‘Left alone, capitalism devolves into corruption, bribery & predatory pricing monopolies—capitalism pollutes rivers, damages our health & creates ever greater divides. Capitalism gets us an opioid epidemic, dark patterns of social media & doom scrolling.’
The problem: how can we get people what they want and need?
It turns out that the simple short-term answer is the market.
The marketplace makes it possible to buy a nail clipper made of hardened steel for just four dollars, but only when you’re ready. The marketplace offers some people a solid brass set of the cups and balls magic trick and other people a hand-blown glass vase.
The marketplace is hyper-alert and never tires of finding overlooked corners of desire.
But the marketplace is not wise.
It’s blind, short-term and fairly stupid. Because it has no overarching goal. The market is nothing but billions of selfish people, trading this for that, without regard for what’s next.
Left alone, capitalism will devolve into corruption, bribery and predatory pricing leading to monopoly. Left alone, capitalism will pollute rivers, damage our health and create ever greater divides.
Capitalism gets us an opioid epidemic, the dark patterns of social media and doom scrolling.
Because the market isn’t wise. It has no sense of time or proportion.
The only way for the simple answer to solve our complicated problems is for it to have guardrails, boundaries that enable it to function for the long haul.
That’s something we need leadership to get done. And it’s more likely to get done if we acknowledge that we need to do it.
With the current administration depleting and weakening the U.S. postal service in front a national election complicated by a deadly global pandemic, comedian Bill Maher makes a serious suggestion. Get what we need and want now via Amazon, etc., and then stop. Ease the process for postal workers to receive absentee ballots so they can meet deadlines and tallies by election day.
“Democracy isn’t a spectator sport, and if DT is going to try to scuttle the Post Office, we need to fight back. It is in our power to give less mail to process. Let this be our October surprise.”
Carole Cadwalladr is a British author and investigative journalist/The Observer.
“We are what happens to a western democracy when a hundred years of electoral laws are disrupted by technology. Is this what we want? To let them get away with it?”
A Kenosha Militia Facebook Event Asking Attendees To Bring Weapons Was Reported 455 Times. Moderators Said It Didn’t Violate Any Rules. It remained up. Two people were shot dead. Then it came down.
Their excuse? ‘Operational mistake.’
“Over and over again Facebook fails to stop the glorification and celebration of white supremacist violence. It’s disgusting and unacceptable.”
Jay Rosen, Journalism professor at NYU:
“The conservative commentator Ben Shapiro has gotten 56 million total interactions on his Facebook page in the last 30 days. That’s more than the main pages of ABC News, NBC News, The New York Times, The Washington Post and NPR combined.”
Seth Godin, author and former ‘dot com’ business executive:
‘Systemic problems demand systemic solutions.
First, we have to pay attention.
Then we need to acknowledge that a solution is possible.
And then we need to commit. To the long, persistent road to altering the status quo.
The world is forcing us to pay attention to lingering problems more urgently than ever before. Real change on issues of dignity, justice and health are long overdue
Urgent problems are too important to earn only a moment of our attention. Important projects demand that we keep showing up to make the change we seek. Showing up and showing up, at the root and at every turn, consistently working toward systemic solutions.
When we think about the problems we’ve solved as a community, this is the way it always happens. Making things better, over time, with focus. Persistent commitment doesn’t lower the urgency of the moment, it acknowledges it.’
Kevin Roose, NY Times Columnist:
“If you don’t think DT can get re-elected in November, you need to spend more time on FB. The result is a kind of parallel media universe shaping its own version of reality.”
August FB interactions:
CNN: 21 million
Ben Shapiro: 55M
August FB video views
The Hodgetwins: 84M
August FB shares:
Dan Bongino: 5.6M
CNN’s Brian Stelter talks ‘Citizens Agenda’
The news media needs a reset.
Jay Rosen explains ‘Citizen’s Agenda.’
The Citizens Agenda is a model for generating more responsive, inclusive & useful news coverage for voters.
Center for Action & Contemplation, Aug. 28th:
‘Group egocentricity is even more dangerous than personal egocentricity. It looks like greatness when it is often no more than disguised egotism. Loyalties at this level have driven most of human history—and most wars—up to now.’
‘Often, people encounter ideas that are spreading like wildfire.
The problem with a wildfire is that not only is it out of control, but it leaves nothing but destruction in its wake.
Build an idea that spreads like wildflowers ✿ instead.’
The Unspoken Privilege of Being White
For a long time, I naively hoped that racism was a thing of the past. Those of us who are white have a very hard time seeing that we constantly receive special treatment [because of social systems built to prioritize people with white skin]. This systemic “white privilege” makes it harder for us to recognize the experiences of people of color as valid and real when they speak of racial profiling, police brutality, discrimination in the workplace, continued segregation in schools, lack of access to housing, and on and on. This is not the experience of most white people, so how can it be true? Now, we are being shown how limited our vision is.
Because we have never been on the other side, we largely do not recognize the structural access we enjoy, the trust we think we deserve, the assumption that we always belong and do not have to earn our belonging. All this we take for granted as normal. Only the outsider can spot these attitudes in us.
