Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Problems versus Challenges

Some time ago, problems went extinct. A devastating wave of optimism swept in Challenges and having no natural predators they soon overwhelmed the world of problems. The assault was so pervasive and aggressive that the slow and at time graceful problems were wiped out en masse.

Problems were an ancient race of phenomena. They manifested themselves as troubles that this world faced from time to time and were quite appropriately dealt with; with concern, gravity and deep analysis. The ecology they thrived in was called context and it was an ecology of great richness, complexity and history. It was also a demanding ecology that required of it’s inhabitants that they be informed and educated, aware and empathetic. Such a world is a world full of questions. But a world full of questions is bad for the economy – they make people think.

Purveyors of the economy do not like thought as that contains within it the option of not participating in choice. The economy depends on people making choices – not on people opting out of making choices or worse still coming up with their own.

Under the guise of ushering in an era of easy happiness – challenges were slipped in. They were said to be more optimistic – they needed only to be overcome – it was just a question of will and a bit of shrewdness perhaps. And therein lay the infection – just waiting for a host to burrow into and devastate. For, while problems carried within themselves the seeds of their own resolution – challenges are by their very nature a slap in the face; a gauntlet thrown down. They are to be confronted and overcome by sheer force of will. It is a confrontation – not to be resolved – but to be split in two: winner – loser. Or cleverly avoided and left behind in the pious optimism that in being avoided they have ceased to exist.

Unfortunately challenges defeated and challenges spurned do not cease to be. They infect you by becoming a permanent condition of conflict. You have always to be exercising that force of will and the strategy of escape; else you become the infected; the hunted; the loser. The challenge cannot survive without it’s host – it needs you; the challenged, to stay alive. Only when you die does the challenge die. This is appropriately apocalyptic but it is also economy friendly. As long as you must exercise the force of will and the strategy of avoidance you have to make choices – anything to try and get away from the challenge of having to deal with challenges – So much snake oil to buy.

However the greater tragedy lies in the ever accumulating stockpile of challenges. Like nuclear waste they seep into the environment and cause other organisms to grow sick through mutations and disease. They are quite impossible to store safely – prolonged and excessive use of ‘prozacs’ are proving ineffectual and self-destructive. Challenges refuse to be ignored – they simply return to haunt you in another disguise.

At the macro or social level challenges turn into ghettos. They become a case of the immovable object meeting the irresistible force. They become the North African youth throwing gasoline bombs meeting French police throwing rubber bullets – neither knowing what exactly would constitute the end of the challenge. What does overcoming the challenge look like in such a scenario?

It becomes corporate profit driving out cost from the system – what constitutes victory? What do we do when we have reached the smallest unit of cost? Is the final challenge getting profit from nothing?

The world of challenges is a cynical world. It banishes you to a world without redemption. You either overcome or you are overcome. There is no way of coming to terms with your environment – you cannot opt out of the choice. Pick up the gauntlet or die.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Red State Blue State

Red State, Blue State, South State, North
Ancient nightmares marching forth
Quoting Bibles Flying flags
Armies with their wives in rags
Freedom bartered Freedom sold
Liars praying with hearts of cold
Leaves falling Trees a-rust
Children poisoning their mother’s trust
Water burning Water dead
Empty lives in empty heads
Flickering pictures Holy lies
Drowning out the drowning cries
Of whales, babies and man that dies
Greed rides a horse called Fear
With whipping priests as charioteer
Buying Selling Truth and Love
Lucifer singing; like a Dove
Warriors of peace sing broken songs
Their words twisted from right to wrong
Where good is bad and lies are good
Freedom of Spirit is Spirit on Wood
Seventy two virgins on the Right Hand of God
Preying upon lives unshod
Souls drowning in Wine and Gold
Dying of thirst lo and behold!
The Life of Man is being forfeit
On borrowed coin and surfeit
Cowards beat the drums of War
Mothers wait to hear the door
Of Kings open to be told
Why their sons must die in Cold
“To pay the Piper” proclaims the King
“To serve the Lord” the angels sing
“To gain the glory” the veiled ones scream
“To keep them safe” the Soldiers dream
“To hide the Evil” the poet whispers
“To save Freedom” sing court jesters
Killing fields Lies flowering
Strange storms Devil empowering
Freedom’s altar Drowned in Fear
Freedom’s Beacon Burning Spear
Child of Man Drugged and Dying
Heed the voice of Mother crying
Fearing Fear Freedom Starving
The seed of Man disappearing
Blind Gluttony Amortizing

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The Fascist Program

Yes, I am talking about computer programs. Computing languages are like all languages, they can be used to write a Romeo and Juliet or a Mien Kampf. The difference lies entirely in the motives of the writer. In the case of the computer program – in the motives of those who order the program written.

