Saturday, October 9, 2010

Your Attention, Please?

Today marks the eighth anniversary of the United States Congressional authorization for President Bush’s Iraq War. Letting it pass without acknowledging the hundreds of thousands of lives lost or permanently damaged by this fatal lack of judgment would be to perpetuate the assent to injustice and inhumanity unleashed by willful ignorance. In a country whose population consumes information with the attention span of a squirrel, our collective accountability for this blight on our generation is yet to be fully apprehended. From the mental and physical injuries on our men and women in the military to the thousands of Iraqi citizens who will live with unspeakable loss, the world is worse off today and, absent some change of behavior, will dishonor those who have lost so much.

On Friday, I had the opportunity to be reminded of why we went to war. During a conversation with two individuals who advocate changing the world for the better, I heard one of them say, “The problem is reading. You can’t expect people to read anymore. We need to engage people in a simple media platform with simple messages…like with Twitter.” For those of you who are not linked into the social media scene, Twitter is a social communication utility which has the intellectual depth of antiquated Morse-code telegraphs – messages limited to 140 characters! “We need a viral app that will get people to engage in virtual conversations which will shift humanity for the better.”

This type of analysis of engaging the human mind for behavior transformation is why we went to war in Iraq. This is why we still are unwilling to face the economic collapsing vortex which is continuing to render tens of thousands perpetually falling into unemployment and poverty. This is why we have a political leadership constipation of conscience in Washington, Brussels and Beijing. What’s the challenge? Your attention.

The issues confronting humanity were not developed on 140-character Twitter feeds. The CIA didn’t support and co-opt despot leaders and tyrants from the Middle East to Central America based on sound-bytes. The World Bank, the Commonwealth Development Corporation and the IMF haven’t had countries leverage their resource wealth for the benefit of a few financiers using short hand memos. The collusive financial racket that propped up AIG and took down Lehman wasn’t done on the back of a napkin. And in 1998, 2004 and 2006 when I reported the 2008 banking collapse, I wasn’t prescient. I actually took the time to wade through information that was hidden in plain sight. Ironically, corruption, treason, and greed have gotten so confident in your lack of attention that injustice is done in the open. And NOBODY pays attention. When SAIC floated their IPO, they reported vast unaccounted for sums of money associated with the Greek Olympic security contracts - sums that no accountable organization could verify - and nobody cared. When the New York court found Bulf Oil – a company owned by an Iran-Contra co-conspirator – guilty of numerous Iraqi Oil For Food crimes in which SunTrust, Texaco, BP and Chase Manhattan were all monetarily and materially involved, nobody cared. And when the Vice President of the United States used this same felonious network to prop up the “enemy” for our war on terror, few read about it or cared. When the U.S. government participated in the largest financial cover-up of accounting shenanigans in banks and insurers in 2008, they actually published the evidence in the public and nobody read it.

Do we suffer from a lack of information which would raise our consciousness? Would we pay attention more if we had an honorable, non-mainstream media source that would tell us the truth? Would the lives of Afghanis or Pakistanis mean more to us if we had a social media network that would allow us to use a defense-department funded network (called the internet) to unmask the truth and stand up to propaganda? Would we care more about those displaced and killed by mining and extractive industries if we had better social media platforms to display on our conflict-metal-filled-techno-gadgets?


Our eyes are blind because we don’t want to see. Our ears are buzzing with the hypnotic MP3 players that are surgically attached to our virtual existences. Our hearts are calloused from our incessant need to care about tsunami, earthquake, and flood victims by donating $10 dollars to anonymous surrogates who are our consciousness ambassadors and who, once paid, are long forgotten and seldom held to account. And our minds have carefully formulated a protective cocoon which allows us to put our aspirations on par with actions – “as long as we’re thinking about a better world, we’re doing our part”, we tell ourselves. And the next gadget is not going to break us out of our profligate coma. No the problem isn't the information, the access, or the mode of dissemination. The problem is that we are unwilling to confront complexity as complexity. And as such, we cannot find the singularity upon which the complexity could be resolved - the fulcrum as it were. In our rush to serve up sound-bytes - even those from the well-intended - we dishonor the reality of a multifactorial system in which covariates are THE story. In isolation things don't exist and in isolation, they will not be substantially engaged or addressed.

On this day in which we mark the millions who have paid the price for our willingness to acquiesce to the sound-bytes that sold tyranny under the self-righteous banner of “freedom”, we are invited to actually do something. Rather than flagellating ourselves yet again for our unconsidered complicity in the march of injustice and the affront to liberty, we can actually take part in manifesting another narrative for humanity.

Today, we will inaugurate the Exemplar Zero Initiative in New York. This Initiative, launched to demonstrate the potential of private sector global citizenship which acts rather than waiting for an anonymous government to lead, is already working to make climate mitigating technologies accessible in Mongolia. In a country whose capital is ranked as the world’s most particulate-polluted cities, we are partnering with the public and private sector to begin a new journey. One that does not stand on speeches, white-papers, and feasibility studies. Rather, one that is willing to stand up, make good-faith deployment efforts, and when confronted with challenges, stands up again and again. Tomorrow, you will hear of the anticipated launch of the Global Innovation Commons 2.0 – the only global platform that makes innovation data available to every person on Earth who can access a computer or can link to someone with access. We will not wait for the next “killer app”. We will not abide another day when those who are marginalized are fodder for their abusers. And we will not let willful ignorance be the defense for inaction and non-involvement. And here’s the deal – if you don’t care about environmentally suitable technologies in Mongolia or open-source innovation in water, clean energy, public health, and food security for the world – that’s cool with me. Just share with the world what you do care about and we’ll work with you to transform your caring to action. For in the end, what we really need are people who are willing to act differently. We have all we need already – save the willingness to courageously engage. Let’s take that mantle and move forward together. And yes, it’s going to require thinking in complete sentences, paragraphs and even whole stories. Because the story of our seduction has been an epic and we need to learn the language of a new story that will never fit on Twitter.


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Thank you for your comment. I look forward to considering this in the expanding dialogue. Dave