the crowd.’ If a sufficient number of information outlets, or people, confirm something … well … then many of us began to believe it was acceptable to believe it.

 

The downside of ‘wisdom of the crowd’ is that it comes at the expense of ‘the wisdom of the leader/expert.’

 

The ‘crowd wisdom’ seems to suggest that a sufficiently large crowd <of non-experts> can be at least as accurate as a small number of expert authorities. This all gets exacerbated by the fact social media has a natural ability to aggregate a subjectively “sufficient large crowd” to solidify a belief.

 

Obviously this faulty logic <crowds do not invariably gain wisdom but rather simply coalesce around a belief – whether that belief is truth or not>.

 

But crowds of likeminded people are like gravity. It feels like a natural law even if it is difficult to prove. And the outcome of this ‘natural law feeling’ is that it contributes to an unjustified, exaggerated distrust in experts who reside somewhere outside this particular crowd.

 

But here is where truth tellers really end up in a really unpleasant space.

 

In the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ no one contradicts me in good faith … any opponent to what I believe must be lying … anyone must have been corrupted by someone or something <therefore are corrupt in some way>… and they must be ‘a lesser version of me & my crowd’ <if not actually some version of a degenerate>.

 

Rereading all of that … well … truth is an unpleasant business.

 

And that is where cynicism comes back into the conversation. While a truth teller sees truth as good and positive they need to recognize that truth is more often going to be viewed as … well … bad news.

 

I say that because bad news is always unpleasant … and therefore a bearer of bad news always has to think about the unpleasant way of saying the truth.

 

Good truth tellers, the ones with a strong moral compass, recognize the presence of the inner cynic in everyone and the fact it is difficult to keep its influence from … well … influencing how one thinks & acts.

 

Good truth tellers, the ones with unequivocal integrity, recognize the crowd’s more hardened inner cynicism and the fact that whatever good news they bear will be bad news to the cynical.

truth people hate

Good truth tellers recognize it is not easy to tell the truth, in fact, it may even be unpleasant … and they take the extraordinary efforts necessary to address the inner cynicism from day one.

 

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“People are stupid.

They think the truth is so easy to know or tell.

All you can do is your best in the circumstances. “

—–

Comment in The Guardian

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People are not stupid. I am fairly positive that all people really desire is truth.

And that is a fair desire.

 

But because truth is rarely simple … in addition … the world offers only fairly complex circumstances in which to tell the truth.

 

All this means is that for the foreseeable future … truth telling is going to be unpleasant.

 

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“Don’t trust the beginnings, truth is told in the last moments.”

 

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Ahlam Mosteghanemi

 

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gullible and the death of subtlety

July 27th, 2016

 subtle obvious

 

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“Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.”

 

Malcolm X

 

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“The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.”

 

 

Terry Pratchett

 

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Your mind is programmable – if you’re not programming your mind, someone else will program it for you.”

 

Jeremy Hammond

 

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“Some conversations are not about what they’re about.”

Anne Carson

 

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gullible charlotte's webWell.

 

I admit.

 

I get a little grumpy when people start bitching about how … well … people <but never them of course> are more gullible today than ever in the past.

 

Let me be absolutely clear on this.

 

I don’t think we are any more gullible than we were yesterday or the day<s> before.

 

Nor do I believe we are any stupider or more ignorant. In fact … I tend to believe most of us are owners of more information and knowledge than ever before <albeit it may be parts & pieces of information>.

 

Now.

 

I do believe we face a couple of things which maybe make people think we are more gullible.

 

  • A desire for more black and white

 

  • The loss of subtlety or nuance as a basic communication tool

 

First.

people black white color

The black and white thing.

 

People, in general, love the concept of things being black & white.

We want it, try and believe the important things are and tend to distrust things that cannot easily fall into a black or white box.

 

Well.

 

While we may want black & white truth and things to be black and white in Life … most things are best captured in subtlety and nuance.

 

Metaphorically … black & white are easily missed but colors capture the eye.

 

 

Second.

 

Subtlety and nuance.

 

Well.

