Assorted Articles (Aug – Oct 2015)

1)

Please explain to me why I’m mistaken, if I’m mistaken. Also please make an honest attempt to understand what I’m saying, rather than merely anticipating what my perspective might be and reacting to that: It seems to me that much of the struggle over our nation’s financial priorities, enforced policies, and cultural practices hinges upon the struggle between those who believe we should take greater responsibility upon ourselves to better our country and our world vs. those who feel it is not their/our responsibility (for whichever various reasons). The latter camp protects their interests (as an obvious ‘for instance’: wealth) in a way that protects their freedom to not take responsibility/not care.

As a concrete example, in the case of this recent story (link below) about desegregating schools, it seems like those who did not want responsibility had the financial means to change school districts.

I have heard many opinions voiced that seem to amount to wanting the freedom to ignore the problems (or even the laws) around them (because the opinion-holders held the socioeconomic means to). This could be as trivial as being able to afford the cost of a parking ticket (or a good lawyer), or to still have a means to get to work despite getting in a car accident (whether it was your own fault or not), or to threaten to migrate “your” entire community of people, destroying the viability of a town, because you didn’t want students from a certain area being bused into the same schools as your own children. That kind of freedom.

I understand that we can’t take on all problems simultaneously, that we have to put a scope around the realm of things we can reasonably care about trying to make a positive impact on, or we’ll be ineffective at best and most likely go crazy from all our seemingly fruitless investments of care and labor.

But surely there can be some imperative that does not let some of us let others of us stay trapped amidst problems that cannot be escaped or ignored, just to ensure that well-protected others may go forth, free and unfettered by even the nuisance of awareness of those problems?

I’m not ready to propose a solution, but have I got the challenge correct? What have I missed or misrepresented?

Reply: Freedom not to be bothered is a very clear, concise way of putting it, thank you.

https://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/562/the-problem-we-all-live-with

2)

I hate to post something like this, for several reasons- but here it is all the same. If you do not pay attention to politics and/or vote because you do not have faith in politicians to affect real change, I applaud your attention and thoughtfulness – however you have to ask yourself what are you doing instead to fix the problem (whichever one or dozen you happen to be concerned about)? Don’t bemoan that nothing can be done about it – that’s lying down and waiting in the zombie movie. Pick your battles, to be sure, but don’t stop fighting- not until there’s nothing in need of fighting for. To do less is to lose some important aspect of your humanity.

 

3)

This is tragic and embarrassing and shameful. I know that’s expressive rather than constructive but that’s where I’m at right now.

One friend of mine further pointed out (also from this article): “While the FBI measures a “mass shooting” as an incident when people are killed, the [Mass Shooting Tracker] classifies a mass shooting as an event when four or more people are shot. Using that criteria, the tracker reports that 294 known mass shootings have occurred this year”

http://www.newsweek.com/45th-mass-shooting-america-2015-378803

REply:

I guess what I have a harder time with is that five people were shot during one incident just today in Baltimore. The other 249 shootings have happened in urban areas as part of common living.

 

4)

OK crazy rant time.
I would appreciate your thoughts on any of the below, but because I wasn’t courteous enough to be succinct I’ll understand if you don’t extend me the courtesy of a reply.

So, I feel like an important element of leadership is developing those you’ve taken this responsibility for, sure – but I ALSO feel like an important element of leadership is marshaling and directing the efforts of others (if only indirectly- more on that in a second).

We associate wealth with success because money is a physical representation of labor – by amassing wealth, you clearly must have inspired many others to do significant things (we ALSO respect amassed wealth because it represents the freedom to give 0 fucks about things, as you can pay someone else to deal with whatever the issue is [exchanging it back for others’ labor/products] – which is not an entirely unrelated issue, but not where my focus is right now so let’s just acknowledge that that’s another reason why we respect wealthy individuals and move on).

With politicians, we are choosing the leaders who will decide how much of our “wealth” is taken for taxes and how those tax dollars are spent (marshaling and directing the “vouchers” we’ve received for the time and effort we’ve pledged to our employers). With companies, they are profiting from our labor and offering us a share of that profit, as we contributed to their winning it. With ad revenue, we are being compensated for the audience we’ve drawn to our blog, twitch stream, TV show, whatever – we are not asking our audience to contribute anything but their attention and possibly their enthusiasm but because marketers believe in the power of advertising, they are willing to pay for access to our audience via ads (this is the indirect leadership I mentioned above- in marketing, these people are called “influencers,” and I would argue they are a form of leader too). I think celebrity endorsements would fall under this influencer category as well.