Wait a minute – computer programs aren’t fascist – they just make things work. Payrolls get paid, Invoices get sent out, Inventories get tallied, transports get routed, work gets outsourced…….what’s fascistic about that?

Computer programs can enhance what people do, make easy what people struggle to do or they can take away what people do. This little difference is what tells us whether the computer program serves the dark side of the force or not.

When computer programs add value – they do so by doing something that people cannot do for themselves, either easily or perhaps not at all.

When computer programs extract value – they do so by making a virtue where no virtue is inherent and / or by hi-jacking a transaction so that it now serves to exploit rather than enhance.

Faster, Cheaper, Better! We have been imbued with this mantra to the point where we all ascribe an inherent inescapable value to it without ever asking whether there is truly value there or not.

In another of my blogs I have spoken of the treachery of cheaper. So let me focus here then on the emptiness of faster! Exactly who took a survey and figured out the everybody wanted everything faster. In everywhere and everything we are touted the wondrous virtues of faster. We get our bills faster, we can pay faster, we can send applications faster, we can find everything faster except, for example, the answer to the question – what are we looking for and why?

Some things are indeed better faster – being able to respond to a failing heart for example. And that is the kind of program that falls into the category; enhances and does something people cannot do. But most of the other things that are now faster – sit down for a moment and ask yourself exactly what dire thing would happen if they happened a bit slower.

When we can claim that by doing / making something faster we have enhanced a person or made it possible for him / her to do what she could not do before – then faster indeed brings some value with it. But when all it does is allow the program owner to divert some value from the interaction without giving anything in return then this program has done nothing. I leave it to you to brush aside the layers of spin and hype that make us believe that all kinds of faster and accessories of faster are imperative necessities - and see for yourselves what you truly need faster and what you don’t.

I will just ask the question that if you and I are not the ones really getting anything out of this faster mania – then who is? And why? After all people do not invest in these programs just for the hell of it. They’re not cheap!

First of all most things that are being made faster are economic in nature and strangely enough there is an odd one sidedness to the things that are being made faster. I would like to get paid faster – say in hourly installments? – but no one has come up with a program like that. I still get paid twice month just as when cash was actually disbursed in offices two times a month, or when checks were sent home two times a months or now when they are direct deposited two times a month. I would like my bank interest to be credited to my account real-time. I would like the dividends from my investments to be given to me everyday. But sadly none of these are available faster. You see, he who owns the program gets to decide what gets faster…… not he who wants or needs something faster. Ladies and gentlemen the only thing that is happening is that we are getting jacked faster!

And now that we know that let’s put the two of the three together: Cheaper is certainly not of any value to us (see earlier blogs) and as we now see neither is Faster. How then can the two together be Better? That, my friends is the Deception!

And when a language is used to perpetrate a Deception it is a part of a Fascist Program!

Wal-Mart; Good for which America?

Anyone who doubts that Wal-Mart is bad for America is invited to spend some time here.

But let us spend some time on another little point. At one point in the Frontline program the Wal-Mart representative makes an impassioned assertion that Wal-Mart is good for American consumers because by taking advantage of Wal-Mart’s low prices consumers have more money left over in their wallets for other purposes. What’s wrong with this picture?

a) The bulk of the purchases made at Wal-Mart (as at most other places) is on credit. There is no bag of money that is being judiciously apportioned.
b) Wal-Mart’s interesting concept of the lowest opening price point – it’s a bait and switch, remember. People get lured in and end up buying some other model / make / item that is anything but lowest price. So there is definitely no guarantee that ‘there is money left over for other purposes’

So, in reality, Wal-Mart is making people use up more of their credit to pay China. Let us express it another way: $18 billion worth of imports from China are being paid for by $30 or $40 billion worth of credit in America and Wal-Mart is making 50% to 90% margins on this transaction most of which goes straight to the bottom line because Wal-Mart does not exactly splurge on anyone but the most elite of it’s employees.

