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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fall winter and finding meaning in death

December 1st, 2016

 like-the-seasons-things-change-fall-spring-winter-time

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“What I fear I avoid.

What I fear I pretend does not exist.

What I fear is quietly killing me.

 

Would there were a festival for my fears, a ritual burning of what is coward in me, what is lost in me.

 

Let the light in before it is too late. “

 

 

 Jeanette Winterson from “The Green Man”

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“Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go.”

 

—–

Unknown

(via ginger-and-preppy)

 

 

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Well <part 1>.

 

I just read a an article in one of those local papers you can pick up at Healthy Grocery stores which attempted to discuss how this time of the year <October/November/December> is the season of ‘decay and death’ … and how it was a potent time to connect with the dead <and highlighted several celebrations around the world which do just that>.

This thought was combined with the thought we human folk balk at connecting with death because it … well … seems morbid to do so.

 

 

and summer regrets

               getting rid

       of winter wishes

 

summer and i

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Well <part 2>.

 

I balk at the whole concept of ‘decay & death’ as well as the ‘morbid‘ thought.

 

Simplistically, seasons remind of us the cycle of Life <not death> and that death, in and of itself a sad event, contains at its very core the very simple concept that without Death, there is no Life.

 

This was immortalized in pop culture by Blood Sweat & Tears in their absolutely fabulous song “and when I die”:

 

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And when I die and when I’m dead, dead and gone,
there’ll be one child born and a world to carry on, to carry on.

I’m not scared of dying and I don’t really care.
If it’s peace you find in dying, well, then let the time be near.
If it’s peace you find in dying, when dying time is here,
just bundle up my coffin cause it’s cold way down there,
I hear that’s it’s cold way down there, yeah, crazy cold way down there.
And when I die and when I’m gone,
there’ll be one child born and a world to carry on, to carry on.

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While each Life is a stepping stone for every future generation each death represents a stepping stone for … well … the future.

dialogue with pain

 

I don’t need any Eastern religion wisdom to remind me of this … I think we all know this.

Now … I will admit that connecting with this thought is much much easier for us when we remove any personalized death and accept it as simply a turning of generations. Therefore … one of the reasons we do not celebrate death is because it can get too personal. And if that is a reason … it sure as hell is a good one.

 

But death itself?

 

While death is something we dislike, facing seasons remain something we must face year in and year out. It is a constant affirmation of the turning of time and that some things we may have gained will most likely be inevitably lost in the natural turn of time.

 

And, yes, as today is December 1st I am reminded that Winter is the time of Life’s strategic retreat and conservation of what gives it all life.

 

It is not death. And it is not decay.

 

It is Life’s thoughtful way to insure its existence and survival.

 

It is the time of incubation and rest and restoration for all things to come in the following year.

 

I could also suggest that winter is a time of reflection and … well … comfort. In winter’s dark nights the stars are at their clearest and we have the opportunity to see them as the sparks of potential and wishes and dreams and … well … Life. Uhm. And dreaming is never a bad thing … particularly during the ‘ebb tide of seasonal Life.’

 

I will not argue that as Life recedes in autumn and rests in winter we do, at least emotionally, get closer to connecting with death … but I do balk at thinking of autumn & winter as ‘things associated with death.’

 

.... a time to Reflect ......

…. a time to Reflect ……

I would argue it actually does a nice job of reminding us we need to let go of things. and, sure, maybe we connect with ‘the dead’ better at this time because … well … it reminds us to celebrate what we had and embrace letting go.

 

And that is the thing about winter … it demands to not only be felt but also that you meet it on its terms. Even better … Winter demands us to let go of things we most typically hold onto with ragged claws.

 

You cannot refuse its existence and you cannot ignore what was because what is … is … well … is starkly different. Where Life was once obvious it is now starkly absent.

 

I would note that all Eastern mysticism and ‘being in touch with the universe’ and the ‘natural ebb of the earth’ and all that stuff, at its core, just suggests that we pay attention. Pay attention to whatever energy seasons give us … and more often than not that energy it gives us is … uhm … just good ole fashioned thinking. It gives us the energy to think about our lives, lives lost and lives yet to be lived.

 

Acknowledgement of all of that increases your overall connection not just with ‘the universe’ but rather to the eternal pattern of life and invests a sense of energy into pretty much everything <yourself and Life>.

 

And just as Death breaks things down to the bare essence, winter does the same.

And maybe that is the connection.

 

When things are at their barest, when we are drawn closer to endings rather than beginnings, we inevitably ponder the ‘great perhaps.’

 

Back in September I wrote this on the first day of Fall:

 

 

 

I think we all seek a great perhaps of “what I know can be”. I think we all know what a better world really looks like. I think we all want to see the beauty that can be found in what is better in everyone.