[And we are quick to dismiss what is apparent to our neighbors who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color [BIPOC] from their lived experience.]
Of course, we all belong. There is no issue of more or less in the eyes of an Infinite God. Yet the ego believes the lie that there isn’t enough to go around and that for me to succeed or win, someone else must lose. And so we’ve greedily supported systems and governments that work to our own advantage at the expense of others, most often people of color or any highly visible difference. The advancement of the white person was too often at the cost of other people not advancing at all. A minor history course should make that rather clear.
I would have never seen my own white privilege if I had not been forced outside of my dominant white culture by travel, by working in the jail, by hearing stories from counselees and, frankly, by making a complete fool of myself in so many social settings—most of which I had the freedom to avoid!
Power [and privilege] never surrenders without a fight. If your entire life has been to live unquestioned in your position of power—a power that was culturally given to you, but you think you earned—there is almost no way you will give it up without major failure, suffering, humiliation, or defeat. As long as we really want to be on top and would take advantage of any privilege or short cut to get us there, we will never experience true “liberty, equality, fraternity” (revolutionary ideals that endure as mottos for France and Haiti).
If God operates as me, God operates as “thee” too, and the playing field is utterly leveled forever. Like Jesus, Francis, Clare, and many other humble mystics, we then rush down instead of up. In the act of letting go and choosing to become servants, community can at last be possible. The illusory state of privilege just gets in the way of neighboring and basic human friendship.
-Fr. Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation
100 ways you can take action against racism right now
If you’re looking to get involved outside of organizing in person, we’ve rounded up a list of ways you can take action from home, including ideas specific to demanding justice for Floyd and addressing racism in general.
[Also showing on Netflix.]
Previously unseen footage is shaped into a fresh and timely retelling of the 1992 Rodney King trial — and the verdict that sparked civil unrest–the acquittal of four police officers for beating a black motorist saw several days of protests, violence and looting in Los Angeles. Gives back story to the Watts Rebellion of 1965 in South-Central Los Angeles. Directed by T.J. Martin and Daniel Lindsay.
We can’t permit the murder of people because of the color of their skin. Institutional racism is real, it’s often invisible, and it’s pernicious.
And White Supremacy is a loaded term precisely because the systems and their terrible effects are very real, widespread and run deep.
The benefit of the doubt is powerful indeed, and that benefit has helped me and people like me for generations. I’m ashamed of how we got here, and want to more powerfully contribute and model how we can get better, together.
It doesn’t matter how many blog posts about justice I write, or how clear I try to be about the power of diversity in our organizations. Not if I’m leaving doubt about the scale and enormity of the suffering that people feel, not just themselves, but for their parents before them and for the kids that will follow them.
It’s easier to look away and to decide that this is a problem for someone else. It’s actually a problem for all of us. And problems have solutions and problems are uncomfortable.
[From two years ago, even more relevant right now]
You will never regret offering dignity to others.
We rarely get into trouble because we overdo our sense of justice and fairness. Not just us, but where we work, the others we influence. Organizations and governments are nothing but people, and every day we get a chance to become better versions of ourselves.
And yet… in the moments when we think no one is looking, when the stakes are high, we often forget. It’s worth remembering that justice and dignity aren’t only offered on behalf of others.
Offering people the chance to be treated the way we’d like to be treated benefits us too. It goes around.
The false scarcity is this: we believe that shutting out others, keeping them out of our orbit, our country, our competitive space—that this somehow makes things more easier for us.
And this used to be true. When there are 10 jobs for dockworkers, having 30 dockworkers in the hall doesn’t make it better for anyone but the bosses.
But today, value isn’t created by filling a slot, it’s created by connection. By the combinations created by people. By the magic that comes from diversity of opinion, background and motivation. Connection leads to ideas, to solutions, to breakthroughs.
The false scarcity stated as, “I don’t have enough, you can’t have any,” is more truthfully, “together, we can create something better.”
We know it’s the right thing to do. It’s also the smart thing.
Stronger than the Golden Rule? Platinum:
Treat others as they wish to be treated.
But what about the moral imagination?
Visualizing what’s possible. Deciding to do something about it. Wondering (to ourselves and then to the world, “how can I make this better?”)
Not because it’s our job or because we’ll win a prize. Simply because we can.
We can start where we are and we can make things better.
A “STOP!” – planetary and individual*
‘Everything happens as if a “STOP! had been given on a planetary level. Of course, it was not this summary and unconscious entity of the infinitely small, the coronavirus, which gave this order. This order seems to emanate from the cosmic movement itself disturbed by the mad dream of the human being to dominate and manipulate Nature.
Everything stopped suddenly for half the countries of the world. This immobility did not fail to reveal to us all the flaws of globalization centered on profit and money. But which of the world’s politicians and leaders will be the ones to see? We are plunged into the blindness of the darkness of our habits of thought and the ideologies of progress, totally out of step with reality. How do you open your eyes to what’s going on? In my opinion, the only solution is the spiritual evolution of the whole of humanity. It alone could take into account all the levels of Reality and the Hidden Third.
