Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Requiem - Stop Buying Hope

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 Hope.  What is about humans that so desperately want to cling to hope? 

That’s right.  Put down the chocolate bunny.  Back away from the brightly colored eggs.  Put a wrinkle or two into your frilly spring dress bought special for today.  Get serious.  What’s the deal with hope? 

For starters, it’s your mind playing a sinister seduction trick on you.  You’re telling yourself that there’s another condition – a better job, a more loving family, a nicer house, a purpose for… uh…. (more on that later) – that is remote from the present.  And isn’t it somewhat ironic that our perception gets objectively overridden by the exact same set of neurons which shape our view of the present and then convince us that an indeterminant, unobservable “other” will be “better” than the fully apprehendable “now”?

And why did I pick today to write this post?  Quite simple.  Because the power of myth – the animating impulse for judging the present to be inferior to some other, some later, some “out there” – is enormously animated by the way we tell the story of Easter.  And don’t think you can dodge the bullet my Jewish friends – Passover is no different.  Remember, we got to Egypt because Joseph was exiled by his family and sent to a far-off country where he provisioned the very family that rejected him!  Sure, we can all remember the story of slavery but we assiduously deleted the story about how we got there.  And a few weeks into 40 years, remember how we longed for the good ole days in Egypt?  But I digress.

Hope exists because we are taught to want.  Want exists because we are conditioned to compare.  And all of these dynamics are fundamentally pathologic because they ALWAYS rob the present of its completeness, its adequacy, yes, even its abundance.  In mathematical terms, hope is the imaginary error in our unexplained variance.  And more insidiously, it’s an admission that we’ve elected contempt for the present over our unfounded notion that we could concoct a “better”.  And how seductive is that?  We get to “believe” (once again, a self-referential delusion) that we can architect a more palatable scenario than the whatever situation we’re in at the moment. 

I love the Easter story that the Christian faith doesn’t explain very well.  It’s the one of Mary Magdalene.  Yeah, that Mary.  The one who was living her grief, sorrow, love, and passion when she went to visit the tomb of the man she loved and followed.  Sanctioned history approximates her pouring perfume on her beloved’s feet before the crucifixion.  And on that morning, she’s just doing what she knows to do as an expression of love – coming with fragrances to anoint her beloved once again.  She’s not hoping.  She’s not believing.  She’s doing.  And on the way to the tomb, sure she’s probably thinking, “Why did he have to be so damn stubborn?”  “Why did he have to piss so many people off?”  “Why couldn’t we have just lived a normal life like everybody else?”  “Why couldn’t he have seen how much I loved him?”  “Why wasn’t my life good enough to convince him to stay and let go of the mission?”  Cut the pious crap.  She wasn’t singing Easter songs.  She was crying.  She was mad.  But she was doing what she knew how do do – show love.  And when she found the empty tomb of the story, she even turns to Jesus and thinks he’s a gardner.  It’s not until he says her name – “Mary” – that she recognizes the man that just three days earlier was the center of her world.  And there’s the problem with the mind that manufactures “hope”.  It doesn’t slow down and recognize that the impulse that animates the unconsidered reflex of hope could be the very same impulse to say, “slow down and observe.”  “You’re missing something that’s standing right beside you.”

The Easter story is as much about this tender reunion as it is about death and life.  And we miss the point when we fail to see that in the sanctioned story, the Jesus who could fly, walk through walls, appear and disappear, that Jesus, stayed at the tomb to meet Mary.  No one talks about this.  Did he hope she would come?  Did he believe she would come?  Nope.  He knew that Mary wouldn’t miss a chance to anoint him and he waited for her to come.  Easter is NOT a story about hope.  Easter is not a story about belief.  It’s a story about certainty.

Now by now you’re probably thinking – what’s this got to do with economics.  Well here’s the dirty little secret.  Hope, want, and belief are GREAT for business.  Relationships end, great!  Hire lawyers to get what you deserve, counselors, therapists.  Drink.  Drown your sorrows.  Buy new clothes.  Change everything to rid your world of those memories.  Take down his pictures.  Need the house or car, great!  Spend more time at the office, drown yourself in so much work that you have to eat out, fly, drive, stay in hotels.  Today sucks!  Great!  We’ve got a pill for that, we’ve got the dream vacation that will give you all you can eat and drink all-inclusive.  This incarnation is tough.  Great!  We’ve got a heaven that’s waiting for you as long as you worship, restrain, conform, tithe, and repress.  Oh, and that should do wonders for your emotional well-being so you consume to drown out the scarcity and repression-induced lack of fulfillment.  Whether it’s the actual lottery or the metaphoric one, consumption is more fueled by hope of a better (experience, life, status, reputation, appearance, you name it) than it is based on an adequate present. 

