Industrializing God

For thousands of years people were taught to respect and fear an omnipotent, omnipresent, invisible presence monitoring their movements, actions and thoughts. People paid the representatives of this mighty power monthly for the services they believed they could not live without. Communication beyond the immediate community passed through those paid to maintain the connection; translation, conciliation and billing were in their domain. Those who couldn’t pay, didn’t have to pay. Their provider was politically powerful.

The payments weren’t just for protection money and membership fees, people received far greater benefits. Their belief and support built awe-inspiring buildings with towering steeples functioning like lighthouses beckoning believers to a sense of safety. The organizations supported the most magnificent music, inspired people to be great examples for others, and were the principle force behind the evolution of communities. The collective experience gave people a sense of belonging.

Today we need reach no further than our pockets or night tables to confirm an omnipotent, omnipresent, invisible presence monitoring our movements, actions and thoughts. We pay the representatives of this mighty power monthly for the services we believe we could not live without. Communication within and beyond the immediate community passes through those paid to maintain the connection, arbitration is in their domain. Those who can’t pay, don’t get service and are subject to harsh judgment. Their provider is powerful.

Today we are able to construct communities with people we have never met and know no better than incidental characters in romance novels. If we are challenged or bored we can quit anytime with no sense of commitment; like putting down a book. Our avatars and personas, managed with loving care, perform across the globe as we remain home directing them – the painting in the attic as it were. The images we create can go decades with no signs of aging or advancement of any kind. We have unbridled access to a free universe of alphanumeric-graphical information laying out an imaginary stage and delivered to us in little packages as digestible as chunks of chapter and verse. We are able to source our political, financial and other difficult decisions in the safety of those we believe to be equally educated participants. We can submit our selected opinions at our peck and call with the comfort of knowing our persona can disappear instantly at the threat of change. As with dinner, we no longer concern ourselves with decisions, we just have them delivered. A box of prepared dinner costs so much more than the ingredients, professionally assembled opinions are free. Obviously gifts from the professionally thoughtful.

Beliefs have been replaced by facts, debate by argument. We quickly build our arguments with facts we select as if we are imagining members of an all-star sports team. We congregate with like-minded people to confirm our convictions and groom our wonderful, irrefutable facts. Life, it appears, is based on a single linear truth. A perfect oneness beyond the reaches of reality is at the core of our existential being. To be valid, facts – true facts, science-based facts – must be delivered in packets of information, bit by speeding bit. They must be the product of those widely ‘known of’ but seldom known; those who touch perfection but avoid the compulsory flaws of social existence. Other individuals have no direct access to wisdom or knowledge, they must be educated using the respected facts and issued certification by those issued certification earlier. Those who aren’t educated by the proper authorities are subject to the vagaries of personal observation, research, abstractions, experience and prone to develop an uninformed belief system veering away from the singular truth. Independent thinking is simply unprofessional and a burden on society.

Maybe the spirit within holds the reassuring wisdom we seek from those we have come to trust without knowing.

If I like poutine and plonk served at the Velvet Painting Restaurant and Art Emporium, that’s my choice and my business. Food is complex. Taste is complex. People are complex. Let’s not let the professionals ruin those unique relationships for profit. I don’t need a high priest of the mass-marketed brush and stroke foundation detailing the brilliant painted rendition of the natural symmetry of one hand clapping. Art shouldn’t require an explanation, it should be one. Applying the finest products oil companies can squeeze into tubes to a factory-stretched material with an industrial brush does nothing to bring out the inspiration trapped inside yet more abandon, rusty machinery. At least not in my opinion, regardless of what professional art critics tell me.

The next time a painter, writer, sculptor or musician calls themselves an artist, ask for a second opinion. As love and humour, art happens between people; not in them or to them. It’s each individual’s opinion and can’t be decreed by anyone. If a self-absorbed socialite told you she-he-it is a great lover would you buy it? Your choice is your choice, no explanation required.

In my experience financial advisors follow the market to clean up after the bull. The winners are in front of it watching people and developments, not numbers. Personal trainers direct individuals who mow their lawns with yard tractors on creative ways to get more exercise. Here’s some free advice, get a mechanic push mower. They provide meaningful exercise, are great for the environment, save lots of money and allow the neighbours to enjoy their gardens in peace. If you need the roar, get a CD and headset. If the lawn is too big; plant trees, bushes, anything but grass. Birds will love it, the air will improve and it could result in mindless mowing being replaced by rewarding outdoor hobbies, such as gardening.

