Integrate Magazine

Raise your perspective. Wake up your ideals.

Empathy #01 – Feeling Truth

I have not lived in my home town for over 50 years. During this time, I had three different cities that were for a time my home town. However, the city of your youth and where family still lives has a special place. Most of all it resonates with memories that define a foundation of how you feel and act. With maturity comes change, but fundamentals from your original home town still influence who you are. In my case, these memories are very happy. It was a magical time in helping me develop. The 50’s and 60’s were times of fundamental change. These were times when religion, civil rights, women’s rights, were defining new paradigms.

When you allow the honesty of youth to mingle with the pragmatism of age you begin to feel and understand truth. Truth is only possible when you empathize with others. Empathy is not feeling sorry, or thinking you know how someone else feels. Empathy is your ability to stop, and see the reality of another person’s life. You understand their joy without jealously, observe their faults without judgements, envisage their demons, and feel their humanity. If you cannot empathize you cannot understand. It’s not sympathy or comparability, it is wisdom.

Each time I visit home, this becomes more impactful. Watching your loved ones grow older and seeing the changes of the city, along with what is still there; alters the prisms you use to feel truth. This time it was metanoia.

Prism #11 – Feeling Truth

I just returned from a visit with my family, who I had not seen for the past two years. Most important was to spend time with my 97-year old mother, who is now blind and struggling with the pressures of time. Being with her and my brothers, one her primary care giver and my younger brother and his wife who pitch in. It is important to watch and listen to their daily joys and struggles. To see without judging the change when you become responsible for a parent. Watching and listening to my mother as she struggles with the single most difficult thing to happen to her at this age. An avid reader, cook, and conversationalist to lose this ability is beyond frustrating. She remains feisty, as independent as possible, and strives to maintain her sense of humor. It was good to be with them and gain an appreciation of their lives, which phone conversations can never reveal.

On the way, down and back I decided not to read. Instead I engaged my seat mates in a conversation. This was also an enlightening and inspiring part of this trip. Engaging with real people on a one to one exchange uncover what text messaging cannot. The reinforcement that we are alike. That we wish for the same things, even though in different degrees. Two strangers who became acquaintances by the end of the trip from different parts of the country. Different background, different interests, with dreams and desires to do something positive with their lives that can make a difference in the world. This trip with family and new contacts reinforces the message that you find truth thru the stories and feelings of others.

“Don’t judge a man until you have walked two moons in his moccasins.” [Sharon CreechWalk Two Moons]. Understand a person by listening and watching them tell their stories. Each story will change you and eventually the way to feeling truth is to empathize with these stories.

Prism #10 – Propaganda

We are witnessing in real time – the instruction of Adolph Hitler “Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it. We are bombarded day and night with big lies that it is difficult to think because of the noise. So much shouting and division that we just want to shut our ears!

“Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.” George Orwell

It is essential that we see through this shouting and begin to do something about it. Start by making sure you understand the truth. Then you have the freedom and ability to lift the curtain and adjust each prism. We must hold all those telling the story including the media. To practice the wisdom of Thomas Sowell. “If people in the media cannot decide whether they are in the business of reporting news or manufacturing propaganda, it is all the more important that the public understand that difference, and choose their news sources accordingly”

Choose wisely, because the results impact us all! There is an African proverb that “Until a lion learns to write, every story will glorify the hunter”.  Tell the story of the hunter and the lion.

Prism #09 – Herd Mentality

Last week (prism #08), ideas about the need for laws, regulations to maintain order and avoid chaos. However, this idea needs to be considered within the context if common sense & the common good. Crazy or stupid is not an option when establishing these guidelines. Too often we tend to see laws as absolutes, rather than their real purpose, guidelines for social order. The current political climate demonstrates this syndrome.

I was mystified how one person could control an entire enterprise, government, or country. Now I understand that it is not one person. An individual by their position gets power from the herd mentality. Herd mentality is how behavior is influenced by a small group of peers. People will blindly follow people who appear to know something. They follow rules even when these rules do not make sense. There is another phenomenon, where a small gang of self-interest support the leadership to achieve their parochial agendas.  This creates circumstances that are greater than the leadership itself. Napoleon Bonaparte understood that “the herd seek out the great, not for their sake, but for their influence; and the great welcome them out of vanity or need”. Great here meaning the poster child of the movement, government, or organization.

