Cleaning Out The Junk Drawer


How Social Isolation Is Leading to Societal Reckoning

I’ve never been an overly social person.  I work in a solo environment, I prefer to be self-directed and self-motivated and have always gravitated to jobs, goals, tasks, and hobbies that are best done alone.  That is why Triathlon is my sport of choice, I would much rather take my bike out, alone, for a 50 km ride than walk around a golf course with 3 other guys for 4 hours.

You could say that makes me an extreme introvert.  But it’s not the whole story.

My work is necessarily social.  I go out and talk to people, listen, and interact on a very personal, some might even say intimate, level.  I’ve never enjoyed live networking events, too loud and superficial, so over the years I have perfected the use of tools like the telephone, email and social media to facilitate the personal connection required while still providing the physical distance I crave.  A certain degree of physical distancing is comfortable for me and serves to make it easier to achieve the level of personal connection required to do my job.   Somehow speaking to a disembodied voice on the phone is less threatening than revealing the particulars of life face to face.

At the beginning of this pandemic I slipped into the new protocols, the elimination of in person meetings in favor of video conferencing and more phone and email interaction etc., like an old shoe.  We all had to learn new ways of doing things and for the most part we’ve done pretty well.  Humans are nothing if not adaptive.  But this prolonged level of isolation and introspection has pushed much of society to consider and examine things in ways that we aren’t used to.  Once the pandemic’s initial shock wore off and we started to settle into a different routine the cracks in our society made up of social, racial, and economic inequality, began to show.  These cracks are not new, it’s just that before we could cover them up with our busyness, now we have to sit with them and ask “what does this mean to me, and to our collective experience?”

Ashlee Eiland, author of the book “Human(Kind); How Reclaiming Human Worth and Embracing Radical Kindness Will Bring Us Back Together” recently likened the experience to cleaning out a junk drawer.  She said that it’s as if the junk drawer of society has been dumped out and we are now being forced to sort through it, deciding what to keep and what to throw away.

Here are a few observations learned listening to her and examining my life these past few months.

1 – We must rethink how we interact with and serve one another. 

Beware of a creeping sense of judgmentalism, it’s one thing to say you respect everyone regardless of race, sexual-orientation or religion, it’s quite another to put into practice especially when those things lead to differences in the way people think and act.  Are you engaging with people through self-righteousness or a genuine desire to value the individual?  Are you open to learning from those with a different perspective?

2 – Much of the work ahead will be conducted in the hidden places.

Real change happens when people of different backgrounds get in proximity with one another and begin working and learning together.  This does not happen on the streets or the television screens, it happens on the shop floors and boardrooms of society.  And it does not happen overnight.  How long does it take to cultivate an authentic relationship?  No one really knows.

3 – We must be willing to move forward without fear.

Someone will say or do the wrong thing, someone will be misunderstood, and someone will be offended.  When people of differing backgrounds get together we can’t avoid these things, but if we act with humility they can be easily addressed and corrected before they cause too much damage.  This will be a long process and we must not grow weary.

The heart of the matter is this; when we allow grace and humility fill us it flows out into the world like a overflowing river quenching the longing of a thirsty world.  We’ve been in the desert for a long time, the world is crying out for water, grace and humility are the eternal spring that we all need to drink from right now.

How do we do that?  Come thirsty but stay humble.

 

The Age of Nonsensical Nonsense and Unfalsifiable Fallacies


I never understood wind.  – Donald J Trump

Wait a minute.  Alternative facts?  Alternative facts are not facts, they are falsehoods! – Chuck Todd, Television Host, “Meet The Press”

That is not only not right; it is not even wrong. – Wolfgang Pauli, Theoretical Physicist

We are living in bizarre times.

In recent history, the last 80-100 years or so, society has made some incredible advancements in the fields of science and medicine.  We have split the atom, escaped gravity and broken the sound barrier.  Everyday at hospitals all over the world we trade our organs for new ones and implant tiny machines inside our bodies to keep them operating long after our ancestors would have simply passed away or lived with chronic annoyances.

We have the technological know how to produce clean energy for billions of people and drive enough agricultural output to feed every human on earth, extend life and maintain the planet.  A journey from one corner of the world to another that used to take several weeks, even months, is now over in a matter of hours.  It seems as though, there is no country or region that is too remote, no physical reality too complex and no disease too mysterious.

Dolly, the first genetic clone of a mammal. “Born” 1996.

I graduated high school in 1991.  Before the internet, biological cloning, electric cars or the construction of the international space station.  Our coat of arms contained a Latin phrase;

Scientia Vincit Omnia – Knowledge Conquers All

Almost 30 years later, it seems to me that the people of my generation, with the help of those that have gone before and are coming after us, have brought humanity to the verge of conquering all that there is to know.

We live in the greatest time is history.

Yet.

Billions live in poverty and die too young for lack of access.  Our climate is changing rapidly and threatening the lives and livelihoods of the most economically vulnerable of our population.  And the president of the United States openly admits that he doesn’t understand wind.

