Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A New Position is Needed

Well our sorcerers of a thousand years ago have been replaced by our economists with about the same rate of success when advising our rulers. Our astrologers have been replaced by our statisticians, and again the success in predicting the future are comparable. One can wonder if the Economist is just the more acceptable word for Sorcerer in a supposed age of scientific rationality, and we can wonder about Astrologers vs Statisticians as well.

The Economist and the Sorcerer has an internal logic to its "worldview", both have an unknown reliance on some unnamed outside force with "almost" mystical powers. The invisible hand of the market to regulate things mysteriously back to its proper rational order? Sounds mystical doesn't it? As I mentioned, the internal logic is sensible. As long as the initial premises, the underlying assumption of how things are supposed to work, are completely true, then the logic follows to a proper conclusion. The study of economics are based upon worldview assumptions of "supposed" philosophical thinkers of the 18th and 19th centuries. I say "supposed" because they begin the first words of their masterpieces with assumptions as if everyone agreed with them as if they were fact when in reality, 3 seconds of thinking demonstrate this assumption to be mere wishful thinking. Imagine Thrasymachus from Plato's Republic were to write a book about Economy and then our entire society bases its foundation upon those ideas, well you don't have to really imagine very hard because this is pretty much the state we are in today.

The Astrologer and the Statistician both use mathematical calculations to chart out data and as long as the data is solid, the interpretation sound, we can predict events with a fair accuracy. Well for astrology, the planets and orbits show their influence upon our events, while the statistical method uses such things as questions asked of the fickle human mind. Today your answer would be X, while tomorrow you decide to answer Y because you had a bad lunch and you did not sleep well or whatever other excuse. You don't quite understand what the question means, so you answer based upon your understanding of the question, a week later after having done a few extra crossword puzzles, your understanding of grammar improves and you are faced with the same question and you answer differently, not because your opinion has changed but because you understand the question differently. As much as the Statistician tries to prevent such misinterpretations by offering unambiguous questions, they aren't linguists so they have no idea how difficult that particular task may actually be. Nevermind that the ones asking the questions are paid by this current capitalist system where the speed of asking questions is more important than the quality, we have many who are tempted to cut corners to get that extra pay bonus for having filled out more questionnaires. Did the respondent answer "what" or did he answer "one", next question please.

Looking at previous blogs, I also mentioned how sometimes the wrong questions are asked. Assumptions are made to determine what a given problem is and the questionnaire does not allow for a person's personal comments because personal comments can't be quantified and then tabulated mathematically for a given result. "The medium is the message" said a Canadian scholar Marshal McLuhan, he was talking about television specifically but I suggest that the actual questionnaire for the statistician also is its own message and people will respond to that message instead of answering what would have been the true thought. Look at the questionnaire as a sort of prism that you are forced to look through to get your data of the world and exclude all other prisms and only focus on this one prism. What happens if this prism allows you to see like a binocular? Useful for very specific inquiries but useless if you want to navigate inside a house or to work on a car engine.

Why criticize these two disciplines? Am I being too harsh? Well the over-reliance upon these flawed disciplines and the pretense that their flaws are either non-existent or downplaying their severity encourages me to blast at them. Especially since our governing rulers consult the Economist and the Statistician exclusively to make decisions, not that they always listen to their advice good or bad, but the "Thinker's" voice is not heard. The Thinker who would take his time to consult and contemplate a problem. We have had Thinkers in the past, they are usually the ones who contemplate something, ignore the statistics of the day or the scientific beliefs of the day and make an outlandish claim in their area of expertise and then let the non-thinkers work among themselves the "proof" and the statistics to arrive at the same conclusion as the "Thinker". Einstein is one who decided to "think", and in his area of expertise, he was more correct than the scientists of his day.

Now I would not recommend a "Physicist" to give advice to government officials on health or education, even if this "Physicist" is a thinker because this expert would be more suited in the laboratory than in making laws to improve healthcare access or how to determine which classics should be chosen to read for a 12 year old student.... Although this hypothetical "Physicist" would probably still do a better job in coming up with solutions than the "Economists" and the "Statisticians" of our society, it is better to have a "Thinker". The "Physicist" has his knowledge based upon very specific areas and the proper "Thinker" should be more of a generalist who has a bird's eye view of many disciplines of knowledge (which can also include economics, but we are way over-saturated by that tool-set that we can start swinging the pendulum away from them.... not necessarily too far away, the tools can be interesting exercises to see things differently and offer an extra perspective). Don't throw out the binocular just because it has been useless inside a house because you may enter a building like a stadium where the binoculars can still have a usefulness (as long as you then inspect close up with your own eyes as to not over-rely on a tool).

How do we define the "Thinker" and where do we find one? Well the thinker would be a true philosopher, not necessarily someone who has studied philosophy. Those who study philosophy are more like sports commentators than genuine athletes. They know the game, but they have never played, or if they have played, they would be incompetent compared to the real athlete. Some of our 18th century and 19th century "Philosophers" are closer to commentators than genuine athletes. But it is understandable that the layman can't recognize the difference because the commentator speaks a good show and can outplay the layman. Of course a genuine "Thinker" may have studied philosophy, but the criteria of selection should never be based upon the degree acquired. One does not look for a decent steak by looking at the pretty packaging but rather at the steak itself.

The main point of this blog is not how to find the proper "Thinker", this can be the subject of a future blog, no the point is that we should invent the position of the "Thinker" to be consulted by whoever ends up consulting "Economists" and "Statisticians". If a corporation can afford to consult "Sorcerers" and "Astrologers" then they should at the very least include the "Philosopher" on the payroll. Governments have an even higher necessity to include the "Philosopher". Of course, it becomes self-destructive if the rulers never listen to the advice of the "Thinker", but again, that is a subject for another blog.

So far our society reacts to new problems that seem to surprise the current experts who advise our rulers, so lets hire alternative experts who don't spend their time reacting to supposedly surprising problems but rather contemplate and avoid these easily foreseeable problems which seem to surprise many people. For example: if you have 4 people do a 10 person job, of course it will fall apart and disaster will strike. If a person gets promoted for speed rather than quality, of course we will have poor service in our industries. If a person gets a bonus for sales rather than having a relationship with a customer, of course lies will be told to get the sale.

The "Economist" and the "Statistician" can never understand why disaster strikes in the above examples because they assume in the first that the 4 people will work in such a way to achieve what the 10 had previously done through extra efforts and better posturing and 30 second less on a coffee break and other nonsensical calculations instead of accepting that a human being has defined parameters that you don't play with them unless you are ready to face disaster. Why are we surprised that absenteeism is so prevalent? The assumption is also that the increase in speed means that there is no reduction in quality. The next time you go to the grocery store and do at least $100 in purchases, go back with your receipt and do a price check on each of your items on your receipt, you will be surprised at how many items were mis-priced.... not because the grocery store wants to deceive you but because they are more concerned in speed than getting the job done right that corners are cut and eventually they will get to it.... but because of this, you lost out on the service of accurate pricing. You are told at a hardware store that the barbecue you are buying in December at a reduced price has the option you were looking for! Yay, then May comes and you try out your new barbecue and oops, this model doesn't have the feature you were looking for. (Do you really believe that that store's competitor won't have the same type of employee who lies?) Again, the "Economist" and the "Statistician" don't record these discrepancies or how the anger it produces makes you distrust the merchant who has "stolen" from you.

Previous blogs also show actual situations that have happened in the news which would be the direct result of not thinking for 2 seconds and relying upon a "reactionary" solution to when problems appear and always surprised when the easily preventable problems actually happen.

