Making the World Safe for People

Everyone agrees that the world should be safe for people – even as the UN Security Council voted against a humanitarian cease-fire in Syria. This would have saved civilian lives, Russia and China agree – but it was more important to get rid of their enemies – even if they are not certain who they are, or where they are.

After the bad guys are gone, the world will be safe again:)

What We Need is Not another New Product, but a New Way of Being

No doubt you agree with me – especially with the first part, about new products – but are stumped by the whole idea of being.  “What on earth is that?” You may ask, and “What can we do about that?”

The answer is “We have to do something about that.” Beginning with thinking about that. Something we have not been encouraged to do.

The way of life that developed, in the developed world, in the 19th Century – depended on our not thinking about what we were doing. And allowing The Machine to take over.

This made us richer than we had ever dreamed of – but socially inept. One hundred years of the most brutal wars, and the worst atrocities, the world has ever seen.

The worst of these effects was our inability to think – because we had been sternly ordered not to think. Our whole way of life depended on it.

But, as we were beginning to realize, this way of life was of dubious value. And was, in fact, self-destructive.

But we can have our cake, and eat it too. We can keep the goodies we now enjoy (or at least most of them, especially the medical advances) – and we can build a new life for ourselves.

All we have to overcome is – our fear of thinking.

Corporate Insanity

I don’t have to tell any of you what this is – you have all been through it, and accumulated your battle scars. It is one of those things that have been pushed under the rug – until it cannot hide any more.

I am reading The Phoenix Project – a novel about a software company that has gone completely nuts. Not an uncommon situation – as I learned from working 20 years in the software industry (1980-2000).

The central character is a guy who retired from the Marine Corp, with a wife, children, a mortgage – and no money in the bank. He learned IT (Information Technology) which was not hard – and managed an IT team. He was satisfied with his job – and determined to go no higher. He had found his place in the trenches, and was not going over the top – and getting his head blown off.

Then, to his complete surprise – he found himself doing just that – and learning a new Software Development strategy – DevOps. The cast of characters is all too familiar – upper managers that knew nothing – ruthless, scheming, manipulative women – and hopelessly overworked technical experts.

This is Going to be Good for You

When someone tells you this, alarm bells should be ringing in your head. We have been told this so many times, and disappointed so many times, we should have learned something. We should simply say BS, or something more vulgar.

But we don’t – we have been brain-washed to accept, even demand, unlimited optimism. This has given us split personalities – the official optimistic self, and the deeper pessimistic one.

When the deeper one shows up, we are surprised by it – but at the same time, relieved that it has finally spoken up – and expressed who we really are.


Let me put this in a practical context. Back in 1962, I attended the U of Missouri for a semester. There I met John Neihardt, a tiny guy but friendly – with a unusual personality. I took his class, where he read his epic poetry – about the Winning of the West.

Epic poetry, that goes right back to the Iliad, is about heroic deeds. And let’s face it – war, with women playing a limited role – as in Helen of Troy.

Neihardt’s family had been involved in the takeover of Indian land. The Indians were conquered, and their land taken from them. Surveyors, such as George Washington, determined where the land boundaries were – and the land was then sold. In a process that did not invite close scrutiny. But in any case, the prices were low.

Pioneers, as they were called, bought the land, and then improved it – usually by cutting down the trees. And then resold it – making a tidy profit, that was quickly absorbed by their large families. And then moved west, and repeated the process. This was how Abraham Lincoln got started.

As you can see, this was an ugly process – but something that Neihardt carefully overlooked. He was making it look good, and was rewarded for this (in his old age) by being honored for it.

His younger years were a different matter, and the only biography that tells of that difficult time Lonesome Dreamer has been ignored. He was a person of the Midwest – the largest part of America – that has also been ignored.

The Mass Extinction, and the Resurrection – of the Masses

You know what a mass extinction is, any grade school kid knows that – but who are the masses?

They were discovered, in the Thirties, by Ortega y Gasset. Everyone knew he had made a valuable discovery – but like many discoveries, that didn’t fit in – they were forgotten. The masses themselves, however, remained very much alive, and had huge effects on their times. When the Nazis appeared, no one knew what to make of them – because they were part of the masses.

The American Civil War, WWI, the Depression, and WWII – were the times when the Industrial economy (and its masses) – suffered a mass extinction.

No one missed them – because another kind of mass mentality was bearing down on us at lightening speed. This time it was caused by the Television networks that were busy creating their own masses. TV watchers bought what it told them to buy, this was hardly surprising – but they also looked to the magic screen, to tell them what kind of people to be.

This was followed by the Computer, and its networks – the Internet and the Wireless. And, miracle of miracles – the smartphone. When people weren’t watching their TV, they were watching their iPhone. They weren’t robots – but they were something close to it – bots.

The masses had been resurrected! And when Trump appeared, they (once again) did not know what to make of him.

Big Changes, Little People

We are living through an era of big changes, something people are poorly adapted to. They want to make small changes, and wait to see what their effects are – before making any more. Since this is no longer possible – they want to wreck everything and start over.

Sound interesting?

It’s as good an explanation as any. And should be taken seriously – because it takes people seriously. And it takes them as they are (warts and all) – not as they should be.

If it does nothing else, it will make us look at ourselves realistically – something the Christian approach did not. As you see, I think we have to go back to that – the impact of Christianity on Western culture. That forced a restart of the Ancient world, and produced the Middle Ages, and then the Modern World.

The basics of Christianity are simple – a belief in Christ! A being part man and part god – that had divine powers. This could be easily expanded, as it was by Newton, into a belief in natural laws. That ruled the world, as God intended them to.

The Industrial Revolution latched onto this belief, and made its people believe they had become demigods. Mechanical demigods, it is true – but this gave them huge advantages. Living in a country that never felt the effects of Industrialization (Costa Rica) I can see the advantages that it conferred.

North Americans understand the Industrial concept of absolute space and time. Latin Americans do not – everything for them is relative. The effects of this simple belief are awesome – it produced the developed world, and the undeveloped world.


Contemporary people, who may not be religious, still feel that – something powerful is running the show. And they are right – powerful forces are at work, that make individuals seem puny. And they have accommodated to these forces, by something equally amazing – they have become nothing!

The overall effect, as I said at the beginning – has been a complete destruction, forcing a complete restart.

DevOps

I am taking a MOOC about this, presented by Microsoft, on edX. These online courses keep getting better and better.

It amazes me how much Software has advanced – people have no trouble being creative and innovative here, in this tiny part of the world. And being good for themselves.

While the world at large, continues to go to hell, at a rapid pace.

This is uneven development, taken to extremes. People are very much part of their environment – which is now mostly man-made.

We should be asking ourselves “Where did we go wrong?”

But we cannot.