From frozen baked potatoes (just put them in the oven at 450°F) to fresh garden salads packed in plastic in factories far, far away prepared foods have to be the most innovative products on the planet. The inspiration isn’t in the product, it’s in the marketing. From Betty Crocker to Snap, Crackle and Pop we have too long been taking nutritional advice from creations of advertising agencies. We don’t seek the advice of elves when buying a house, why food? Meanwhile our increasing cancer rates are enough to scare a person to death. To reduce relentless roadkill and pollution; buy locally produced food – fresh or frozen – grown in real soil. Maybe in your yard. By your family. No professional advice required.

Life coaches, wellness coaches, fashion coaches; is there any space left for individuals struggling to just be themselves and maybe make a little dinner? Reducing stress or recognizing your dreams takes time, personal time. Planning starts with a hypothesis, assumptions about the future. Do we ever question where that hypothesis originates, how it found us or why it is so popular with so many others at the same time? To answer that question I turned to my life coaches. They never say a word, they don’t have to, they say so much without them. Boon, being a cat, takes the night shift while Scallywag, being a dog, takes the day shift. They never actually give me answers to that or many other questions but they make them appear so trivial, so distant. Our future now unfolds into the present naturally and the past becomes an album we create for ourselves.

Life isn’t a professional competition, it’s a cooperative of amateurs. Relax and enjoy it.

Mapping for Peace

Stories are maps for the mind, each laying out a path for a different journey and destination from which we will set off again. They allow us to share a mind with people we will never meet while not necessarily understanding those we encounter every day. Sharing a mind provides an ideal, share our lives provides challenges to those ideals. By choosing our stories carefully we can gain more control over our own lives.

The most influential stories in the western world – regardless of our beliefs or a belief we don’t have any – are from the bible. From Genesis to Harry Potter the stories are always in play in one form or another. The original protagonist is a jealous, vengeful, authoritarian male figure1 demanding obedience. The antagonist, frequently displaying the physical characteristics of some of our fellow species, relies on reason and human weakness (often expressed as trickery) rather than threats of eternal damnation for not doing as told. Are there signs of such behaviour in society today? Has the Middle East, where the three principle variations of the Abrahamic texts evolved, been able to use them to build more just societies? That’s a story for others to consider.

The Greek gods have vibrant attributes. They are…well, gods; but there are a couple of thousand of them and they have ungodly failings. That gives them complexity; much for mortal minds to munch on. We can relate to their conundrums. We can identify. They want to do the right thing but life gets in the way. They struggle between their responsibilities and earthly desires thereby representing the infinite interplay of emotions traveling with us on our journey through life’s storms and sunny skies. Could they present a better story for our development?

Christianity has benefited from negotiating for place with Pagans, Druids, Indigenous Americans and others who see humans as part of nature rather than fitting ourselves and others up as masters of it. Shakespeare captured a great thought with “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players”. He implies a playwright but leaves the independent imaginations of the audience to create their own version in a delightfully democratic scratch of the pen.

How can the long recognized failings of hubris, vanity, and greed be publicly celebrated and rewarded in the select few as intelligence and success? From the divine right of kings through the divine right of corporate emperors we have accepted the dichotomy as perfectly reasonable. Such is the power of marketing – storytelling for the lesser good – from town criers to Internet evangelists the messages work because they fit with the stories we know to be gospel. A jealous god tells us jealousy is bad and we say ‘okay’. We dislike the ridiculously rich but continue to buy their paltry products and make them richer because their marketing fits the narrative we have been taught from birth.

It might be difficult to drum up a good collection of Druids and Pagans (other than instant experts between gigs) but there is an excellent supply of knowledgeable, intelligent people from cultures scattered all over the Americas who have been telling inspirational stories here for centuries. All inclusive stories. Stories we can all live with comfortably in solidarity with nature. Isn’t it time we stopped rallying and feuding over meaningless DNA differences and started celebrating the spirit we all share with all of life in all its beauty and variations?

1. The Lord is a jealous and avenging God;
the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath.
The Lord takes vengeance on his foes
and vents his wrath against his enemies:
Nahum 1:2

Has the pandemic put an end to the information age? Are we returning to quiet understanding? There is so much conflicting information vying for the spotlight the more stable and dependable progression of experience, reason and knowledge is once again appealing. Let’s face it, information is complementary to thought but a dreadful substitute for it. It’s not good to have people driving into lakes as the highly informed GPS directs. Or purchasing expensive kitchen equipment that won’t last as long as the spices in the cupboard; then repeating the process based on the latest corporate marketing data. Businesses shouldn’t be paying huge amounts for analysis divined from spurious data with no greater purpose than to protect corporate decision makers with insufficient experience, knowledge or intuition to do the job properly.

Big data is an update on human created deities; wisdom extracted is depended on high priests creating queries, interpreting the results and convincing others of the power of the process. Panning for understanding through floods of data generated in social media is to search for truth in billions of keystrokes of jabberwocky as people dream up their personas on the fly. The whole process lends ‘party of one’ new meaning as each participant sits alone with others. Insights are, at best, ephemeral and seldom challenged by reality.