So to conclude, a new position should be available to advise leaders and this new position should have at the very least the same credibility as what "Economists" and "Statisticians" have in our current society.... even though once implemented and actually following the advice, they will show very quickly how they deserve much more credibility. Now the trick is to find genuine "Thinkers".

Thursday, November 5, 2009

PASS the Buck

Well the main topic on the news is the flu shots (where are we at now, the Tulip Flu, the Wheat Flu, the Trout Flu, the Swine Flu or the Avian Flu?) Ah, no matter, it all sounds the same to the person on the street. Yesterday, it was SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), a few hours ago it was the Avian Flu and minutes ago it became the Swine Flu or as it is now supposed to be called: A H1N1 Flu..... All of this sounds technical and dangerous and people are unaware of the true impact of what all of this means, including the experts themselves. This has caused apathy in the entire system. So I want to talk about this general apathy and how we can solve it.

Lets follow the example of our experts and find a catchy name to make our exposé sound intellectual: Political Apathy Situation Solution (PASS). Now lets look at the phenomena of the flu shots and how people have reacted to it, and how the experts reacted to this. We hear about this flu being a problem sometime in April 2009. Our political experts urge the public to get vaccinated. Most resist, they are not that concerned about the virus and many health professionals give out conflicting information. Our government officials seem surprised at the public response and are seen on television scratching their collective heads. "Why won't the population believe us that this is a serious problem?"

Well here's a story: in the 1950s, we are told to go get some medical shots to prevent whatever illness of the day. The population rushes out to get the shots because science is never wrong. Twenty or so years later: "Ooops?!? Science had not considered this or that and many people seem to have developed extra complications to their health, sorry about that dear public at large." During the 1970s, the medical experts and the political leaders throw out some other alarm about some other disease and the necessity to get some kind of shot as well, the public dutifully obeys and gets their shots. Twenty or so years later: "Ooops !?! Science seems to not have predicted these negative secondary results, sorry about that."

Today, we have experts who wonder about if this whole mess is just shouting fire when there is only the smoke of an extinguished match, others wonder about the effectiveness of a vaccine in the first place when the flu can potentially evolve into a different strain altogether which then potentially makes the vaccine user that much more at risk compared to others.... and then others wondering about if all of this is only to line the pockets of the pharmaceutical companies by creating a phony danger. Our politicians tell us that they have been preparing for the worse since June or so and that we must all get vaccinated, science is on their side. "Why won't the public believe us?" Well the public doesn't trust you.... Haven't you figured that out yet?

Fictional TV series and fictional movies portray the government bureaucrat as an incompetent fool who is there for his own personal interests and not for the interest of the public at large.... Sure you have the occasional hero who selflessly protects the public at large, but the hero faces 2 enemies, the bad guy who did an awful thing and the foolish bureaucratic system that prevents a decent human from doing the right thing at the right time. We all watch this and identify with the situation.... all of us. Then the news shows us yet one more example of a company or a government bureaucracy that did the wrong thing by following the existing bureaucratic rules. My own previous blogs demonstrate this.

Why is it such a surprise that we have such apathy for the political leader or the bureaucratic process? How do they solve this? Well they pay millions of dollars to statisticians to ask us questions to see what the problem is..... The flaw is that the statistician or the social scientist who will use the statistical process don't know what questions to ask. Everyone assumes that the system, the bureaucracy works and the questions reflect this unproven assumption, so no solution can ever be attained through the bureaucratic methodology of statistics..... and since we are in a capitalist society where we must produce and produce and do this quickly, no one takes the time to think for a mere 3 seconds (contemplation) and see the problem clear as day..... no instead the statistician must produce a questionnaire in half a second and use the remaining half to ask the population and then spend one second to analyze the obviously flawed results.... Well we saved one second in comparison to the thinker who just want to "waste" his time contemplating. Then we have the politicians shrugging their shoulders as to why a population is so unresponsive to the "science" of today.

Then tragedy strikes. A young teen dies from the virus. Was science right this time around? Were the politicians genuine in their warnings? Well, the public now mobilizes to get themselves vaccinated as quickly as possible. Scientists don't really inform us that this death is in the category of extreme rarity in odds because now the population has decided to believe in the severity of the problem that the government has mentioned all along..... But guess what..... this same government who warned us of the dangers, who says that they have been preparing since June of this year, the same government who scratches their heads as to why they are not trusted..... well they don't seem to be very prepared. The news reports how there is a shortage of vaccines, how people who are not on the list of priority get vaccinated before others who have priority (a sports team, inmates from a prison to name but 2). Children who do have priority get vaccinated but their parents do not which means that they will have to come back in a few weeks to get their turn. The lineups are huge and some people wait up to 8 hours before being told that they have run out of vaccines on that day..... And then the governing leaders have the gall to wonder why we don't trust them?

Again the PASS (Political Apathy Situation Solution) is simple: think about things, don't react to them..... the whole vaccine situation for the A H1N1 flu of the year 2009 should have been thought about since 1950. If a situation occurs where an entire population needs to be vaccinated, then these are the steps to take... and every 5 years or so, we re-evaluate the procedures and update them as technology or other factors change. We do this so that we don't have a few experts meet in June in reaction to a danger and then try to implement a solution under threat of time and then discover how the system is not working.... well duh! Most are hired to blindly follow contradictory rules and then the leaders who implement these rules are surprised at the results. If you react to a danger, its already too late and you will have to accept the results of your reflexes versus the incoming danger. If you contemplate how to use your reflexes and you make the practice of implementing this on fictional dangers, then as soon as a legitimate danger appears, you are much better prepared. But capitalism doesn't like to invest in thinking, they would rather make profit and react when the water of the sinking ship has reached their cabin.

This brings me to another point, the opposition reacts strongly and claims that the current leader of whatever department should resign..... Why? Would they do any better under this current system? If you have flawed tools, how can you be expected to perform your task as you could? This then brings me to VACUUM thinking (Voter Apathy Considered Using Uncommon Methodologies ie. thinking). See the voter is not apathetic in the politician itself. Candidate A wants to put 25 cents out $100 in the blue cup while Candidate B wants to attribute that same 25 cents in the red cup. Why the hell should the voter care about the 25 cents in the red or blue cup? The system itself is flawed and neither candidate is willing to do anything about it.... So the voter becomes apathetic and either does not vote altogether or chooses quickly to get the entire exercise over and done with. Find me Candidate C who will tell the voter the truth, to function properly we need $400 and we will ignore this $100 constraint we have fictionalized for ourselves and ignore 25 cents for blue or red cups and get the $400 we need and transform society..... and if any rule should prevent us from doing what is right, then we change the rules. Laws are there to serve Justice, if they don't do their job, we change them accordingly. Why do you think Barack Obama from the US had so many people enamoured with him? The slogan "Yes We Can" indicated that he was someone who was actually willing to do what needed to be done..... unfortunately, it did not pan out. Barack suffers from the same problems that Candidate A and B have: flawed bureaucratic tools.

I am all for using tools when they serve my purpose, but when the tools become the master and that I must comply myself to them to function, then I can not do the job as I originally envisioned it and must submit myself to how the tool evolves my problem into a supposed solution..... and history shows that these solutions are illusions and create many more problems. So replace the worker and the new worker will have the same problem with an inadequate tool. Replace the tool and allow the human back in control of his destiny. This will prevent political apathy and also prevent our current crises from becoming the norm. So if the government gives a health warning, it will be legitimate and people will trust it to be legitimate and it will be implemented professionally.

Is the current health warning legitimate? History will answer that like it showed how legitimate the previous health problems were in the 20th century. Do people trust the current government? Only after the media informed us of the tragedy of a teen's death did people run to the vaccination centres, so figure that one out. Are the current vaccines being distributed professionally? The experts reacted to a problem instead of contemplating how to act if a problem should ever occur with the obvious consequences. Experts put faith on dead bureaucratic principles that stifle imagination or initiative and were surprised at how underlings react when no explicit instructions are available when unusual circumstances arise.