 

And maybe it is within Fall and the falling leaves we begin to better grasp that failed plans and failed dreams can beget new plans and new dreams. And maybe it is within Winter where , in ts barest of bare essences, we are forced to begin envisioning what could be in plans and dreams because it is left to us standing in the bare environment around us.

time-seasons-change

 

 

What I do know about all seasons is that they are markers of Time … and poetically speaking … Time is always hungry for many of the things we dearly want to endure and do.

 

This makes Time both beautiful and doomed. Yeah. Time is beautiful and doomed. And that is where I really believe the whole ‘morbid time of the year’ goes astray.

 

 

for it seems all of Fall’s stars

                       have fallen

and often summer and i

run through the last warm days

through the cool grass

       gathering stars caught in people’s dreams

with the intent

           to toss them to Winter

through windows of dawn.

 

Summer & i

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We, especially in the West, hunger for time.

Conversely, time itself <to us Western folk> has a hunger and its hunger is for ‘things.’

It is a nasty emptiness waiting to be filled.

 

Well.

 

If there is one thing humans are fucking great at … it is filling time and stuffing whatever we can into any emptiness we can find.

 

Death and dying makes us reflect. It forces us to do so. Just as the bare often starkness of Winter does.

And it makes us reflect on what ‘stuff’ we have crammed into whatever Time we have had.

 

Oh. Maybe what it really forces us to do is reflect upon time. and that is where death truly makes us feel uncomfortable … not any morbid feeling but rather it’s just being dead livingthat we have been indoctrinated to focus on living … living life to its fullest, not wasting any time, to do lists that never get completed and just doing shit <just do it>.

 

Nowhere in that list of shit I just shared does death have a place. In fact. Death represents the exact opposite of everything society & our culture almost demands we think about 24/7.

 

And when forced to face death, or feel a need to connect, we are much less likely to celebrate but rather assess … assess our doing mantra versus ‘stop.’

 

Look.

 

Most of us don’t purposefully ignore connecting with death and those who have passed away because of sadness <because if it were we would be more likely to actually do it because the opposite of sadness is reflecting upon the inevitable happiness> but rather because death and past lives force us to reflect upon our ‘doing accomplishment’ <as well as it forces us to stop … which compounds the feeling of ‘shit, I haven’t done enough and I am not doing anything now>.

 

Yeah.

If you can get beyond the ‘doing’ aspect inherently death is more about sadness <loss of something or someone or time> more so than morbidity. Conquer the sadness and you have conquered death.

 

And all of this is just not that difficult <if you are willing to actually think about it>.

 

winter-fall-snow-season-change-lifeSeveral cultures do celebrate the autumnal solstice as the time life & death is closest. I would argue it is less a celebration but rather recognition of that which came before, and that which is dying, so that what will be will come forth.

Generations beget generations just as falls beget springs.

 

Death begets life.

 

This doesn’t mean we should celebrate impending death but rather recognize, even in sadness, life & beauty resides in the future.

 

Fall is of beautiful dying.

Winter is of starkness of death.

Spring is of rebirth from death.

 

This doesn’t mean you can find beautiful things to enjoy throughout any season.  Seasons simply remind us of the fact time does not stand still and no matter how hard we try and fill up the emptiness time offers us day in and day out … leaves fall, winter comes and spring arises.

 

I believe it is the Celtic wheel of the year describes this time of the year as Samhain … “the veil between the worlds is thin.” Just as several other cultures they use his time to reflect upon “that which was.” In my pea like brain … it is a celebration of navel gazing. It is an intentional event to purposefully explore the valuable relationship not only between Life and Death but the past and the future.

 

Listen to the cry of falling leaves,

            but winter breaks the silence

and warms us with words

of how to change it all

      before the Fall completely ends.

So, So

 

Look.

reflect brain things

 

I don’t believe we do not celebrate death and dying because we think it is morbid. I tend to believe we do not traditionally do so because we, as in Western civilization versus Eastern, don’t celebrate reflection.

We treat reflection more as  a personal thing and not a larger more public event and celebration.

 

Should we celebrate reflection? Shit. I don’t know. But understanding that seasons can offer us enlightening thoughts about how we actually think about death & Life & holding on & letting go is surely not a bad thing.

 

As for Fall and Winter? I do not think of death and decay. I actually think of flowers. Huh?

 

I credit Mark Strand for making me think Winter is the time to bring flowers into your Life as he describes Winter in his poem called Blizzard of One:

 

“A time between times, a flowerless funeral. No more than that …”

Mark Strand <Blizzard of One>

Every funeral deserves flowers. Every Winter deserves thoughts of Life.

feet in the clouds & head on the ground

October 5th, 2016

 dreams walking

 

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They say it all breaks down to keeping your feet on the ground

My sole intention is keeping my head in the clouds

They say that I can’t last a day in the real world

I say you wouldn’t survive one night in mine

 

Asking Alexandria

 

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Suffice it to say that 99% of the best businesses have figured out how to successfully keep their feet in the clouds and their head on the ground.

