Category Archives: 1 Perspective

A Big Problem In The System

If the world expected everyone to be good, then it wouldn’t be bad.

You’re naughty because everyone else is. You play by unethical rules because everyone else does. And gets away with it. (The ongoing farce of bailing out the rich in the world of money is a current illustration.)

But if everyone expected to play fair and you didn’t, you’d get found out quickly. That’s natural.

What this means is that if there is a problem in the system (and there is), it’s a big problem. Everyone’s contributing to a system built on a culture of bad ethics.

So, how can I be optimistic? Because people are changing. Its a process of realisation. A gradual enlightenment. Either through choice or necessity. Once humanity reaches a tipping point of realisation, the world will change fast. And that tipping point is not far off.

Living in an upside-down world.

An excerpt from The Flip by David Rippe and Jared Rosen.

The Bridge of Choice

Imagine yourself standing on a bridge between two worlds. On one side of the bridge is an upside-down world. Why is it upside-down? It is upside-down because people have lost their intimate connection to the whole, and feel isolated and separate from society. Even their thoughts are fragmented. That world is upside-down because fear has trumped love as the dominant emotion–even though love is what we all seek. It has been turned topsy-turvy because sources of news and entertainment paint dark pictures of violence and murder instead of celebrating the best that people can bring to life.

In the upside-down world more money is spent on war than on all social service programs–for children, the elderly, education, the homeless, the hungry, the disabled–combined. The good people of the upside-down world willingly consume toxins through their water, air and food supply and wonder why they feel tired and ill most of the time.

In the upside-down world people say they value children, yet parking lot attendants make more money than child-care workers and sports figures make more in one season than educators do over an entire career. It is an upside-down world because children are taught computer literacy but not emotional literacy. Faced with an inability to cope in a contradictory world, kids act out their unresolved emotions. The upside-down answer is to give them drugs rather than honestly dealing with their issues. Having taught our youth to self-medicate through pharmaceuticals, we jail them later after they have taken illicit drugs to numb the feelings they never learned to express.

The world is upside-down because people kill each other to control limited underground resources–oil, ore, minerals, water and precious metals–while they ignore unlimited resources above their head like the sun and wind which can be harnessed for an endless supply of energy.

Trust is a rare commodity in the upside-down world and intentional deception is commonplace. Our institutions–government, religion, media, education–claim to provide comfort and aid to society while in fact serving their own interests.

In this crazy world, despair turns to desperation. We feel more alone, more isolated, and ever more over our heads–upside-down. The world feels like it is spinning out of control, into chaos and collapse.

The Other Side of the Bridge
On the other side of the bridge, there is a world that is Right Side Up. People walk in balance with the earth and honor all living beings. People know that everything and everyone is interconnected. They realize that love is to be treasured and shared as the highest form of acceptance.
The people in the Right Side Up world teach their children that emotions are to be expressed, not repressed. They learn that it is safe to speak their truth, and trust is a natural outcome of their relationships.

In the Right Side Up world, food is more wholesome and nutritious because the seeds are not altered and the food is not processed with a range of untested chemicals whose names are unpronounceable and interactions unknown. People grow their own flavorful food, rich in nutrients in their own backyard or community garden. Rain is not heavy with pollution because people in the Right Side Up world do not rely on burning oil and gas for energy. Instead, they count on the power of the sun, wind and tides as well as other clean renewable energy sources for their energy needs.

The Right Side Up world values diversity and self-expression. Communities celebrate the human spirit through their art forms, which have become a way of life, blended harmoniously with spirituality. Humankind rejoices in the spirit within every one and every thing–and we have evolved beyond our fascination with darkness and evil.

The Right Side Uppers adhere to a Second Bill of Rights that gives all people…

  • The right to a useful job that pays a living wage for adequate food, clothing and recreation
  • The right for every businessperson, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition
  • The right to a decent home
  • The right to medical care and the ability to achieve good health
  • The right to a good education
  • The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident and unemployment

Does this sound like the impossibly idealistic ravings of a left-leaning lunatic? Think again. The Second Bill of Rights was proposed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his State of the Union speech on January 11, 1944. How far we have regressed in sixty-odd years!

Yes, the Right Side Up world encourages acceptance, tolerance, and freedom to live the way one wants as long as it harms no other. Conflict is met with compassion and human unity is the guiding principle for society.

The Choice
You are standing on this bridge between two worlds–one is upside-down, the other is Right Side Up. The bridge is about to collapse. You must make a choice to go in one or the other direction. Which side would you go to?