 

Seeing that I just used a metaphor to end point one … well … the engine that drives effective subtlety and nuance is the ability to use metaphors effectively.

 

As a corollary … the ability to understand an effectively communicated metaphor … well … this ‘listener access point’ is a necessary ability to insure subtlety and nuance can thrive.

 

In other words.

 

Subtlety and nuance needs both an effective deliverer and an effective receiver.

Someone needs to be able to paint in colors and someone needs to not be color blind.

 

Along those lines … literalness is black & white.

 

grays black and whiteAnd it seems like nuance and creativity in communicating is being destroyed by literalness <note: not political correctness>.

We just seem to bludgeon each other with sentences stripped of adjectives and any glimmer of color.

 

And in that literalness we end up being a warped version of gullible.

 

I say all that because far too often ‘gullible’ is associated with ‘not intelligent.’

 

That is not so. In today’s world gullible is being driven by the death of subtlety, nuance and metaphorical speak.

 

And the savvy communicators in the world recognize this and therefore revert to simple bludgeoning words & thoughts.

 

Worse?

 

They simply bludgeon us with simplicity. Or, well, at least what they construe as simplicity but as it comes to life in its hideously insipid quasi-truthful simplistic form it does more damage in its effect than if you had said nothing at all.

 

This all suggests that it may appear like being gullible is running rampant amongst us all … and, yet, we may simply being managed by those who know how to effectively articulate what they want to say <which may not be truth>?

 

The most effective tactic a literal communicator uses is by discussing ‘knowledge’ by fitting an explanation after an event … uhm … which is actually kind of easy.

In addition it makes it easy to literally bludgeon others to such a point it appears … well … simple.

 

All the while is the ignored nuance of knowledge … is the past really a predictor of the future?

 <answer: no>

 

In addition the simplicity can often be doubled down on with impassioned rhetoric. And that impassioned rhetoric doesn’t cut through truth like a sharp knife … it smothers it.

 

I do worry about the simplicity rhetoric out there.

 

And I worry because I know nothing about … well … a lot of shit <to put it bluntly> and I suspect most things are quite complicated … not simple.

 

I worry that literalness ignores the nuances which dictate the truth.

 

I worry because literalness is certainly easier to grasp by people. And I worry if they grasp a literal untruth and believe it … well … it becomes a perverted moral drift society truthtruth.

 

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“The truth isn’t the truth until people believe you, and they can’t believe you if they don’t know what you’re saying, and they can’t know what you’re saying if they don’t listen to you, and they won’t listen to you if you’re not interesting, and you won’t be interesting unless you say things imaginatively, originally, freshly.”

 

——

 

Bill Bernbach

====================

 

 

Look.

 

Savvy communicators have always been … well … savvy … savvy at manipulating not only our thoughts but also how we feel. They tap into our pea like brains like surgeons. And they do so using tools of both literalness and nuance/subtlety. In fact .. the best wield one in each hand.

 

Now.

 

There are a certainly a variety of tried & true ways we get manipulated/managed by speakers <this list represents a Great Courses course on persuasive speaking>:

 

Show the obstacle and overcome it

 

Empathetic authenticity <I see myself in them>

 

Create and tell a Story

 

the Power of the ‘three‘ <we LOVE lists … and short doable & rememberable lists>

 

the Logical Case

 

Paint a Pictures <with words>

 

Share a vision

 

appeal to the head, heart & wallet

 

Inspire with a Call for positive action

 

 

nuance litte thingsSuffice it to say that managing the narrative matters and how you state the narrative matters. And more often than not how we communicate, when being effective in doing so, sends subtle signals.

 

Yes. Nuances matter.

 

All literalness does is permit we <the listener> to add our nuanced beliefs on top of the starkness and that translates into a stronger self-biased attitude.

 

I am not suggesting literalness be replaced by bullshit buzzwords and cool sounding strategies but rather that facts are supported by subtle and nuanced aspects to reflect the most important truth – facts are complex.

 

I could argue that subtlety and nuance represents the difference between true effective sustainable functioning structures and inefficient unsustainable nonfunctioning structures.