The credit card companies then keep extracting the payments with 20+% interest from the consumers as a result of which they can go nowhere else but to Wal-Mart because they have gotten into their heads that Wal-Mart always has the lowest prices!

Wal-Mart thus has a captive vendor chain as no one dares to rock the boat at that end and it has a ‘captive’ customer base thanks to a brilliant piece of deception.

And this is the free market at play? It isn’t free, it isn’t a market and it isn’t play. This is about as rigged as a game can get.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Art of Deception

"All War is based on deception.

Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable;
when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we
are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away;
when far away, we must make him believe we are near.

Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder,
and crush him.

If he is secure at all points, be prepared for him.
If he is in superior strength, evade him.

If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to
irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant.

If he is taking his ease, give him no rest.
If his forces are united, separate them.

Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where
you are not expected.

These military devices, leading to victory,
must not be divulged beforehand."

Sun Tzu “The Art of War”

Beating a thick plate of steel with a huge sledge hammer makes a lot of noise. Sawing at it with a strong saw needs huge amounts of power and energy. Melting it with a blowtorch does the same. A strategically chosen disturbance of it’s foundation however brings the entire edifice crashing down.

The Rabid Right has become a thick plate of steel and it is crushing us. If it is not brought down and destroyed it will soon block all the sunlight and unleash nuclear winter.

Hitting at it from the sides, the back, the top, the front, (Iraq, Social Security, International Relations, Constitutional rights, Downing Street, NPR, CPB) will make a lot of noise, make a few chips fly off, expend a lot of energy and leave the plate in place.

Let us therefore look for the foundation that the Rabid Right stands on and destroy it.

It stands on:

An ideology of Newspeak (Dirty is Clean, Secular is Religion, Liberal is godless and so on, including state subsidized ‘free enterprise’ for the chosen few)
An ideology of being the Chosen people – (others may not subsidize ‘free enterprise’, have nuclear weapons, keep biological weapons, manage their reproduction, manage their economy, have other opinions etc.)

An ideology of Asymmetric Ownership (ranging from Liberal media is biased but Conservative media is factual i.e. we own the truth, to, you have the money (tax cuts, private accounts, stocks, houses, credit cards) and we will manage the puppet strings of access for your own good ( all investment income is untaxed but all salaried income is). Consumption is a constitutional right so we are raping the environment and future generations to protect that right for you. Property rights are holy – so everyone must subscribe to the American view of Globalization, that is the only way to protect these rights and reap its strangely asymmetric benefits. All the wealth that trickles down finds its way ten fold back into the pockets so the haves. Don’t underestimate this one – it’s dynamite.

An ideology of Supremacy. The US is above and separate from all International Laws and Institutions. That is why all our allies must join with us in ‘spreading’ democracy – whether they like it or not!! Down with terrorists! Yeah for preemptive war!

There are a few other odds and ends to this foundation and it is a strong one – make no mistake about that – but there is a common thread in all of these foundation stones. Deception. A very carefully built, thoroughly executed and meticulously maintained thick steel plate of Deception.

Unfortunately we cannot destroy this foundation of deception by simply exposing it and calling it by it’s right name – no matter how exquisitely we do it. That would be like telling the world that Hitler was an anti-Semite and had no honorable intentions at all towards the Jews. Everyone of any consequence whatsoever knew this and yet they did nothing.

Just as now – my brilliant revelation of this bedrock of Deception is neither new nor unknown. And yet a surprisingly large number of Secular Liberals are willing to compromise with it and most of the world, while chafing under the yoke of this Deception, smile and shake hands with it and heads at it and leave it at that.

The question this raises is what strange succor is this Deception giving us (Liberal and Conservative alike) that we are unable (unwilling?) to rip its evil structure apart? Why can’t the Jedi council see the Sith Lords deception? Why can’t anyone resist the Power of the Ring?

