Archive for May, 2016

Say no to the yes-men

Saturday, May 21st, 2016

Yes-man

Many people prefer to talk themselves into believing that for as long as they do as they’re being told and don’t consider alternatives, they won’t have to accept any responsibility for their actions and non-actions.

Have you ever noticed how people try to put all the blame on one person, i.e. their chosen “leader”, but only once that person has been brought down?

Playing it safe is no guarantee for not getting into trouble. Just ask any athlete or entrepreneur.

“Everywhere man blames nature and fate, yet his fate is mostly the echo
of his character and passions, his mistakes and his weaknesses.”
(Democritus, philosopher)

“To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”
(Aristotle, philosopher)

“No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.”
(Stanislaw Jerzy Lec, poet and aphorist)

“Unless one has considered alternatives,
one has a closed mind.”
(Peter Drucker, management consultant and educator)

A CEO once told me that if he wanted to surround himself with yes-men, i.e. people who accepted everything put on the plate in front of them, he might as well do everything himself.

Remember the story about Camus?

Have you ever noticed that yes-men are often yes…terday-men, claiming that it’s always been this way?

Camus would agree, yes to more no-men and no-women of course.

“I don’t need a friend who changes when I change
and who nods when I nod; my shadow
does that much better.”
(Plutarch, historian and essayist)

The power of childhood

Friday, May 20th, 2016

Childhood

It took me a while to break free, trust myself, use my own understanding and to accept personal responsibility. It was a wise investment. Once I had “un-conditioned” myself, I realized that the comfort zones of the past weren’t so comfortable at all. They were a mere illusion.

Heteronomy is nothing to look forward to.

“Become such as you are, having learned what that is.”
(Pindar, poet)

I found the return to my childhood to be very positive and exciting, as I discovered that childlike curiosity would be a very useful asset for grown-ups as well.

No wonder Joseph Heller wanted to be a little boy once he grew up.

“It takes a long time to grow young.”
(Pablo Picasso, painter)

“There is frequently more to be learned from the unexpected
questions of a child than the discourses of men.”
(John Locke, philosopher and physician)

As children we tend to be more radical and unbiased than grown-ups, because we have fewer or no habits to break. We have not been conditioned yet. Since there is nothing to change, we simply try something different and new. In retrospect, some of the supposedly dumb things we did as children, weren’t dumb at all. We were keen to experiment, to create. We tried to find stuff that worked and stuff that didn’t.

“Every child is in a way a genius; and
every genius is in a way a child.”
(Arthur Schopenhauer, philosopher)

When does life stop being fun and start being scary?

In growing up, we develop these sticky habits that often make us complacent and unwilling to change. We become predictable and organized, making it easy for bureaucracies to categorize and control us.

“A child becomes an adult when he realizes that he has
the right not only to be right but also to be wrong.”
(Thomas Szasz, psychiatrist)

Do we insist upon the latter?

Really?

Camus

Thursday, May 19th, 2016

Camus

When I was young, we had a dog, a boxer. His name was Camus, named after the Cognac, not the author, but that is a different story.

Camus was a smart dog and he was very discerning as well. For example, he absolutely hated peas. From time to time, we’d put a few in his food, just to see what would happen.

Guess what?

Camus would find each and every pea, but he didn’t just leave them in his feeding bowl. No, he spat out each and every single one. All over the place.

A sign of contempt, I guess.

They say that boxers are strong-willed dogs. Well, Camus certainly did have a mind of his own.

Just like Camus, we shouldn’t accept everything put in front of us either.

Challenge yourself

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

Challenge

An important first step is to open our minds and hearts to honestly question the wisdom of our past decisions, our resulting daily routines as well as our alleged like and dislikes. In the process we will discover that there are many dumb things that we have done in our lives, lying to ourselves being one of the dumbest. Well, I did.

“If we are uncritical we shall always find what we want: we shall look for,
and find, confirmations, and we shall look away from, and not see,
whatever might be dangerous for our pet theories.”
(Karl Popper, philosopher of science and philosopher)

Will we admit to having made mistakes?

Will we admit to having lied to ourselves?

Will we stop lying to ourselves?

Do we want to grow (up) in more ways than one?