So I humoristically say, PASS the buck and do some VACUUM thinking!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Jean Sarkozy Wants a Fair Chance to Serve

So who is this Jean? Well he is 23 years old and he is in his second year of university. He has not graduated yet but he has the chance of being the leader of a governmental agency which handles several billions of Euros for its yearly budget. Now do I believe that this guy has the capabilities to run this large governmental agency when he is only 23 years of age without a university degree? Well Jean is asking us to just give him that chance and he will prove it to us that he can do it. Is it possible? Sure it is, after all, Alexander of Macedonia (known as the Great) conquered a fine chunk of the world before the Roman Empire became a reality, and Alexander was a young adult at the time of his conquests.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Bobby Fischer, Tiger Woods, Blaise Pascal and John Stuart Mill were all famous for doing great work at a young age. So it is not unusual to believe that the capability is possible for someone who is 23 years of age or that the university degree is not necessary to prove capability. Would this Jean Sarkozy have the capability? Who knows, I would not dismiss this possibility. Jean may have the brains and wisdom for this position. What surprises me is the cavalier attitude that Jean and his father, the President of France, when people would dare to accuse that this job position would be acquired through nepotism. Nepotism is when you get a position based upon the family you are a part of instead of having earned it through skill and capability.

Nicolas, the father who also happens to be the current President of France, says that what is important in France is not the family you are born into but rather the hard work and the studies which prove your worth. Well ironically, Jean, the son, has not worked long enough, nor does he actually have the studies to prove that he is capable for this position. Jean himself said that he would prove that he could do it if we just give him the chance. Looks like dad's defence of his son contradicts what the son pleads for. On the one hand, dad says that hard work and studies is what proves one's worth and on the other hand, the son says that if given the chance, the proof will appear.

Now I believe that Jean probably has the capabilities to lead.... until I see his cavalier attitude and his misunderstanding of what nepotism is or is not (this includes dad, but my goal here is not to find reasons to discredit an existing job holder in public service.... I still maintain the flaw is within the system, not the individuals who live by the flawed systemic rules). Jean makes the plea to give him a chance. Nice plea, but why should he be given a chance when there are many out there who could also do the job just as well as him but will never be recognized as intelligent enough or capable enough because they have not been given their initial chance to do something better.

Many names were mentioned above demonstrating brilliance at a young age, here is one to remind France of its own history: Napoleon. Now Napoleon was a Corsican and before the Revolution in France, no one would have ever given him his chance to become anything in any position of power..... Corsicans were not seen as capable?! The revolution gave the luck to this Napoleon to demonstrate that he had capabilities beyond most of his peers and he revolutionized many strategic concepts. One of my previous blog pointed out that there are some "Einsteins" out there who are not recognized for their worth by those who are supposed to be in charge of our egalitarian society and supposedly promote merit... well how many out there could do this job but will never be given the chance that Jean Sarkozy has had because of his dad's family? I would suggest the same plea, give me the chance, give this blog's author the same access and chance as Jean Sarkozy has had and I could also run this governmental agency as well or even better.

Jean Sarkozy claiming that he has the capabilities and sneering at those who suggest nepotism demonstrates a lack of thinking of how the world actually works and this alone discredits his claim that he can do the job. Of course this same criteria would also have 93.7% of the world leaders fired from their jobs and have them replaced with bona fide thinkers. (side note, anyone who challenges my statistics should think more and judge less)

So Jean Sarkozy wants a fair chance to serve? May he give up his money for 3 years (minimum) and live in France (his home country) as an immigrant with no ID and have no contact with anyone he knows as if he entered France alone and introduce himself under an assumed name. He would become the pauper like in the story of the Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain. This would allow Jean Sarkozy to acquire wisdom of the injustices out there in the country he loves dearly. When he realizes that there are many out there who work hard and get no reward, he will be a better leader if and when he chooses to pursue that noble path in a later part of his life.

Nothing makes me roll my eyes in frustration more than when I see the rich spend a couple of days or a few weeks doing labor in front of the cameras of the world to demonstrate that they work hard like the others in the "workplace" and yet they will always be able to come back to their rooms that are as big as most people's houses when it is all over. No, for this to work, one must have the same low wage as most of us get and have the same living conditions and the same social circles.... how could Jean Sarkozy learn what true hard work is if after working at a construction site he comes back to an appartment that has a sound system worth the same as a typical construction worker's yearly salary? With the maid and the chef serving his whims?

So if Jean really wants to serve, he can start with developping his wisdom and time to think about issues.... if he does that he will be more deserving than most for every position of leadership on the planet.... irrelevant of his age or educational background. Perhaps he will hire me as an advisor on that day.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Looking at Two Social Experiments

There are two experiments that psychologists undertook in the 20th century that can explain the problems we are having in society and how it will only get worse as the years go by. The first one took individuals and placed them in the position of electrocuting a victim because a supervisor told them to do it. The second one took a group of people and divided them into security guard roles or into prisoner roles and watched them react.

The electrocution experiment took everyday people who applied for the job of helping in a social experiment. The individuals who applied for the job were told that the test subject would memorize a sequence of words and then they would be tied into some type of electrocution device. The recruit would then ask for the sequence of words in their proper order. If the test subject forgot a word or said the wrong word then the recruit would push a button to give a tiny jolt of electricity and then upgrade the voltage for the next jolt. This means each wrong answer would result in receiving an electric shock, and each shock received would be worse than the one before.

About one or two jolts before it was getting in the red zone (approximately 100 or so volts), the test subject would manage to free himself from the restraints. The supervisor would instruct the recruit to re-attach the test subject. The supervisor was there with a lab coat and a clipboard writing notes as the recruit questioned the test subject and pushed the button. The recruit would then walk in the next room and re-attach the test subject back into the electrocution device. The test subject would plead and beg to be released.

Now the reality of this entire experiment was not to test how electrical shocks can improve our memory or how to torture someone with electricity.... No, the one being electrocuted was really an actor and the recruit, well the recruit was the test subject. The experiment was to see how far we would go in a morally ambiguous instruction. The shocking results (pun intended) were that most people followed the instructions and kept pushing the button. Many protested the right and wrong aspect of what they were doing but kept pushing the button because the authority figure told them to do it. On a variation of the experiment, there were two test subjects.... One would ask the question while the other would push the button. Can we see specialized labour here? On those occasions, there were less protests and more compliance.

When asked why they kept pushing the button, the answer was generally because they assumed that the authority figure was the one ultimately responsible.... As for the variation, the button pusher was only pushing a button, he wasn't asking the questions so he detached himself from any responsibility. The job was simple, push a button when told to, someone else would judge the legitimacy of this. The one asking the questions would be happy that he did not push the button. The job was simple, ask a question and instruct the button pusher to push a button if the answer was wrong.

Can we see how our bureaucracy in the name of efficiency and blind reaction to crisis has created a culture of specialized and compartmentalized work force? Department A does not know what department B is doing and very few people have an idea of what the whole is supposed to be doing. Each bureaucrat does the job he is instructed to do as efficiently as possible and is rewarded for compliance.... thinking is not encouraged unless it is to increase efficiency in the immediate task at hand.

Here is a fictitious example which could be real: Department A advertises that their shoes are the greatest in the world. Department B sells the shoes they receive to customers. Department C is the legal team that finds ways to prevent bad publicity from being broadcast to the world. Department D has an efficient distribution system to move the shoes from where they are made to the actual retail stores. Department E hires the children in the third world nation to keep costs down. Department F does the accounting to show to the shareholder how they are making more profit than their competitors. Department G donates money to a women's shelter in a rich community to show that their company is community oriented. Department F makes sure that the child workers don't steal the shoes they make and give out harsh penalties if the children don't work as hard as they should or try to sneak out during work hours.