In my view there are two reasons:

1. The first one has to do with Occam’s Razor: It is seductively simple. It demands nothing of us in terms of knowledge, reason or effort. And it takes just enough time to recite that it fits in between commercial breaks. And the second one is……

2. Why shouldn’t I believe the lie? What else is there to believe in? The alternative is……whaa? Oh God my head hurts! What do you mean Enlightenment? Separation of Powers? Absolute Rights? Evolution? Mutations? Probability Theory? Cabernet? French? Latin? Other civilizations? You mean they have refrigerators in …..?

No, I do not mean to be facetious or a snob. But I do believe that Deception has a fertile soil to grow on when societies are excused from the obligation of thought. Production demands thought. Consumption relies on thoughtlessness. Anybody see a trend or a connection here? As Production vacated this nation and Consumption moved in – so did Deception.

In fact, I would not be surprised if we did not find that as Consumption became the dominant form of economy in a state its politics embraced Deception and joined the ranks of the Rabid Right.

How then do we attack this base of Consumption that keeps the Deception alive?

All Consumption today is driven by debt and debt in turn is driven by access to credit. In fact not having a credit record i.e. not having debt, quite effectively cuts of all access to Consumption.

Let us therefore be a patriotic society and pay off a lot of our debt. Make credit very hard to get. Or even simpler – like Gandhi who went and made salt at a beach in India and brought down the British Raj. Let us burn our Credit Cards. Visibly, Horribly, and at the most unlikely of times.

You see when we no longer can consume indiscriminately the powers that be have so much less power to practice Deception on us because Deception is based on evoking in us the feeling that if only we could consume that one thing more our lives would be fulfilled and that is a very powerful addiction!

Am I being naïve? Simplistic! No. Give it some thought. Do the math in your head. Remember what I am talking about is Political Warfare. Do you know how many billions of potential Dollars get choked off when 20 or 30 million Credit lines get burned? Assuming even an average Credit limit of $5000 – it becomes $100,000,000,000 (at 20 million). Remember close to 55 million people voted against the madness if even 70% of them burned one Credit card each………..

Monday, June 13, 2005

As it is in Brussels so it is in Corporate America.

In the June 13, 2005 issue of Newsweek Mr. Fareed Zakaria, the esteemed Editor of the magazine, in commenting about the No votes to the European Constitution in France and the Netherlands writes, “If you want to understand why people voted against the constitution, listen to the advocates of rejection.” The article goes on to speak about how Brussels has become more and more elitist and distant from the citizenry it claims to represent and had no finger on the pulse of the people and their everyday concerns about their own future – until it was literally too late.

The same issue of the magazine goes on to speak in other articles of the brave new world of new corporate leaders being innovative and blazing new trails in the area of leadership and management.

I would say to Mr. Zakaria that as it is in Brussels so it is in Corporate America (regardless of New or Old). It would serve Newsweek well to climb down from the stratospheric levels of hype and walk awhile among the average Joe’s in corporate America who it seems now earn on an average 358 times less that these ‘innovative’ leaders.

The only difference Mr. Zakaria would find is that in Corporate America the average Joes don’t get a vote. Their rejection however may be found to be equally resounding, their fears equally palpable and their disgust equally real.

Most of these new leaders are neither new nor leaders. Almost all of them have replaced Industrial Vision with something called Exit Strategy and their devotion to this utterly cynical goal is so unflinching, their spin and gaming abilities so incredibly honed (they actually even believe their own hype) and their commitment to their people so exactly calculated - that they have like Brussels – no idea that there even exist advocates of rejection.

It would serve Newsweek well to re-school itself on what constitutes Leaders and Leadership - Warren Bennis had a short paragraph in “On Becoming a Leader” that may be a good place to start. Especially considering its last line “ A Leader does the right thing, a Manager does things right.”

The Cheaper Suicide

Survival of the fittest! The simple explanation is that evolution’s mutations are a function of happenstance and which of evolutions random experiments survive is a question of fitness.