It also happens as if a “STOP! had been given on an individual basis. We are suddenly in front of ourselves, before the mystery of our being, thus giving the exceptional opportunity of a spiritual evolution for each of us. This spiritual evolution of each human being conditions that of humanity.
We thus discover that the spiritual underdevelopment of the human being and humanity is the real cause of the crisis that we are going through and that we are going to go through.
But what spirituality is it? It is a radically new, transreligious and transcultural spirituality. Transdisciplinarity offers the tools for the establishment of such a spirituality, based on the community of destiny of all beings on earth. Two thousand years ago, the greatest visionary of all time, Jesus, asked “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44).
Without love nothing is possible to act on our destiny.
The world at the time refused such a message and preferred to kill Jesus. Two thousand years later, we are in exactly the same situation, on the brink of self-destruction of the species, a danger increased since by technological development and the immense means of destruction. The anthropocene without spiritual dimension will lead us to the brink of the abyss.
We must make, with great humility, a new pact of partnership with Nature and with all beings on earth – humans, animals, birds, trees, plants. We must stop defiling Nature with our excessive pride and our desire for omnipotence. All war should be declared a crime against humanity and all means of destruction should be destroyed.
All this can be understood as a utopia which goes against the principle of reality.
One possible answer is that of Michel Houellebecq: “I don’t believe in statements like” nothing will ever be the same again “. We will not wake up, after confinement, to a new world; it will be the same, only a little worse ”. If we contemplate the behavior of political leaders and public opinion in this period of crisis, it is to be feared that Michel Houellebecq is right. Politicians are returning to their usual language of mutual hostility and this will cause considerable social tension.
The media bombardment plunges us into an anxiety-provoking climate where, paradoxically, even death takes an abstract dimension: a dead person is just a number in a statistic. Nothing of the suffering of the one who dies, alone, suffocated by the coronavirus, reaches our place. This is glaring evidence of our spiritual underdevelopment.
The hidden hypothesis of Michel Houellebecq’s reasoning is the impossibility that human beings can evolve.
But another solution exists. Man must be born again if he wants to live.
Our task is immense. Let’s try not to be hypnotized by the multitude of doomsayers and apocalyptic thinkers of all kinds who predict the fall of the West and the demise of our world.
The word “Apocalypse” does not mean “end” or “destruction”, but “Revelation”. We are fortunate to have before our eyes, here and now, an extraordinary Revelation which can allow us to access Life and Meaning. I suggest reading, in these difficult times, the extraordinary book of Paule Amblard Saint John – The Apocalypse, illustrated by the tapestry of Angers . Paule Amblard offers us a coherent interpretation of The Apocalypse of John by the necessity of the spiritual evolution of man. The appalling plagues which cross the text of The Apocalypse are, in truth, the torments of the human soul separated from what founds it. The Apocalypse of John is a message of longing and hope.’
 Paule Amblard, Saint Jean – L’Apocalypse, illustrée par la tapisserie d’Angers, Diane de Selliers Éditeur, Paris, 2017.
* Text translated from French by Gerardo del Cerro Santamaria.
Marketers used to have little choice. The only marketing was local. The local neighborhood, the local community.
Mass marketing changed that. Now, the goal was to flip the culture, all at once. Hit records, hit TV shows, products on the end cap at Target and national TV ads to support it all.
With few exceptions, that’s being replaced by a return to clusters.
The cluster might be geographic (they eat different potato chips in Tucscon than they do in Milwaukee) but they’re much more likely to be psychographic instead. What a group of people believe, who they connect with, what they hope for…
The minimal viable audience concept requires that you find your cluster and overwhelm them with delight. Choose the right cluster, show up with the right permission and sufficient magic and generosity and the idea will spread.
We’re all connected, but the future is local.
Footprints might be a fine compass, but they’re not much of a map. That’s on us.
More from Seth:
Mathematicians don’t need to check in with the head of math to find out what the talking points about fractions are this week.
That’s because fractions are fractions. Anyone can choose to do the math, and everyone will find the same truth.
Most of the progress in our culture of the last 200 years has come from using truth as a force for forward motion. Centralized proclamations are not nearly as resilient or effective as the work of countless individuals, aligned in their intention, engaging with the world.
We amplified this organizing principle when we began reporting on progress. If you’re able to encounter not just local truth but the reality as experienced by many others, collated honestly, then progress moves forward exponentially faster.
Show your work.
One of the dangers of our wide-open media culture of the last ten years has been that the signals aren’t getting through the noise.
Loud voices are drowning out useful ones. It’s difficult to determine, sometimes, who is accurately collating and correlating experience and reality and who is simply making stuff up as a way to distract us, to cause confusion and to gain influence.
I’m betting that in the long run, reality wins out. That the practical resilience that comes from experimentation produces more effective forward motion.
In the words attributed to Galileo, “Eppur si muove.”
It pays to curate the incoming, to ignore the noise and to engage with voices that are willing to show their work.
The question arises: is modern man…confused and exhausted by a multitude of words, opinions, doctrines, and slogans…psychologically capable of the clarity and confidence necessary for valid prayer? Is he not so frustrated and deafened by conflicting propagandas that he has lost his capacity for deep and simple trust?