Most people would choose the Right Side Up world. It is the obvious choice for a better place to live in. Yet, so many people view the Right Side Up world as idealistic and unattainable, and thus accept living in the upside-down world. Is it the gravity of fear that holds them in this destructive state? Is it lack of faith? Or have the forces of the upside-down world so skewed our perceptions that we do not believe a Right Side Up world is possible?

We live in an amazing age. It is a point in the evolution of humankind when a massive shift in consciousness called “the flip,” is taking place. The flip is happening in nearly every facet of our global society.

The flip is occurring whether we embrace it or not, whether we believe it or not. The question is whether you will be a willing participant and active proponent of the flip, or if will you struggle to hang on to an outmoded, broken world that serves the darker parts of our being. By choosing to believe in the possibilities of the human spirit, by embracing the flip, you can become free to express yourself and work for a balanced world and a whole-hearted life. The choice is yours.

At the end of the day, the choice for the future is yours. It is the end of the day.

Your money or your life.

While traditional economists might deride the performance of the Japanese economy as it reports sluggishness, at the same time Japan reports a record high in the number of centenarians.

Its another example of the trade-off between money and life.  And as has been proven more money doesn’t make you happier.  If you haven’t done so already, think seriously about a more holonic lifestyle.  Change course.

Get the right perspective.

So, the media leads with the headline that China’s economy slowed during the olympics because businesses were closed to help clear the atmosphere.

But its important to get the detail.  The rate of growth remains high.  Far beyond what western economies are experiencing.

  • industrial output growth of 12.8% in August
  • retail sales up at an annual rate of 23.2% in August
  • and the economy grew at 10.1% for the second quarter of this year.

I don’t like being green/eco/ethical …

It’s just the way I am. So, I suppose, I do like being green/eco/ethical because I wouldn’t want to be the opposite.

But I find that that is how I’m labelled by others, and that’s a shame. It should be a minimum that people are green/eco/ethical. People should then be differentiated by their professional skills, attitudes and experience, their families and communities, their intellectual creations.

I don’t like being labelled as green/eco/ethical because it distracts from other things that define me. And it puts me in a certain group which is subject to so many prejudices, often not very flattering ones, that it reduces my opportunity to engage with everyone generally. It would be preferable to be defined by my family commitments, or my professional competencies and standards, or my creative approach to problem solving, or my willingness to share and compromise – all things that need work and development. Whereas being green/eco/ethical seems to be just the right way to be.

I hope that within a decade or two being green/eco/ethical will be a minimum standard for humanity and that people will be differentiated by more discerning metrics. That may seem naive in a world dominated by a culture of violence and greed. But that dominating culture is only held up by a small minority of people – our world leaders in whatever field you choose. Most people naturally tend to uphold values of care, honesty and modesty. It has been too easy for so many generations for immoral people to take advantage of others that we are left with a world dominated in media and culture by power and greed.

But that is changing. It must change for humanity and the biosphere to flourish. Humanity must exhibit the values of the majority; the values of compromise, sharing, love and compassion. Otherwise we will simply choose a virtual reality which can not actually be achieved. We will have eaten ourselves out of planet.

The Story of Stuff

A great video and website on our material global society. It is particularly good for education from children to adults. It is simple in its presentation but covers a lot of ground. Its focus is on the US, but its very applicable to all rich consumers. An excellent presentation of the problems with our consumer economy and a foundation for finding solutions.

It doesn’t really have time to present a solution. But it does suggest Another Way to live. And of course the system that replaces our current system of living must evolve according to the decisions of you and me.

Without doubt the new system will mean that we don’t have the jobs and lifestyle that we do today. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In fact, we can have a different lifestyle which doesn’t cost the earth AND which leaves us happy.

Though the website/video doesn’t tell us what the new world will look like, you can be sure that it will be more natural. And they do offer a list of 10 things to do another way.

To follow up on The Story of Stuff, read Cradle to Cradle, which shows how we can redesign our world from a linear consumption society to natural system without waste.  That deals with the physical and intellectual.  The spiritual change will come naturally from the good in us all.

You have to watch The Story of Stuff video.  It really is good. Download it here (54MB .mov file) or see it on The Story of Stuff website.

The United States of Advertising and our dysfunctional perspective

This funny article and video clip give a good insight in to the difficulty we all face of having a sensible and balanced view of our world.