“”Trust and belief are two prime considerations. You must not
allow yourself to be opinionated. You must say “Wait, Let me see”.
And above all, you must be honest with yourself.””
(James Dean, actor)

“Question everything generally thought to be obvious.”
(Dieter Rams, designer)

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
(Socrates, philosopher)

We will often find the answers to many of our personal problems – our often undefinable unease and discomfort – in the past, which, incidentally, is a major reason, why we often lie to ourselves.

“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for
most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.”
(Theodore Roosevelt, politician)

Honestly investigating our own past can be quite difficult, especially if one has been brought up in an authoritarian manner. I was, by the way, so I know what I’m talking about.

“Investigate what is, not what pleases.”
(Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, writer and statesman)

Authoritarian people usually don’t give advice, they issue instructions, which are not to be questioned. Not only that, but since they consider themselves to be successful, they are convinced that they are doing others a favor by turning them into copies of themselves. A typical command and control structure is the result. Authoritarian people condition others, they don’t educate them.

“Control your own destiny or someone else will.”
(Jack Welch, business executive)

“In the animal kingdom, the rule is, eat or be eaten.
In the human kingdom, define or be defined.”
(Thomas Szasz, psychiatrist)

Who wants to be someone else’s copy?

Why should we bury our wishes under a pile of garbage of external expectations?

Wouldn’t it be great to be an original?

Are we subconsciously being managed?

If we are not our true selves, chance are that we’re not only dissatisfied and unhappy, but also falling short of our potentials. Selling ourselves short is a terrible waste. For everybody.

“It’s better to be hated for what you are, than
to be loved for what you are not.”
(André Gide, author)

“It’s never too late to become what you might have been.”
(George Elliott, writer)

“You must be free in order to create. But first
you must recognize that you’re a prisoner.”
(Luc de Brabandère/Alan Iny, authors)

“If we didn’t do this already, would we
get into it the way we are now?”
(Peter Drucker, management consultant and educator)

“A man who views the world the same at 50 as he
did at 20, has wasted 30 years of his life.”
(Muhammad Ali, boxer)

“We forfeit three-fourths of our lives
in order to be like other people.”
(Arthur Schopenhauer, philosopher)

“The story of the human race is the story of
men and women selling themselves short.”
(Abraham Maslow, psychologist)

“If you don’t have a strategy, you’rw
part of someone’s strategy.”
(Alvin Toffler, futurist)

“It’s better to fail with your own vision, than
following another man’s vision.”
(Johann Cruyff, footballer)

Whose life is it anyway?

We only have one life and our time is limited. Time is a valuable, non-renewable resource, but time is no dictator.

Why not use our time to lead our own life and leave this world with a smile on our face?

Why not blaze our own trail?

Don’t we want to live our own life and accept the responsibility for it?

Do we want to hand our life over to others and let them script it?

Who wants to be a copy?

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

Copy

“A person is strong only when he stands upon his own truth,
when he speaks and acts from his deepest convictions.”
(Mikhail Bakunin, revolutionary anarchist)

Personal decisions – if we can call them that – are often based upon our misconceived need for social acceptance. Humans are social animals, we aim to please, wish to belong, want to fit in.

“I’ve been imitated so well, I’ve heard people copy my mistakes.”
(Jimi Hendrix, musician)

We wind up listening to music we don’t really like, studying stuff we don’t really like, taking on jobs we don’t really like and so on.

We follow other people’s passions instead of our own!

Our taste isn’t really ours. No wonder it’s often so bad: No identification, no engagement and low on positive emotions. And since it’s not our taste, we won’t develop any expertise either and are forced to follow forever, thereby turning into disgruntled, unmotivated beings.

“Only dead fish swim with the stream.”
(Proverb)

Except for the rebels of course, who aim to stand out. Rebels are also convinced that one person can make a difference and they have the guts to try it. Deep down, we know that they are right, as movements generally start with one person and a vision. Just look at the big religions. Believers and majorities are not mass-produced in a laboratory, at least not yet.

Is our desire to follow trends or other people, in order to belong to the in-crowd and to be on the safe side, so strong that it overrides all other considerations?

Or are we just too lazy to invest the necessary time and effort to figure out what our very own likes and dislikes are?