-Life and Holiness
Where men live huddled together without true communication, there seems to be greater sharing and a more genuine communion. But this is not communion, only immersion in the general meaninglessness of countless slogans and cliches related over and over again so that in the end one listens without hearing and responds without thinking. The content din of empty words and machine noises, the endless booming of loudspeakers end by making true communication and true communion almost impossible.
Each individual in the mass in insulated by thick layers of insensibility. He doesn’t hear, he doesn’t think. He does not act, he is pushed. He does not talk, he produces conventional sounds when stimulated by the appropriate noises. he does not think, he secretes cliches.
-New Seeds of Contemplation
Culture and Clichés correspondent Lynn Berger
We’re constantly told to try something new. ‘Innovate, don’t stagnate.’ But doing things two, three or 30 times creates space for reflection – and innovation. And it can even bring unexpected joy.
‘Politicians know that there are votes to be won with an appeal to what is old and familiar. And they know that this message is most effective when it is repeated endlessly:
So here’s the paradox: in order to appreciate repetition for what it is, we actually need a new sort of attention.
It’s probably impossible to achieve the level of attentiveness we bring to first times the tenth or hundredth time we do something. But it’s entirely feasible to look more attentively at repetition, not to see it as a stumbling block but as a goal in itself. Not as a copy but as a variation. I suspect that the routines and rituals that make up daily life, the “grind” we’ve learned to fear, would feel less like a slap in the face to the zeitgeist, and more like something worthwhile all on its own.
Repetition is the norm: we’re constantly repeating things, whether we want to or not. But there’s a difference between inattentively doing things again and doing things again by choice. Conscious, attentive, deliberate. With the full awareness that this matters just as much, and with the willingness to see, hear and feel different things when you feel, hear and see them again.’
A certain level of fatigue sets in. The media landscape has fragmented so much that consumers can filter their information diet to those outlets that reflect their worldview.
We need an entirely new politics: one that shifts us from an economic to a humanitarian bottom line, from a war economy to a peace economy, from a dirty economy to a clean economy, and from who we’ve been to who we’re ready to be. #repairamerica
Change starts with us as individuals. If one individual becomes more compassionate it will influence others and so we will change the world.
“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light,” Carl Jung wrote, “but by making the darkness conscious.” Reading this, I realize that in a whole lifetime spent with seekers of enlightenment, I have never once heard anyone speak in hushed tones about the value of endarkenment. -Barbara Taylor Brown, author & Episcopal priest
And so even now, as light gives way to darkness, I know that once again light is born from darkness. Those who read out to help strangers are living out the oneness that is part of our spiritual DNA. -Science of Mind
What are we only now coming “to know” through this time of not-knowing?
Either we will love and help one another or we will hate and attack one another, in which latter case we will all be one another’s hell. Perhaps Sartre was not far wrong in saying that where freedom is abused, society itself turns into heel.. (L’enfer c’est les autres.”) -Thomas Merton
Yuval Noah Harari: the world after coronavirus
This storm will pass. But the choices we make now could change our lives for years to come.
Humankind is now facing a global crisis. Perhaps the biggest crisis of our generation. The decisions people and governments take in the next few weeks will probably shape the world for years to come. They will shape not just our healthcare systems but also our economy, politics and culture. We must act quickly and decisively. We should also take into account the long-term consequences of our actions. When choosing between alternatives, we should ask ourselves not only how to overcome the immediate threat, but also what kind of world we will inhabit once the storm passes. Yes, the storm will pass, humankind will survive, most of us will still be alive — but we will inhabit a different world.
Many short-term emergency measures will become a fixture of life. That is the nature of emergencies. They fast-forward historical processes. Decisions that in normal times could take years of deliberation are passed in a matter of hours. Immature and even dangerous technologies are pressed into service, because the risks of doing nothing are bigger. Entire countries serve as guinea-pigs in large-scale social experiments. What happens when everybody works from home and communicates only at a distance? What happens when entire schools and universities go online? In normal times, governments, businesses and educational boards would never agree to conduct such experiments. But these aren’t normal times.
The coronavirus epidemic is thus a major test of citizenship. In the days ahead, each one of us should choose to trust scientific data and healthcare experts over unfounded conspiracy theories and self-serving politicians. If we fail to make the right choice, we might find ourselves signing away our most precious freedoms, thinking that this is the only way to safeguard our health.
How the Pandemic Will End
The U.S. may end up with the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the industrialized world. This is how it’s going to play out.
Story by Ed Yong
The testing fiasco was the original sin of America’s pandemic failure, the single flaw that undermined every other countermeasure. If the country could have accurately tracked the spread of the virus, hospitals could have executed their pandemic plans, girding themselves by allocating treatment rooms, ordering extra supplies, tagging in personnel, or assigning specific facilities to deal with COVID-19 cases. None of that happened. Instead, a health-care system that already runs close to full capacity, and that was already challenged by a severe flu season, was suddenly faced with a virus that had been left to spread, untracked, through communities around the country. Overstretched hospitals became overwhelmed. Basic protective equipment, such as masks, gowns, and gloves, began to run out. Beds will soon follow, as will the ventilators that provide oxygen to patients whose lungs are besieged by the virus.