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know it looks like I got it twisted around … but I did not.

 

Good businesses are always walking with the future in mind.now what next hugh

 

Always traveling toward possibilities. Always seeking ‘what’s next.’

 

Good businesses are always closely listening to the drumbeat of the feet of what is happening around them. Ear to the ground insuring everyone in the business is keeping their head in the game today.

 

I have called it mastering pragmatism & possibilities.

 

But, in reality, it is the ability to have your feet in the clouds and head on the ground.

 

I tend to believe if more people thought about it this way businesses would have more hope … and more achievable possibilities than they could ever imagine.

 

You have to admit … the current definition – feet on the ground & head in the clouds – just ain’t working that well these days.

 

Businesses seem to be more woefully stagnant <albeit ‘talking’ change> and have more despair and lack of hope with regard to their possibilities than ever.

 

Why?

 

Well.

 

I am sure I could invest dozens of page sharing thoughts on why but instead I will focus on what I would consider the intellectual aspects … what is going on in with our attitudes that affect our heads, how we think and how we approach these things.

 

  • Issue one. over-simplification

 

Suffice it to say we have devolved into a society of sound bites. This is true in business even moreso.

 

In business it seems to be all about simplicity.

 

In everyday Life it is ‘summarize it for me’ or ‘oh, it’s simple <insert some explanation here>.’

 

In the end I can’t figure out if should be pointing the finger at us or them.

 

Them <management & leadership> because they think we are not capable of understanding some form of complexity and therefore they only offer up simplified versions of what needs to be communicated.

 

Or us <the employees> because we either:

 

<a> demand a sound bite under the guise of ‘we only have time for the headline’

or

 

<b> we only latch on to the fragment of the whole which we believe summarizes the whole.

 

Therefore I will point the finger at all of us and them.

 

Here is a Truth.

 

business simplicity complex woekMost things are just not that simple.

 

An effect can have multiple causes and a cause can have multiple effects. I say this despite the fact, naturally, we would like all the dominoes to line up one after another and when one falls the next naturally is impacted and falls.

 

Well.

 

Things don’t really work that way. Especially in a business environment. Maybe in a controlled test environment but, in business, events are typically bombarded from a variety of directions and while not all causes are created equal <some can impact more than others> most things are too complex to be simplified into ‘one thing.’ And, yet, we oversimplify again and again and again.

 

Over simplifying simply means ignoring complexities.

 

Over simplifying simply means being consciously ignorant.

 

Over simplifying … well … just doesn’t work in the long run.

 

It eases you through the moment only to have to doubly <or exponentially> invest energy later on.

 

Simply? Over simplification just doesn’t work.

 

Instead of dumbing things down to some simplistic sound bite we need to raise the level of general understanding & knowledge to the level of complexity of the ideas & systems in which a business works.

 

Factually … seconds of involvement <sound bites> versus minutes of involvement <deeper complex discussion> leads to degrees of real knowledge.  i.e., seconds leads to shallow knowledge or let’s call it ‘less knowledgeable.’

 

 

Over simplification will not demystify uncertainty and cannot help us do what we really need to do … reconcepting & rethinking that which is.

 

What I am suggesting is difficult and uncertain work.

 

But certainly more satisfying and inspiring when we solve and recreate and it certainly is a more effective way to keep your feet in the clouds and head on the cloud-feet-hold-high-business-ideaground..

 

I can unequivocally state that the fate of possibilities for a business, any business, lies in balance if we don’t invest in the hard work of ‘non over simplification.

And worse?

We won’t solve any of the problems we face if we do not address this.

 

 

This leads me to …

 

 

  • Issue two. being intellectually insightful is about hard work.

 

Let me begin by suggesting that good ideas cannot be decided by number of tweet votes in favor of.

 

Business ideas do not compete on American idol nor, frankly, should they compete in any larger group.

 

We are not all judges <and probably shouldn’t be on American idol either>.

 

Why?

 

Good ideas are rarely popular; therefore, I don’t really want a business idea to win some meaningless popularity contest

 

If we really want to do what needs to be done to maximize both the pragmatism & the possibilities in business we have to hunker down and work hard … work hard in that we need to use what we have to rethink things … use all aspects including economic thought and philosophy and the past … all of which means dealing with ambiguity and contradiction.

 

And, yes, that is hard work.

 

That is the kind of work that hones the intellectual insightfulness necessary to keep your feet in the clouds and your feet on the ground and … well … make progress. Smart progress.