When someone is hawking “hope” (or its ugly ephemeral cousins faith and belief), there’s a pretty high probability that there’s a present reality that is being neglected.  The promoters of hope are lacking a fulfilled power illusion.  The promoters of faith are lacking the discipline and vulnerability of deep and abiding inquiry into the knowable and the ease of unknowing.  The adherents to belief are lacking the certitude that life is an ever-present unfolding which is complete in each of its moments.  Not surprisingly the stories and myths that give us these sugar-coated placebo realities – whether it’s Paradise, Avalon, or any other distant “Bliss” – are told by aspirants, not by those who truly live.  The Arthurian ideal was to live in a way that modeled fully living.  Our addictive, consumptive, void-filling existences are merely indictments of an illusion created by the story-teller – not the protagonists. 

So my Easter celebration is an acknowledgement of the pain of endings.  Sure I had my dose of hopes and what-ifs.  But more importantly, this requiem is about allowing that grief to be seen for what it was – a projection of my own blindspots and senses of inadequacy – which can now vanish in the sunrise of a day which is met with simple gratitude for what is.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.  Just is.  And yes, I’m going to have some chocolate and while I’m eating it, I’ll give thanks for my dear friends in Papua New Guinea who grow, ferment, and roast it so that I can have the smile it brings to my face.  Thanks Mama T.  And Happy Easter.



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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Lend Me Your Ears

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The evil men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones.
So let it not be with David Rockefeller.

On the 20th of March, 2017, David Rockefeller died.  One hundred and one years, 9 months, and 8 days.  He is one of the few people about whom it can be said that he died amassing approximately a dollar for every second of his life (3,211,660,800 seconds).  I had the good fortune of interacting with the Rockefeller family as well as a number of their colleagues and advisors around the world – most notably in the Middle East, Russia and China.  And together with a few of his living colleagues, I have observed the life of David with considerable intrigue.

David’s passing marks the convergence of a rather ironic series of events.  In one of the most frequently recounted quotes attributed to David Rockefeller in 1991, the media’s discretion celebrated in his aspiration to a “supra-national” “world government” was the same media whose indiscretion and breathless incredulity led to our current political environment.  Had the media exercised more “discretion” we might have avoided confirming David’s warning that, “the supra national sovereignty of an intellectual elite and world banker is surely preferable to the national auto-determination practiced in past centuries.”  Recent political events across the globe have demonstrated the effect of a political system accommodating an unconsidered, Twitter-feed-attention-span electorate.  His recommendation may indeed be ill-conceived but the current alternative isn’t demonstrably better.

It is David’s speech to the United Nations Ambassador’s Dinner on September 14, 1994 (he starts speaking at 1 hour and 45 minutes into the C-SPAN video) that captures my attention as I reflect on his life.  This man of the world, this globalist both revered and feared by many, based his world view on a very simple premise – industrial scarcity.  And with a last name like Rockefeller, those who clamor loudest about the New World Order and the ills of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Bilderberg Group or the Trilateral Commission allow their frenzy to blind them to the wisdom deployed by Mr. Rockefeller.  I find it amazing that those who rail against the system that allegedly “doesn’t work” fail to see the elegance of a system that, in fact, is working precisely the way it was designed to work!  The 99%ers lose credibility when they don’t carefully examine the engineering of the system that has been working since the mid-1800s for the very few who architected it.  And more importantly, conflict, strife, and immeasurable energy poured into conspiracies, diatribes, and marches not only achieves no salutatory effect – in fact it energizes the very machine that is the purported enemy.

Anyone familiar with the Breathing Enterprise and Integral Accounting framework can examine the genius of the universe effectively deployed by the few that sought to control the many – with great success.  They not only were masters of alchemy:  oil (commodity) into banking (Chase Manhattan Bank – money); government social order built on fear of communism (custom & culture) into the social technologies of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission, and countless other cover operations (technology); and unique access to information through the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and the CIA (knowledge) into the massive perpetuation machine of advisory roles that became agencies of control from Kissinger and Carter right up until the present (well-being). 

A careful examination of the Rockefeller Foundation reveals the mitochondrial transformation of the perpetual motion machine which enjoyed the aspirational fantasy status in an enraptured public eye while fueling the sense of not-quite-good-enough – the most insidious form of human scarcity of all – among the very same population. 

David Rockefeller was a study in calculating equanimity.  He was a master of rising above duality.  He was an analog man in an increasingly digital world and he used his ascended position to achieve remarkable feats.  And as a case study, we fail to include the abundance of insight available to us if we don’t respect and deeply understand what made the man and his mission work so effortlessly.  David was, to so many, a possible teacher of how systems can work.  And rather than critique his morality (or lack thereof, depending on one’s world view), I would heartily commend learning from the man and his method.  For if we seek to form a More Perfect Union – a system that works for all of us a bit more – we must carefully study models that work (regardless of their motives) and take the best lessons from them to build a brighter future.  Denigrating and judging merely dismisses the abundance that eluded David in his life.  Let it not be thus with us.

Rest in peace. 



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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Willfully Practicing Ignorance

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Monday, February 27, 2017 will be a day I remember for a long time.  The truth is I remember most days but Monday was special.  In partnership with my team at M·CAM and growing number of the leadership at CNBC, my Innovation Alpha-based CNBC IQ100 powered by M·CAM U.S. equities index was celebrated with two articles and three on-air segments.  And with good reason.  The CNBC IQ100 powered by M·CAM has done something that hasn’t been seen since 1954.  It grew over 40% in a 12-month period.  Far exceeding the “Trump-rally” of the S&P, NASDAQ, and Dow Jones Industrials, our Innovation Alpha method continues to demonstrate the unique insight that M·CAM provides the market and shows that by measuring the quality of corporate innovation, far greater investment returns are accessible in the equity markets.  That’s good news, right?

