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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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.

 

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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.

nostalgia … plus ca change, plus ca meme chose

May 20th, 2014

 

liar

‘plus ca change, plus ca meme chose’

<the more things change, the more they stay the same>

 

 

Nostalgia is a
dirty liar
that insists things
were better
than they seemed.
Michelle K  I Can’t Stop Questioning It.

 

 

“You realize that our mistrust of the future makes it hard to give up the past.”

—Chuck Palahniuk,

 

Nostalgia is a drug.

Plain and simple.

 

Nostalgia is an addiction that truly sinks in when you become old enough to actually have memorable memories.

 

Oops.

 

 

life which wayI imagine that means … ‘old’ … okay … older or old enough to have gathered up some things in that past to compare to what is happening … and theoretically place against what you imagine the future will look like.

 

 

Ok. That said.

 

Nostalgia is the bane of every older generation’s existence.

 

And when I say ‘older’ I will unequivocally state it begins in the 50something age bracket.

All of a sudden we begin looking toward our future <the young> with mistrust … for … well … let’s say two reasons:

 

<1>: because we struggle to give up our past and how things were done <as we did them>. In other words … we mistrust them to do it as well as we ‘perceived’ we did it … or would do it. By the way … we mistrust even if we actually sucked at doing in the past.

 

<2>: power … the loss of power. every generation hesitates to let go of power and empower the next generation. but this generation is exponentially more difficult because of the rise of technology. technology means older folk are losing power not transferring power to the next generation.

letting go claw marks

 

Anyway.

Bottom line … we mistrust our future and hold on to the past.

 

 

Now.

 

Not all things.

 

Just the changes that we can’t wrap our heads around <like technology>.

 

And before all the old folk want to begin bitching to this old folk <me> I am not discussing unfounded 50something negative stereotypes about younger people <the 80 million millennial Americans born roughly between 1980 and 2000>.  My observation is backed up by gobs of sociological research … our negativity is grounded is some things we do not like.

 

One of the researchers at The National Institute of Health suggests that rather than being inherently self-centered or overconfident, millennials are just adapting quickly to a world undergoing rapid technological change. And while adapting <very well I would like to point out> they are also optimistic … and confident … and pragmatic … at a time when it can be difficult just to get by. Those aren’t bad qualities to have <even if it feels like they spend too much time on their phones>.

 

 

I say that because this is an example where the old folk just cannot wrap their nostalgic heads around the changes in the world <and how things are adapting>.

We far too often <in our nostalgic pea like brains> intertwine attitudes and behavior creating some fairly negative overall perceptions. We are nostalgically selective <picking and choosing what we would like to remember>  with regard to what we perceived as our attitudes in our youth <somewhat warped by time> as well as our behavior <once again warped by time> and we say things like this:life explained diagram

 

 

–          This generation lacks respect … respect for others … respect for their jobs … respect for themselves … they think that everyone owes them something … their boss,friends family,co workers and it all boils down to a lack of respect. And the phone …. just because we have access to it doesn’t mean we should be on it all the freaking time … kids come in all the time and i want to rip their headphones right out of their ears … seems to me that this generation doesn’t want to be part of this world at all they want to be part of a virtual world. A world where they can rant and complain about the world but not have to change it .. .i feel sorry for the youth and young adults … most of them are rude and inconsiderate. get off your fricken phone…..get off the fricken internet ….and live a real life and not a virtual one… believe me it’s a lot more complicated out here than it is in your virtual world …”

 

 

 

laugh at deathWhen I read the above.

First … I laughed and shook my head.

 

Second.

It made me think of this quote:

 

Every human generation has its own illusions with regard to civilization; some believe they are taking part in its upsurge, others that they are witnesses of its extinction. In fact, it always both flames and smolders and is extinguished, according to the place and the angle of view.”

Ivo Andrić

 

Simplistically … we often just get nostalgic for how we perceived we were when we were young <a portion of that is a wish that they respected older ‘power’ like we supposedly did>.

 

In other words … we want them to be like us … despite a world unlike what it was for us.

<and that is frickin’ crazy>

 

 

Now.

To be <very> clear.

 

There is a significant difference between nostalgia and learning from the past. And this is a very important distinction with this particular current generation gap.

 

Significantly … this is the first generation to be born with easy access to the internet which opens “us” up to new ideas and different perspectives. It also gives us a greater ability to look at the mistakes of the older generations in better hindsight. The combination of technology & perspective is creating a faster shift of power than in past generations. And a wider gap between nostalgic memory and present reality.

 

Yes … there may be some in the younger generation who are lazy or expect the world to hand them everything.

But.

There are also many more who have the knowledge to think more critically than those in the past, more self-confidence to succeed and the desire to prove our many stereotypes wrong.

And they all pretty much know significantly more about living Life in a technology driven world than the older generation <lazy or industrious that they may be>.

 

 

Look.

What will become of this younger generation will not be written for many years but it is difficult to not feel optimistic when you stop being nostalgic and actually see what the young have to offer. As well as stop being nostalgic simply in the attempt to maintain control over them <as they increasingly gain power>.

 

 

The young always are frustrated with older generations. That is their place in generational Life.

 

But nostalgia gives them a real bitch against us older folk.

Because nostalgia can often be an easy attitude which actually puts a comfortable attractive comforter  over ignorance and blind arrogance.

 

The underlying conceit is that only our specific generation is ‘right’ when it comes to everything from popular culture preferences to fashion and style to how to conduct business … shit … nostalgia tucked awayabout how anything is done <attitudinally mostly but some behavior things also>.

The truth is that as we aged, we shifted our own biases upwards with us, so that we always reside in the ‘sweet spot of attitudes & behaviors <in which people act reasonably> whereas those younger and older than us are always flawed in a variety of ways.

And because we are ‘the sweet spot’ we feel compelled to point out the flaws at every opportunity.

 

 

But here is the funny thing … oh … I was going to write something sarcastically funny here but gawker.com already did it for me:

 

 

Though we don’t like to give away trade secrets, in this case, will reveal the following fact: this is a “joke.” The subtext of this running joke—a joke that we intend to run for so long that it becomes indistinguishable from a true prejudicial belief, and comes to define us (negatively) in the minds of the casual readers—is, of course, that every generation is basically exactly the same, and there is very little new under the sun, and, my god, even Socrates was complaining about the lazy ways of the youth back in his time, what the fuck would make you think that your generation, whatever it is, is in any way inherently special compared to the thousands of human generations that came before you? The entire farcical idea that humanity reaches its peak with your generation and then proceeds to go into decline with the next generation is made all the more hilarious by the fact that every generation before you believed the same thing, as will every generation after you. Humans: even our sense of uniqueness is not unique!

 

<I loved this>

 

Anyway.