 

Instead of dumbing things down we need to be raising the level of general understanding to the level of complexity of the systems in which we are embedded and which are embedded in us.

 

And while you may balk at something like ‘intellectual insightfulness’ as too far reaching or ‘elitist’ … suffice it to say we just need to be smarter … less ignorant … more enlightened <open to additional thoughts> and more involved in the difficult and uncertain work of demystification and reconcepting ideas and systems in which we live in and … well … just plain rethinking shit.

 

Suffice it to say that there is nothing simple when talking about world-changing ideas … because talking will not simply make the world change.

 

I read somewhere recently that ‘if you remove this boundary … the only be wrong stand in your wrongness divideboundary left is our imagination.’

 

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

 

Imagination is important but even imagination is complicated and difficult and tends to not offer tidy solutions.

 

Especially if you don’t invest in the hard work.

 

We need to be doing more of ‘using your imagination within the box of what exists.’

We don’t need to be wandering aimlessly ‘outside the box’ but rather using our imagination insightfully and creatively WITHIN the box … and expand the boundaries.

 

It is all hard work … but hard work will work. And in this case I mean hard thinking work.

 

Simply ‘doing’ aint gonna cut it.

 

We need to be smarter. And whether you think about thinking this way or not … it ain’t about staring off into space doing nothing … thinking is a blue collar job.

Thinking is all about work.

 

Hmmmmmm … it is quite possible that what I just wrote defines “head on the ground” better than anything I have ever written before.

 

Anyway.

As a corollary to issue number two …

 

 

  • Issue three. innovation is not <just> technology.

 

What makes oversimplification even more challenging is that for some reason we seem to be associating innovation with technology … and just technology.

We can’t … and shouldn’t.big picture thinking

 

This type of thinking leads us to possibly believe technology innovations will eventually solve all problems and maximize everyone’s Life as some point.

 

That is a very dangerous idea.

 

It is dangerous because in reality if we focus just on technology as the solution we are actually preventing the real change we need.

 

It’s a very dangerous idea because it completely removes the human aspect.

 

Minds need to innovate too.

 

Thinking and attitudes need to evolve and innovate.

 

New thought systems, economic systems and systems in which people live eat and breath all need to evolve … and that happens through innovation <whether technology is involved or not>.

 

Technology is simply a path that runs parallel to culture <or society> basically amplifying everything that is happening on the parallel path <the corollary to that is … with nothing to amplify the technology remains silent>.

 

Technology and culture and business are entangled.

 

Technologies may enable new ways of doing things … not just doing but thinking. This effects culture … so culturally we need to innovate to structure how those technologies will be involved in our lives <so that we can dictate a little how they are incorporated> and we need to innovate our thinking and culture so that we can actually impact how technology evolves <so that we can dictate how what technology is innovated in some form or fashion>.

 

At the moment it seems like we respond to technology rather than proactively drive technology.

 

Technology has certainly dramatically improved the overall quality of business.

 

The paradox is that the system we have now may make amazing new technology possible, but at same time is creating such cultural conflict that maximizing technology ‘what could be’ seems impossible.

 

We need to innovate the systems in which technology exists.

 

Economically, culturally and philosophically.

All systems need to see innovation.

 

<that’s it for my issues>

 

Look.

 

Hope and possibilities grounded with enlightened pragmatism abound in today’s business world if you look hard enough <and have your feet in the clouds an head to the ground>.

 

But none of it comes easy … these types of things are rarely just given … they need to be earned … mostly thru hard work.

 

I don’t believe simplicity is bad.

 

I don’t believe being optimistic or having a positive attitude is bad.

 

I don’t believe technology is bad.

 

I don’t believe hard work, smartly done, is bad.

head-in-cloud-glasses-think

 

But we seem trapped in the old paradigm of “head in the clouds & feet on the ground.” This old paradigm kind of separates work & thinking <vision> in a non useful way. And I … well … I admit I sometimes think this paradigm encourages a slightly warped version of some lazy thinking.

 

And we cannot be lazy moving forward.

 

And we certainly cannot afford to be lazy thinkers.

 

For in this type of laziness lurks ignorance and it is ignorance we should fear.

Not any ideological argument or technological innovation which inserts itself into our daily lives but ignorance.

 

 

Avoid lazy thinking.

 

Maybe have everyone hearken to Emerson’s words …

 

“Consent yourself to be an organ of your highest thought, and lo! suddenly you put all men in your debt, and are the fountain of an energy that goes pulsing on with waves of benefit to the borders of society, to the circumference of things.”

 

 

My thought for businesses today?

 

sigh-thought-bubbleConsent yourself to be of your highest thought.

And how do you do that?

 

Sigh.

 

Keep your feet in the clouds and your head on the ground.

 

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

 

====

 

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.

 

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“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

 

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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>

 

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“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

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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