Well, not so fast.  It was 1999 – nearly 20 years ago – when I first demonstrated the algorithm that powers our current market methodology.  By 2000, Inc., Forbes, and the Wall Street Journal had published articles about our methodology.  The U.S. Senate Banking, Finance, Government Oversight and House Judiciary and Commerce Committees had all heard that there was a way to reliably measure innovation in American industry.  By April of 2001, our methodology had been demonstrated around the world in the EC21 Conference in Europe to the State Council of China.  The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) spent weeks in our offices in Charlottesville and in meetings in Connecticut to embrace the rationale of our methodology in accounting standards now promulgated around the world.  But on February 27, 2017 my index out-performance is a result of one thing: willful ignorance.

I’m puzzled over the monotony of my last several decades of experience.  As evidenced by the CNBC IQ100 and its celebration on Monday, making qualitative measurements of corporate innovation and its use affords reliable market visibility on value.  Where researchers like Dr. Hall, Dr. Shapiro, Dr. Lemley and countless other economists tried to understand innovation through quantitative lenses, M·CAM always held that the intent – not the artefact – of the innovation impulse was relevant in understanding innovation.  And intent can be proactive and constructive or can be reactive and destructive with respect to value.  Rather than adopting a predatory instinct to exploit this insight exclusively for our commercial advantage, M·CAM maintained over 1/3 of its corporate activities in Innovation Literacy – the explicit sharing of our capabilities with others.  Periodically it’s been welcome – primarily in countries seeking to build their economic capabilities.  Frequently it’s been rejected or ignored by G-20 countries bent on profligate spending on defense, infrastructure, energy, health-care, and telecommunications.  That’s right, when the public’s money is being spent – reliable, qualitative assessment of innovation is unwelcome.  That feels wrong, doesn’t it?  Shouldn’t public procurement concern itself with the quality of the technology it procures?

Not so fast.  The problem governments have with reliable, qualitative assessments of innovation is that it makes occult patronage far less viable.  If best quality or best service was the mandate, precision matters.  But when officials in government directly benefit from influence afforded by incumbent multi-national companies while in office and land in cushy Government Relations roles in those same corporations upon their departure from Public “Service”, pointing out material misrepresentations is unwelcome.  And this is as prevalent in Australia and the U.S. as it is in Papua New Guinea and Somalia.  Over the next 10 years, Australia’s government choices will cost its citizens an avoidable loss of over $50 billion.  In Papua New Guinea, reckless financing of oil and mineral projects will lead the country into functional insolvency despite its vast wealth of resources.  In the U.S., President Trump’s commitment to defense and infrastructure will lead to an annual loss of over $750 billion in inefficient spending.  The EU will pour billions of euros into “innovation” funding programs which have already been demonstrated to merely re-distribute money – not create industries or wealth.  These governments all know it… and continue the status quo.

How did we get here?  The answer is quite simple: surrogacy.  When ordinary citizens acclimate to the notion that “someone else” needs to take care of them, the ceding of individual accountability and discernment supplies the power leakage that accumulates in bureaucracies.  This power overwhelms the public service intentions of officials who realize that they are the gate-keepers of the public treasury.  And patronage (in the best of cases) and graft and corruption (in the most common cases) are born.  But remember, corruption is a derivative not of bad individual actors.  Rather it is the consequence of mass abdication of personal accountability and responsibility.  When We The People acknowledge that WE are responsible for our own actions and our destinies, than our interest in remaining engaged and informed goes up.  When we surrogate our well-being to anonymous public sector agencies, we fuel the abuse that besets us.

Over the coming weeks, Inverted Alchemy is going to take on a new form.  You, the readers of this blog, are going to help select the themes you would like to learn more about.  I’m going to listen and respond.  Since 2008, I’ve tried to point out what I think matters.  Now it’s your turn.  And together, maybe we can begin reclaiming a bit of our accountability and in so doing Create a More Perfect Union.



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Sunday, February 5, 2017

Working Class Illusions...Australia Style

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Over the past few months, I’ve been exposed to the Australian Technical and Further Education (TAFE) system.  In a class-based, caste-inspired social engineering experiment, Australia took Adam Smith’s division of labor principle to the extreme insuring that the erudite universities preserve their fraternity of elitism and broad irrelevance (Australia ranks last on the OECD’s measure of industrial engagement with universities – behind Mexico!) while the “working class” are afforded sufficient skills to serve as grist for the industrial mill.  In 1946, Sir Eric Ashby callously observed:

“Here is the criterion for determining what subject or parts of a subject should be taught at a university. If the subject lends itself to disinterested thinking; if generalisation can be extracted from it; if it can be advanced by research; if in brief, it breeds ideas in the mind, then the subject is appropriate for a university. If, on the other hand, the subject borrows all its principles from an older study (as journalism does from literature, or salesmanship from psychology, or massage from anatomy and physiology) and does not lead to generalisation, then the subject is not a proper one for a university. Let it be taught somewhere by all means. It is important that there should be opportunities for training in it. But it is a technique, not an exercise for maintaining intellectual health; and the place for technique is a technical college.”