The populist interpretation of fitness; based mostly on the spectacular displays of male hormonal overdose; seems to be something like this: Mine’s bigger than yours, I win!! On closer inspection however this charming illusion doesn’t hold up. It falls flat on two counts:

a) Most (if not all) such displays seem to be entirely contained or dependent on a context of other species members (often females) operating in a very sophisticated dynamic of COLLABORATION to make species survival in general in a given ecosphere possible. i.e.; male size issues are entirely a sandbox problem.
b) All species survival (hormones notwithstanding) is completely and absolutely dependent on one law – the ecosphere or ecological niche within which the species must survive CANNOT be harmed. A bit like the Hippocratic Oath “First, do no harm.” all winning, is subject to the laws of the ecosphere. Winning that violates this is by definition suicidal.

In other words; Survival of the Bloody Fittest says absolutely nothing about what characteristic defines fitness for survival. Nothing!!

So, all the dramatic visuals of National Geographic notwithstanding, all that the winning tough guy walking off with the carcass that the females made available anyway proves, is that Mr. Tough Guy is the biggest puppet on the string as that is how the females collaborate to make sure that the best of the species survive.

And, whenever a species destroys (or is made to destroy) the ecosphere it is born in – it commits suicide. Inevitably, the species dies. (Strangely enough no non-human species have been known to deliberately destroy its own ecosphere – but several have directly or indirectly had their ecospheres destroyed by Mans Quest for the Survival of the Fittest).

In other words; fitness has everything to do with not harming the ecosphere and thus being ignored rather than trying to subdue and dominate the ecosphere and botching it.

More on that shortly, but let us talk for a moment about Ayn Rand. Rand’s universe is the universe of pure meritocracy. In this universe people trade the best for the best. The subjects of her world do not look for ‘cheaper or cheapest’. They do not look to get away or make do with the least required. People are rewarded for what they are worth, not the least they can be made to accept. Yes, a lot of her world is fictional, exaggerated and implausible. But the thought of an economy based on such a principle is an interesting one. It is a principle based on the absolute exchange of the highest value for value. It is strangely non-exploitative. One can only imagine what Ms. Rand would have made of the kind of globalization being perpetrated to day – but it is my suspicion that she would not have been an uncritical advocate. Just like her absolute stands on two other issues that would have put her at loggerheads with today’s administration. Absolute atheism and her view that any kind of offensive, preemptive violence was unconscionable. But putting the three together suddenly gives us another kind of fitness. A secular, non-belligerent civilization that worships quality in the broadest and richest sense of the word as its highest value. That sounds like the ambitions of a EU than the United States at present. (This, I am sure, would have deeply surprised Ms. Rand. Strangely enough some of her greatest fans – The Libertarians, interpret her quite the other way round and are vehemently opposed to this collaborative organizing principle. They find the idea of making nature the central organizing principle of our society and economy completely abhorrent)

Anyway, what on earth does all this have to do with Darwin and the Survival of the Fittest?

It would appear to me that such a civilization would find it necessary to be in a collaborative relationship with its ecosphere rather than an adversarial one. And the simple reason for that would be that the absolute exchange of the highest value for value, between individuals or societies, is only possible in a collaborative relationship. As soon as that is violated we have an unequal or exploitative relationship.

So, the current driving force behind globalization – the search for cheaper labor – is at it’s very foundation bound to destroy the human ecology of societies. Not because it perpetrates the devastation of nature (which it does) but because it perpetrates the devastation of humanity. Globalization as currently practiced forces people into unequal relationships (no matter how well paid the relationship!) as a result the system pours less back into the ecosphere than it gets from it. And we all know how a system like that ends.

So, to finally end this little rant – we do need to globalize and we need it desperately in every form possible but not in the quest of cheaper. A task whether done Delhi or Dallas should command the same value for the same quality and hence the same compensation. If a good computer program is worth $100,000 then it should be worth that no matter where it was made. This kind of globalization would force us to exchange the highest value for value. It would be a globalization of peers. It would be the only kind that respected individual liberty and value. It would be the only kind that would not be destroying its own ecosphere. It would be the only kind that does not simply replicate the ‘living standards’ of the west as the role model carrot. (Which by itself is suicidal anyway – Ask any American whether he would like to live in the following scenario: take the entire material assets of the US – cars, refrigerators, dogs, and all and squeeze it all into a land area about a third of the current size of America and then quadruple the size of the population with the same ratio of material assets. That, for example, is what an Americanized India would be)