Where am I going with this? I think the reason we have come to expect leaders to abuse their position and be exploitative of their “followers” is because we generally accept one or more of the following:
1) people too stupid to know they’re being taken advantage of and/or too lazy to do something about it deserve to be duped/taken advantage of
2) all leadership works like this and leaders who look out for their followers as much as or even more than they look out for themselves dilute their power and so cannot effectively compete with less benign leaders who hold a greater share of their followers’ power for themselves – a benevolent dictatorship is more sustainable and/or powerful than a facilitated democracy
3) similarly, it is easier to harvest others’ efforts and direct that collective energy/power back to their benefit as a leader than it is to educate and motivate others to put forth the effort themselves to directly benefit themselves, each as individuals
4) leaders “deserve” higher pay/more respect/etc. because of what they enable others to do/what they have to put up with just by the fact that they are a leader and those that they “serve”/marshal around themselves are not
5) no one is “forcing” anyone to follow or contribute to a given leader (be it a politician, political party, religious organization, company, etc.) so non-leader contributors are “voting with their labor” the same way economists/political scientists talk about resident citizens “voting with their feet”

Why do I care enough to rant about it? Because I don’t pay close enough attention to how the leaders in my life are held accountable for how they repay those who’ve contributed to their success, and I can be a pretty thoughtful guy – so I bet most other people don’t either. Also, I aspire to be a leader (in various capacities) and so this is a question of ethics I really need to keep in mind if/as I continue in such directions.

Why should you care about it? Well if you read this far, you probably already have an answer for that question – but if not, here’s what I would offer: what kind of world are you building? What are you directing your efforts (or the efforts of others) towards? Who are you benefiting with that directed effort? What are they doing with it? If you’re not happy with one of your current leadership relationships (regardless of which side of it you’re on), what can you do to change it? What are you willing to swallow as an acceptable compromise or just as something outside of your control?

I understand consequences/results like this are complex- awful companies may have corporate social responsibility practices that align with causes you care about, and politicians may represent you well on some issues but be directly against your interest on other issues, and on the ‘being a leader’ side: you don’t want to overstep your bounds in prodding those who report to you at work to contribute more deliberately and effectively to their own personal/professional growth, and fans of yours (if you’re an artist) may have very different values from you so you’re almost certainly going to be at odds with their interests. But I bet most people aren’t even asking the question(s) in the first place.

Again, your thoughts (especially calling me out for misrepresentations, oversights, and outright absurdities) are welcomed and would be appreciated.

Replies:

I completely agree that there are bad/corrupt leaders, and my response would be that it’s the responsibility of “good” leaders to not let that happen. Unfortunately, this often is out of our control or power to stop, but one part of being the “good” leader is that you must trust other leaders to do the right thing.

In that sense, bad leaders who “step” on their employees are meant to be put in check by good leaders. Good leaders aren’t easy to find, train, or place, and generally they are doing really great work so they aren’t out looking for jobs either.

I assume this came in response to something you saw/heard/are related to, so my advice would be that if you feel your good leadership is being misused or trust is misplaced, your responsibility is to stop empowering that bad leadership through the ways you have available to you.

 

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Assorted Articles (June – July 2016)

 

1)

An important component to the school experience is coming to believe that the social rules that apply “now” had best be learned early and well, or you’ll have a long life of struggle for your non-compliance. I understand people are uncomfortable with “non-traditional” gender identities but what’s being done to this kid is abhorrent.

http://planettransgender.com/kenosha-unified-school-district-forces-transgender-students-to-wear-badges/

2)

” A dare for the next time you’re in discussion with someone you disagree with: Don’t try to “win.” Don’t try to “convince” anyone of your viewpoint. Don’t score points by mocking them to your peers. Instead try to “lose.” Hear them out. Ask them to convince you and mean it. ”

https://tinyurl.com/zgz8ugd

 

3) This is sickening to scroll through, and it’s just colored icons.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2015/oct/02/mass-shootings-america-gun-violence