“If it breeds ideas in the mind”!  As though a plumber may not be as likely to encounter a notion of genius as an ivory tower ensconced academic!  Really?  And the Committee on Australian Universities in 1957 warned of the risk of any technical institution daring to venture into the realm of the Academy as they would present a risk to the “urgent national need” for skilled and semi-skilled labor.   In 1899, the State of Victoria was the home of the first inquiry of the Fink Commission (named for Theodore Fink) which sought to improve the quality of the mechanical and technical training efforts of the 19th century.  In what was to overhaul both primary and secondary education (as well as reify the divide between university and vocational tertiary education), the turn of the century brought with it the “development” imperative to insure that sufficient tradesmen were available to meet the requirements of the industrial and mining mandates of the country.  In short, with the exception of the University elite, education is a means to a “gainful” employment for the industrial, social, or economic mandate determined by…, well, no one is really quite sure.  At no point is the individual considered relevant in setting the purpose for their industry – they are just expected to rent their labor to whatever industry the establishment deems relevant.

I am fundamentally concerned with the absence of a meaningful critique of the theoretical underpinnings of the Adam Smith and Marxian argument which merely recites the dogma of labor vs. elite.  From the fourth century BC forward, the notion of division of labor has been rooted in the meeting of sufficiency at a caloric level (consumption to combustion / extinction).  Ibn Khaldun would be appropriately referenced in his work Muqaddimah in which he discussed the communal requirement for division of labor.  Arguing that division of labor allows for the needs of a community to be met more efficiently if tasks are divided than if individuals have sole responsibility for all necessities, Khaldun anticipated the rise of the industrial model in the 14th century.  Focusing on Smith and Marx orthodoxy (not to mention Alexis de Tocqueville, Immanuel Kant and others) leads to the reification of the linear notion of production as a means to consumption and extinction without addressing the underlying moral constructs surrounding:

  • A.     Replenishment of matter and energy rather than the extractive / extinction utility;
  • B.     Consideration of who sets the priority for what is manufactured and to what end;
  • C.      Purposeful despotism when labor is allocated against priorities set by hierarchy into which choice labor allocation has no correlation to real or perceived need; and,
  • D.     Notions of equivalence to those things that do not serve a consensus “need” but rather are seen as standards of “development” or artifacts of “status”.

When one is building a ship or a road, technical precision is the difference between fit-for-service and structural failure.  When one is dressing a wound, changing a bed-pan, welding a steel frame, designing a house – some standard of care is essential.  And I’ve been engrossed in reading what is required to meet the technical education standards for these and hundreds of other careers.  At the same time, I’ve been examining the University end of town.  The profligate elitism that permeates the dichotomy between tertiary education in Australia borders on the comical.  I’ve made the very recent mistake of reading doctoral dissertations from several of Australia’s leading universities and what I find amazing is the degree to which they are largely over-weight literature review and underweight substantive contribution to advancing the state-of-the-art.  Ironically, Australian universities measure their academic relevance in large part on the number of times their work is cited paying no attention to whether their work is being celebrated or impugned.  All publicity is good – apparently. 

In short, neither end of the social engineering experiment is serving the public good or global relevance.  But the failure is one that transcends the current social discourse.  The root concern is that there is no clear vision – no organizing principle – around which the industry of education can rally.  Complacency fueled by the illusion of over two decades of economic growth without a recession has led to a generation of politicians and civil servants who merely recite their mantras about jobs, innovation, and growth, without a single clue as to what any of these mean in a global market context.  Australia will be spending over $120 billion dollars on defense over the budgeted future without a clear doctrine justifying what it’s actually defending and against whom these defenses are aligned.  Australia will be building infrastructure for growth but cannot articulate what purpose this growth will serve.  And nowhere in the dialogue is any recognition that Australia – a net consumer of other people’s ideas, services, and programs – could invert that dynamic and become the world’s leader in the unleashing of innovation from across the globe. 

What does this mean?  First we must examine the core capabilities of the fully functioning education ecosystem.  As the abject failure of pundits and analysts have shown in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, if you measure consensus assumptions, your conclusions are entirely wrong.  In 2006 and 2007, I correctly described the conditions and the timing of the Global Financial Crisis in 2008[1].  Was I forecasting an outcome using predictive analytics?  No.  I was merely observing irrefutable documented behaviour in an occult industry and critiquing the system level convergence that was certain.  From mass pandemics (the Asian bird flu) to resource shocks to social paroxysm (the Egyptian multi-coups), the “trained” and the “expert” are left agape when linear regression behaviour is punctuated by disequilibrium events.  Regrettably, education’s obsession with the scientific method have taught regression but have assiduously ignored its dominant fallacy – that we know the variables that matter and we recognize that which is significant.  Elementary statistics teach us that interrogatory inquiry presupposes:

  • 1.      Known variables;
  • 2.      Known scale in which these variables operate;
  • 3.      And Measurement Error.
Interestingly, the same discipline teaches us the error of untested assumptions about normalcy, kurtosis, skewness, and orthogonality.  However, the modern education system and the scientific method upon which it is built fails to account for these in every instance diminishing the efficacy of social and technical interventions.  We are not as much facing a 4th Industrial Revolution[2] as we are a Scientific Renaissance.