With global economies in trouble, surviving businesses may have to create results rather than relying on huge marketing budgets and excuses. CEOs may have to turn to traditional business folks – farmers and fishers – for advice. Producers who produce and market their products have long relied on experience, reason and knowledge to return from a storm at sea or salvage a crop during a bad growing season. Excuses, no matter how brilliantly constructed or data-driven, don’t change a thing in their demanding environments. Smart business may see a correlation between a lifeless economy and a nor’easter at sea. Those who don’t adapt may never be seen again.

The rubber hits the road with autonomous cars. Millions of man hours and dollars, decades of development and relentless promotion has resulted in as many sightings of unicorns as information-based driver-less vehicles on standard roads and highways. Most of us quickly develop enough knowledge at a young age to drive without incident. IT has proven no challenge to human experience.

The alphanumeric-graphical model of reality has become so splintered and strayed so far from reality it is often a disadvantage. Information has been weaponized. We have become polarized by incomplete misunderstandings of the information we only know as quoted to us with all the verve of chapter and verse. We are convinced of what is right in many cases without knowing anything at all. We make our decisions based on the marketing of ideas rather than personal observation. We expect our politicians to do the same. They oblige.

It’s time to avoid seemingly inescapable media, witness the world first hand and make our decisions based on our observations, our experience, and our principles. It is time we put ourselves and our communities back in the driver’s seat.

Fake News

Fake news predates Gutenberg and the traditional masters of the craft – press barons. It’s easily accessible, competitive information that’s new. After town criers, national and local media picked up the mantle and told us what to think, we thought it, all was in order. There were no international interlopers presenting opposing views. Scientific studies to settle differences in personal choices or statistical analysis on completely subjective matters weren’t available to drive the decision process. The authority of the press was proof enough; critics handed down their decisions, international advertisers sat on the bench. Those too busy to follow the press religiously were left to discover and define the world through their own observations and thoughts. Today those independent thinker and autodidacts would be berated as uneducated. In the ongoing tradition of chapter and verse learning that seems about right.

In the west, thinking and decisions are to be left to properly accredited professionals who have met strict, time-tested standards developed in cathedral schools in the middle ages. Globally, it turns out there are no standards for acceptable standards. Anyone tucked away in the privacy of their home, well-protected from the vagaries of reality can now turn to the information highway for the most appealing and highly-marketed truths. We’ve come a long way since Plato’s cave – it’s now completely electronic.

A non-profit organization promoting a network of local community owned and operated social sites dedicated to ethics and service rather than profit seems timely. It would be an opportunity for people to engage in face-to-face socializing while connecting with other communities around the world. A global network of cooperatives working together internationally and locally independent to engage people of all ages in a celebration of their interests and concerns would be nice. It could serve people rather than serving up consumer’s private lives to corporate interests. No advertising, no tracking – just an exchange for those who long for an imaginative life rather than an imaginary one. A network of few rules governing local matters would be helpful … but enough rules to have the ability to quickly disassociate with any ‘community’ using the technology poorly or strictly for self-interest.
Modified browsers could be designed to maximize the ease and benefits of such a network as the designers would be leaders in the system rather than trying to follow it and protect people from it. A modifiable community package could be freely distributed to ensure everyone gets off to a common start. In my mind’s eye I see something along the lines of community organizations more prevalent in the past (scouts, 4H, Lions Clubs International) working for the common good. I would hope funding could be along the lines of PBS rather than too much influence from corporate sponsors. Such things as direct trade (coffee beans, bananas, cacao) and local farming cooperatives may be able to emulate the model separately as it develops. Good things but not the right place…

Silent Cure

When thing go very wrong in our lives, in our society, it may be time to look beyond our solutions, our standards, our professionals and even our beliefs to those who do not repeatedly face the same tribulations. If our world is devastated repeatedly in heinous social acts without apparent reason, can faulty reasoning itself be the problem?

What is noticeably different in people and communities not facing our overwhelming challenges? Do they live their lives contributing to the whole rather than trying to be masters of it? Do they have fewer professionals working out solutions and choreographing the future in accordance to the visions of untenable ideals? Do they value vital concepts more or material rewards less?

Can less guidance – be it advertising or professional – grant greater freedom of thought and nurture better mental health? Should we practice turning to ourselves for answers before calling in the professionals? Should we encourage such behavior in others while teaching social skills conducive to building a healthy, cooperative community? Have religious and highly-educated secular leaders of unquestionable authority strayed too far from humanity to be of value?