Now to be fair that last bit was said as his way of explaining his views on wind powered electricity but it’s still just strange and indicative of a larger problem.

That larger problem is this.

Modern windmill, according to Donald Trump, probably manufactured in China

We now have the raw knowledge to solve just about all the world’s physical problems, what we lack is the ability to recognize and prioritize their severity and the moral fortitude to humble our own self-interest in the interest of humanity as a whole.  Our political discourse has been reduced to constant bickering over the validity of proven facts.  When we pitch our rhetorical tent on the wrong side of an easily provable position we are not dealing in “alternative facts”, as some have tried to assert, we are dealing in delusion.  When we argue against clean energy because windmills are made in China but pretend it’s because they kill birds, (which is what the president went on to say when he talked about not understanding wind), we are speaking nonsense that is so far from reality and so impossible to prove that it can’t even be proven wrong, as Wolfgang Pauli so famously stated way back in the 1950s.

It’s 2020.  We are standing at the dawn of a new decade with a new generation ready to step on the stage.  My grandparent’s generation defeated fascism and started the world on the path to human rights.  My parent’s generation defeated communism and pushed capitalism and self-determination to the forefront.  My generation invented the internet and brought human understanding of the physical world to unimaginable heights.  It will be the job of this next generation to tackle the moral and ethical questions brought about by the promises made possible by those that have gone before.

The Berlin Wall – The iconic symbol of institutionalize communism came down in 1989 symbolising the end of the cold war and ushering in what George Bush called “a new world order.”

The tools we used to defeat fascists and communist won’t work in this fight.  In fact, they could just as easily backfire.  The tools we used to build physical knowledge won’t work either.  We need a new paradigm, a new way of looking at the world and a new way of talking to one another.

I don’t know what the solution is.  But I think it needs to start with this whole idea of “otherness”.  Us vs Them, we are right therefore they must be wrong, my interests are more important than your interests, everything is a competition, cooperation is weakness; that is the old paradigm.

Donald Trump, his coked out frat boy meets Bond Villain rhetoric aside, tilts at windmills because they are made in China.  China, not wind or clean energy or even a concern for the well being of birds, represent “the other”.  And it’s that sense of otherness that must be conquered.  Mr. Trump’s supporters point to the strength of the U.S. economy as reason enough for him to remain in power.  They are all too prepared to gloss over and ignore his many moral and ethical failings, and the damage he has done to “other people”, even when they would personally crucify anyone else if the results didn’t serve their self-interest.

The age of self-determination; championed by my parent’s generation and which helped fuel the expansion of technology driven by my generation must now come to an end in order to allow true human equity, and economic sustainability to reign.  We must be willing to submit our self-interest for the good of the whole.

Or because now I’m thinking about Latin and my generation invented Google Translate;

Plus Paucorum Necessitatibus Plurimis Necessitatibus

Equality vs equity – Sometimes self sacrifice makes all the difference.

We have all the physical knowledge we need; we cannot allow that knowledge to conquer us.  We must begin to use it to conquer inequality, inequity, bigotry, arrogance and selfish ambition.  Otherwise we are no better that the fascists and communists that came before and the fight will start all over again, this time with better weapons and everything we have gained on the line.

Another Latin phrase comes to mind;

Amor Vincit Omnia – Love Conquers All

We’ve reached the point in human evolution where anything less, is worthless noise.

 

 

Is GDP the Right Way to Measure Progress?


Recently I’ve read a lot of critiques of GDP as a measure of economic progress.  Mostly the idea pops up in writing about economics and the environment as well as income inequality and other decidedly liberal opinion pieces. 

Economist, Dan O’Neil was recently interviewed in the Globe and Mail about his theory of a “Steady-State-Economy”, the recent British budget and the continuing Eurozone crisis as it extended to the tiny island of Cyprus this past week. 

You can read a portion of the interview here.  But the core of what he says, and how it relates to my theory of Meekonomics is summed up in this quote:

The way things work at the moment is that financial institutions create most of our money through loans. Banks are allowed to create money effectively out of thin air and loan it to me because I promise to pay it back.

As I see it, the system creates three basic problems: It drives inflation because banks tend to create more money than is actually needed for exchange; it drives growth because people then go out and generate economic activity; and it creates periodic crises when the amount of debt gets to be too much. – Dan O’Neil

Banks create money and drive the economy out of thin air through loans!  This is ridiculous and it serves only to enslave people.  Government has bought into this lie hook line and sinker through their low interest rate policies.  It’s gotten so bad that for some it’s downright unpatriotic not to carry a huge amount of debt. 

The amount of debt in the economy right now is stupid!

I’m not sure that Mr. O’Neil’s solution of prohibiting banks from creating money in this way is a viable solution but if enough people simply refused to take on debt as I advocate in the Meekonomist Manifesto the situation will repair itself. 

The point is, consumers need to get out of debt, NOW!

For an advance copy of my book, “Meekonomics:  How to Inherit the Earth and Live Life to the Fullest Under God’s Economy” write to:  themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com