And while the exceptional “successes” of modernity – from Bill Gates to Mohammed Yunnus to Eleanor Ostrom – have changed the scale, scope and impact of incumbent modes of human interaction, they have not fundamentally ushered in new modes of thinking, examining and engaging a world in a regenerative and productive way.  At the margins, Hunter Lovins and others have pointed to an opaque future in which biomimicry opens new design and engineering consideration.  This is an important harbinger of humanity’s future.  But for global citizenship to be possible with as many at 10 billion inhabitants (or more) on the Earth, integral isomorphism will be required.

What is Integral Isomorphism?  Ironically, it’s quite simple.  It’s the way the world and the cosmos works.  From intergalactic conductive matter, to light and magnetism, to photosynthesis to mitochondrial respiration within our cells, observable principles are evident in unconstrained fractals and these principles underpin the animating impulses of relativity, thermodynamics and quantum mechanics.  Unconcerned with linear duality, integral isomorphism engages persistent, generative, infinitely orthogonal dynamics of activation, transmission and perpetuation where systems are regenerative at every level.  In other words, to be a productive citizen in the 21st century, a person has to expand their sensory ability, entertain divergent contextual perspectives, synthesize and integrate multiple perspectives and narratives with tolerance, see the costs and benefits of all actions to all actors within the ecosystem, select appropriate tools to form reproducible experiences, and optimally engage rather than consume the environment in which we live. 

For education to be relevant in the 21st century, it must be emancipated from the linear industrial construct of creating rent-based industrial employment and social pacification and liberated to enable citizens to productively engage in valuable pursuits at the individual and collective level.  This is not an indictment of industry – it is the recognition that as industry is already in the throes of transformation, so too must education transform. 


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.[1] Martin, David E. “Social Contingent Liabilities and Synthetic Derivative Options” EUPACO-2, Brussels.  15, May 2007.
[2] Schwab, Klaus.  The Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Alternate Facts: I’m RIGHT…right?

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Just a quick observation:  I’m deeply intrigued at the number of people who occupied Wall Street, protested the secrecy which shrouded the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, and railed against Guantanamo who are now longing for the murderous call-it-terror-so-you-can-drone-execute-it regime of President Obama.  Giving him the aspirational Nobel Peace prize only to see the expansion of citizen surveillance, contracted murder by remote control, and other horrific acts of treachery hardly validates those who now lament the transparent inhumanity of the Trump Administration.  The America that Trump promised to “Make Great” is an America that is illiterate, Evangelical, and “believes” as their primary source of moral confidence.  When the Prince of Peace is white, white-robed, wearing the 70s hippy length hair or nailed to a cross – it’s no surprise that his sycophants will celebrate the denial of human rights to brown-skinned immigrants from Palestine who were trained in Egyptian schools!  Tragically, if you get this last line as a joke, you’re admitting a literacy that most of the Trump electorate will find too complex to grasp.

I grew up in a world of RIGHT.  There was a RIGHT way to think, act, live, engage in the world.  And RIGHT was curiously defined by the selective application of Biblical literalism… almost.  Never mind that the Bible itself was codified by the same church that declared modern-day Evangelicals heretics and burned them at the stake, drowned them in rivers, and subjected them to being drawn and quartered.  But “divine inspiration” – the same justification that fuels all modern fear-based inhumanity – somehow makes this group of white men sitting in the Mediterranean breezes RIGHT.  I could be told the “truth” at church on Sunday about imaginary rules made up by a zealot but would be punished for lying about what I saw or imagined.  RIGHT had to be enforced through violence, separation, and isolation. 

To say I didn’t fit in is the understatement.  I was advised against living the way I chose to live.  I was warned about the evils of associating with the WRONG people.  And off I went and did it anyway.  And against the backdrop of RIGHT, I’ve just crossed a WRONG chasm of my religious upbringing from which there’s no return.  I’ve spent the last year formalizing my several year estrangement and separation from my wife of nearly 30 years – a process now finally, mercifully completed.  Ironically, I am doing the “RIGHT” thing by doing the “WRONG” thing rightly!  Countless women have surrounded the woman I loved and have encouraged her to “stand up for herself” and not tolerate my behavior.  Ironically, none of these women – nor any but a few men – saw the life I gave in service to a person who I chose to love and protect.  What’s RIGHT is their indignation.  And now her friends have the facts they need to be RIGHT!  I’m the man that “left”.  That’s all her lawyer and her friends need to know despite her reported vain efforts to explain that they may not be integrating all the facts.  Whether it’s the perversion of divorce or the building of a wall on the Mexico border – the certitude that comes with RIGHT encourages the mindless acquiescence to a consensus of fear, pain, and separation.  No dialogue required – we “know” what is RIGHT.