 

nostalgia definedThere are a number of research studies that basically say the foundation of our behaviors are fairly consistent from generation to generation as we age <although some of our attitude characteristics will vary – as per Strauss & Howe 4th Turning generations>.

 

 

And luckily Ad Age magazine did a study which points out that the entire image of the Millennial generation as a bunch of lazy, shiftless Skrillex-listeners is largely just a media creation, because—wait for it—Millennials are pretty much just like you:

 

 

But like generations before them, millennial parents tend to be more traditional and shop more frugally than their non-parent counterparts. According to the study, before millennials have children they over-index on brands like Abercrombie, H&M, Apple, Macy’s and Sephora. After they become parents, those brands not only drop, some of them disappear from their consideration set. Instead, millennials shift to over-indexing against the entire U.S. population on brands like Dollar General, Kohl’s, Lowe’s, Wal-Mart and Value City. About 44% of millennial parents are “very financially stressed.”

 

 

Basically.

 

–          Your mom was young and free and then had you and then she shopped at the cheap store.

–          You were young and free and then you had kids and then you shopped at the cheap store.

–          And Millennials were young and free and then they had kids and then they shopped at the cheap store.

 

 

Bottom line.

No matter who you are, or how old you are, or what generation you’re from, we’re all just struggling to get by and will end up shopping at a cheap store <whew … that is an uplifting thought, huh?>

 

All that said.serious nonsense change anything

 

As the French say: ‘plus ca change, plus ca meme chose’ (the more things change, the more they stay the same.)

 

We should accept that the young have good ideas.

We should help them make the changes that need to be made.

We should stop complaining about their confidence, optimism, independence and ability to navigate technology.

 

We should stop constantly being nostalgic because … well… it’s getting old <and sounds old>.

 

 

Nostalgia is our fallback place to go when we distrust the future.

We hold on to what was … because we have no clue ‘what will be.’

 

I am not suggesting we shouldn’t learn, or take some learnings, from the past.

But.

Once again.

 

There is a significant difference between nostalgia and learning from the past.

 

–      Nostalgia simply encourage us to regurgitate past mistakes.

 

–      Learning from the past means shedding aspects and adapting other aspects to the present.

 

Look.

I don’t know what the millenials will do or what the generation after them will do.holding universe together matters

I admit that I find many of them engaging and they often do not carry the bigotry, attitudes and prejudices of us older folk.

 

I am not nostalgic.

In fact I hope there is a better future to be found by discarding much of the past.

 

I’m older.

But I have faith that the young people of today can learn from past mistakes and will grow up and get it <whatever their version of getting it is> and continue building a fantastically imperfect perfect  future.

 

I’m older.

And I recognize that far too often nostalgia is a liar.

 

our souls only now awakening …

October 16th, 2013

“Our souls, which are only now beginning to awaken after the long reign of materialism, harbor seeds of desperation, unbelief, regrets soul-knows-what-to-do-to-heallack of purpose. The whole nightmare of the materialistic attitude, which has turned the life of the universe into a purposeless game, is not yet over. And yet, a weak light glimmers, like a tiny point in an enormous circle of blackness ….” – Vassily Kandinsky in 1912

 

 

Oh my.

I loved this quote from the moment I first laid eyes on it.

To be fair … I am totally going to misuse this quote … which was written about art. But if you are like me and do not know shit about art then you will be able to come along for the ride as I use it ignorantly … but in the way it spoke to me way beyond art.

 

It spoke to me in a way that explained the sense of desperation I sometimes hear people speak of when speaking of today’s world.capitalism desperate

 

About how so many people think that being materialistic and greed is the prevalent sense of ‘being’ throughout society … and the world .. today.

 

Oddly <just my opinion>.

 

I don’t really believe people think that way. Or maybe better said is that they don’t want to think that way. I believe the majority of people simply act in a materialistic mode because they sense there is there no other path available … if they don’t the other guy will and … well … they will get left behind and not get their ‘fair share’ of whatever the prize appears to be.

Let’s call it materialism survival mode.

 

Therefore the desperation I am talking about is truly a derivative of knowing that there is actually something is better. That materialism is a path with no real destination … in other words … as soon as you have what you have you want more.

 

We want better <most of us> than this.

Better just doesn’t seem so attainable these days.

 

In addition.

In the sense of desperation … or how I just wrote “who will stop the madness?” <  http://brucemctague.com/madness-in-the-world-armageddon-and-a-dose-of-reality   > I admit that I don’t hear people using words like ‘weak light glimmering.’

 

They just see darkness … and … well … madness in the world,

 

Me?

I see it.

I see the weak light glimmering.

 

I see it in people themselves <in how I described where I believe the desperation evolves from>.

 

I see it in generations <as in ‘turnings’ described by Straus & Howe and cyclical attitudes and behaviors over generations … i.e., we have been here before attitudinally>.

 

I see it simply as the evolution of capitalism <which is the basic economic model for materialism … although we should all note that ‘materialism ‘ is a human attitude & behavior wrought from within and not from without>.

 

Anyway.

The capitalism evolution is neither good nor bad … simply the evolution … and what is occurring is the natural friction that occurs during evolution <please note … I do not see this as ‘revolution’>.

 

I could also note that there is natural friction that occurs in any change … just that when an entire economic model creates friction it has some larger repercussions.

 

thinking dialectic crisisSo.

I decided to share Hegel and Schumpeter thoughts because it can possibly explain why there is a sense of desperation … or maybe a sense of uneasiness and why it is natural to feel this way.

 

I say this drawing upon Hegelian philosophy <thesis- crisis – synthesis> and ultimately Schumpeter who drew the basis for his thinking off of Hegel.

According to Schumpeter there is a natural process of creative destruction  within capitalism based on the affect the “cultural contradictions of capitalism” have:

 

–          The Process of Creative Destruction.

 

I)  Capitalism cannot be stationary.

It revolutionizes the economic structure “from within”, destroying what went before through a process of competition that affects costs as much as quality. Creativity in consumer goods, methods of transport, of production, systems of organization, search for markets and technology. It is a process that undermines traditional supports existing at a given moment, weakening its own system. Moreover, capitalism devitalizes the idea of “property” <the existence of great and small shareholders>.

 

*** He is simply saying that capitalism inevitably empowers anyone anywhere to build something … and as that is built something has to be destroyed <or replaced> to accommodate it. Capitalism encourages individual thinking and ideation and business building. Interestingly … it is actually anti-establishment and anti-‘maintaining the norm.’ There is no normal in capitalism beyond its ongoing self destruction and reincarnation.