Or are we afraid of what we might discover?

“Clichés, stock phrases, adherence to conventional, standardized
codes of expression and conduct have the socially
recognized function of protecting us against reality.”
(Hannah Arendt, political theorist)

Are we worried that our likes might not be popular?

“To be independent of public opinion is the first formal
condition of achieving anything great.”
(Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, philosopher)

I can think of no good reason to try to be like other people.

How aspirational is it to be a herd animal?

This may be the age of the herd, but the desires of the herd are not necessarily the desires of the individual. We are born as individuals and shouldn’t live and die as copies.

“Wanting to be somebody else is a waste of the person you are.”
(Kurt Cobain, musician)

“When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma,
we become automatons. We cease to grow.”
(Anais Nin, author)

Change is possible, we can all be rebels.

The perils of listening

Monday, May 16th, 2016

Megafon

When we are young, we start learning not only by watching, but also by listening. We listen to our mother, our father, our older sister or our older brother.

After all, what do we know?

And as we grow older, there always seems to be someone to listen to: Our preacher, our teacher, our doctor, our lawyer, our representative, our older colleague, our boss and so on. Nowadays we’re even advised to listen to someone else’s algorithm.

Don’t get me wrong, the ability to listen is an important one, but the danger is that having to listen all the time becomes imprinted in our minds as having to obey. We become conditioned.

Even though there is a big difference between “listen and learn” and “do as you’re told”, many listeners eventually turn into – often unhappy – followers.

Later on in life, well meant advice is often refused, because it is equated with yesterday’s unpopular rules.

To make things worse, unhappy followers want nothing more than – you probably guessed it – followers. They hate being subordinates, while at the same time wanting some for themselves. This is how command and control structures stay intact. Control freaks rely on organizational tools to preserve the status and by preserving the status, they safeguard their own standing.

It’s always been this way

Sunday, May 15th, 2016

Sunrise

The other day, I was discussing the issues of progress, consumerism, politics and trust with some older folks. Many said that it’s basically always been this way.

What exactly do we mean when we say that “it’s always been this way” or that “we’ve always done it this way”?

It means that our actions and our behavior have become routine. Our brain has gone on autopilot. We’ve become conditioned to accept, enjoy and even defend the status quo. By cocooning in our routine, we don’t feel the need to change. Trapped by our perceptions, we are not able to see what we haven’t seen before.

Carl Jung – the founder of analytical psychology – observed that “children are educated by what the grown-up is and not by his talk”. Actually, I think that it is a combination of both. He could also have said that conditioning starts at a very early age, when we’re still too young to be able to differentiate between good and bad. We’re brought up to be responsible or irresponsible human beings, we’re not born as such.

“We accumulate our opinions at an age
when our understanding is at its weakest.”
(Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, scientist)

Those familiar with Konrad Lorenz and his geese will recall that this is also called imprinting.

And let’s not forget that humans, unlike other animals, are born underdeveloped. We can therefore be educated, socialized and shaped more than any other animal.

We of course reject the notion of having been conditioned. We like to think of ourselves as intelligent human beings, who have put a lot of time and effort into getting where we are. Unfortunately, we often fall in love too deeply with what we have achieved and therefore tend to overvalue it. We want to reap the benefits from our achievements forever and hate to let go.

“Success is dangerous. One begins to copy oneself and to
copy oneself is more dangerous than to copy others.”
(Pablo Picasso, painter)

“The strongest poison ever known
came from Caesar’s laurel crown.”
(William Blake, poet)

“It’s a mistake to suppose that we deserve a society that
happens to value the qualities that we may have.”
(John Rawls, philosopher)

When confronted with something new requiring change, our reluctance to let go leads us to focus on what we may lose, rather than what we may gain.

Fear, stubbornness, pride and denial of reality often make us act against our long-term interests.

“The discovery of truth is prevented more effectively not by
the false appearance things present and which mislead into
error, not directly by weakness of the reasoning powers, but
by preconceived opinion, by prejudice.”
(Arthur Schopenhauer, philosopher)

We are not helpless, but often claim helplessness as an excuse not to leave our prison, also known as our comfort zone.