It would be a globalization that would not be based on the commoditization of the human being but on the final acknowledgement of his supremely creative role in the sustenance of his ecosphere.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Spank Dean

Yes! How dare he go out and criticize the GOP! Doesn’t he know that such behavior makes it very hard for us to work with them? Doesn’t he know that without collaborating with the GOP we cant fix what is not broken? I mean where would we be today if we hadn’t broken Iraq (they didn’t have the WMD or Al-Qaeda. That is a deception that calls for a whole other Blog. Talk about being a sneaky people!!), Social Security (remember the Tax Cuts?), Deficits (remember the Tax Cuts?), Europe (Old Europe!?), the UN (Bolt it on!!), HealthCare (drug benefits anyone?).

What Dean does not realize is that if we do not break these things then people become very apathetic. They actually start believing that they are living in a good society, have a stable life, can call a doctor, are safe, can get a job, have friends all around the world and all kinds of other notions that turn them away from Faith! Marriage! And Creation! People forget that they have no entitlements, that they must be self-reliant as this is good for their moral fiber, that they must struggle mightily for many hours with no vacation so they don’t become fat and happy (doesn’t Dean know that we have an obesity crisis in this country and we have pills for Happy anyway).

So if we don’t get Mr. Dean to play nice we will have to get serious and call him a Liberal! (Yes, the L-word!) and we will have to send a letter of apology to the GOP and ask them to forgive us for letting such a person into the Democratic Party (and choosing him leader on top of that! Jeeez what a blooper!) And most seriously of all we will have to be extremely remorseful for the most serious breach of etiquette. We tried to fix something that was actually broken – the Democratic Party!

Please Mr. Dean, stay focused now – don’t stray from the path. Remember, fixing broken stuff is bad for the economy! Buy an upgrade, preferably one made in China!

If you don’t behave – we’re going to have to send Ms. Clinton to spank you! Then you’ll really have something to scream about!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

American Arrogance; I’m lovin it!

America is soooo arrogant! We hear this all the time. But really they’re not. I mean, their word for beer and friend is the same – how much more congenial can you get?

But the whole world needs America’s arrogance. You see, it is the great American Consumption machine that keeps the engine of the worlds economies running. If American consumption develops a sniffle the rest of the world goes into a pneumonaic coma! And this great machine can only be the great engine that it is if there is an equally great supply of cheap ‘fuels’ – all the goods and services it consumes! If this fuel becomes costly the machine slows down and with that the world comes to a grinding halt.

So, an endless supply of cheap labor is an imperative in the supply of all this cheap fuel. And the only way to guarantee that is to break down all trade barriers. And the only way to do that is to be able to stack the decks in favor. Hence the huge military power and the imperative need to control world financial transactions.

The rest of the world cannot get along without the endless flow of funds that America sends out in payment for it’s ‘fuel’. Those are the dollars that create new middle classes in India and China and sustain old middle classes in Europe. They keep the Japanese traveling and the Australians sending troops. Without these dollars every one of these countries, America included, will be faced with horrible choices.

Most nations will actually have to spend effort and long term investment in developing value in their own markets. Organic growth! The spread of economic opportunity! And America would have to pay the real price for what it’s engine needs! They too would have to invest in developing value in their own market (what a novel idea!). Top down globalization would have to give way to organic, bottom up globalization. Everyone would have to respect and deal with each other as peers on a level playing field. Oh really!! How arrogant can you get!?

So you see – America’s arrogance is a good thing. It is saving us from the embarrassment of having to confront our own hypocrisies!

I’m lovin it!

Monday, June 06, 2005

The Dreamer's Last Laugh

People laugh at dreamers. And once the laughter dies down everyone makes an uncomfortable exit. Some feeling pity, others piteous. You see, dreams don’t pay the bills – so popular wisdom says.

But what if they indeed do? What if we got it all backwards and it wasn’t hard headed practicality that made money go round? What if money actually was something that you had to dream up before you ‘earned’ it?