The White House is a ghost town of scientific expertise. A pandemic-preparedness office that was part of the National Security Council was dissolved in 2018. On January 28, Luciana Borio, who was part of that team, urged the government to “act now to prevent an American epidemic,” and specifically to work with the private sector to develop fast, easy diagnostic tests. But with the office shuttered, those warnings were published in The Wall Street Journal, rather than spoken into the president’s ear. Instead of springing into action, America sat idle.
After 9/11, the world focused on counterterrorism. After COVID-19, attention may shift to public health. Expect to see a spike in funding for virology and vaccinology, a surge in students applying to public-health programs, and more domestic production of medical supplies. Expect pandemics to top the agenda at the United Nations General Assembly. Anthony Fauci is now a household name. “Regular people who think easily about what a policewoman or firefighter does finally get what an epidemiologist does,” says Monica Schoch-Spana, a medical anthropologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
The lessons that America draws from this experience are hard to predict, especially at a time when online algorithms and partisan broadcasters only serve news that aligns with their audience’s preconceptions. Such dynamics will be pivotal in the coming months, says Ilan Goldenberg, a foreign-policy expert at the Center for a New American Security. “The transitions after World War II or 9/11 were not about a bunch of new ideas,” he says. “The ideas are out there, but the debates will be more acute over the next few months because of the fluidity of the moment and willingness of the American public to accept big, massive changes.”
7 Resources for Reliable Information About Coronavirus
1. The World Health Organization
The World Health Organization (WHO) is publishing rolling updates on the coronavirus situation as well as useful infographics and explainers, and should be your first port of call for new assessments of what is going on.
The WHO has also got a really handy page on common coronavirus myths — covering everything from whether eating garlic or taking a bath can help prevent you catching it (they can’t), to discussion about what age people are most susceptible.
2. The National Health Service
The UK’s NHS is another excellent resource. It includes easy to understand advice about symptoms, and what to do if you think you have them.
It also gives details of how and under which circumstances you need to self-isolate, and for how long, and on how to get a self-isolation medical advice note to get to your employer.
3. The BBC Coronavirus Podcast
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has launched a Coronavirus Global Update podcast, which includes a daily round-up on the spread of coronavirus.
It also includes reports from affected areas, details of the latest medical information, and the impact on health, business, and travel.
4. COVID-19 Facts
The COVID-19 Facts website works to collate information from sources including the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the World Health Organization, and the Economist Intelligence Unit.
It also features a series covering myths around coronavirus, including analysis by the Economist Intelligence Unit of where the myth came from, and what experts say about it.
5. The New Scientist Podcast
The New Scientist podcast is becoming increasingly focused on COVID-19 — including episodes and pandemic preparations; the spread of COVID-19 and the importance of hand washing; the coronavirus vaccine; and a coronavirus special on disaster preparation and environmental change.
6. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
The content platform of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Optimist, is sharing stories, research, and news stories about coronavirus from the Foundation.
The platform works to convene expert voices from across the global health sector, including sharing expert perspectives and updates on the response to COVID-19 — and you can also sign up for the Optimist’s news digest.
7. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
The LSHTM launched its new podcastLSHTM Viral in January 2020, in response to the outbreak of COVID-19, and is releasing a new episode every week. It specifically focuses on the science behind outbreaks and how we respond to them.
Meanwhile, the LSHTM is also launching an online short course, for those who want to better understand the emergence of COVID-19, and how we respond to it moving forward.
The free-of-charge course launches on March 23, and will cover topics like: how COVID-19 emerged and was identified; public health measures worldwide; and what’s needed to address COVID-19 in the future.
Given that everything is going to be the way it’s going to be, we’re left with an actually useful and productive question instead: “What are you going to do about it?”
Stocking up on compassion.
That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief
Harvard Business Review
Anticipatory grief is the mind going to the future and imagining the worst. To calm yourself, you want to come into the present.
Finally, it’s a good time to stock up on compassion. Everyone will have different levels of fear and grief and it manifests in different ways. A coworker got very snippy with me the other day and I thought, That’s not like this person; that’s how they’re dealing with this. I’m seeing their fear and anxiety. So be patient. Think about who someone usually is and not who they seem to be in this moment.
When you name it, you feel it and it moves through you. Emotions need motion. It’s important we acknowledge what we go through.
It’s absurd to think we shouldn’t feel grief right now. Let yourself feel the grief and keep going.
A short manifesto from author and former dot com exec/blogger Seth Godin.
“A short manifesto about the future of online interaction
The world is changing. Faster and more suddenly than most of us expected.
And beyond the fraught health emergencies that so many are going through, many of us are being asked to quickly move our meetings and our classes online.
Fortunately, there are powerful and inexpensive tools to do just that. Unfortunately, we’re at risk at adopting a new status quo that’s even worse than the one it replaces.
We can make it better.
You have a chance to reinvent the default, to make it better. Or we can maintain the status quo. Which way will you contribute?
Rather than doing what we’ve always done in real-life (but online, and not as well), what if we did something better instead?