 

 

–          II)  Rationality

Capitalism encourages rationality in behaviour. Rationality involves, on the one hand, the “maximization” of particular interests of individuals and groups, the use of the instrumental means in a coherent form, and in the same way a series of readaptations empirically controlled by a procedure of flawed -testing. On the other hand, rationalization rushes into both private life and cultural forms. Consumption wins against accumulation, diminishing the desireability of incomes above a certain level. At the same time, however, when the breaks of certain values associated with ethical or religious tradition fail (the sophrosyne), irrational components of behaviour that are critical for capitalism emerge and cannot be refuted with rational arguments, especially when based on long term considerations.

 

 

capitalism cynicism*** Capitalism is a constant struggle between the rational <let’s say ‘profit & dollars & cents’ in this case> and the irrational <let’s call this the ‘feel good’ intangible in this case> within people. It is interesting to note he suggests that money is a means to an end. In other words … you could earn a dollar a year and save only a dollar a year and be okay with that if you could consume <buy, eat, live to what you desire> whatever you wanted and needed. Regardless.  This constant struggle occurs and when it is perceived to be out of balance there will be friction as compromise is debated <and neither side wants to let go of what they have or what they think – which are often inevitably linked>.

 

 

 

III)   The Obsolescence of the Entrepreneurial Function.

Increasing difficulties for the classical function of management. Increasing importance of specialized groups. The context, moreover, has been accustomed to change and each time a greater number of factors are calculable. The success of business ends up in removing the owners.

 

 

*** He is not suggesting that entrepreneurship or small business becomes obsolete in capitalism. What he is saying is that capitalism inherently makes good small businesses into big businesses and as that happens they lose the ‘entrepreneurial function.’ In other words …. Capitalism encourages small to become big and in doing so they destroy what made them successful in the first place <and inevitably they are ‘destructed’ either from within or from without – by small business that destroys them>.

 

 

 

–          IV) Protecting Strata.

In the modern era there was a symbiosis between the nobility and the productive sectors. The former occupied the State organization, guided political decisions and supplied officials for the army (the bourgeoisie was only sometimes in charge of local administration). It was a sector that survived the social and technical conditions that produced it. In conclusion: the bourgeoisie is politically defenseless without the protection of non-bourgeoisie sectors, but capitalism, however, encourages the breaking up of the precapitalist framework of society.

 

*** Capitalism is most effective with a strong middle class and not a massive gap between the haves and have nots. Effective capitalistic societies will strive to reset when the gap is to large and there will be inevitable conflict/friction when this occurs.

 

 

–          V)   Intellectuals.

Characterized as those who exercise the power of the spoken and written word, they are used to not having any direct responsibility in practical matters and thus, they lack a direct knowledge of experience. They encourage self-conceived attitudes as “critical”, more from a logic of opposition, we could say, than from a logic of government. There exists a parallel between education and the scale of moral values in the intellectual sectors and the administrative or bureaucratic sectors against the values and technical criteria of the economic system as it operates.

 

 

*** I find it interesting that while Schumpeter is NOT discussing governmental structures <democracy, republic, socialism, communism> he gets right to the core of the issue in that inevitably officials who make decisions for the everyday person are most often not the everyday person nor do they think like the everyday person. Therefore the economic system may be operating at odds to what they believe is the right thing to do.

 

 

There you go.

Schumpeter uses these five arguments to discuss the process of what he calls ‘the self-destruction of capitalism.’

 

Now.

Self-destruction is not suggesting capitalism destructs as in ‘ends’ … but rather  that in its ongoing self destruction <or crisis in Hegelian terms> it recreates itself <synthesis> into something new.why things keep happening indexed

 

Heck.

Now that I have written all this I can see why there is so much angst in the world today.

 

It doesn’t really matter whether it is a ‘natural conflict’ or not.

Conflict is conflict. It is friction.

And in this time and place it is friction upon friction.

 

Not only is the entire system being reshaped <as it is cracked and put back together again> but the generational attitude infrastructure is also in conflict.

What I mean by that is … the way people used to behave versus a desire to behave differently.

 

In the end.

 

Why are so many of us feeling uneasy … maybe even harboring some thread of desperation in what we see in the world today?

 

‘Our souls, which are only now beginning to awaken after the long reign of materialism, harbor seeds of desperation, unbelief, lack of light the way dont fight the darknesspurpose …’

 

Maybe our souls are simply awakening.

 

Gee.

 

Who wouldn’t see a glimmer of light thinking that way?

recurring issues

July 18th, 2013

“The current generation now sees everything clearly, it marvels at the errors, it laughs at the folly of its ancestors, not seeing that this chronicle is all overscored by divine fire, that every letter of it cries recurring issues nostalgiaout, that from everywhere the piercing finger is pointed at it, at this current generation; but the current generation laughs and presumptuously, proudly begins a series of new errors, at which their descendants will also laugh afterwards.” ― Nikolai Gogol, Dead Souls

 

“A base nation crucifies or poisons its wise men, and lets its fools rave and rot in its streets. A wise nation obeys the one, restrains the other, and cherishes all.”  – John Ruskin

 

Ok.

On occasion I like to remind everyone that we are not in unique times .. well … okay … not as unique as we like to make it out to be.

Remind everyone that the issues we face today … we have faced before.

And while we know that issues are recurring … they still naturally ebb and flow across generations so that as they arise … recurring from some inexperienced point in the past … they seem new to us now.

 

I could select gobs <that is more than a few but less than a gaggle> but let me highlight 3:

–          Government

–          Greed

–          Education

 

Issue 1: Government.

What about governments yesterday?

 

“I weep for the liberty of my country when I see at this early day of its successful experiment that corruption has been imputed to many members of the House of Representatives, and the rights of the people have been bartered for promises of office.” – Andrew Jackson

 

Ah. Today?

recurring problem govtWe experience the uncoordinated actions of a seemingly corrupted entity which we desire to be a well-oiled uncorrupted athlete.

Andrew Jackson in the early 1800’s weeps over the corruption of congress. Concerned by how holding the position in office often meant not holding the rights of the people first and foremost.

Well.

Government is always in a tricky position.

They are elected by the people to not always the people insure they get what they want … but rather get what they need. We elect, and select, leaders to make decisions with regard to the ‘best interest’ of us. And, yet, nowadays politicians seek to gain the elected position simply by promising to the people voting … what they want.

I could argue that our political system claims to be a democracy when in fact it is closer to what Schumpeter suggested was an Elite democracy <pessimists may call it a version of oligarchy> but I will not. We have a democracy … flawed … American … and ours.

We currently appear to have a congress where it appears that most of the elected representatives do not serve the best interest of the people but rather to themselves and their political directives <and support … which inevitably leads to some type of corruption>.

Oops.

This has happened before.

Regardless.

There is getting votes. And then there is getting respect. And respect always comes down to actions … the deeds of those who have been elected by the people.

Today, yesterday … tomorrow. Doesn’t matter.

Corruption will always tempt those who seek leadership positions.

Power will always tempt those who seek leadership positions.

Some will succumb to temptation.

Some will not.

 

Now.