 

But I will not.

 

I will not because the real answer is that … well … we don’t know for sure.

 

But what we do know is that effective communication is the lifeblood of any healthy work & personal environment.

 

We also know that communication takes place on multiple levels in order to be truly effective – literally what we say as well as how we say those things.

 

We also know that emotion is the energy behind any true action. Without emotion action is … well … robotic at its core. In other words … it creates a task doing and checklist completion attitude.

 

Uh oh.

 

Task doing and completion attitude unfortunately feeds into a ‘gullible’ perspective , i.e., just doing what I was told.

Now.

That may not be true … but it certainly creates that perspective.

 

Look.

 

I absolutely do not believe we are anymore gullible today than we were yesterday.

 

I do believe one of the most unfortunate consequences of information accessibility <in its overwhelming way> is that literalness has taken on a significant importance in our heads <and, therefore, it affects our behavior>.

 

I also like to remind people that we suck at knowing what we want.

 

In an information accessible world we say we want black & white … but we really don’t. We crave subtlety & nuance and colors. We just desire it in a way that doesn’t make us work too hard.

 

And, frankly, that is no different today than it was yesterday and nor will it be any different in the future.

 

Give us something we can understand and enjoy … give us the literal truth in a story line in which we can embrace … give the black & white some nuanced rich & royal hues … and well … you have trapped my mind emotionally and logically.worth a try show for it life

 

That, my friends, does not reflect gullible in any way. That reflects a well-informed, engaged semi-enlightened population.

 

Subtlety is surely not dead. And we should be seeking to use it more often … or at least try.

 

Literalness may be currently standing in the spotlight but subtlety & nuance is standing nearby awaiting literalness to wilt under the harsh light of … well … what is truth.

 

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“Once you create a self-justifying storyline, your emotional entrapment within it quadruples.”

 

Pema Chödrön

finding a better version of capitalism

May 28th, 2016

 capitalism conspiracy elite

 

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“The combination of technology and capitalism has given us a world that really feels out of control.”

 

Jonathon Franzen

 

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 “Communism forgets that life is individual. Capitalism forgets that life is social, and the Kingdom of Brotherhood is found neither in the thesis of Communism nor the antithesis of capitalism but in a higher synthesis.”

 

—–

Martin Luther King 1967

 

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Why am I writing my umpteenth article on capitalism?

 

capitalism kills loveI saw a number from some USA research the other day … something like 50% of people under the age of 30 do not believe in capitalism.

 

Ok.

 

Capitalism is good.

 

Capitalism is not bad.

 

Just wanted to get that out of the way.

 

But that does not mean there isn’t always a tension between good and bad in the soul of capitalism. It is an incredible wealth-creating & life bettering mechanism and, yet, left to its own devices can run off the tracks <morally and financially>.

 

Capitalism needs guard rails. Or some smart guy called it “embedded countervailing power.” It needs guard rails because humans will be humans.

 

When business is good, human beings become greedy.

When business is bad, human beings become fearful.

 

And I would like to remind everyone that culture is created by … uhm … human beings.

I say that not to be a smart ass but to suggest there is a real culture war in America, maybe the world, and it is occurring in the business world.

 

I purposefully use ‘culture’ because it has to do with some ethics or moral fortitude, some personal responsibility and some pragmatic hope for the future.

In fact … if we fix how capitalism works <systemic & infrastructure aspects> the net result is addressing income inequality, wage stagnation and overall economic prosperity as well as some individual “self-stuff” <kind of all the big societal issues we tend to discuss>.

 

Anyway.

 

A moment on the role of government.

trust the government society young

It is both a fallacy to believe Government is not the problem nor believe they are the solution.

We have a mixed economy < I stole that term from Foreign Policy magazine>.

 

Capitalism is not a governance system which is about maximizing corporate profit at the expense of the citizenry. Effective government curbs greed obejectives & regulates capitalism so that it does the good things it is supposed to do <innovate & bring prosperity to many> and it doesn’t do the bad things <be driven solely by greed>.