What am I talking about? I am talking about cause and effect. Let’s take a broad look at history. Why is it that the times most nations / civilizations have really enjoyed booming growth are the times most remembered for grand schemes that swept everyone along in a giddy (at times violent) rush? We reached for the moon and the stars and the 60’s rocked! The Europeans chased every mechanical invention they could dream up and spread empires across the globe – the wealth of England, Germany, and some other states was envied everywhere. The Italians rediscovered the universe and explored the world of technique in everything and everywhere. The Renaissance is still seen as one of the more exuberant ages of humankind – as well as one of the richest! Yes – even as recently as a half a decade ago there were some that dreamt that in the Internet finally lay the keys to breaking down all the emaciated barriers of vested powers regardless of land, corporation or community – and wealth flowed like a moth to a candle! And the Greeks and the Romans believed that all the world should be Greek or Roman – at any cost – and we are still digging up the wealth they left behind. Not to speak of the Egyptians, Babylonians or Etruscans……

No – I am not condoning colonialism and neither am I turning a blind eye to the social ills that came along with Industrial Revolution. I am not being naïve and ignoring the facts of the Cold War or the many other sufferings that attended many of these great eras. But I am questioning our conventional idea of cause and effect. What if without the dreams all economy is simply a crablike shuffle idiotically trying to catch the tide as it sloshes back and forth aimlessly across the sand. Yes, the ROIs are all neatly lined up and every incremental dollar fully justified by the cost saved (or occasionally some value produced). Yes, every business is on sound profitable footing and the EPS exactly on analyst expectations (neither more nor less, God forbid!). And of course stellar executive earnings only go to show that chasing dreams is a fools enterprise. It tends to spread the wealth amongst all and sundry. So little comes back in an orderly fashion – such a waste!

Yet – in our dreamless society we live on an ever growing mountain of debt and struggle mightily for our daily dose of Prozac. Not knowing whether it was the Serotonin that caused the depression or the depression that made the Serotonin change for a purpose.

Which is the cause? Did the dreams lead us to wealth? Or do we have to medicate the dreams so we could stop getting distracted from the business of creating wealth?

The Mother of All Petitions

They tumble into my mailbox as a daily deluge. Petitions and protestations ranging in scope from saving the whales from sonar onslaughts to saving Social Security from the onslaught of a Bush, with clean air, drug benefits, judicial nominees and election reforms thrown into the middle for good measure. Laudable causes – each one, worthy of attention, money and a signature. We righteously sign, attach a dollar or more, reply and forward the material to our friends and foes confident that we are fighting the good fight securing the pursuit of happiness for our children. We wait breathlessly for the cumulative force of signatures and dollars to be deposited at the electronic doorstep of some unsuspecting congressman or senator; catching him or her perhaps in the midst of a fund raiser or a meeting with a lobbyist busily setting the rules of the game.

Let me therefore add a new petition to the list and this one is addressed to the Democratic Leadership of America. But before that – a few words of explanation are in order.

Social Security is not a fund – it is a commitment made by a society to its people to provide care and dignified sustenance to its aged and its afflicted not because they ‘earned’ it but because it is the way that society values life. It is an entitlement of human right not a privilege bestowed for good behavior.

A partisan and / or theocratic judiciary is not a judiciary it is an oxymoron. It is a rubber stamp used to smudge the treachery hidden in malicious legislation.

A bipartisan legislature is not a legislature; it is a technical fix for an uncomfortable symptom. It is make-up applied to hide the face of capitulation.

A media that asks every question but gives the question “Why?” a huge wide berth is not a guarantor of free speech but a pimp making a living by selling the words of their trade to the highest bidder.

Petitioning the powers that be to cease being the powers that be is not political opposition it is the loyal sublimation of opposition.

All democratic societies and constitutions are based on the simple premise that unless otherwise explicitly specified ALL POWER rests in the people. And through the constitution and a few other instruments SOME POWERS are assigned to the Legislature, Judiciary and the Presidency separately. Not the other way around!!

So – my petition, - Please stop gaming the system and pretending that you are winning battles. Please remember that to win a war you first have to acknowledge that there is a war. You have to make the decision to declare the war and then organize for it. Your troops are ready, able and willing but where are the generals, the strategy and plan?

A hundred skirmishes do not a victory make.