Here’s what we think we get from a real-life meeting:
- A chance for people to come together and discuss important issues.
Here’s what we actually get:
- A chance for some people to demonstrate their status and power.
- A chance for most people to take notes and seek to avoid responsibility.
Real-life meetings are among the most hated part of work for the typical office worker. They last too long, happen too often and bore and annoy most of the people who attend. They can mostly be replaced by a memo (if they’re about transferring information) or they could be better run (if they’re about transforming information.)
But at least you’re not in school.
The traditional school day is nothing but a meeting. Eight hours of it. In which you are almost never asked to contribute, or, if you are, it’s at great risk, both social and in terms of academic standing.
And now, because of worldwide events, local meetings and local schooling are going online.
It will lead to one of two things:
1. Just like the ones in real-life, except worse.
2. Something new and something better.
Forgive me for not being optimistic, but if what we’re seeing is any guide, we’re defaulting to the first (wrong) choice.
It’s worse because you can check your phone, your email and your fridge. It’s worse because you can more clearly see the faces of people who are bored right in front of you who can’t realize you can see them.
[Did you know that there’s a ‘focus’ button in Zoom and other tools that shows the organizer when people in the room have put Chrome or something else in front and are only sort-of paying attention? It’s there to ensure compliance and it’s there because we’re figuring out how to not pay attention.]
The compliance of the mandatory Zoom meeting is not nearly as firm as it is in real life. It’s like an episode of the Office, except it’s happening millions of times a day.
And then when we try to move classes online! First we coerced students to pay attention with grades, withholding what they want and need (a certificate, a diploma, an A) in exchange for them giving up their agency and freedom and youth.
Then, because we weren’t getting enough compliance, we invented the clicker.
It’s a pernicious digital device that probably had good intent behind it, but like so many things that are industrialized, it’s now more of a weapon than a tool.
How the clicker works: Every student at a large university is required to buy one. Yes, you need to spend more of your own money to be controlled. It has built-in ID (it knows who you are) and wifi and GPS. Inside the lecture hall, you need to click. Click to prove you’re there. Click to prove you’re awake. Click to prove you can repeat what the professor just said.
Sure, it’s possible to use clickers to produce powerful and engaging discussion. My quick research seems to indicate that this almost never happens. It’s easier to have the student simply pay for compliance in exchange for the certificate.
So, we have a few problems:
1. The in-person regime of meetings and school is riddled with problems around status, wasted time, compliance, boredom and inefficient information flow.
2. Moving to online gives up the satisfaction of the status quo, diminishes the ego satisfaction for those seeking status, and creates even more challenges with compliance, boredom and the rest.
There’s a solution. A straightforward and non-obvious choice.
Let’s have a conversation instead.
A conversation involves listening and talking. A conversation involves a perception of openness and access and humanity on both sides.
People hate meetings but they don’t hate conversations.
People might dislike education, but everyone likes learning.
If you’re trapped in a room of fifty people and the organizer says, “let’s go around the room and have everyone introduce themselves,” you know you’re in for an hour of unhappiness. That’s because no one is listening and everyone is nervously waiting for their turn to talk.
But if you’re in a conversation, you have to listen to the other person. Because if you don’t, you won’t know what to say when it’s your turn to talk.
Conversations reset the power and compliance dynamic, because conversations enable us to be heard.
Conversations generate their own interest, because after you speak your piece, you’re probably very focused on what someone is going to say in response.
You don’t have to have a conversation, but if you choose to have one, go all in and actually have one.
And here’s the punchline:
The digital world enables a new kind of conversation, one that scales, one that cannot possibly be replicated in the real world.
There’s even a special button for it in Zoom, and if you have enrollment and the passion to engage with it, you can use it to create magic.
We know, because we’ve done it at Akimbo. We’ve created important and useful conversations for a group of 700 people at a time. More than 97% of the people who joined our online meeting were in it at the end. With no coercion, no diploma, no grades and no clickers.
If we want to, we can use Zoom to create conversations, not a rehash of tired power dynamics. We can create peer to peer environments where conversations happen.
Here’s how it works:
0. The most important: Only have a real-time meeting if it deserves to be a meeting. If you need people to read a memo, send a memo. If you need students to do a set of problems, send the problems. If you want people to watch a speech or talk, then record it and email it to them. Meetings and real-time engagements that are worthy of conversations are rare and magical. Use them wisely.
1. People come to the meeting ready to have a conversation. If they’re coerced to be there, everything else gets more difficult.
2. Part of being engaged means being prepared. Consider this simple 9 point checklist.
3. Organize a conversation. That can’t work at any scale more than five. How then, to do an event with hundreds of people? The breakout.
A standard zoom room permits you to have 250 people in it. You, the organizer, can speak for two minutes or ten minutes to establish the agenda and the mutual understanding, and then press a button. That button in Zoom will automatically send people to up to 50 different breakout rooms.
If there are 120 people in the room and you set the breakout number to be 40, the group will instantly be distributed into 40 groups of 3.
They can have a conversation with one another about the topic at hand. Not wasted small talk, but detailed, guided, focused interaction based on the prompt you just gave them.