The second experiment, is where a group of volunteers are divided into either a security guard or a prisoner. They will enter a building which has been set up as a detention centre and the goal is to see what will happen under specific circumstances. This experiment was supposed to last a certain length of time but it was cut short because people's lives were at risk. Once the role was assigned, security or prisoner, they played that role and forgot who they were. The security saw the prisoners as shifty and deceptive and conducted abusive behaviour against them. The prisoners saw the security personnel as overlords to be overthrown and tried to resist their imprisonment as best as they could manage and they would become deceptive and uncooperative. Remember, these are not security guards or prisoners (but they got into that role and forgot that their former compatriots were just like them a week ago).

Combine the results of both experiments and see how we act in our current jobs. We take on the role given to us, almost without question. We don't contemplate to see if what we are doing is morally correct because that is not what we were hired to do and we see the other team as the bad guys. Ask yourself this question, you see a television report showing corruption in a government office or a food poisoning scandal or a hospital who neglected some patient to death or even a scandal where a police officer shot some citizen for illegitimate reasons. Your reaction is probably one of disgust of how these other people are immoral and something should be done about it. Now ask yourself this question, you find out on the news that the employer you are working for has just lost a court case on issue X and must pay back to society for their mistake, you find out that one of your departments is being blamed for corruption. Or imagine what it was like for the Enron employee to find out that his corporation which had great financial success immediately decided to declare bankruptcy or for the retired auto-worker who will lose his supposedly guaranteed pension because the owners mis-used the pension money and are still receiving their bonus at the end of the year.

In our current positions at work, we are encouraged to do the best we can in our immediate circle and to ignore what other departments do. We are isolated in our work environment, we are rewarded if we push that electrocution button without question and we identify ourselves with whatever team we happen to be in and we mistrust other teams. The media is not to be trusted if they investigate us, but we definitely believe what the media say when they report on other people's corruption.

These two experiments are not hidden from public record but no one seems to be doing anything to prevent the negative aspects from affecting us. Quite the opposite, it seems that we are encouraged to blindly follow instructions and to be part of a "team" whether you are the prisoner or the guard, it does not matter because you will be occupied in following instructions from your immediate supervisor and complain about the opposite team..... How can democratic participation be promoted if we are manoeuvred into compliance?

For those who wish more info:

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Let's get Educated

One of the important aspects of democracy is the debate. It is obvious that there will be alternative points of views and one will want to express this view to come to a viable solution so that everyone can be satisfied at the end result. Sometimes there will be compromise, sometimes there will be consensus, and sometimes it may just come to a majority.

The latest issue in US politics is its health care reform. Unfortunately there seems to be no debate. There are many attempts at setting up the proper stage for this debate to happen, but when the participants show up, you get nonsense. On one side you have some intellectual sounding rhetoric stamped with jargon that can only be understood by those who speak the same language.... and it certainly doesn't sound like English to the unfamiliar; and on the other side you have shouting and yelling that prevents any neutral observer from hearing the foreign dialect of the intellectual.

Agree or disagree with either position, it doesn't matter because there is a pretty high chance that you don't know the nuts and bolts of the issue, nor what either side are actually trying to say. In a nutshell, you have one side explaining in technical terms that health care reform is great and is not dangerous and the explanations become steeped with the latest astrological formulas (what we call economics in the 21st century).... and somehow these intellectuals believe that the jargon will silence the doubters.... the other side yells things like "You are lying to me!" or "This policy will destroy my car engine." or the best yet: "We can't believe in this policy because the President is not even an American citizen."

Well the problem is a debate amongst the uninformed (both sides). The solution is to have a better education system available to all citizens. Currently we have grade school which teaches reading, writing and arithmetic.... and a post-secondary educational system that emphasizes more on technical achievements than on thinking or realizing of issues.

The high school graduate believes himself skilled enough in recognizing how to scrutinize a debate of ideas between intellectuals. A first year university student studying in politics realizes very quickly how inadequate most of us are in scrutinizing political issues. The university graduate believes himself intelligent because he can speak the jargon of the intellectual.... unfortunately, most of what is said is complete foolishness.

Previous blogs mentioned our society's problem on lack of time. Well once time is regained, we would have to provide free education for any who want it.... this includes university all the way to the PhD level. We would have to stop companies from requiring advanced education when it isn't needed.... we only want those who wish to learn more to actually benefit from advanced education. Profit motive is a wrong motive to seek advanced education. The necessity of paying off a debt for a university education limits choices of subjects on what will provide the easiest way to pay off this debt (another form of profit motivation). Who will want to learn how to distinguish a rational form of argument versus rhetorical manipulation of emotions if the other choice is to learn about how to maximize profits for some corporation which is definitely not a democratic institution? The corporation will hire you if you can make them more profit not if you can be a better democratic citizen.

So the first thing to do is to provide time for each citizen, instead of forcing the citizens into wage-slaves for corporations who care nothing for democracy but care only for profits. This extra time should allow citizens to further their education without economic pressure. In other words, some form of stipend should be provided to cover rent and food (and I don't mean junk food which seems to be the university student's diet because they can't afford the better meals). When both of these things are covered, the third thing to do is to streamline the university classes so that they become less about jargon to make yourself sound intelligent but rather to say things in everyday words so that non-experts can understand with little effort. The most ironic thing I personally have found in my own university studies was that the scholars who studied how we communicate with each other were the most difficult texts to comprehend. It seems that complex sounding words are supposed to impress the uneducated.

The education system should focus on taking one's time to think things through instead of trying to come to a quick solution (without thinking of the consequences). DeBono once used an illustration about 2 chickens. One of these chickens was slightly blind while the first chicken had perfect eyesight. The experiment using these two chickens was to lower them onto one side of a box with a dish of food on the other side of the box. The first chicken with perfect eyesight went straight for the food and gobbled up the food happily. The other chicken would poke away at the ground and eventually get to the dish. Our capitalist system promotes the first chicken, the quick-thinker who gets to the solution. The second experiment had a glass wall in between the dish and the chicken. This wall did not go from one side to the other but it was in the middle leaving enough room for the chicken to go on either side and bypass the glass wall. Well the first chicken with perfect eyesight goes straight for the food dish, and bangs into the wall over and over.... trying to get to the food but never able to. The second chicken, who does not see the food just pokes on the ground and eventually bypasses the glass wall and then gets to the food. Life tends to have a lot more glass walls than we seem to realize and our current society promotes one form of thinking and punishes the alternative.

Free university and more time would bring more balance and improve our society and prevent tremendously easy problems that we have suffered if we just think for 3 seconds. Our current economic crisis could have been completely prevented had we had some decision maker have the luxury of time to just think about an issue or a citizenry the luxury of time to debate where our society is going.

So what society do you want? The capitalist is already using propaganda to say that the consumer makes better decisions than anyone else (greed determines our goals), the communist is trying to regain credibility by insisting that the worker should be given more economic power to make better social decisions for the majority. Why are we stuck in this consumer versus laborer dichotomy? Both are economic foolishness dreamt up by philosophers who began their philosophy with foolish assumptions that could have been easily been torn down like a house of cards if someone would have taken 3 seconds to just think about it. (To be fair, if their assumptions are accurate, the following logic that follows within their economic models are proper).... Why not focus on the democratic model... the insistence that we make our society full of responsible citizens. Our current democracy is really flawed and in many cases quite undemocratic, but we can correct this if we, as citizens take back what was stolen from us by thieves and reclaim our time and our money.