And let’s not forget that brain, which is on autopilot 85% of the time.

Don’t rock the boat.

“Only the guy that isn’t rowing,
has time to rock the boat.”
(Jean Paul Sartre, philosopher)

But if we don’t rock the boat, the boat is going to hit a rock, or an iceberg – remember the Titanic – sooner or later and sink anyway, isn’t it?

Are we well advised to rock the boat, if there is no other boat nearby and we don’t know how to swim, or fly, or walk on water?

We are prisoners of our conventions, standards and customs, who are afraid of change. We prefer the known to the unknown, no risks are better than known risks and known risks are better than unknown risks. Good is good enough, if we don’t have to disrupt our routine, as routine gives as a sense of safety.

Are we imprisoned by what we have learned?

Can education liberate and imprison at the same time?

Don’t we sometimes wonder, why Pavlov used dogs in his experiments?

After all, we’ve always done it this way.

Corporate lingo is full of similar statements.

“It’s out of the question”, “it’s beyond doubt”, “it’s undeniable, self-evident, obvious, indisputable”, just to name a few. One that I’ve encountered quite often is “it goes without saying”. Well, more often than not, it doesn’t.

Not to mention “never change a winning team”. Sure, but we live in a world, in which the game changes all the time and new opponents with new strategies appear in the most unlikely places.

Nonetheless, speaking your mind and rocking the boat leads to isolation, discrimination and mobbing in many organizations. An open mind in a company with a closed door policy is pretty much useless. We live in a system that does not promote telling the uncomfortable truth, which leads to even more lies.

“In times of universal deceit, telling
the truth is a revolutionary act.”
(George Orwell, novelist)

Why do we let these organizations get away with it?

Do we want to live in a world, in which the truth has to be comfortable – rather that at times uncomfortable – to be generally accepted?

Wishful thinking is a powerful drug. And those claiming that some things never change, usually mean that to include themselves. The resulting lack of opposition strengthens unpopular conventions and oppression.

In other words, “we’ve always done it this way” is a great way to silence the majority and is a formidable barrier to change. Pluralistic ignorance – when no one believes, but everyone thinks that everyone believes – incapacitates even further.

“”Relax,” said the night man, “We are programmed to receive.
You can check out any time you like.
But you can never leave!””
(The Eagles: “Hotel California” released in 1977)

It is also quite dangerous, because, as the psychologist Daniel Kahneman pointed out, familiarity is not easily distinguishable from the truth and by frequent repetition, we can make people believe in falsehoods. Dictators do this all the time, but they’re far from being alone.

It can even be deadly, as the French knights discovered in 1415 during the battle of Agincourt, when the longbow, rather than the knights themselves, brought knighthood to an end. Hanging on to yesterday’s conventions and status symbols can literally kill you.

“Defending yesterday is far more dangerous
than making tomorrow.”
(Peter Drucker, management consultant and professor)

Yesterday’s realities give us a wrong sense of security. But as prisoners of the past, we can’t find our freedom in the future.

This, incidentally, has always been this way!

“Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away.
Now it looks as though they’re here to stay.
Oh, I believe in yesterday.”
(The Beatles: “Yesterday” released in 1965)

Focusing on yesterday can make sense, if we’re in the business of writing history books.

Speaking of history books, why is it so hard to learn from history?

“What experience and history teach is this – that people
and governments have never learned anything from history
or acted on the principles deduced from it.”
(Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, philosopher)

History tells us that majorities have always followed like sheep and that minorities have often exploited this behavior by imposing their rules and “values”.

Does it have to be this way though?

Why do we seem to prefer to conserve the ashes, rather than to pass on the fire?

Trust

Saturday, May 14th, 2016

Trust

Trust – the common denominator in politics, business and religion – is at all time lows. We are learning the hard way that offers put in front of us by companies are usually in their best interest, but not in ours. When companies evoke freedom of choice, they usually mean freedom to sell. We are also learning the hard way that elected representatives don’t necessarily put our interests first either.

“Many promises lessen trust.”
(Horace, poet)

“For trust him not that hath broken faith.”
(Shakespeare, poet and playwright)

“Once bitten, twice shy.”
(Proverb)

“Knowledge people have often comes from faith or
tradition or propaganda, more than anything else.”
(Robert Proctor, professor)

Agnotology, i.e. the deliberate creation of ignorance, is unfortunately quite popular these days.