Being RIGHT always comes at a cost.  By definition RIGHT dictates a duality in which someone or something “else” is “wrong”.  RIGHT is incapable of surviving on its own as it takes energy to maintain the vigilance around those who would challenge or the evidence that would contradict.  Not surprisingly, RIGHT invites conflict with others who hold their alternative views of RIGHT.  I’ve been intrigued at how many narratives of all-powerful divinities apparently need ardent zealots to keep their worship obsessions sated and their egos inflated enough to stay at their helium-induced remoteness.  And RIGHT conveniently obviates the need for that inefficiency called thoughtful conversation and dialogue.  RIGHT also extinguishes the impulse to gratitude.  Because with RIGHT comes its evil step-child, EXPECTATION.  When the “right thing to do” becomes the “expected thing”, callous neglect for humanity is just around the corner.

Donald Trump’s exercise of Executive Order is precisely what adherents to RIGHT desire.  It’s far easier to have dictatorial paternalism than to engage in the messiness of thoughtful inquiry.  However, like so many sociopaths before, Donald Trump is playing his hand too fast.  Because mobs of the RIGHT can get down-right vicious when they stop being pandered to by their overlord.  “Hail Messiah” can become “Crucify” in about 3 days, I think.  Abortion and immigration in one week?  Seriously!  This should have been a first 100-days gig – not a first week.   Because before long, President Trump is going to have to start doing things that are WRONG.  When is an ex-wife or girlfriend going to do the tell-all (maybe even including a salacious abortion story)?  Does anyone actually believe that a paid non-disparagement is anything other than the opening bid for a publisher?  And when he does, the knives that will be sharpened on his hate-filled friction may very well turn against him.  The half-life of RIGHT is only as long as it satiates the ravenous appetite for hatred, fear, and a sense of disempowered victimization.  But like every other parasite, RIGHT will consume its host and by the time the host knows it’s been had, it moves on leaving an empty shell behind. 

What does the notion of RIGHT have to do with the economy?  Well, the answer is quite simple.  Economies are built on the exchange of value and, at its core, or modern sense of economic value relies on “a willing buyer and willing seller being informed of all the facts.”  Now, to be certain, no one reading this blog has been fully informed.  We know, for example, if you are reading this on an Apple device (computer or iPhone) that the metals contained in your product may be sourced from areas of active genocide as Apple continues to enjoy the dubious commitment not to sign pledges to source metals ethically.  And frankly, if you are among my Apple-using friends, you probably don’t give a shit about that!  You can be informed and, even with the information, you don’t care that a 12-year-old is packing an AK-47 and learning to rape and maim so that you can have longer battery life and faster video!  You can watch Oliver Stone’s Snowden and be indifferent that Google and Facebook are overtly and covertly used by the CIA and countless clandestine organizations to map and target you as a potential threat as long as you get “free wi-fi” at Starbucks.  In the interest of saving a buck, you’re willing to shop at Walmart paying no heed to the carnage it has done to local community businesses.  And frankly, informing yourself would actually take effort, time, and discernment.  After all, how do you know what is RIGHT?  Am I right?

Let me propose an alternative narrative.  I’ve spent my life traveling the world connecting people who didn’t have the means or the opportunity to connect.  From the steppes of Mongolia to leprosy communities in Nepal, from volcanic ridges in Papua New Guinea to sweltering monsoons in India, from laboratories in Moscow to Presidential palaces in Iran, I’ve been able to carry perspective around the world and from that weave an elastic, resilient network of humanity.  Vodka bottles became greenhouses, torpedo tubes became essential oil distillation chambers, nuclear technologies were transformed into medical diagnostics not because it was the RIGHT thing to do.  It was the suitable thing to do in a fully informed context.  That fully-informed context could only be accessed by genuinely loving and respecting the divergence perspectives that make life interesting. 

What I found on that journey is that in every instance where my life has made an impact – it’s never been because I was RIGHT.  It’s because I was there and in fellowship with others who were also there.  Whether its Trump and his wall or a divorce lawyer and her defense of a woman against me – I’m equally un-phased.  Both survive when they’re fed fear.  Both thrive on “alternate facts”.  And neither can evidence a better world rendered by their actions.  Thankfully, I have been privileged to see the fruit borne of a different approach.  One that presumes that eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is just eating fruit!  Talking snakes and fiery sword-wielding angels are merely distractors to see if we’ll fall for the binary illusion.  Trees are just trees.  Gardens include weeds.  And being naked doesn’t mean that anyone has to be ashamed.  When you start your cosmology with an imposed lie of separation being RIGHT is the only solace you can hope for.  But it’s an itchy fig leaf and it makes your bits scratchy.  I’ll choose life’s alternate facts.



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Saturday, January 14, 2017

In Memoriam: Homage to Martin Luther King, Jr.

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“One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change.  Every society has its protectors of the status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions.  But today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and face the challenge of change.  The large house in which we live demands that we transform this world-wide neighborhood into a world-wide brotherhood.  Together we must learn to live as brothers or together we will be forced to perish as fools.” 