There has been some relatively recent research done to show a trend in many of the largest First World democracies of the growing mistrust of the government <and PewResearch has ongoing surveys to support aspects of the trend>.

While in the 1950’s ¾ ‘s of American would say that they trust in their government to do the right things that number declined to just about 40% by 2004 (Wilson/DiIulio 2007) and interestingly <to make a point> it hovers around that number in 2013.

This research showed an ongoing belief of American citizens that the political system is unlikely to respond to their needs and beliefs. This is also sometimes referred to as political efficacy.

Political scientists measure this political efficacy where political efficacy consists of two parts:

–          internal efficacy – the belief that to be able to understand and take part in politics

–          external efficacy – the belief that the system will respond to the citizens

 

While most studies show now significant change in Internal efficacy in the United States, external efficacy has been steadily declining since the mid-1960’s (Wilson/Dilulio 2007).

 

All that said.

This is a recurring issue. Most likely no worse nor no better than it has been at certain points in the past. I say this just to suggest governmental Armageddon is not upon us. It may be frustrating. It may be aggravating. And it is certainly not good for the citizens who want shit to not only get done … but get done correctly. But it is an ongoing issue.

In the end governments will always be a recurring issue because … well … it is about a group of people <not some intangible concept called ‘government’>.

And while recurring … we <the people> can always do something to make it less worse if we elect to <pun intended>.

 

Next.

And separately.

Separately so as to insure I am not suggesting this next topic is associated with the politician thought I just shared … people and greed.

 

Issue 2: Greed.greedy selfish fools

I could have called this ‘the desire for “more.”

More money … or the accumulation of more … however you define wealth.

 

“It has always seemed strange to me… the things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.” – John Steinbeck

 

“A man is usually more careful of his money than he is of his principles.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Whew.

What an issue.

I will begin by saying … “quod satis est” <what is enough>.

 

Greed is more likely an ongoing societal distinction between indulgence versus overindulgence, indulging or decadence or “quod satis est” <what is enough> …  in the end … it doesn’t really matter because it is simply a discussion on what is pure decadence – or greed – and what do we actually deserve as people.

I imagine it is also a discussion on what Horace <who discussed ‘what is enough’> or what has also been suggested as ‘the hollowness of unparalleled prosperity where we need to recognize the unacceptable limits <on prosperity> and finding some sanity in enough.’

 

Schumpeter suggested <among some things I don’t agree with> that “moral poverty lurks within capitalism.”

I do like this thought.

It isn’t that capitalism IS moral poverty but that within capitalism LURKS the possibility of moral poverty.

 

What that suggests is that there is a constant battle between prosperity and morals.

 

And I agree with that suggestion.

 

I believe that is the battle we face day in and day out.

We face it today … we faced it yesterday … and we will face it <as a group of humans interacting> tomorrow.

So with that said … I state unequivocally that ‘greed’ does not rule <despite the fact I see a shitload of people suggesting that greed is leading to all the issues we face>.

Greed, among the few … a minority, will always be in constant battle with the majority who is constantly fighting against moral poverty.

That is life.

That is economy.

That is society.

That is our salvation as a society and groups of people interacting … this ongoing conflict.

recurring issues thinking-dialectic-crisisI read somewhere <I apologize to the original source> that this ongoing conflict can be captured in two key aspects:

 

–              1. Perversion of capitalism

Capitalism is a living breathing organism. One in which some microbes fight with corrupted intent to pervert the overall organism. The organism also has other microbes which are healthy and can sometimes even attack and destroy the other bad microbes. Corruption should not, probably cannot, kill capitalism. For capitalism itself can kill corruption.

This is kind of my poor medical organism version of Schumpeter’s thought on creative destruction.

 

–              2. Cynicism of external factors

Perversion of the system aside … if our perception is that the system is rigged by the few perverted … we become cynical. We lose optimism. We maybe even get angry at the perverts <sorry … couldn’t resist>.

I am certainly not suggesting the American ideals are not solid and intent unequivocally sound … or that all Americans are wasteful and perverted <morally> or that every shred of what made America great is gone. At its core America remains a place of possibility and hope. I say that despite the fact people have become quite cynical. Cynical not only about the system but also about their hopes on whether they can succeed and prosper within the system. This has become a deep and increasingly entrenched cynicism. At its worst this cynicism translates into an overall cynical with regard to what it is to be America <which includes, but is not solely, capitalism> and an American <interestingly … I actually could say this about many countries and their citizens as I scan the map today>.

 

This deep cynicism is important and relevant because it affects <either directly or indirectly> our day to day behavior coinciding with, or against, our virtues <moral compass … ethics>.

And that matters because non-virtuous behavior, or vice, leads to an overall ideology of “putting profits before people.”

This can be manifested in a variety of ways: by taking imprudent and excessive risks with other people’s money; by selling products and services that harm consumers, families, and society; and by engaging in outright fraud. Today, of course, we are suffering from all of the above.

Now.

We have experienced this before. There was certainly an overall decay of moral integrity that proceeded both the current recession as well as the Great Depression. Remember that the 1929 stock market crash and the ensuing Depression was precipitated by a decade called ‘the roaring ’20s’ … a prosperous decade marked by materialism and lack of moral discipline. It was certainly a period in business where leaders and organizations certainly ignored legal restraint and had little, or no, regard for accepted rules or standards.

What is currently glibly being called ‘greed’ is actually a combination of vice, virtue and materialism all in a battle against moral poverty. These are all recurring aspects and dynamics of civilization itself.

 

Regardless.

Without getting too theoretical on the dynamics of civilizations and culture … suffice it to say that today we are a society of indulgers and accumulators.

A significant population … while feeling stretched or challenged economically … is actually rich beyond belief in terms of what is available to all of us 24 hours a day.  We are seemingly continuously seduced by the urge to acquire … and acquire more … and indulge <when the opportunity arises>.

I don’t have anything against it. And I certainly understand the psychology of ‘once you have something not only do you not want to not have it anymore … but you want more’ <or the next step up>. You may stop and think a little about why it is we can’t stop wanting more or why there’s never enough stuff … but don’t invest the energy … it is simply part of human nature.

Money leads to lifestyle upgrades. But, once again, that is fraught with conflict. Psychologists call it ‘hedonistic adaptation.’

Once you achieve the income you desired … well … you go back to desiring more.

 

In the end on this topic.

I would suggest that the recurring issue is not really greed <albeit that is an easy target for us> but rather ‘hedonistic adaptation.’

Our natural adaptation to having more … is to wanting more <and invariably expecting that the ‘more’ we currently have is what we deserve>.

Hedonistic sounds horrible.

Good.

That makes it a recurring issue … some people … despite innate human behavior patterns … just don’t want to think and do horrible things. Therein lies the ongoing conflict.

 

Next.