8 minutes later, the organizer can press a button and summon everyone back together.
Get feedback via chat (again, something that’s impossible in a real-life meeting). Talk for six more minutes. Press another button and send them out for another conversation.
This is thrilling. It puts people on the spot, but in a way that they’re comfortable with.
If you’re a teacher and you want to actually have conversations in sync, then this is the most effective way to do that. Teach a concept. Have a breakout conversation. Have the breakouts bring back insights or thoughtful questions. Repeat.
A colleague tried this technique at his community center meeting on Sunday and it was a transformative moment for the 40 people who participated.
If you want to do a lecture, do a lecture, but that’s prize-based education, not real learning. If people simply wanted to learn what you were teaching, they wouldn’t have had to wait for your lecture (or pay for it). They could have looked it up online.
But if you want to create transformative online learning, then allow people to learn together with each other.
“Jerry Garcia performed thousands of times, and he was the only one who heard every performance.
The same is true for the work you’ve created, the writing you’ve done, the noise in your head–you’re the only person who has heard every bit of it.
Tell us what we need to know. Not because you need to hear yourself repeat it, but because you believe we need to hear it.
Take your time and lay it out for us, without worrying about whether or not we’ve heard you say it before. We probably haven’t.”
‘Superman could bend steel with his bare hands.
Along the way, we’ve been sold on the idea that difficult tasks ought to be left to heroes, often from somewhere far away or from long ago. That it’s up to them, whoever ‘them’ is.
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. quoted Theodore Parker: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
But it’s not bending itself. And it’s not waiting for someone from away to bend it either.
It’s on us. Even when it doesn’t work (yet). Even when it’s difficult. Even when it’s inconvenient.
Our culture is the result of a trillion tiny acts, taken by billions of people, every day. Each of them can seem insignificant, but all of them add up, one way or the other, to the change we each live through.
Sometimes it takes a hero like Dr. King to wake us up and remind us of how much power we actually have.
And now it’s our turn. It always has been.’
The following idea is endorsed by all of these people:
None of them exist.
They’re constructs, built by an algorithm. Rights released, happy and smiling, but no one in particular.
Fifty years ago, you couldn’t trust the endorsements in direct marketing ads for lousy products:
“A miracle!” …Bob
Because you knew there wasn’t really a Bob.
Twenty-three years ago, when I created a book with the Weekly World News (yes, this is true), I visited their tiny office in Florida. It consisted of three people and a filing cabinet. Inside the cabinet were pictures of 400 people (mostly friends and former friends of the three editors) that would be cut and pasted in the WWN any time they needed a picture of an expert, a citizen or both. They weren’t news and they weren’t the world, but they were weekly.
I knew that the Weekly World News was low-brow chicanery, but I have a hunch that not everyone did.
In 2019, and perhaps forever, we’re now at a new level, one where the polish of photography or video is no longer any clue at all about the provenance of what we’re encountering.
I don’t think we have any clue about how disruptive this shift is going to be.
Even the real celebrities we purport to trust (“influencers” deliberately in quotes) are easily bought. It used to be only Rula Lens who we doubted.
There are people and organizations that are racing to break the fabric of community that we all depend on. Either to make a short-term profit or to atomize/vaporize widespread trust to hide from accountability and to slow change.
Like all shifts, there will be a counter-shift. But keep your eyes open, because the rules are clearly changing. Remaining trusted and consistent will become ever more valuable as it becomes more scarce. A resolution to be in higher-resolution for those you seek to serve.
In the meantime, it’s worth confirming the source before you believe what you see.
A Box of Infinity
It’s hard to look right at it.
The possibility that lies before us, the chance to connect, to lead, to be heard–it’s bigger than it’s ever been.
Tempting indeed to avert your eyes, because staring into infinity means embracing just how small we feel. We avert our eyes because to realize how much potential we have to contribute puts us on the hook.
But whether we ignore it or not, the infinity of possibility remains.
Dance with it.
︶⁀°• •° ⁀︶
It’s a way of staying alive. Hiding is a way of holding ourselves until we are ready to come into the light. Hiding is one of the brilliant and virtuoso practices of almost eery part of the natural world: the protective quiet of an icy northern landscape, the head but of a future summer rose, the snowbound internal pulse of the hibernating bear. Hiding is underestimated. We are hidden by life in our mother’s womb until we grown and ready ourselves for our first appearance in the lighted world; to appear too early in that world is to find ourselves with the immediate necessity for outside intensive care.
Hiding done properly is the internal faithful promise for a proper future emergence, as embryos, as children or even as emerging adults in retreat from the names that have caught us and imprisoned us, often ways where we have been too easily seen and too easily named.
We live in a time of the dissected soul, the immediate disclosure; our thoughts, imaginings and longings exposed to the light too much, too early and too often, our best qualities squeezed to soon into a world already awash with ideas that oppress our sense of self and our sense of others.
What is real is almost always to begin with, hidden, and does not want to be understood by the part of our mind that mistakenly thinks it knows what is happening. What is precious inside us does not care to be known by the mind in ways that diminish its presence.