Here lies your challenge – Do we take to the streets and define our society the way we want it and then as the constitution says, bestow upon the presidency, the legislature and the judiciary the rights needed to secure and implement that society and retain the rest of the rights in the people?

The default is that ‘they’ assume the rights they want, leaving us to protest and petition – even vigorously, if we feel up to it. It’s comfortable – but fairly suicidal.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Once upon a Time

Once upon a time in a faraway land that lay just south of the North Star there lived a special people. These were a good people, skilled with their hands and at one with the flowers, trees and animals that they shared their country with. Not only were they skilled at making things from the rocks and trees and other bounties of nature around them – they had a special skill in making words. They did not make them often and only the most experienced among them took on the tasks of making words when they saw something special in the world and heavens around them. It took a lot of time and care to make good words – but these were a patient and respectful people and they did not give up until the words they made were as perfect in every way as they could make it.

And so it was that this special little society grew and flourished for with every true and wondrous word they created, their skills and their understanding of the world they lived in grew greatly.

One day several of the younger and more adventurous among them suggested that they should share this bounty of great and enriching words with the peoples of other lands. Perhaps the people of other lands would share their gift of words with them and together they would grow richer and more gifted. They would understand more of the world and the heavens and they would be able to reveal and carve more great words of wisdom from the worlds surrounding them.

The best and most spirited and faithful among them were chosen and the best and greatest of the words were carefully wrapped for the journey. They set out with promise in their hearts and joy and wonder in their minds about the worlds they would see, the people they would meet and the new and un-thought of words they would find and bring back.

The little band traveled far and wide – they met many little groups of people. Some were wise and gentle like them selves and others were primitive and closed and scared. They shared without thought of reward however for they knew that for every word they gifted away another was born in their land south of the North Star. And they traveled on with joy and hope.

Over the years the band of traveling friends had taken different ways as they had thought that in that way they would meet more societies and learn more in less time. As they traveled sometimes their paths would cross and old friends would spend an evening or two with great happiness telling stories of their travels and adventures. In time however they began to find words of sorrow and confusion in their stories. They found that their understanding and intimacy with their words and the words they had found on their travels had weakened and become hazy. They found cheap copies of their great and beautiful words being made in different villages. They began to lose their feeling of wonder and skill of seeing great words in the stones and trees, clouds and birds and animals and flowers they passed.

Over the years the little band of people started to turn around one by one and head home. But the further they traveled searching for their home the more they found that the world had changed. It was overrun with words – cheap, hollow, untrue imitations and inventions. All the true paths and stars were obscured. The people used the words indiscriminately, without regard for meaning or well-being. Words both good and bad were abused and cast away like the refuse at the end of a drunken feast.

The few friends who still survived – were lost and finding it more and more difficult to see their path home through the good words. After a time they too were lost in memory and they disappeared and with them was lost the way to the land to the south of the North Star.

The world and the heavens around us are now awash with dark and vengeful words. All around they clamor and mislead, they wound and deceive, lie and lay waste. Among them a deaf and uncomprehending people wander about believing that they have magically gained this skill of making words. They spew them out without care or concern. They live in a drunken stupor of malicious words – unknowing and incapable of knowing what treasure has been lost; oblivious that they are homeless; uncomprehending that they are choking to death on their own counterfeit inventions; un-seeing that their illegitimate words are sinking into an ever more incestuous and infertile sea of make believe. We are condemned now to a world where meaning and confusion have become one and the lodestone of true words is lost.

But sometimes, just before the stars say goodnight and morning breaks – when the world is silent for just a brief moment if you still your heart and look towards the morning star your ears may hear the ancient song of these good and true words. One here, one there – lost, searching and yet, still bringing to this world the gift of meaning and the magic of seeing.

So dear friends as you go about your life; may your wishes and your search be rewarded with the very best. May you and your loved ones be safe; may your words bring you strength and solace.

And, if in your travels one clear morning, before your sleeping is done and waking begun, you hear an unfamiliar song of seeing – listen well; for you may have come upon one of these great and wonderful words discarded and dusty in some corner. Find it, wrap it well, bring it home and give it a quiet place in the garden of your heart. Care for it well, for it just may be one of the words that will show us the way home to our land just south of the North Star.