 

Let’s be clear.

 

America is not based on an unfettered capitalism nor has it ever been <nor was it ever meant to be by the founding fathers>.

 

It is a managed capitalism system <always has been … I say that to head off any of the ‘government is too involved’ today talking heads>.

 

Government attempts … sometimes better than other times … to put reins on humans within a capitalistic society.  Let’s say it’s something like giving enough range for wild horses to run free … but not to trample the gardens and lawns of the surrounding areas.

 

This ‘fettered’ managed capitalism idea is not perfect. It ebbs and flows and morphs into different shapes as time passes.

But it IS an effective economic and political system.

 

I would suggest that while polarizing … capitalism is balanced … when balanced.

But a better version of capitalism really is not dependent upon governance and laws <and putting banks out of business> but rather personal decisions, choices & responsibility.  Yes. I just suggested <again> that people, not the system, will define the better version of capitalism.

 

Adam Smith suggested the three pillars of a society are: prudence, looking after oneself as best as one is able; justice, keeping the law of the land; and reflection people imperefcetbeneficence, caring for others and society where there is need.

 

Clearly our main issue is not how to survive on true scarcity <that is not a perceived scarcity or a “less than” scarcity> but rather how to live well with plenty.

 

To date we have chased double digit growth and higher GDP all the while seeking higher material happiness <sometimes confused with higher standard of living>.

 

We have become societally insatiable.

 

In other words … we cannot have enough.

 

This funny Maslow chart reflects that as additional personal needs are fulfilled it induces new needs <which we, as humans, constantly improve ourselves in order to further attain these ‘self actualization’ activities>.  Think about this from a non-funny sustenance perspective in growing from poverty to non poverty <but the dimension perspective will always reside in the human mind>.

money puzzle-maslow

 

Yes. Capitalism has certainly vastly improved our lives and our means to live.

 

But it has also fed this insatiability.

 

Some guy named Sandel wrote in “what money can’t buy … the moral limits of markets:”

 

  • the more things money can buy the more the lack of it hurts.

 

  • buying and selling can change the way a good is perceived (he used “giving children money as incentive to read a book may make reading a chore rather than a simple pleasure”).

 

This all leads to an overall attitude that endless <and double digit> growth is essential to maintain and improve our quality of life. While I will not go into the detailed debate … that is simply not true <this is a standard efficiency versus effectiveness argument>.

 

Now. All that said.

 

The issue is really about the attitudes & attributes we are attaching to capitalism.

 

As I share some thoughts to try and address the young’s lack of belief in capitalism I will lead with two things:

 

  • Communism promises to make everyone equally rich and instead makes everyone equally poor.

 

  • Youth thinks it invents the world. Maturity respects the world it finds.

 

Suffice it to say that Capitalism is becoming some evil entity in the minds of many young people. In addition, aspects of other ideologies <communism being one> are being used relatively flippantly as ‘better than’ what is occurring within capitalism.

I actually believe it is a lack of understanding … but it is also quite possible there is a deeper lack of faith with capitalism.

 

If you step back you can see why the young <and the shallow thinkers> feel this way.

 

  • Real unemployment is nearly in double digits. Most Americans think the economy will recover next year, but only 2% think it will make a complete recovery.

 

  • On average, according to Gallup, Americans believe that 50 cents of every dollar the federal government spends is wasted. Democrats, who are supposed to believe in big government, guess that 41 cents of every federal dollar is wasted. Republicans think it is 54 cents, and independents put the number at 55 cents in the dollar.

 

  • A poll found that most Americans would rather their government did less. Some 57% said it was doing too many things that were better left to individuals and businesses. Only 38% thought it should do more.

 

And many people have genuine complaints. Many working-class men have lost their jobs. Those who are still employed have seen their wages stagnate. And overall they don’t trust government not to make it worse.

 

This is a sad state of affairs <for government who CAN make shit happen> because regulations can positively address stagnation & inequality without intervening in entrepreneurial decisions or in the price/profit mechanism.

 

The harsh black & white truth no one wants to say is that regulation is what makes free markets … well … free <free markets cannot sustain themselves>.