Hiding is an act of freedom from the misunderstanding of others, especially in the enclosing world of oppressive secret government and private entities, attempting to name us, to anticipate us, to leave us with no place to hide and grow in ways unmanaged by creeping necessity for absolute naming, absolute tracking and absolute control.
Hiding is a bid for independence, from others from mistaken ideas we have about ourselves form an oppressive mistaken wish to keep us completely safe, completely ministered to, and therefore completely managed. Hiding is creative, necessary and beautifully subversive of outside interference and control. Hiding leaves life to itself, to become more of itself. Hiding is the radical independence necessary for our emergence into the light of a proper human future.
“A truth is a useful, reliable statement of how the world is. You can ignore it, but it will cost you, because the world won’t work the way you hope it will. You can dislike the truth, but pretending it isn’t true isn’t an effective way to accomplish your goals or to further our culture.
Most of the kinds of truth we experience are about the past and the present, and these are the easiest to see and confirm, but there are also truths about cause and effect.
Identity is the truth of description. A circle is round because we define a circle as round. You can say, “a circle is rectangular in shape,” and all you’ve done is confused us. Words only work because we agree on what they mean.
Demagogues often play with the identity of words, as it distracts us.
Axiomatic truth is truth about the system. The Peano axioms, for example, define the rules of arithmetic. They are demonstrably true and the system is based on these truths. Einstein derived his theories of special and general relativity with a pad of paper, not with an experiment (though the experiments that followed have demonstrated that his assertions were in fact true.)
There were loud voices in mid-century Germany who said that Einstein’s work couldn’t be true because of his heritage, and many others who mis-described his work and then decried that version of it, but neither approach changed the ultimate truth of his argument.
Axiomatic truth, like most other truths, doesn’t care whether you understand it or believe it or not. It’s still true.
Historic truth is an event that actually happened. We know it happened because it left behind evidence, witnesses and other proof.
Experimental truth may not have the clear conceptual underpinnings of axiomatic truth, but it holds up to scrutiny. The world is millions of years old. Every experiment consistently demonstrates this. Experimental truth can also give us a road map to the future. Vaccines do not cause autism. The world is not flat. The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is rising.
If you want to challenge an experimental truth, the only response is to do a better experiment, make it replicable and show your work.
Personal experience truth is the truth that’s up to you. How you reacted to what happened can only be seen and reported by you.
And finally, consider cultural truth, and this is the truth that can change. This is the truth of, “people like us do things like this.” Which is true, until it’s not. And then people like us do something else.”
‘In The Wizard of Oz, we meet a powerful heroine. Dorothy is resolute, focused and honest. A generous partner, leading her friends to where they seek to go.
“C’mon, let’s go,” is a great sentence, worth using more often.
It doesn’t require a permit, a badge or a degree.
It’s simply the work of someone who cares enough to lead, at least right now. And right now is enough.’
“Of course it did. We wouldn’t be in this jam if it hadn’t.
The nature of our independent choices means that sometimes we’re seduced by a decision that turns out to be a mistake.
Worth considering for next time:
Was it a failure of strategy (wrong choice) or execution (bad follow through)?
Are we thinking long-term enough?
Are shiny objects swaying our judgment?
Is it the arrogance of being sure we’re right, or the impatience of not waiting for more information?
What about the desire to go along with (or against) the crowd?
Or perhaps we’re trying to teach someone a lesson when we’re actually hurting ourselves.
Often, we’ll be in a jam because we failed to act at all. And sometimes it’s because we didn’t leave ourselves enough of an out in case of a pothole, because, as we all know, it rarely works every time.
A passion for forward motion is the single best way to improve the status quo. And the more forward motion we make, the better we’ll get at figuring out if its a good idea next time.”
A Toyota Prius passed me at 100 miles an hour. I didn’t know a Prius could even go that fast. The driver was passing on the right, using the breakdown lane, zigging and zagging across traffic. If a car could careen, he was.
The problem with this sort of fast passage is that there’s no room for error. One mistake, one failure, and you’re out.
The other sort of rambunctious, risky forward motion is very different.
This is the work we do when we’re out on a limb with a new idea. When we’re sharing ideas that feel personal or important. This is the work of practical empathy, and most of all, of acting ‘as if’ before we’re sure.
The thing is–even though this might feel as risky as driving down the Saw Mill River Parkway at 100 miles an hour, it’s actually the safest work you can do. If you fail while trying to help, you’ll get another chance. And then another.
One by one, the urgent goes away.
Those emergencies from a year ago (and a month ago), they’re gone.
Either they were solved, or they became things to live with. But emergencies don’t last. They fade.
Knowing that, knowing that you will outlast them, every single one of them, does it make it easier to see the problem, not the panic?
Often mis-characterized as a day of independence.
What actually matters is what you’re going to do with it.
It turns out that if you have the power to make rules, the rules are your responsibility.
If you have the freedom to make choices, the choices are your responsibility.
And if you have the ability to change the culture, to connect with others, to make a ruckus, then yes, what you do with that is your responsibility as well.
Doing nothing is a choice. The thing you didn’t say, the project you didn’t launch, the hand you didn’t lend…
But whatever we do, if we have the independence to do it (or not) is our responsibility.