Issue 3: education

Yes. Even education is a recurring issue.

 

Aristotle said … “the education of the citizens in the spirit of their constitution. Sadly, one which nowadays is generally neglected.”

 

I believe I could simply stop here by making the point that if Aristotle was bitching about education back in his day & age … this may be the ultimate recurring issue.

The proper education of our youth is a tangled discussion with multiple paths to the same good destination <what is best for our youth>.

Suffice it to say the discussion most often revolves around preparing someone for a profession <contributing economically rather than societally> versus preparing someone for Life & contributing to society not just economy <and the practical balance between the two>.

Skew it toward profession and we end up with technically qualified people less enlightened in social responsibility.

Skew it toward Life and we end up with socially enlightened people not qualified to actually do anything.

 

Education of the young is always about challenging and growing the mind so that they can be productive … in Life and within the economy. We want adults to be balanced so we need to educate kids from a balanced perspective.

 

Now. The web has changed some aspects of education from a balance standpoint.

While many people are pushing education toward a more pragmatic/practical direction <specifically preparing young for professional practical jobs> the web is actually challenging education to become more societally knowledgeable.

In the not too distant past world view of the majority in a community was measured in mere miles. Opinions and views were driven from a local if not regional purview.

Today? Opinions and views are measured from a global perspective. The kid down the street can know as much about what is happening across the ocean as they do in the street off the next road. This means local opinions & views are being challenged more and more <which creates some different issues for older generations but that is a different post>.

That said … the role of social consciousness, and capitalism <or the professional aspects> within an education system has been debated for centuries. Even good ole Al Einstein weighed in:

 

“Unlimited competition leads to a huge waste of labor, and to that crippling of the social consciousness of individuals. This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.” – Albert Einstein

 

Well. Capitalism shouldn’t cripple individuals. And it doesn’t. In and within itself it can be motivating and positive to the growth of individuals <and society> and it is part of our growing up education to understand this.

Balance is the key.

Education creates the foundation for good productive citizens. Citizens part of a whole. To be whole is to be part.

Education will always be a recurring issue because we will always debate balance <and people are involved>.

 

Whew.

So those are the big 3 recurring issues I see … or rather the three I decided to focus on out of the gobs I could have.

 

And we maybe should note that these issues are eternal.

Not because they are issues of systems and processes and programs <albeit we act like they are because they are tangible> they are issues of people and minds and thinking. Therefore they are recurring sources of conflict amongst people.

 

We may elect to focus on government.

Or on businesses.

Or on the education system.

 

Inevitably we are debating ideology.

And … well … the future.

And why is it all so important?

Heck. Mostly because we are talking about our kids and future generations. We may couch it all in “what I want” and “what is best for me” and “what is fair for me” but inevitably, deep down, we recognize that these discussions lead to outcomes that affect far beyond ourselves.

It affects <in a big picture way> the viability of our countries <regardless where you live> but more importantly it affects the little people <children>.recurring issues why because

 

In the end.

It was philosopher Leszek Kolakowski that said “civilizations cannot live in despair.”

Recurring issues rarely, if ever, become Armageddon issues because inevitably we people seek to find an optimistic interpretation in the despair itself.

Something good comes from the bad.

Learning from the failures of the system.

We seek to NOT live in despair.

 

No matter what country you are living in as you read this I would suggest that we seek a wise nation obeys the wise, restrains the fools, and cherishes all who make up the nation.

Open, open … and open again

November 4th, 2012

Ok.

I have two pet peeves … or things that aggravate me, in business meetings.

(1)    Selling beyond the close.

(2)    Having multiple people say the same thing.

Selling beyond the close is going to be another post.

Because that really only aggravates me when it is an experienced person who does it.  Less experienced have to find the “feeling” associated with agreement and then have the strength, and fortitude, to keep their mouth shut <to leave unsaid words … well … left unsaid> because the idea had been agreed upon. And that just takes practice.

This is about “the repeat.”

It may be the single most aggravating common mistake business people do in meetings.

I bring it up because I just experienced it. <again>

In the opening of the meeting someone else came crashing in and … well … re-opened the meeting … oh … and then someone else steps in to reopen.

Yup. That would officially be three opens to the same meeting.

Three opens differentiated mostly by the sound of the voices … and maybe a word here or there.

I used the opening as an example mostly because it sets the tone for the rest of the meeting and I started scribbling notes for this post right then and there <yeah … even I started tuning out … and I had a role>.

So.

You would think experienced business people would not do this, but experienced people are actually the worst offenders <probably because they have the most bloated egos>.

Let’s think about this … because this repeating can occur in a variety of ways in a business meeting.

The most popular is three people answering a question … when the first answer was just fine (or 90% right which is just as good as fine).

This one is just frickin’ crazy.

It is crazy for 2 reasons <okay … there are more but I will stick with the two most common sense business craziness aspects>:

–          Multiple answering is acting like this is the one and only opportunity to answer the question. It looks like three dogs slobbering over a bowl of human food thinking they need to eat it fast before the bowl is completely empty because they will never ever get any food ever again <dogs have no sense of time>.

It is crazy because if it is important enough it will come up again.

Oh. And isn’t there something at the end of a meeting called “questions”? <silly me for pointing that out>

–          Multiple answering implies the business people on the opposite side of the table are stupid. Okay. It just implies that they are not smart enough to ask a clarification question if they actually need clarification. Oh. But here is the crazy part. You will never frickin’ know if they had needed clarification because you just bludgeoned them with three different clubs of words.

But I guess the open, open, open practice is the worst.

Or maybe it just feels the worst.

Because it is delaying the actual meeting.  And it is people just talking. And most of the words are saying the same thing (in different words).

And. It. Is. Painful.

And it shows lack of confidence (from the presenting group).

And it shows lack of understanding (in that if you are patient and the point you want to make is THAT important it can be discussed later).

And it shows lack of meeting dynamics understanding.

The only example I can come up with would be if you went to a symphony and they opened with a song. And at the end of the opening one of the band members said: ‘Let’s play that again <because I think we could do it better>’.

And then at the end of that opening … another band member said “ok, let’s do it once more” <because I think we could do it better>.

Oh.  And think of that example just as I explained it … but it is decided to do so … without telling the other band members you were going to do it.

Yeah.

You would kinda be tempted to shove a violin where the sun don’t shine on that person wouldn’t ya? <yes>

Now.

Because this is so aggravating and is so prevalent I know I have been part of several fairly creative techniques to halt things before it can even happen.

Just some tricks of the trade <but even they don’t work all the time>. I will begin with the infamous “one person could never answer a question correctly so several people will addend the initial answer.”

First.

Of course you tell everyone “just one answer to every question.” Get it out on the table. Even the worst offenders will take a reflective moment and ponder. They may not heed the advice in the heat of the battle but at least you have set the groundwork. Please note … 99% of the time this never works.