For example, can we really take Facebook’s or Google’s word for anything?

Do we really trust them?

If not, why are we using their services?

The unfortunate consequence being that sooner or later we tend to become distrustful not only of those trying to exploit us, but of everyone, including ourselves.

After all, how can we trust ourselves and our own judgement, if we don’t trust those, who we are voting for and whose products and/or services we are buying?

“I trust no one including myself.”
(Joseph Stalin, political leader)

Have we forgotten how good it feels, when someone says “I trust you”?

“”I trust you” said the fox to the fox.”

Trust is social capital, it is the glue holding societies together. But societies are failing everywhere, as free markets are not so free, representative democracies not so representative and we, the people, are way too passive.

It takes guts to be honest and those of us trusting their own judgement tend to be more courageous than others and are therefore more likely to speak up.

Anonymously whining in trust surveys won’t change a thing. We have to back up our distrust with action. We must therefore make our trust expensive, make it hard for companies and politicians to earn. And yes, we have to force our elected representatives and corporations to stay trustworthy. After all, we have found that it is not in their nature to voluntarily forego quick and profitable wins. In other words, where there is a bonus-system, there must also be a malus-system.

No ROI without an ROE, a Return on Ethics.

What do we get in return for our invested trust?

Those who fail to earn our trust, don’t deserve our business or vote. It is as simple as that.

If we don’t put a value to our trust, why should others?

We claim not to trust our politicians, yet we often reelect them. We claim not to trust Facebook, yet the user numbers keep on rising. And the list goes on. Humanity definitely doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to choosing leaders and holding them accountable.

But we forget that they need us as much as we need them, may be even more. On one hand, customers need some, but definitely not all, of the products and services offered by corporations. On the other hand, no corporation would exist without money paid and – increasingly – data provided by their customers. And yes, citizens profit from some services provided by the government, services for which they have paid with their taxes. And speaking of taxes, more often than not, they are not invested in the problem areas they were raised for in the first place.

The dependence, if we can call it that, is mutual and not unilateral.

We all know that trust and honesty go hand in hand.

Is being honest a luxury that not everyone – especially the addicted voter-consumer – can afford or doesn’t want to afford?

Even worse, honesty is often not rewarded. I’ve seen it happen more than once and have also experienced it myself that being honest and speaking the truth leads to others deriding you as being naive. “Weltfremd”, as we say in German: “unwordly, having or showing lack of experience or knowledge of the world” according to Merriam-Webster.

Whose world?

And isn’t it changing all the time?

Is withholding the truth or lack of transparency tantamount to lying?

Why are so many companies reluctant to provide understandable and trustworthy information about their products and services?

Why does Facebook need around fourteen thousand words to explain its terms of service and data use policy, whereas the U.S. Constitution manages with four thousand four hundred and the Ten Commandements with less than one hundred words?

Many words don’t build trust, quite the opposite, they suggest that something is being hidden and opaque systems are not trustworthy.

Why do we let these corporations get away with it?

Will generation bargain hunter hold a corporation responsible for unethical behavior?

Is generation bargain hunter behaving ethically?

I believe that there can be no honorable merchant without an honorable customer and that there can be no honorable government without honorable citizens.

“Fame is something which must be won;
Honor only something which must not be lost.”
(Arthur Schopenhauer, philosopher)

Outsourcing responsibility is not an option.

“When the Nazis came for the communists,
I did not speak out;
As I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I did not speak out;
As I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
As I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I did not speak out;
As I was not a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.”

(Martin Niemöller, Protestant pastor and social activist)

Will we dare to speak up?

“We have met the enemy and he is us.”
(Walt Kelly, cartoonist)

Politics

Friday, May 13th, 2016

Politics

“Politics is about forming character, to cultivate virtues of
citizens. Only by living in a polis and participating in
political life, do we realize ourselves as human beings.”
(Aristotle, philosopher)

What would Aristotle think and say today?

Where is the honorable government?

Do all eligible citizens participate in the development and creation of laws?

How do we define participation?