We are inundated with professional guidance from all angles and disciplines; do we question it adequately? Is their advice necessarily suited to our lives or is it entirely based on the lives of other individuals or the statistical abstracts of those lives? Are we straining the life out of our lives? Is our vision of personal success being eroded by those who give us answers to problems they must define before we can even suffer from them? Do we listen to ourselves too little? Are we haunted by a small, insignificant voice that is all that remains of us in a sea of conflicting information? Does that voice rage? Do we identify that voice as madness when it is out of sync with the decreed norm? Can we still identify our voice above the din of media and highly-informed jargon? Is there a part of us that needs to exist and be recognized at any cost? Can our children continue to survive the transformation from who they are to who they should be in a world ideally suited to those who seldom frequent this one?

Maybe a few moments of silence and uninformed thought might help everyone of us and in turn all of us.

We have been jettisoning our culture for decades without due care and attention. We have been identifying faults in every principle on which we stood and casting them out but how have we been replacing that foundation? Who is replacing that foundation? What mental bacteria are we hosting unsuspectingly? Whose words are the new gospel? It is as human to believe as it is to breathe. Who has been supplying our new found beliefs? What makes the new beliefs superior to the old ones? Defining one’s beliefs makes them subject to questioning and ridicule but what do we actually know about the less familiar replacements? Are the sources of funding (as illusive as gods to atheists) for the creation of information investing in the future or feeding the greed?

We have been modeling reality seriously with words, numbers, graphs and maps now for about the lifespan of a generation of old growth forest. Unfortunately, they too are being sacrificed to our holy explanations. The model in its present state has strayed too far from reality to feed the hunger consuming the world. Words fail us, numbers aren’t adequately explaining abstract ideas, graphs stagnating on a page don’t represent the activity of being. Information is being hollowed out and sold to us like industrial flour and we buy it as almighty truth; empty calories for the mind.

Secular priests, paid up and mortarboarded, highly informed on all things worldly are happy to inform us we will soon understand how time and space can exist at all without being infinite. (I have a nice logo for the perpetual motion machine as soon as it is completed.)

When someone tells you your beliefs are laughable, laugh. We all deserve a good laugh and a moment to reflect on life, our cobbled together explanations of it and the vain seriousness of our incomplete misunderstandings.

Political parties the world over have become collections of corporate lackeys whose singular interest in their constituents is their vote. Candidates with high ideals need not apply. If we are to survive this modern version of divine rule we must run independents in every constituency in every country. We have a brief opportunity to harness the anger before elections are reduced to nothing more than ceremony (Corporate right or corporate left rhetoric, it’s your choice). If we can’t respect ourselves and our families we can’t expect politicians to do it for us. It is time for us to stand up as communities and demand respect. The phrase is we the people, not the wee people. The days of politicians representing us were short and they are over. It is time to build from the ashes of our forests, the poisons or our water and the carcinogens of our air. We need people of our choosing representing us without a guiding hand. We need people who represent our principles, not harlots bought and sold in party packs. We need our communities to be represented by active and respected members of them with no other political interference.

Don’t join anything.

Don’t buy anything.

Don’t sell anything.

Just tell everyone

Harness the passion, run an independent.

It doesn’t cost a cent to put it in your email signature and only slightly more to print it on a shirt.

And don’t forget to run an independent.

Maniacal Merger

Imagine paying to take your family to a sporting event and having both teams gang up to pummel the audience for the pleasure of those in the box seats. The relationship of government and corporations looks increasingly like that. We discuss which is better suited to look after us without realizing they are a different face of the same beast. Corporations don’t give us jobs, governments give them our resources and they pay the least compensation possible to have it put in boxes so it can be shipped to countries with the lowest government controlled labor costs. Our forefathers would truly be amazed and then angered; they left countries with no respect for its citizenry and endured unfathomable hardships to give their future families a better chance. We spent their life’s work and dreams in a sea of entertainment, electronic trinkets and virtual food in pretty boxes (which could explain the loss of critical thinking).

Those who spend their lives in pursuit of money and power don’t do it so they can squander it on our lot. If we want a bearable future for our communities and their members we will have to act as communities – those we presently turned to will be against us every step of the way. Their power is the power we give them with every purchase and every vote. When we don’t buy locally we pay governments and banks for use of their money and corporations for the labor of our underpaid and poorly treated competition. Now we want to add cell phones to the payment mix so the telcos can join the others in the payment profit stream. Are we so rich we can afford to pay the lot of them for unnecessary services reluctantly rendered?

The actions of those who have made greed their god are as understandable as they are for any addiction – completely self-serving. The complacency and willingness of the rest of us to abandon the dreams of our past and our future to accommodate them is incomprehensible. Our complete lack of applied concern has divided us from our ancestors and our children and their children. How bad does it have to get before we talk to the neighbors or support the local farmer? By continuing to overlook the obvious now we are assuring our values will be overlooked for generations to come.