“We must work passionately and indefatigably to bridge the gulf between our scientific progress and our moral progress.  One of the great problems of mankind is that we suffer from a poverty of the spirit which stands in glaring contrast to our scientific and technological abundance.  The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually.” 

“Every man lives in two realms, the internal and the external.  The internal is that realm of spiritual ends expressed in art, literature, morals, and religion.  The external is that of complex devices, techniques, mechanisms and instrumentalities by means by which we live.  Our problem today is that we have allowed the internal to become lost in the external.  We have allowed the means by which we live to outdistance the ends for which we live.”

-        Martin Luther King, Jr.  Where Do We Go From Here:  Chaos or Community, pg. 172-173. 1967.


Social responsibility – today’s sterilized proxy for morality – has become a euphemism for the celebration of not doing what shouldn’t have been done in the first place.  In a world defined by Kellogg School of Management’s Alfred Rappaport and GE’s Jack Welch’s perversion of “shareholder value” – the notion that enterprise should seek to maximize the distribution of wealth from effort to the rentier of capital – it’s no surprise that exceptional behavior is to acquiesce to the notion that enterprise may not harm at the margins and be thus acknowledged as “responsible”.  Gone is a standard that presumes that, at its core, human endeavor could be built with an exoenergetic-moral structure in which accretive human value is the core mandate for endeavors and that premium non nocere (Do No Harm) is the standard rather than the marginal exception. 

Together with my colleagues Bob Kendall, Charles Way, Lee Evans, Pam Cole, Colleen Martin, Aditya Bindra, and Hayden Luse, my inaugural efforts to form America’s first large cap Diversity Fund have been quite informative.  We’ve encountered numerous groups who trade on diversity as a moniker for inclusion.  I was intrigued when I read the criteria for Thomson Reuters’ Diversity & Inclusion Index.  Diversity & Inclusion scores favor companies with: a) fewer discrimination, harassment, wage or other published controversies; b) diverse employment meaning percentage of women employed and gender and ethnic board diversity; c) existence of policies for inclusion of flexible working hours and environments for persons with family, health or disability needs; and, d) inclusive training programs.  All 24 variables are laudable and basic.  But at no point does the D&I Index achieve a value accretive social outcome to advance humanity.  It simply states that companies would be well served to recognize humans as humans (tragically necessary, but not value accretive).  Now, the great news is that the Thomson Reuter’s D&I Index has modeled performance indicating the top 100 companies that score highly on their rating also out-perform their large cap broad market index.  In short, being human outperforms operating in callous disregard for humans.

And this is an important step forward.  I applaud Thomson for using their platform to promote humanity.  On September 29, 2016 I wrote a post Racism in America – Let JusticeRoll Down.  In it I discussed our formation of an investment fund that would carry forward our long-standing work around getting serious about racial dissonance in America.  What we’re seeking to do with our PB Diversity product is to invest in companies that are building Diversity owned and managed businesses.  And as our fund manager itself is also diversity owned and managed (women and minorities across the organization), we are living the same values we promote. 

We’re taking a step beyond the notion that the absence of bad behavior is a cause for celebration or accolade.  Our commitment is to invest in companies who source at least 10% of their supply chain from minority owned companies.  This acknowledges that value – to have its direct impact on the social challenges we face – must flow beyond discretionary employment and must include flowing capital to businesses which in turn employ diverse people and serve traditionally economically disadvantaged communities.  In short, we want the purpose for which we live to be more important than the means which we accumulate.

P.S.


As we mark the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his notion that humanity needs to find a way to end the scourge of corporate sanctioned racism, it’s worth noting that U.S. Obama Administration’s EXIM Bank supported Exxon-Mobil LNG project in Papua New Guinea’s death toll rose again this week.  The Melanesian landowner’s issue – the non-payment of royalties due them by Exxon.  And while millions on social media “stood” with Standing Rock, there’s no Facebook campaign, no sit-ins, no public conversation about these deaths of real people.  For what reason?  Because they’re too far away to count and they’re invisible.  


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Ibi et cor vestrum erit

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What is whispered in the ear shall be proclaimed from the rooftops. 

I watched a J.P. Sears’ New Year’s Resolutions video and loved his line, “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is resilience.”  Insanity?  Resilience?  Is JP’s comedy more or less funny than the dubious suggestion that Einstein originated the colloquial definition of insanity which appears to be actually sourced from a 1980 Narcotics Anonymous pamphlet?  And isn’t it ironic that the persistence of the attribution or hearsay has made Einstein out to the be the originator of something that he may never have uttered or thought?  Particularly when it’s the definition of the one thing he probably would have examined through the lens of relativity and concluded that doing the same thing over and over again would, in some entanglement way, lead to a dimensional alteration whose effect may unleash untold mystery!  But I digress… or do I?

For my entire memory, I have been trapped in a puzzle around three Gospel references. 

Luke 12:48(b):  From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

Luke 19:26:  I tell you that everyone who has will be given more; but the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.