If a corporate entity (an artificial citizen under the law of most nations) has more budget than the poorest nation state.... there is definitely something wrong. This non-living artificial citizen, who is not even a real human being (a modern version of a built up idol/statue), should not have anywhere near the budget of the poorest nation-state government in our current international community. Nevermind the fact that these non-human artificial citizens should have the political clout to move society toward more profit at the cost of human dignity.

We either fight on economic arguments including how we spend our budgets (both foolish exercises), or we fight on democratic arguments and we give ourselves the time to do it and the proper educational opportunities to achieve this.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Einstein in the Bakery

Einstein was lucky, I mean look at his background... he flunked out in high school and most people were convinced that he was below average. Throughout his life people wondered at his intelligence because he had to be told to bring an umbrella when it was raining so that he would not get wet. When Einstein decided to write about physics, EVERY single university physics journal rejected his writings. Einstein managed to publish in a philosophical journal and through luck, some physicists bothered to read and give this idea a chance, and then: the story we hear in school about Einstein being brilliant becomes reality. So yeah, Einstein was lucky.

How many Einsteins are out there waiting to be discovered? Waiting to be given a decent chance to work at something which will have tremendous impact in our society? Probably many of our great intellectual heroes have had similar backgrounds of being unrecognized by most until a stroke of luck gave them their chance to shine. Problem is, for every genius discovered there may be dozens who go unrecognized.

This reminds of two stories, the first is with the Simpsons cartoon, Homer is laying on the couch watching some TV and little baby Maggie is on a toy piano playing an elaborate piece of classical music. Homer, being annoyed at having his TV viewing interrupted, yells at little baby Maggie to stop that racket.... Maggie, obedient, stops playing (society forever losing another Einstein). The second story is from Neal Stephenson's book "Cryptonomicon". Here we have one of the main characters filling out a standardized test to see how smart he is.... the first question is about how a boat is going upriver at a certain speed and how the current of the river is going at another speed and the question asks how long it will take the boat to reach destination X. The main character spends the entire time of the test answering question 1 by coming up with a formula to distinguish how the water temperature can affect the speed of the current and depending on the curves of the river combined with the depth and the spin cycle of the boat engine, this would allow (and here the test ends with question 1 unanswered).... The correction of the test places the main character in the least intellectually stimulating job environment you can imagine.... of course later in the book our main character is "discovered" to be brilliant in code breaking....

So what does all of this have to do with Einstein in a bakery? Well if Einstein is undiscovered and is not placed in an area which will help society discover new things, where would this Einstein be? Why not a bakery? Einstein needs to work at a job to eat, doesn't he? Well if Einstein is at a bakery, you can imagine that he isn't doing very well at his job. Remember the real Einstein, he flunked out of high school and was considered dumb, the world of Physics rejected Einstein's papers, he didn't know how to dress for whatever occasion.... so imagine this Einstein serving you bread at a bakery. Not very impressive huh? Now consider how management would view him.

Management is not concerned about placing people in the proper areas in society to help society out with new discoveries; no, management is only interested in making Einstein a better baker and by hook or by crook they will transform him into some kind of baker or fire him if they can't succeed. The problem is this: how do we get society's Einsteins to be recognized and placed in an area which will do society (and the Einstein in question) the greater benefit? Standardized tests to measure potential?

Remember, if management can not recognize an Einstein in their midst, how can a someone who corrects a standardized test be able to judge how or why a person answered just 1 question on an IQ test and got it wrong? And lets assume for argument's sake, that Einstein #A does do well in a standardized test with pretty decent scores placing him in the top 5 percentile.... how does he go about getting a job? Where does he go to allow his "potential" be used in his full capacity?

Is the homeless person you met last week an undiscovered musical genius like Mozart? How about the janitor who mopped the floor behind you in the shopping center: an undiscovered genius who could study biochemistry and discover the cure for cancer in a short afternoon? The homeless person is faced with a non-understanding bureaucracy who judges him in a similar way as the janitor is judged.... on his immediate performance. Which is probably a pathetic performance if you compare it to the average Joe....

Now let us assume that Einstein #A manages to get a job interview for some large corporation which can potentially allow him to use his talents.... how does he sell himself? "I can play chess and beat the computer on any setting in under 15 moves." The interviewer would most likely not have a clue what this really means and probably reject Einstein #A as being too arrogant.... or hire him as stock room clerk..... and then have management make fun of him because he can't tell the difference between duck tape and masking tape after being on the job for 6 months.

So if you are one of these Einsteins out there.... use the saying "I'm just an Einstein in the bakery" when describing yourself (maybe someone intelligent will notice and bother asking you what you mean and perhaps has some actual power to help you (and society) get to the ideal position for you)..... or you'll just feel better by saying it (who knows).... If you know someone who is "weird" and "dumb" yet has something intelligent about him, perhaps he is an Einstein waiting to be discovered..... and you should try to help him (or her) with your talents that this Einstein seems to lack.... vouch for him, encourage him.... this can help society out and therefore you as well.

Of course, the danger with this is that you can have people like "Sex" from the "So You Think You Can Dance" franchise who shows up every year to the auditions and tells the judges that he is someone who "believes in himself" and is an excellent dancer.... and when he begins to dance, it is quite obvious even to non-dance experts that he is mediocre at best..... So I don't wish to see intellectual morons believing themselves to be Einsteins in bakeries, because that is not the intent of this blog. Dance is easy to gauge between skilled and unskilled but you need experienced dancers to distinguish between great skill and decent skill.... For the matters of brains and intellect, it is not so easy to distinguish between skilled and unskilled.... (and sometimes management does not want to recognize such talent because they fear that they will lose their edge over their underlings because the Einstein will publicly point out management flaws once discovered).

So how many Einsteins in the bakery do you know?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Critiquing Democracy

Any political scientist who believes that our current system of democracy is working generally well should work in customer relations for at least six months to shatter this delusion. Grade school teaches us that our democracy works well because we have elections every few years and that we can get rid of leaders that we don't like. Is that what democracy is all about? Simple elections? We have a population that is so ill-informed about the issues or even how the system works that we actually allow this population base to decide the future for us all?

Well the current system prevents that. The bureaucracy in place informs the current leaders of what is possible and what is not based upon contracts and guarantees signed by previous administrations. The leaders just put a smile on and charismatically inform us that everything is going according to plan and then try to figure out how to budget the shrinking finances. The cynics among us say "business as usual" and nothing important changes. Election ads have little to no substance about any issue. Look at the latest conservative campaign against Michael. He was out of the country for x amount of years..... and that's relevant how? At least with Stephane they pointed out the internal flaws of Stephane's own claim.

So the current system prevents ill-informed voters from voting foolishly by keeping them in the dark with flashy ad campaigns, politicians which are more charismatic than intelligent so they can say nonsense and have the majority swoon over the way they said the pretty words. And whoever is in power has so many checks and balances that they can not make any sweeping change that would help society at large..... not that they could mobilize the population at large to support them. How can a rational explanation that takes 90 minutes to understand compete with the flashy catch phrase of an opponent?

I put too much emphasis on charisma over intelligence? Just look at the speeches from George as President of the US versus the speeches from Barack as President. The Daily Show showed half a dozen excerpts which had both George and Barack saying essentially the same thing. When George said it, he was arrogant and no one would listen to what he was saying.... Meanwhile, Barack says it and we are all enthralled at the wise words and how we should listen to his advice. These are the same people who vote who could not distinguish that both leaders of opposing political parties said essentially the same things about the same issues.