–          Designate a question answerer. Most companies have one or two people who are just … well … better than other people at answering questions. Just have all questions answered by this person. Now. This person doesn’t actually answer all the questions … but they redirect to the appropriate person.

“Sue knows the most about that … Sue … what do you think?” is the easy redirect.

The power of this solution is that all questions are being handled by your best question answerer. Depending on the type and length of the meeting it is very very effective … but puts a very heavy burden on that person. The only tip I really have on this option is that even though that person may be your best answerer, if you ask him/her to do this … do not ask them to close the meeting. They will have invested too much energy and thought to be the most effective in closing.

–          Designate a question follow-upper. This is most typically the person who you have decided to close the meeting because they also tend to be the ones who have listened the best, assimilated the data <who said what and asked what> and crafted a bunch of words that doesn’t sound like gobbledygook <a technical business term>. This person follows behind answers to questions and either adds a brief point or asks for permission to move on <it can be done like this … “if that answers the question we can go to …”>.

Trust me. It sounds smooth if you have the right person do it.

–          Coach everyone to end their answer with something like “did that answer your question? If not, someone else may have something to add.” It is a preemptive strike against your ‘repeat’ offenders on your side of the table … in addition it shows patience, care for your audience, desire to listen <and respond> and a sincere desire to insure something is covered well before you move on.

<by the way … this one is extremely difficult to have a broad group of question answerers actually do … but it is also probably the most effective meeting tactic of the bunch>

And directly to the rant topic of ‘open, open, open.’

–          Stick to the plan & the script.

Look. Most meetings using a full team have been discussed, discussed again, and most likely rehearsed. You have made some decisions. You have a plan. Stick to it.

Most likely you have made one of two decisions for the opening.

The first is ‘I am going to have my best opener and have that person set the tone’ or, the second option, ‘I am going to have the most relevant person open the meeting and have them set the functional groundwork’ <which isn’t exactly ‘tone’ as it is more functional>.

And because you have made that decision, either one, you have also made a conscious decision on two additional things for sure … who follows the opening … and who will close the meeting <the rest of the speakers are really all about delivering the information>.

The second talker will always know the risks of what happens if opener doesn’t have their “A” game that day. And will move in and do whatever it is their script suggests.

Oh. On that thought … people who step in and ‘re-open’ for some reason always seem to be clueless on the affect they have on the second speaker <which constantly amazes me in its lack of awareness>. Not only does a ‘second opening’ undermine the opening statements but also immediately suggests to the audience that the second planned speaker wouldn’t be smart enough, and aware enough, to know what to do.

Anyway. You have also selected the closer because … well … they know how to close a meeting. A good closer knows if you stumbled out of the gates or not, if you have picked up momentum or not as well as what was covered and what wasn’t. You picked that person because that is what they do. And if you stick with the script that closer will pick up whatever pieces which are important enough to be picked up as well as assimilate what has been shared and discussed.

Frankly, going off script can make the best closers in the world become the non-best closers in the world. Why? Mostly because it scatters even more random pieces out to be assessed and juggled.

Lastly on sticking to the script … not all openings go as well as planned … and some go better than planned … in either case it does a meeting no good to slow down.

You keep on keepin’ on.

Because meetings, just as in Life, if you are not going forward you are going backwards.

Oh. Someone is probably going to suggest all these guidelines and boundaries make for a rigid cold meeting. Well. I have three things to say with regard to that:

  1. No. <or … “nuts to that.”>

    Meeting & the Business World

  2. It sometimes seems like people put a higher priority when designing & discussing meetings on “casual” and likeable and a whole bunch of loosey-goosey nebulous feel good stuff versus information delivery. In meetings … pretty much any meeting … the number one priority, far and away from any other, is delivering relevant information. Worry, and focus, on that. The better, and more relaxed, you are on delivering the information the more casual/likeable/nebulous good you will look.
  3. Adaptability. The ability to adapt to a situation is the pinnacle of meeting effectiveness. But notice I used ‘pinnacle.’ I did because it is difficult … which is kind of funny for me to write because despite that ‘truth’ … I cannot remember the last time in discussing a meeting where it was almost discussed as a “well of course we will adapt if we need to.” Look. I love adaptability. That characteristic in a meeting is powerful. I also recognize it is very difficult. I only suggest being open to adapting if you have one of two things <there may be others but these are the easiest>:

–          a cohesive team with a track record together. Anything other than an experienced team is fraught with peril. And, no, you cannot bend this rule if you say “we have a senior experienced team.” Nope. No can do. Even the best of the best ,as individuals, need to play together as a team for a while, and particularly in pressure situations, before you actually become a cohesive team. So just being senior and experienced doesn’t meet these criteria.

<note: I cannot tell you how many times companies make the ‘this is a senior team’ mistake … and make it again and again>.

–          At least two senior great ‘listener/responder’ team members. If you have 2 co-captains who seem like they are two sides of the same coin you can sometimes pull this off. Of course the presentation/discussion has to be built to accommodate adapting <typically this means other people on the team have to have ‘pods’ of information to share and understand they can avoid the transition responsibilities> but a good team can pull this off if you have ‘the two.’ One? No can do.

To finish up …

Meetings, using a team, is all about choreography … in delivering information <not in delivering a show>. However I will use a show metaphor on why “opening, opening, opening” is not only aggravating but never good. In the performance arts even the best make mistakes. The audience groans. The rest of the cast visibly tightens up. But the best of the best pick themselves up and move forward like nothing bad ever happened. The audience doesn’t forget … but they relax … and recognize the best don’t dwell but move on. And the rest of the cast? Hmmmmmmmm … they typically not only relax but they also typically pick up their game ever so slightly because their best of the best decided to show them that mistakes does not mean failure.

It never fails to amaze me how often senior business people just completely miss the boat on this relatively simple thing.

let the bout begin

October 5th, 2012

Alright, time for me to write about the first American presidential debate.

Of course, me being me, I am going to look at the first American presidential debate very differently than all the talking heads on tv are looking at it.

I will let everyone else debate on who won the debate and the excruciating dismantling of each word. Mostly because it was such a mosh pit of he said/she said partial/selective truths which was incredibly annoying and in the end I believe the everyday person had no clue if either told the truth.

Anyway.

What fascinates me is watching what I perceive as two significantly different debate strategies … not ideologies <although they are lurking their within their debate strategies>.  And what may make my point of view different than others is:

–          I don’t know diddly about politics or debate strategy so I have an unfiltered business <or sports> point of view on what I saw., and

–          I truly believe that despite what we all feel about politics and politicians there are some very very smart people thinking about everything that is being done and said and that there is very rarely anything done without a purpose. Anything. Even a perceived disinterested participant.

That said.

Here is what I believe.