The author mainly discusses the differences between advertising in the US and elsewhere, such as the promotion of prescription drugs – “if your doctor isn’t prescribing this, ask for it”!  But it also reflects on the psychological distortion of our perspective to which we are all subjected by advertising and movies.  Sure, there’s the educational benefit of TV and movies, but most viewers are so persuaded by the intense audio visual presentation that we just accept what we see as fact and reality, instead of the propaganda and fantasy that it is.  And because advertising and movies have become the principal conduit of education for most of us, the sad, dysfunctional distortion of our perspective becomes clear.

No wonder so many people are unhappy because they think TV is real and that they should be living like that – caked in cosmetics and living in a virtual reality, totally out of touch with nature.

Still a primitive world – AI report on human rights 2008

Amnesty International released their annual report on human rights.  It continues to paint a stark picture of humanity.  Violence is the culture of too many places, and of too many rich countries.  With the richest countries still failing to respect human life, despite teh intellect and wealth available to nurture, it remains a dream that humanity will respect nature enough to save itself.

(BBC report here.)

The uncomfortable view from the top

Today’s BBC article Thailand’s Wealthy Untouchables touched a nerve.  It describes the chasm between rich and poor and the failure of the rich to take responsibility for themselves.  It is interesting to see the emotions of the downtrodden becoming visible.  And it illustrates the motivation for changing my career a decade ago.

When I looked from the Bangkok penthouse window in 1998 on to the men in the neighbouring building site washing themselves in muddy water, it was plain that the rich are ignorant of the people they/we tread on to enjoy a comfortable life.  And as a financier watching my industry enjoy relative immunity from the pain of economic hardship, it motivated me to do things differently.  “Is it possible to balance economics and equity?” I wanted to know.

I had pursued a venture capital career since teenage years because I wanted to nurture SMEs and help build companies that were not only profitable, but ethical and comfortable places to work.  While I had not needed to compromise principles until then, it seemed, as I stepped up the ladder, that “pragmatism” was the convenience of removing emotion from business decisions.  Having helped manage venture capital funds and businesses in Thailand and the Mekong Region through the Asian Financial Crisis, it was galling to see new money arriving in Asia in 1998 and doing deals because of political connections rather than because they had industrial, financial or managerial competence.  Worse, those businesses with successful track records knew the futility of the deals that were being concocted by managers with little relevant experience.  But what was worse is that no one was trying to fix the system, to do business in a better way.  And that plainly included me, because I was a suit in a penthouse.  The view from the top proved that “noblesse pas oblige”; that is responsibility was not the price of power, in fact, it was irrelevant.  Making Money was all that mattered.  And it didn’t matter who was drinking dirty water, as long as it wasn’t you.

A decade later the ethical investing or SRI sector has grown to become a significant allocation.  But the unwinding of financial markets over the past 9 months also proves that little has changed in the penthouse of power, whether economic or political.  The people being hung out to dry as the subprime meltdown continues are those little people at the bottom of the pyramid.  The bailouts and extra liquidity s for the banks and brokers not those duped into signing a faustian deal by fiduciaries who did not know what they were selling.

Perhaps the story from Bangkok is a sign that there is pressure for equity from below.  But the reality is more sanguine: a completely different perspective is required from humanity if we are to live together happily.  And without that intention to share from the top, our consumption of the planet will be complete in a few short decades.  The view from the top remains uncomfortable and it’s more vertiginous than before.

We’re running out of planet …

Even the capitalists are beginning to ask if earth’s resources are now being exhausted: BusinessWeek’s article The Age of Scarcity asks if this is our Malthusian moment. They offer evidence to support that point of view but conclude that policy changes will allow new technologies to make resources go further. Unfortunately this is wishful thinking. The simple science is that there are too many people on the planet. The 10% at the top consume as much as the rest. The bottom 20% barely have enough to eat. The 10% at the top (yes, that means you too) waste 20-30% of what they consume simply through over eating, over heating/cooling and land fill.

The simple truth is that the sun’s energy drives the biosphere (the living part of this planet), but humanity consumes many times more energy than that absorbed by the biosphere. (This is because we consume fossil fuels – a store of millions of years worth of sun’s energy, which is irreplaceable. Humanity is eating the planet to death.) The only (possible) solution is to eat less, of everything (food, clothes, travel, stuff …). Coincidentally, it was a year ago that the same suggestion was made in Astraea’s Newsletter.

(More on the Malthusian moment is in the Newsletter Perspective of May 2007 and August 2007.)