You don't agree with something? Base it upon the text, not upon the delivery of that text. Of course to do that we must change how our current system works. Why do people not bother with reading the text and focus on the feel-good of the charismatic catch-phrases to make decisions? Lack of time is the best answer. Democracy requires every voter to be aware of the issues and not rely upon 3rd party interpretations. The news companies are more interested in selling you the news with sensationalism than with genuine information. A car accident this morning is the latest headline news on this morning's news.... forget the fact that the American Congress is about to vote on a law which will give the police the right to invade your privacy without the consent of a Judge first..... we want to see the car accident..... its sensational, not boring.

Ask random people if they can tell you the latest gossip from TMZ or if they know what 60 minutes was about last week (assuming they even know the show "60 minutes"). A democracy needs its citizens to be informed and educated on the many issues at hand. Currently we work longer hours than peasants in the Middle Ages. The peasants in the Middle Ages did not have political responsibilities and had a lot of leisure time on their hands. We have political responsibilities and we spend most of our energy for the benefit of someone else's profit.... who I guarantee you takes his time to look at the political issues and determines what is best for his pocket book.... and he calls that work, yet this same employer denies us that same time to allow us to educate ourselves of the issues.


Peasant, wakes up does the chores around the home which includes the farming and repairing stuff. In the end he gives a portion of his crop to the Landlord. No one asks his opinion about anything so the peasant does not need to be aware of decisions and he suffers the whims of his landlord.

Today's worker, wakes up and does chores (which are not tabulated as work) around the house to keep things clean and repairing personal stuff. Heads off to work which can take up to an hour to reach (still not tabulated as work), works "officially" (this is tabulated) for a set amount of time where his lunch is measured scientifically and his breaks are counted up to the second to avoid lost productivity. Then the worker finishes his day and heads back home, does more chores around the house (again not tabulated in the calculated work hours)..... The worker is then exhausted and spends the remaining time either A) on leisure to decompress from a hard day's work (this can be video games or television watching or music listening or even drinking at a bar with other workmates) or B) doing extracurricular work activities which are not paid for nor counted on actual work hours worked but that you need to do if you want that promotion... or even to avoid being laid off when the budget cuts force lay-offs.

Using the above comparison of the peasant in the Middle Ages versus today's worker.... who of the two would actually have the time to be properly informed or educated of the issues?

To make democracy work we have to remember that we are citizens. The communists believe that the workers should decide, the capitalists believe that the industrialist should decide. We are supposed to be in a democracy in which citizens should decide. We need time for education and leisure to have clear heads so that we can make proper decisions and anyone who thinks that this is innapropriate and lazy I will just point out the rich. The rich have the time for education and for leisure and they make the most out of it by making sure that their political ideals are pursued and they keep their opponents busy with slave labor.

Should the rich ever be forced to work like the poor do, we would see them protesting loudly. As I have mentioned in previous blogs. We have the technology to work less hours and still maintain our lifestyle. Perhaps we would have 50% less choices in consumer products but we would definitely be in a democracy where we educate ourselves, we would have a proper leisure time to enjoy our consumer products and we would know how to vote based upon the issues and not upon the charismatic catch phrases.

My source comes from the Wikipedia entry where it shows 13th century male peasant working annually 1620 hours while it shows Canada in 2004 working 1717 hours and the USA working 1777 hours. Just remember; first, the peasants were not under the yoke of Taylorism where working was scientifically measured to the second and secondly, the peasants would be considered at work even when repairing one's own house while our 2004 measurements are only based upon "official" hours under some employer....

Isn't technology supposed to make us more free? Are we not supposedly in a democracy as opposed to the illusion of one? Does it not seem that we are more under the yoke of an employer who gives us an illusion of choice by voting for nonsense every few years?

If democracy is to work as it is supposed to, then we need the tools to insure and ensure its success. At this moment, we may be losing our democracy.... at least in North America.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Types of Apologies

You don't have to live for very long before you witness an apology or offer one of your own or even receive one from someone else. What is ironic is that we tend to gloss over what the apology really means or we just presume a meaning which may or may not be entirely accurate. Sort of like when you ask someone how they are doing today and you only half listen to the response which will usually be "I'm fine thanks, and you?" Its the kind of ritual we do that can get lost through repetition. Do you really care how a colleague you only see for seconds a day is doing? Will that colleague express his sadness of having had an argument with his brother or sister about who will bring mom to the hospital next for her check-up to see if she needs new medication? Chances are you don't want to hear someone else's problems because you have enough on your own, so the ritual continues: "Hi Fred, how are you today?" "I'm doing great!" And off you go and repeat: "Hi Sue, how are you today?" "Happy as can be!". We all perpetuate the illusion of having happy little lives and that all the problems are manageable.

But the focus of this particular blog is not to look into how we don't really communicate what we really want to, but rather how similar our apologies are to the way we ritualize our polite greetings. So if you hear an apology, how genuine is it? If you offer an apology to someone, what are you actually saying? You could seperate apologies into different types from worse to best. Naturally it is difficult to interpret which type a person is using because you are not a mind reader or a heart reader, just like you don't know what a person is thinking when they say hello to you with a smile. (Is he thinking about that goal that was scored by his favorite sports team or does he think that your shirt looks funny?)

The 1st type of apology (being the worse) >>I HAVE TO APOLOGIZE<<

I am apologizing because my position forces me to say sorry. I still think you are completely in the wrong and that you should not be doing activity X, but because I want to keep my job/career/position of prestige I must offer you some kind of apology to satisfy your ego or power trip by losing my dignity in preference to your superiority. This is the kind of apology you will see waiters giving to obnoxious clients in a restaurant who are annoyed that the steak they ordered 20 seconds ago has not arrived on their table before they even picked up their menu to decide what they were going to order. And I have witnessed this kind of situation many times. I think this is the worse type of apology because the person offering it is demeaning himself while the person receiving the apology gets high on a false premise and is encouraged to demand more apologies if he can not have his cake and eat it as well. Some rich people can get trapped in demanding apologies from the poor on anything and everything, it becomes a psychological drug/domination.

The 2nd type of apology (being the next worse) >>I GOT CAUGHT<<

Well I am apologizing to you because you caught me doing something genuinely wrong and I know its wrong. I apologize because if I don't, you will punish me worse and I want you to think that I will not do it again so that we can forget about this and I will find new ways to do the same wrong thing again without getting caught a second time. You can recognize this when the first thing that is asked by the person who got caught is this: "How did you catch me?" or "How did you know it was me?"

Our entire legal system, in order to protect the innocent from being jailed, proceeds with the explanation of how the person was caught to prove to the jury that the crime actually did take place. Now this legal system does help the innocent in defending themselves and this is admirable; unfortunately, on the flip side it also gives ammunition to the guilty to become more and more shrewd so that they are that much more difficult to get caught.

Just watch a child who was caught taking cookies out of the cookie jar when he was not allowed to take cookies without permission. You see the crumbs around his face and you point it out to him. The child apologizes for taking the cookies. Next time, he will wipe his precious little mouth so that you do not realize that he took more cookies. You point out that there are crumbs on his shirt and he will wipe the crumbs off there next time.... and on and on. Now if a child is cunning, how much more is the adult who gets caught?

3rd type of apology (least worse, but not the best) >>I REGRET THE CONSEQUENCES<<

This seems to be the most common form of apology we use as a society and as individuals. I am sorry of the negative consequences that my actions have caused, it is most unfortunate and I hope that these consequences do not happen again when I continue to do the actions which caused the negative consequences in the first place. I do not believe that my actions should be modified in any way but I do feel bad for the negative consequences which I refuse to believe are directly linked with my actions so I will continue in my wrong behavior and apologize for the unfortunate side effects.