Both campaign teams know this is a 3 round boxing bout (with an under card bout). And I think both campaign/bout handlers know exactly what they are doing and the candidates are delivering on a 3 round  strategy  <no matter how the talking heads want to tear apart one as if it is the end all be all>.

Let me take on the biggest elephant in the room … for example, while we may not have seen the presidents ‘A game’ <I think he could have been sharper> I do believe he did exactly what he was asked to do by his Angelo Dundee.

Anyway, that is what I believe and here is what I saw.

To me I saw the Raging Bull (or ‘strong like bull’ if you prefer) strategy versus the Muhammad Ali strategy.

Attack, deflect and create doubt (with an eye to knockout) versus absorb, counterpunch and show unshakeable confidence (with an eye to knockout) strategy.

The Romney debate strategy is former and president is latter.

Both extremely viable strategies.

Both really smart strategic plans of action for the appropriate candidate.

Let me begin with the Romney Raging Bull strategy because it was executed flawlessly in the debate.

First.

Attack.

Relentlessly attack.

The Republican trainer <I apologize … I do not know the Raging Bull’s trainer> told him before he went into the ring “you need to win this round on punches” and “don’t come back to the corner with any punches or energy left. Leave it all out there.”

Now. Here is what truly made this strategy effective in the first debate. The trainer had Romney commit to a brilliant opening psychologically driven tactic.

Intellectually we all know it is an open debate of ideas.

However, psychologically, when the president is involved, there is an additional dynamic. Psychologically we expect our president to be treated with respect so no matter how you prepare yourself for it the first attack, the ‘he was wrong’ or ‘he wasn’t smart’ or ‘he didn’t prioritize correctly’, we bristle. We don’t like it and maybe even get a little angry at the attacker (unless you are Rush Limbaugh of course).

Now. We get over it in a debate, but the first punch hurts.

The republican trainer had Romney rip the band aid off fast and quick and early (opening). He punched the president right in the nose as soon as he stepped in the ring. Painful?  You bet. But he got it out of the way and paved the way for a full 40 minutes or so of attack. Well thought out. Well done.

After that it was all about landing punches … didn’t have to be good solid punches but be relentless, don’t give him any space, just keep punching  … because something will land and even if they don’t it doesn’t give him any openings to attack.

And attacking played to his strength. Romney is an excellent debater and excellent when the subject is one he has prepared for. His weakness is the unforeseen. He sometimes struggles <and gets flustered> when things aren’t going as planned.  Therefore the Romney team avoided the semi-impossible task of guessing every question or possible punch and created the platform for him to win – attack. Just get out there and say what you want to say and what has been scripted.

Oh. They also told him … ‘on anything else? Do. Not. Say. It. <and don’t even think about saying it>.’

Next.

Deflect.

His trainer told him “I do not want you to absorb one punch. Not one.”

Romney was brilliant on this strategic objective. And I mean frickin’ brilliant. It didn’t matter whether the president counter punched with a real truth, a half truth, a partial truth or no truth because whatever the president said the response was “that’s not true” <or ‘you are wrong’>.

He deflected.

And when he actually decided to go on the attack again by counterpunching he simply selected whatever one aspect he had a script memorized on. He slid the punch and counterpunched on his terms. Slightly aggravating to the viewers because that meant he didn’t actually answer the questions but, to the Romney team, it was about punches. And after a while the president simply stopped punching because even he recognized he gained nothing as no matter what he said all people would remember is “that’s not true” every time he said something.

The other brilliant aspect was that it kept the dialogue on parts and not the sum of the parts <brilliant>.

Parts:

Would he increase deficit? Of course not. Never.

Would he cut taxes for the rich? No.

Would he cut back on America’s future investment strategies? Silly, of course not.

Would he raise taxes on the middle class? No.

Would he roll back regulation? No <if it is smart>

Would he cut education? Never <they are our future>.

Sum?

<p.s. – they cannot all be true and add up. It really is arithmetic>

Brilliant. Well played.

Now.

As a truth person I hated the strategy. As a strategy-to-win person I thought it was brilliant.

Lastly.

The trainer told Romney, after he told him he needs to win the round, remember, whatever happens in the fight itself when in doubt you counterpunch with the objective to create doubt in the president – his words, his actions, his knowledge of facts – so that people just aren’t sure about the overall current plan and leader (of course the ultimate hope is the president may even show a crack of doubt or regret at some point for some past decision when I assume Romney would have pounced – rightfully so).

Stay on mission. Whatever you do stay on script and create doubt on whatever he says.

I am not sure that last objective was achieved but that’s not the point. It was the strategic vision. And I think whoever (the Romney Raging Bull trainer) designed the strategy deserves a cocktail.

The risk?

The risk is partially energy (like a real boxing match) but the debates are so spread out (although it does mandate a high level of energy every round) so I believe it is really about rhythm. You only have so many punches. The risk is he slips into some rhythm that can be read before the punch comes or he slightly revises the punch <going slightly off the practiced script> and leaves a big opening. Or he simply runs out of punches and the champ is still standing and has some whoopass punches left. But Romney has a lot more punches he can throw than the president can. Any challenger in a tough economy does. In addition he has the benefit of selective hindsight … punching past actions without having to defend his own actions. And when an economy is doing poorly the challenger has a simplified attack stance as he punches … no need to explain the case of what is wrong … everyone knows <but it is an easy punch to throw if you are suddenly backpedaling>. All Romney has to say is: “I can do this job better than that.” Look. It is always easier to look back and say “stupid, why did you do that?” when no one knows what you would have done in that time and place. But that’s how the bout is fought. Raging bull won a lot of matches. He can win.

– The proof that my theory may be right?

Romney is a bottom line business guy through and through. I would probably love him running a troubled business. I do not doubt for one minute he is a compassionate man but all business leaders have a switch. A switch where it ain’t personal  … it is business. And you have to do that sometimes <as a business person>. I imagine he is ruthlessly effective at dissecting past actions of others, revise and improve moving forward. And I tend to believe his business credentials show that this strategy is a mirror reflection of what takes place in a boardroom. What makes him appealing is that when cornered he really doesn’t know how to play politics … he is a business guy. He knows people are involved, and he cares about them, but ultimately he is about making the right business decision and believes the happiness of people will follow. This strategy is perfect for him.

Moving on to the president.

The Muhammad Ali strategy. To me this was the most interesting.

Because while I believe the raging bull strategy was very easy for Romney to implement I believe the Muhammad Ali strategy is a little more difficult for the president to implement.

I believe the democrat Angelo Dundee told the president “remember champ, this is a 3 round bout, not one, and you are the champ, he cannot knock you out in this round, so this round you absorb every punch he’s got. Let him give you the best he has. You will probably lose this round. That said … I only want you to come back at him if, and only if, you think you can put him down on the mat. Other than that, suck it up, absorb what he’s got and just give enough counterpunches to see what else he’s got.”