Matthew 25:29:  For whoever has will be given more and they will have an abundance.  Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.

If one were to examine the middle warp thread around which DNA wove my first chromosome, somewhere etched in that thread is the certainty that I’ve been entrusted with much and, as a result, my life’s purpose is to do more.  Somewhere an abundant Source imbued my life with access and evidence of plenty and my purpose is to spread the bountiful fruit of that certainty to all those with whom I have contact or influence.  Not a day of my life since Upland California in 1974, sitting at my little desk in Tim and my bedroom overlooking the bougainvillea blooming in the backyard, has passed without this puzzle animating my mind and my actions.  “I’ve been entrusted with much and therefor much more will be asked.”  How much is “much more”?  Well, simple: you’ve got another day so there’s more more to do!

I’ve been surrounded by people who have reinforced and celebrated my relentless pursuit of stewardship.  I have inspired thousands, I’ve improved the lives of millions, I’ve lived to see the global effects of my life.  Family, friends, colleagues, strangers – the world is a better place because of my sense of stewardship and I’m a better man because of it!  And it’s so deeply engrained into my life that I have built countless relationships where my expansion of what I’ve had entrusted to me is expected.  “That’s just what David does,” goes the justification behind the callous consumption of abundance. 

In this 49th year of my life as I was completing my year-end gratitude arc and reflecting on the passing circumnavigation of the Sun, I found myself seduced into doing what I’ve done every other year.  My practice is to recount gratitude for all the people and experiences of the year past and acknowledge each of their contributions to my life.  This practice – unlike the fleeting New Year’s Resolutions so many attempt only to disappoint themselves and others a few weeks into January – primes the pump for my coming year to realize that I’m only in my life because of the kindness and goodness of others.  The breath of life is lubricated by the well-spring of gratitude!  But this year, I sat with Kim in the persistence of illusions I’ve come to see as hallmarks of my best attributes.  From our first real conversation in Antarctica to last night, she was ready to break another lens through which I see my illusions.  She asked me to explain, for one who defines his life by gratitude, how it is that I’m so upset when I don’t experience gratitude in and from others?  And her question – along her signature relentless persistence in keeping me in the question until I really considered it – made me re-read the parables from which my lifelong puzzles are derived. 

They all have to do with a master who is leaving for a far-away country for an indeterminant period of time and said master allocating resources to the care of others.  Some of the stewards evidence their awareness of the master by seeking to grow and expand his wealth while others, nominating their fear for his perceived harshness, merely take what is given and do nothing but preserve it for his return.  The master has abundance.  He distributes that abundance to his stewards and gives them entirely free rein to do with his wealth what they wish.  Ironically, the ones who receive 5 talents and 2 talents and return 10 and 4, respectively, do not explain why they did what they did.  They knew their master and simply did what they knew he did.  They knew that he took abundance and made it more bountiful.  They did what they knew from watching him.  And their knowing required no explanation or justification.  Their knowing was evidenced in their performance.  It’s the one who says he apparently knew the master who clearly evidences neither a knowledge of, nor a love towards the master (Luke 19:21-ff:  “I was afraid of you, because I knew that you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’ 22 “His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’). 
Surrounding these parables are wonderful attestations of abundance. ‘Consider the lilies of the field, they neither toil nor spin but I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was dressed as fine as these.’  ‘Do not worry for the future’.  In short – there’s always enough to go around.  Enough for everyone!  So back to Kim’s wise question: what is it about the absence of gratitude that fuels so much anguish in me?  And then I hit me!  It’s expectation!  Expectation, like hope, faith, and all other sugar coated justifications for surrogated accountability and abundant engagement creates an excuse to rely on the illusory artifacts – the illusion of master, the illusion of money, the illusion of commitment, the illusion of connection – rather than seeing the mastery of stewarded abundance.  After all, the master in the parables himself is also a steward.  But his stewardship is the capability to create opportunities for others to evidence their prowess with resources.  He didn’t give them talents or bags of gold.  He created an opportunity for them to test their own manifesting capacity.  That’s what made him a master!  It wasn’t about the artifacts.  It wasn’t about the appearance of knowledge or capability.  It was about the recognition that to him who has been entrusted with much, teaching others to access their trustworthiness is the greatest wealth to share.
And this year, while I am grateful to dozens of people who enlivened my life and allowed 2016 to end with a benediction of abundance – Bob, Erik, Ned, Colleen, Katie, Dex, Stu, Zach, Pam, David, Ben, Steve, Charles, Lee, Chris, Hayden, Aditya, Theresa, Lawrence, Richard, Laurent, Christine, Robert, Bernadette, Sarah, Lorraine, Amanda, Peter, Jan, Joe, Rob, Jo, Tammy, Bill, Frances, Mark, Greg, and countless others – I am particularly grateful to Kim.  She asked the question that attends these parables.  “Are you experiencing the master’s happiness?”  “Who is caring for YOUR heart in all of the things that you do?”  When others focused on the effect of my living, she saw the cost of gratitude unacknowledged.  And rather than make up for it, accommodate it, or wish things were different, she took the 5 talents and made them 10!  And that’s the greatest treasure of all!

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