 

Anyway.

moral crossraodsI have been thinking about capitalism for a while nudging my mind toward discussing morals and character <society & culture>.

 

I found it interesting to think about Schumpeter when addressing the youth capitalism challenge.

 

  • what Joseph Schumpeter called ‘the cultural contradictions’ of Capitalism

 

One of the cultural contradictions <I believe he outlined 5> was … Rationality.

In that Capitalism encourages rationality in behavior. And that culture creates, and demands, a natural conflict by insisting on some ‘irrational’ behavior.

 

Rationality comes to life as the “maximization” of particular interests of individuals and groups.

This same rationalization then bleeds into both personal lives <family & home> and ultimately becomes embodied in some form or fashion into cultural forms.

 

Children become quasi economic assets <or their rearing incorporates rational ‘maximization’ theory embedded in capitalism>.

 

At its extreme … maximization bleeds into soulless wealth and extreme consumption thereby substituting saving and societal salvation.

 

Oddly, but fairly, he suggests consumption wins against accumulation. This leads to a certain diminishing of the desirability of incomes above a certain level.

 

At the same time, however, when the breaks of certain values associated with ethical or religious tradition fail <called the sophrosyne: Greek philosophical term meaning healthy-mindedness and from there self-control or moderation guided by knowledge and balance. Roman poet Juvenal later interpreted sophrosyne as “mens sana in corpore sano” – “a healthy mind in a healthy body”> individuals and groups come into natural conflict with capitalism. The basic human instinct is one of core values <in some degree within everyone> and therefore the natural contradiction forces some balance within capitalism.

 

This means that the irrational components of behavior are critical for capitalism to emerge and withstand rational arguments … especially when based on long term considerations.

 

But.

That said.

 

===

 

“This is the genius and the Achilles’ heel of American culture. We … have a strong belief in self-determination and agency, even when our expectations fly in the face of reality,”

 

Katherine Newman, who studies social mobility

 

====

 

Capitalism in America is not functioning efficiently for a variety of reasons … but that doesn’t make it bad.confuxed

 

The issue of Confused capitalism … or being confused by capitalism.

 

No matter how altruistic and non-materialistic you may be … the issue is simple … as we sit perched on a stool at the bar of society where we can scan the room and see the danger of those who have nothing or little … as well as those who have the most <and lots of most>.

 

If the majority of us begin to look like we are either nearing the dangerously ‘nothing people’ or, contrarily, appear to be too distant from those who ‘have the most’ <no matter what your exact status is> we get nervous … if not angry.

 

Materialism, culturally, is therefore naturally cyclical in that it will always seek to balance itself. For we always ‘want’ … but most of us want it to be within the realm of ‘hopeful that we can get more’ … without appearing too greedy. Hence that is fairness.

Give me a chance for something more than I have … and give me more and I won’t be too greedy.

 

While everyone can debate the role of money with regard to people’s happiness … it is true that economic health does make people happier <more secure, more comfortable, more sustenance>.

This actually means that free-market capitalism is not devoted to integrity and a reliance on trust but rather economic growth.

 

And this suggests the people need to be regulated.

 

Why do we balk at regulation?

 

The US has always been a wide-open, free-wheeling country, with a high tolerance for big winners and big losers as the price of equal opportunity in a dynamic society. If the US brand of capitalism has rougher edges than that of other democracies most people inherently believe it is worth the trade-off for growth and mobility.

Buut while we like the free wheeling we also recognize that we are going through some type of crisis. It just becomes a discussion on what type of crisis.

 

Some think it is a crisis of capitalism. <I don’t>

 

Others think the crisis is moral. <I do>

 

====

 

“Advocates of capitalism are very apt to appeal to the sacred principles of liberty, which are embodied in one maxim: The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate.”

 

 

Bertrand Russell

====

 

First there is attitude. What is maybe a disregard for societal fairness versus what could be construed as individual ‘winning’ or ‘what I deserve.’