Well. The president did what he was asked.

Flawlessly if not painfully. He was pushed on the ropes and took a battering.

He used counterpunches to show he was unshakeable in his beliefs on his plan. He used counterpunches to show aspects of his vision. And, yes, there were some openings (albeit not many because frankly the relentless attack was pretty relentless). But if the criteria were “only if you can put him down” then he did what his trainer told him to do.

Let me give a hypothetical, but realistic, example.

The Democrat team is in the bout strategy room and someone says “okay champ, when you get an opening you swing from the hips with the 47% punch and rock him.”

Everyone says ‘hell yeah.’

The republican Angelo Dundee, sitting in the corner with a twisted sweaty towel, clears his throat and growls … “do we know his counter punch if he slips it? … think about this …  the other guy says ‘I am glad you brought that up Mr. president because I owe America an apology … especially the 47% but 100% of America. I was wrong to say that and I apologize. I am for 100% of America, have been, and always will be. Please accept my apology’ … all said looking directly at the camera and 67 million people” <plus youtube & media the next day> …  Angelo takes a deep breath and then says … “Champ, you can’t ask him if he was flip flopping or changing his mind or even lying … he just apologized to 67 million watchers and 250 million Americans. That punch misses.”

Silence in the room as they think.

(He lets the room ponder that for maybe 30 seconds as he sips some water … clears his throat and turns directly to the president)

“Champ, you can throw that punch if you want, but you need to get your hands up quick to protect your jaw because you know for sure that immediately after he has looked directly at the camera and apologized he is going to turn to you and look directly at you, in front of 67 million people, and ask you ‘is there anything you would like to apologize to America for?’”

He doesn’t even let that one sit in the room but immediately reminds the entire room “in round one the champ only attacks with a punch that will put him on the mat. Let’s move on.”

Someone give the republican Angelo a raise.

Now.

I do not think this was easy for the president. And while some viewers thought he was disinterested or making notes I actually think he was writing something like “remember to take Angelo out to the woodshed, if Michelle doesn’t, and kick his ass for making me do this.” Because while I believe this is a great strategy for a champ it is not an easy one for someone who wants to fight.

Which is why I believe the president was at his best in the closing comments.

He basically got to finally come off the ropes after being battered for 40 minutes and say “I took the best he has, I am bloodied but still standing here, I am unshaken and confident that my plan is the best for America and its people.”

He got to say to Romney “if that is the best you got you, you didn’t hurt me <and you are screwed and should be worried because I am not going away>.”

I am not sure the president can do this strategy, for personal pride reasons, for one more round and wait for the third to finally come out swinging. Well he could, and maybe should, because strategically it is quite possible <although he does need to find some openings in round two to score some solid points> but I think personally this strategy is very difficult for him to take. But if his Angelo Dundee could convince him … I would. Muhammad Ali was one of the best strategist and counter punchers of all time. He waited. And waited. And watched. And waited more. And by taking the best shots and still be standing he gained confidence, he gained some respect, and then he used all he learned and won.

Now.

I think the Democrat Angelo Dundee is going to give a different strategy to Biden … I think he is gonna tell him “go out and kick the young whipper snapper’s ass and feel free and be a jerk about it. Win us the old white folk.” But that is a different post.

Anyway.

The risk here? You can’t deliver the knockout punch in the last round. It’s all or nothin’ in the 3rd round and by this time all of America that will ever even think about voting is watching.

67 million will look like frickin’ peanuts by this debate.

And he has to win by TKO or KO. You are too far behind in points to simply win on points. You need to put him on the mat a couple of times or out for good. It puts a lot of pressure on the champ. But those are the moments champions are defined. Mohammed Ali won a lot of bouts this way. But he did lose some matches. The president can lose.

– The proof my theory may be right?  Well. The democrat strategy was exactly the same during the republican primaries. People were jumping up and down saying “why aren’t the democrats defending themselves?!?” as the republicans used the president and the administration’s plan of action as a punching bag. The administration just absorbed the punches and unshakabley kept on keeping on. And then they came out swinging. Time in and time out by biding their time they got the ammunition they have needed for the counterpunch uppercuts. They have used this strategy before.

In addition … the media is actually throwing the punches for him as he rests in the corner for the next round. All the talking bobbleheads are sitting around talking about all the things he could have punched Romney with. Gosh. Romney won the round on punches but the announcers are all talking about the quality of the punches and punches the President could have taken. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm … kinda smart that the president didn’t have to bring them up.

Someone knows their shit in the democrat camp.

Okay.

If I am right, I actually believe these strategies are a reflection of the choice America has and they were outlined pretty clearly in the debate:

–          Romney. Aggressively attack the short term issues and deflect the long term (not ignore it but the priority is “create jobs now”).

Private, private, private <with some delegation to states>. Now. I don’t really believe he believes this but this is the message. But he is certainly a believer in unfettered <or minimally fettered> capitalism. Let me use healthcare as an example because it is such a lightning rod.

When people hear him talk the people are confusing state rights and his business acumen. In his heart he wants 50 small businesses managing America. It is irrelevant they are called ‘states’ he just believes that businesses generate effective bottom line and effective cost-efficient solutions. That may be an extreme generalization but that is the core of his belief.

–          Obama. Absorb the best punches (issues) we are given and create an unshakable future (this doesn’t suggest ignoring immediate job creation but the priority is a solid foundation for the future).

Balance, balance, balance. People don’t like to hear it. Romney message is a lot easier to grasp. The president pounds away at selective governmental assistance and encouragement of private sector innovation. It ain’t sexy and it ain’t just talking about jobs. The president, using business acumen as an example with regard to healthcare, suggests Massachusetts was a new product test market which can now be rolled out nationally. From a business perspective the president philosophically is actually pretty close to a national franchise business model.

Please note that both are viable approaches with pluses and minuses on each. But do not be fooled into believing one system is better than the other. They are simply systems. It is always the people who manage the systems over the long term (not just a year or 4) that make or break either of those business models.

That’s my thinking.

Oh. And who really wins if I am right?  The media and whoever covers the third debate. Viewership will continue to increase as the Obama strategy is to guide everyone to the last round of the bout. Especially if the second round goes the way I think it will <a purposeful draw>.

And, actually, I imagine the candidates do also. In a very close race the last debate becomes the make or break moment.

I am sure a lot of people do not want to agree with what I just wrote but, remember, a lot of these yahoos have Harvard and Princeton and a whole bunch of high falutin’ degrees. They may not be in touch with what happens around the average American kitchen table but that doesn’t make them dumb. They know their shit.

And rarely is something happening that they haven’t planned … they just don’t tell you their plan <that is the Bill Belechik acumen I believe>.

I look forward to rounds two and three … and the undercard also.

Enlightened Conflict