This type of apology is currently being used to make us feel better for our current economic downturn. We all know what caused the recession, and to solve it we continue to do the very actions that put us in this mess in the first place. On more individual levels, this is where you see the song "Cats In The Cradle" by Ugly Kid Joe make sense. In it, the dad is constantly apologetic for not being there for his son because of X, Y or Z reason. The son accepts the apology and grows up still requesting the dad's attention and the dad regrets and apologizes, yet continues with the wrong action..... Of course the song gives us the negative results of these kinds of apologies and the dad loses his son as a result in the end because the son imitates his dad so well and apologizes to him the same way for not being there.

I am so sorry that I ended sleeping with someone else because I got drunk at some party and left with that person..... I deeply regret the consequences of this action..... and what shall I do next weekend? Well I will go and get drunk again (and hopefully not repeat the negative consequences).

I consider this the least worse of the apologies but I still categorize it as in the worse category nonetheless.

4th type of apology (the one we should strive for) >>I REVERSE MY PREVIOUS DIRECTION<<

I apologize for what I have done and will avoid doing any action that will encourage me in any way, to do this again. In other words, if my job prevents me from seeing my baby's first steps, I will strive to limit the hours at my work so that I can enjoy the true joys of life: my family. I regret that I missed the baseball game where my child got a homerun, I will attempt to find a job that enables me to spend more time with my family. I apologize that I slept with that person, I will strive to limit my alcohol consumption and ask friends to help me out if I start getting flirtatious with a stranger so that I do not betray my true love.

Our society apologizes that our current system puts decent people out of work and rewards leaders who steal our money from our pockets, our society will stop using consumption and greed to encourage economic growth and impose 99% WORLDWIDE taxes on profit to recuperate our stolen money and redistribute the 90% of the wealth in the hands of 10% of the population to the rest of us. Our society will no longer complain about the limited government budgets that are funded by the poor to serve the rich and constantly struggling to pay for deficits and health care and education, our society will get the money where it happens to be located and pay for these services that were promised us 200 years ago.

Perhaps we should start a timer where everyone gets an equal amount of resources/money and allow the current capitalist system to run for 50 years, then stop the clock, redistribute everyone's wealth again equally and restart the race. How would you like to start the year 2010 with 25 million dollars in your hands? Every other human on the planet starts with the exact same amount, and off you go.... if you succeed: YAY, and you will be honored at the year 2060 as you give away your extras.... if you fail: too bad, but there is hope, because on 2060, you will get a fair shot again..... just try to survive until then (much like 75% of the population have been doing the past few centuries). Could you accept this kind of apology from society for the current wrongdoings? Or shall we tolerate society's 3rd type of apology that it is currently giving us?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Appearances of Corporate Benevolence

Now that the listeriosis crisis is still fresh in our memories, the scrutiny on the safety practices are in place and things are being changed. Also, the economic crisis being what it is, encourages a scrutiny on certain corporations and their bookkeeping practices in giving out bonuses while filing for bankruptcy.

But what happened? The meatpacking plant that brought about the listeriosis bacteria had a proper safety procedure on paper which "technically" allowed for someone to raise the alarm if they had a suspicion. The corporations that offered bonuses for a job well done were offered based upon the measuring of performance which looked "technically" decent on paper.

Well it seems that perhaps what the corporations tell themselves or to the public at large does not correspond to the realities of the day to day operations. On the one hand, the meatpacking plant says "safety first" but during the work hour, the employee is rewarded in going quicker than before to prove he is productive which automatically means that safety is sacrificed. The employee focuses on what is measurable: like his speed to produce and ignores the safety concerns that would slow him down. This is how he gets his promotion, this is what he is encouraged to do by his direct supervisors who also have to answer their higher ups with statistics of good performance. One can almost hear a naive employee say to his supervisor: "But head office or our training video says to take this extra step to ensure proper safety." To which the supervisor answers the employee: "I don't care what the training video or head office says, they don't deal with day to day operations, do it the quick way and things will be fine."

This mentality is also seen when statistics demonstrate that corporate bosses have done well enough to deserve a bonus the very day the corporation is declaring for bankruptcy. One thing is easily measured and this is where the lowly employee all the way up to the corporate boss excel in getting their promotion or their bonus and then there is the reality. The listeriosis tragedy did occur and the corporation has gone bankrupt. Although we have scrutiny today, the lessons will be forgotten and we will continue to base our performance more on reaction speed than on proper thinking or proper precautions.

This reminds me of the car manufacturer who judges whether or not they should recall a defective car part by statistics of how many would get injured and how much they could sue the company versus the cost of recalling all the defective parts. If the cost of suing the car manufacturer is 2 million and it would cost 3 million to recall the defective parts that would cause accidents.... well the car manufacturer ignores the recall and believes that they just saved 1 million dollars. Yet this same car manufacturer has brochures that indicates that the safety of their parts are of paramount importance.

How can we trust the benevolence of any corporation whose primary focus is on an artificially created resource we call money? How can we trust a corporation that rewards each of its employees to focus on productivity which is easily measured while ignoring its own corporate vision of proper ethical practices? We all work in places like these, the proof is in the news. Yesterday it was company X, today its company Y, tommorrow it may be the company where you work at.... but they all suffer the same problem and no one is willing to truly fix the problem, only put a bandaid to give the appearance of healing.

Can the bandaid stop a stomach ache? Yet that is how we attempt to solve our economic crisis: You have a headache? Put this bandaid on your forehead. You are bleeding on your elbow? Take this aspirin. In the meantime, true doctors in society are still unrecognized and still attempt to give the proper diagnosis despite their lack of time to do so.

Oh and note how I do not blame any one particular company or any specific individual. I believe the problem is systemic as well as individual responsibility.... but too often we point the finger at one specific person or corporation and turn it into a scapegoat while the other individuals or other corporations who do the exact same practice hide in the shadows and pretend that they are innocent. So the news already has the names of corporations or individuals that you can sneer at, I don't need to add more fuel to the fire of sneering. I wish we would do less snearing and more soul-searching/thinking to actually attempt at transforming our flawed system into something better. But then again, our employers won't give us the time to actually think about solutions. So the citizen who practices democracy is transformed into the employee who produces and the consumer who consumes.... who needs to think under those circumstances?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Sad Irony

You spend years telling your housemates that the metaphorical house is not built to withstand earthquakes. For years, you are ridiculed and left to fend for yourself because you are a "doom and gloom" sayer. Then the earthquake strikes. Many parts of this house fall apart. Yesterday's experts who ignored completely what you said are now using the identical words you used in previous years to say that the house is not built properly to withstand earthquakes.

What is happening after the earthquake is the attempt to place blame on someone, so for every room that has collapsed we attempt to find the carpenter who worked on that particular room and expect him to fix it to earthquake proof standards and we scrutinize his very tools and his methodology. When the carpenter takes his 3 day long lunch break (which he always took before the earthquake struck), the experts who were responsible for allowing this 3 day long break to happen in the first place begin pulling their hair and are ready to lynch this particular carpenter. Other unrelated carpenters wisely hide in the woodwork so as to not be the next targets of lynch mobs. What the mobs don't seem to know is that they are being guided by the same experts who allowed this disaster to happen. The experts received money from the carpenters to pronounce publicly that the house was safe, the experts negotiated contracts that allowed the carpenters to have 3 day long lunch breaks.... Its only after the earthquake hit the house did the experts smoothly became the housemate's best defender against the carpenter.... after all the experts don't want to be targetedby the mob so they concentrate on assigning blame on the carpenter who was unlucky enough to have worked on the collapsed room.