 

A lot has been written about the effects of globalization during the past generation. Much less has been said about the change in social norms that globalization enabled. Many people, particularly people in power positions, took the vast transformation of the economy as an excuse to rewrite the rules that used to govern their behavior.

 

I say that because while there will always be isolated small groups of lawbreakers in high places what truly destroys morale is a systemic corner-cutting, rule-bending, self interest behavior type of construct.

 

I have thought about how and why this happens.

 

It starts early.

As young children we start off with a healthy core of greatness, but before long it gets covered in layers of doubt, fear and guilt. Often this is caused by people we trust most like parents, teachers and managers who put us down in subtle and less subtle ways. It’s as though people were flicking bits of mud at us until our core of greatness is totally covered. Even worse, we flick mud at ourselves by accepting smaller versions of ourselves through negative self-talk and poor thinking; and we become a tiny fraction of the potential that once existed.

 

Once potential is curbed we seek to find success in other ways … sometimes circumventing “what is right” to make small excusable steps in our behavior to attain ‘small personal successes.”

 

repair faults consumerism

Second is our propensity to consume <and its self perpetuation>.

Our propensity to consume without thought for the planet, the poor or even the person next door is a sign that greed and fear are the motives of the moment.

 

Freedom certainly creates problems (inequalities most notably), but it also solves them.

But the central aspect of freedom advanced by these thinkers was the market, or what Adam Smith had described as the propensity to truck, barter and exchange. In this area, freedom allowed dispersed individuals—disposing of their own resources and choosing for themselves what they want to buy—to generate a level of prosperity that has had no precedent in human history. And the pricing system that emerges from the market—that is, from the push and pull of supply and demand—provides the indispensable knowledge needed to guide the economy.

 

So. All that said.

 

I would tell young people that Capitalism is not the issue.

It is the people within the system <and young people can fix that by entering the system>. The system can work just fine … it is simply being abused at the moment.

 

Capitalism needs to be managed to be more oriented to the long term and socially more responsible.

 

Interestingly … Richard Branson has formed an initiative to do just this … but I found it interesting that initially he sought to have a board of Business Elders … but  there were too few candidates from the business world of sufficiently unimpeachable character to staff it <insert ‘oh my’ here>.

 

Anyway <to conclude part 1>.

 

Since World War II in particular, America has been on a consumption surge/binge. While wages have certainly stagnated family disposable income has grown, life standards have improved, health has improved and overall quality of life has improved <and showed a continuous growth>. Unfortunately, at the same time, while families busily lived their lives they also had access to the finest inventory of toys capitalism could provide. Each generation was doing better than the one before, life was good and standard of living acquired a layer of ‘non essentials’ as part of how the people lived a successful & happy life.

At the same time.

Televisions starting bringing news, influential people talking and capitalism toys into the family living room. Television allowed busy families the opportunity to be exposed to complex issues through professionally crafted sound bites and talking points. People were now becoming more informed from a larger perspective, not just local perspective, and we ushered in the inevitable “keeping up with the Joneses” aspect.

What we face is the natural rising tide of ‘better than before’ facing the ebb and flow of time. The waters being drawn backwards is not appreciated by those standing in a spot washing their feet in the surf. Is it greed for most people? No. it is simply a desire for the status quo – “better is a right not a privilege.” Therein lies the social & cultural task at hand.

 

Anyway <to conclude part 2>.

 

Doing something.Accountability where you stand

 

Me?

 

I write and post on my blog. And speak about it wherever and whenever I can <especially to young people>.

 

It is easy to talk about it because it seems like if we take a moment and reflect on the problems in the world today we might easily come to the conclusion that it is mainly due to deterioration of our morality compass.

It seems like everywhere we see people filled with greed and intent on self-gratification.

It seems like people are always willing to compromise on values/morality to make personal gains.

 

If we start talking about values and create some sort of awakening in the minds of people.

 

Will everyone do it? of course not.

But someone has to go first.

 

Someone has to become the catalyst for change.

 

Why not the youth? We should encourage them to enter the system and build what they desire from the inside out rather than simply breaking the system as unfixable.

Enlightened Conflict