Who decides upon eligibility?

Do our children, who are going to be stuck with our public debt, get to vote?

Of course they don’t, which may just be the reason, why politicians feel safe procrastinating. After all future generations can’t vote them out of office today.

But isn’t gambling with our children’s future immoral?

We live in a world in which an Eight-Grader builds a braille printer with Legos, launches a company, but isn’t allowed to vote. If “no taxation without representation” means anything at all, it means to find a juster way to actively include today’s minors in the political process.

Intergenerational equity really is a farce at times.

“”Well I called my congressman and he said quote: “I’d like
to help you son, but you’re to young to vote.””
(Eddie Cochran: “Summertime Blues”, released in 1958)

Furthermore, we often wonder why the laws created to protect us and the public good effectively from being deceived and exploited aren’t being enforced by our elected representatives.

Isn’t this one of the many reasons, why we are paying taxes?

Some would sarcastically argue that you can only legislate what you truly understand. Others, that our elected representatives are preoccupied with accumulating personal power.

“Opportunity makes a thief.”
(Proverb)

“The Few assume to be deputies, but they are often
only the despoilers of the Many.”
(Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, philosopher)

“90% of the politicians give the other 10% a bad name.”
(Henry Kissinger, diplomat and political scientist)

In 1979, the economist Milton Friedman asked, whether it was really true that political self-interest was somehow nobler than economic self-interest. He also wondered, where we would find the angels, as he called them, who would organize society for us.

“What’s morally wrong cannot be politically right.”
(William Ewart Gladstone, statesman)

Some claim that our elected representatives and government cannot solve structural problems and offer future-oriented perspectives, because they think in legislative periods and that is far too short-sighted. They therefore propose longer legislative periods. I’m not convinced. Attitude matters, rather than the time period.

What about one-term elections, so politicians wouldn’t have to worry about re-elections and could focus on what needs to be done instead?

“A politician thinks of the next election,
a statesman thinks of the next generation.”
(William Ewart Gladstone, statesman)

“Politicians are always realistically maneuvering for
the next election. They are obsolete as
fundamental problem-solvers.”
(Richard Buckminster Fuller, philosopher)

It is true that democracy only works when everyone participates. But we don’t.

“L´état, c’est moi” claimed Louis XIV. Well, he’s long gone, but he had plenty of successors. In a democracy, “l’état, c’est nous”, but only when we fight and exert our rights.

What are our rights?

Shouldn’t we think about that, rather than leaving it to others?

Would forcing us to think be – well – undemocratic?

The unfortunate consequence being that in our so-called democratic system, ten people with one million dollars each have more influence than one million people with ten dollars each.

Money doesn’t rule the world, the few that have it do.

And when those few talk, our democracy often walks.

“When money meets political power, it is similar to a
match meeting an explosive – waiting to go off.”
(Jack Ma, entrepreneur)

Things become extremely scary, once one single variable, be it business, religion or anything else, starts dominating political life.

In a democracy, justice shouldn’t be something that citizens have to be able to afford. We shouldn’t need expensive lawyers, tax consultants etc. to force our government to give us what is rightfully ours.

Where is the honorable citizen?

Why don’t we hold our elected representatives accountable?

Aren’t they our employees?

Why don’t we insist that they enforce existing laws designed to protect us?

“The fools did not realize that their ruler could not have given them
what they were receiving without first having taken it from them.”
(Étienne de La Boétie, judge and writer)

“How can it happen that so many men sometimes suffer under a
single tyrant, who has no other power than the power they gave him?”
(Étienne de La Boétie, judge and writer)

“Whoever can supply the masses with illusions is easily their master.”
(Gustave Le Bon, social psychologist)

“To some degree it matters who’s in office, but it matters more how
much pressure they’re under from the public.”
(Noam Chomsky, philosopher and political commentator)

“The tyranny of a prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to
the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy.”
(Charles de Montesquieu, political philosopher)

Organizational failure is a combination of bad leadership and bad followership. In other words, no honorable government without honorable citizens.

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil
is that good men do nothing.”
(Edmund Burke, philosopher)

Could it be that we, the people, don’t want our politicians to solve structural problems, when the solution comes with a price-tag attached to it?