So here we have it, our economy has gone poof, the unlucky corporations/industrialists who were following the accepted procedures of how our society is run are now being grilled by our politicians who never did anything about this economy until after it went poof. The politicians are trying to take responsibility now and are seeking someone to blame for this disaster. Are things going to change for the better? Here is what will happen, the rooms which have collapsed will be rebuilt using earthquake proof methods, the carpenters who have been unlucky enough to be behind these rooms will be forced to reduce their 3 day lunch breaks to a mere 6 hour lunch break. Other carpenters who were lucky enough not to be in the spotlight will volunteer to fix up their assigned rooms to make it more earthquake proof but in reality it will be mere cosmetic changes. The experts will then be bought off as before to say that the house is now earthquake proof. In the end, the house will be in worse shape and everyone will congratulate themselves at having averted the last disaster and prevented the next one..... until the next earthquake strikes.

What happens to the people who warned everyone that the house was not earthquake proof in the first place before the disaster struck? Well they are still ignored as doom and gloom sayers even though once again history has proven them correct. They will only be accepted as experts if they accept to be bought off and say that the Emperor is wearing the latest fashion. Seems like the Emperor is still naked after all of this. When do we truly change our carpenters and experts and replace them with hard-workers and wise individuals? Why are we still accepting lazy rich people as our CEOs who would get fired after the second week of a real job for being lazy? Why are we still accepting politicians who before the earthquake, said that everything was built properly and then poof after the house collapses they act as if they are outraged at having been duped.... yet decide to let the same people dupe them again?

Sad irony, the house will receive some overhaul but in the end will still not be earthquake proof because to truly do that we would have to rebuild it from scratch and no one is ready to do that. And the solution offered is still to try to get the citizenry to become avid consumers to restart the economy which is exactly what brought us to where we are today..... Sad irony.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Why the rich get richer.

There is a common saying: "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for life." This is a saying that gives comfort to the rich as they convince themselves of their benevolence to the poor who are ignorant. It justifies the action of not giving the poor what they need but rather making the poor jump through more hoops to get their daily bread (or fish).

What this saying neglects to mention is that while you are teaching the man how to fish, he is already starving and needs the fish NOW so then he can concentrate on the lessons. It also neglects to mention how the "teacher" loans him fish until the lessons are over to keep the student alive enough to finish the lessons.... and then the "teacher" gives the student the bill (the price for having learned such an invaluable lesson and also to pay back the loan while the student was learning how to feed himself for life).... the price is fair, for every 4 fish caught, one goes to the "teacher"....

With this scenario, the "teacher" just needs to teach 3 people how to fish and he never has to fish again and can now spend time on other pursuits.... hence he spends his free time to acquire more fish without having to fish for himself and he can then pay for bodyguards with fish to protect himself when the students wise up to the con and decide to "renegotiate" this "deal".

Of course, if you go far back in time, you discover that the student's ancestors knew how to fish but were prevented from teaching their children how to fish because the "teacher's" ancestors made a clever-sounding proposal that conned those ancestors and took advantage of them back then.... (but then again this blog is not about 3rd world history so we won't go and explore what that particular deal may have been about).... suffice it to say, the poor is not learning to fish free of charge, and he is not given fish while he learns how to fish for himself, everything is a loan to make the individual independent..... except for the fact that he is now indentured to his teacher for life.

There is a common riddle or choice given to test one's wisdom: You have a choice of receiving a one time gift of ten thousand dollars to do with what you want with it, or you can receive a penny on the first day of the month and each succeeding day of the month you get double of what you received on the previous day until the end of the month. How do you choose? If you are shrewd, you will take the penny which doubles each day of the month so that by day #21, you have received over ten thousand dollars for that day (without counting everything else that you have accumulated during the previous days). With a standard 30 day month you receive on the last day: over 5 million dollars.

Now the rich congratulate themselves again because they consider themselves generous for offering this "gift" to the poor.... so that when the poor chooses the immediate 10 thousand dollars, the rich can then say that the poor "chose" to be poor and that the rich gave them a fair shot. If you are poor and have no money, can you wait 10 days before you can afford to buy one loaf of bread for the day? Well the rich who proposed this choice know that you can't and they scoff at the poor for choosing the "wrong" choice because if they were given the choice, they would take the penny on day one and allow it to double..... They already have food in their kitchen, so they can afford to wait 21 days before seeing the results of their wise choice.....

The irony in all of this? Well the rich are given this choice by our governments to help jumpstart our economy whenever the economy is in a crisis.... Look at how we are "solving" the current economic crisis.... Jon Stewart of the Daily Show has the right idea, we should give the money to the poor who are about to lose their houses so that they can repay their debts to the banks and that way the banks regain what they lost..... the wise solution. Instead, we want to reward the rich who stole from the collectivity, who conned the majority by giving them more money so that they can con and steal from more of us.....

And that is why the rich get richer, we don't learn from our losses.... "Fool me once, shame on you.... Fool me twice, shame on me."..... Well we definitely should SHAME ourselves for giving the tools to thieves and liars..... AGAIN.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

What Economic Crisis?

Well here it is, the world has a crisis, an economic one. People are losing their jobs, the rich management who made poor decisions are taking a breather and requesting public money to kickstart the economy and........ WAIT, WHAT? The business leaders who brought about this mess in the first place by abusing public funds to line their pockets, the same leaders who push the citizenry into becoming consumers and production machines, the same leaders who now face the consequences of their corruption..... THEY WANT WHAT?

Isn't that how we got into trouble in the first place? Bad decisions, no preparation for the future, reacting to situations instead of THINKING and preventing unusual situations. What do we get from this economic downturn? A knee-jerk reaction where all the nations immediately agree on a solution (proving that with the proper political will, the governments of the world can make an important decision..... of course this decision bailed out the rich from troubles more than the majority of us who are now suffering job losses).

The economy has shown its hiccup and demonstrated that our current direction is a bad one.... How do we respond? We slow down this metaphorical car but maintain the same direction despite the last bump where we damaged our car. The bureaucracy stays the same, the corruption is found and covered up (to be replaced by a yet more sophisticated corruption scheme that we will uncover in 20 years and act as shocked when it is discovered as we are "shocked" today), the business leaders or industrialists are not replaced or brought to trial..... So nothing has really changed.

If an employee or a bureaucrat had done that much damage to his company or to his bureaucratic system, we all know how that would end: a lost job and prison time. Yet when the leaders of our society do this (and I really don't mean politicians), they keep their money, they keep their assets..... AND TO ADD INSULT TO INJURY, they request public funds to bail them out..... So much for the trillions of dollars of profits done by these leaders (guess that money is gone). So the poor who followed the direction of the rich, now have to pay for obeying their master's direction.

Should society be run on charisma? knowledge? wisdom? riches? Well at the moment, it is run by riches irrelevant how you got the money, you now have the law firm to defend your acquisitions. With riches, you sponsor the charisma you need to transmit the message you want. You hire the knowledge you want and you pay for "wisdom" from sophists. Anyone tells you something you don't want to hear, you have the money to ignore that unpleasant sound....

Plato's Republic mentions that the metaphorical city would be in ruins if it was run by the industrialist who seeks after riches..... Here we live in a society that is run by the motivation of acquiring riches and we have a hiccup to make us pause and reconsider our future..... How do we respond? Seems like we will continue to fund the confirmed rich to continue stealing from us and make decisions that are senseless for society but very profitable for the few rich.

Maybe I should become a sophist.... I'd have more money and flatter my rich customer with trivialities....

So to conclude, what economic crisis? We aint changing anything..... more of the same attitude, produce and consume, ignore anything unrelated to those two activities and let the rich leaders continue in their role of our coaches as we continue to produce and consume.... If we work hard enough, we may finally get that carrot dangling in front of our faces, just beyond our reach.... just a bit more effort now!