Would generation bargain hunter vote for a politician, if s/he asked us to live within our means and stop consuming so much?

Probably not.

Do we prefer fairy tale tellers?

If so, who is to blame?

And “cui bono”?

“A man will fight harder for his interests than for his rights.”
(Napoléon, military and political leader)

And what about voter turnout?

Looking at voter turnout in numerous democracies around the world leaves me wondering, whether voting should become compulsory, as oxymoronic as this may sound in a democracy.

The results of the last German national elections illustrate this.

The present grand coalition received an absolute majority of 67.2%, but only of those who actually voted. And the people didn’t vote for that coalition, as this is not possible. They voted for two political parties that decided to form a coalition, but only after the elections.

Voters equal the total population minus the foreigners minus the minors minus the non-voters. Looking at the actual numbers reveals that only 37% of the total population voted for the two political parties  that decided to form a coalition after the elections. 63%, which is almost two-thirds, didn’t. Either because they weren’t allowed to or because they didn’t want to.

What does this tell us about democratic legitimization?

“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is
that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”
(Plato, philosopher)

Democracy does not mean having to put up with everything. We must resist and defend ourselves more often. After all, it is our system.

Only s/he who votes, can vote out. No vote, no choice, no freedom.

By the way, the rise of left- and right-wing parties in Europe and elsewhere is mostly due to the public’s growing frustration with the political mainstream, which lack vision, courage and whose main purpose is to stay in power.

We don’t trust our representatives anymore.

We don’t trust the political system anymore.

Can be trust ourselves?

To do what?

Divide et impera

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

Divide et impera

What makes us so exploitable?

Why is Caesar’s strategy of “divide et impera” still so effective?

Well, first of all, while Caesar may have coined the phrase, the strategy is a lot older than that. Remember the Tower of Babel (Book of Genesis of the Tanakh), which is often used to explain the origin of the languages. Let’s actualize this tale by moving it to the 21st Century: Imagine a united humanity – i.e. we, the people – speaking one language with one goal. Develop a trustworthy tool to check what is “going on up there”, to create transparency and check what our chosen leaders are really doing.

What would happen, if all of us were actually to do this?

Would the ruling elite respond by creating a communication break down and disperse us?

Or, in modern terms, would they delete our accounts and not rank us?

Would they use the strategy of “divide et impera” again?

Would we let them get away with it?

Think about it.

Are we gutless? Lazy? Gullible? Vain?

“Vanitas vanitatum omnia vanitas.”
(The Bible: “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”)

“It is said that Mithridates trained himself to drink poison. Like him,
we learn to swallow, and not to find bitter, the venom of servitude.”
(Étienne de La Boétie, judge and writer)

I personally find the increasing cowardice, laziness, gullibility and vanity to be quite disturbing.

Should they be considered to be offenses though?

Can we be forced to be courageous, energetic, wise and humble against our will?

Do we need more laws protecting us from ourselves?

Who would enforce those laws? Other people, also known as elected representatives? Algorithms?

Can we be educated to be courageous, energetic, wise and humble?

Who or what would educate the educators?

The writing has been on the wall for a long time.

Why don’t we open our eyes to read and act?

Don’t we want to know the truth?

Don’t we want to assume personal responsibility?

“It’s not what you don’t know that gets you into trouble,
it’s what you know for sure that ain’t so.”
(Mark Twain, author)

What happened to the honorable merchant?

A very popular question.

But what happened to the honorable customer?

Isn’t ethical behavior everyone’s responsibility?

Would a “Hippocratic Oath” for everyone be too much to ask?

Would it change anything?

The problem is not that we are dumb and don’t understand, the problem is that all too often we simply don’t care, or choose to look away. Information is not as asymmetric as it used to be and “caveat emptor” is not as valid as it used to be.

Isn’t it about time to introduce “caveat vendor” and mean it too?

Fast food is a good example. The way I see it, “Happy meal” sounds rather cynical, considering the fact that some fast food CEO’s make 1,000 times more than their average worker. Unhealthy in more ways than one. Not only that, but junk food would be a lot more expensive, if all costs – direct and indirect, present and future – were factored in. Happy mealy are being subsidized.

By whom?

Take a guess.