Thus, this cancer of selfishness spreads to neighboring cells. Silently it begins to infiltrate the entire institution where the infection spreads and cripples the healthiness of the enterprise. Archibald MacLeish suggests that “The dissenter is every human being at those moments of their life when they resign momentarily from the herd and begin to think for themselves”. You must listen to your instinct, your gut feelings, rather than follow the majority for fear of being wrong, or cut from the herd. “The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.” Marcus Aurelius

Prism #08 – Laws

Thomas Aquinas defines “Law is nothing other than a certain ordinance of reason for the common good, promulgated by the person who has the care of the community.”  In complex societies institutions have the responsibility to ensure the common good via rational regulations, traditions, and customs. When establishing these laws, Plato cautions that “No law or ordinance is mightier than understanding.” Understanding depends on your ability to empathy, knowledge, wisdom, and agreements. The rule of law, is your ability to integrate the diversity of the community into an empowering environment. This is what distinguishes a dictatorship from a democracy. And yes, both have a wide range of definitions depending on those who rule.

When institutions lose contact with their community, then care is perverted. Using sports as an analogy is a clear understanding of needing to establish rules of play. This sets the way the game is played giving all competitors equal chances. Changing the rules during the game creates an impossible environment, where winning is random. There are rules that become obsolete, new rules necessary because of new circumstances, or changing exiting rules to respond to socio economic changes. Everyone needs to know the rules, before and during the game. This applies equally to all institutions especially government. Institutions such as faith or social organizations are voluntary and you can walk away. Government is not voluntary and thus this institution is a critical part of effective ordinances.

Laws are essential to an orderly society, including the commercial regulations. These conventions are essentially trust among relationships. When laws undermine trust or those responsible for the laws violate them – the fabric of the society begins to deteriorate. Understanding the rational for laws, ensuring they remain current but stable, and inspire trust in their domain is the fundamental structure to avoids chaos. In a society, there is a covenant between the governing and the governed. A covenant is a sacred bond among its principals, greater than a contract or an agreement. Some find subtle ways to violate that which cannot be broken. The prism of a covenant is a rainbow of possibilities. You must be vigilant to ensure this primary (government) covenant is trustful!

Prism #07 – Government

Experience gives you a visceral perspective on the lessons of history. Autocratic government is a prime example. I doubt that it ever starts out that way, where good intentions lose their purpose resulting in failed institutions. Government is especially vulnerable to this syndrome. Government is essential, especially in complex societies, as the means for ensuring socio-economic stability. Thus, government and other essential institutions exist for those it serves.

Institutions should exist at the appropriate level within a community. For example, it is impractical for individuals to support fire protection. Fire departments provide this public need. Fire protection resources respond to saving your house, and importantly protect the neighboring homes. This applies to agencies where the requirement cross boundaries and ensure to public safety, and agencies that cross product and services such as vehicle registration, taxation, etc.

Justification for private (for-profit) enterprises provides you with better solutions when you can choose among competitive organizations offering you value. Where these organization such as utilities are complex, a hybrid of private and public relationships ensure the success of these structures. Regulations avoid the inequities of monopolistic practices. It is not necessary to belabor the point! There is a need for a variety of organizational structures. When you have choices and time, private businesses offer the best approach. However, when your house is on fire, you have neither the time or choice for comparison shopping.

If we are to survive it is essential that we stop trying to fit square-pegs into round-holes. Admit the necessity for government and stop trying to profiteer these institutions. Unfortunately, legislators waste valuable time thinking that the management of these two disparate institutions is equable. This does not mean that you cannot apply management techniques from one to the other. It does mean that the objective – to make a profit or to serve the public – impacts the way you manage these organizations. It is time to stop demonizing government. Understand the purpose and enable the resources and structures that ensure an effective and efficient enterprise!

Prism #06 – Smoke and Mirrors

The meaning of Smoke & Mirrors is the use of deception, to obscure or embellish a situation, to distract you from the truth. This skill is not exclusive to the magicians. It is a practiced skill for many legislators. The current activity surrounding the ACA (Affordable Care Act). Meetings with constituents raising their voices for protecting their medical care, is ignored by the congressional majority. Rather than fighting ACA and trying to repeal it for the past eight years, they should have fixed and improved it! Here is the smoke & mirrors – the rhetoric is making medical insurance accessible and optional. Optional, is difficult to understand when you must have car insurance. Of course, you could decide to never drive a car. However, if you drive you must have insurance! Accessible does not mean affordable! The objective is to make medical cost sustainable – this means preventive medicine and an increasing pool of insured.

Clever use of words continues to be the smoke & mirrors of those intending to find ways to make their employers (lobbyist and campaign funders) more money. There are programs that belong to public (governmental) institutions versus those that belong to for-profit enterprises. Prestidigitations by those who work for their electors have consequences. Journalism sees through the smoke and rectify the refraction distortions of mirrors.

Prism #05 – Kleptocracy

Kleptocracy refers to government where rulers use their political power to steal their countries resources. Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo – DRC) under the rule of Mobuto is the poster child for this disease. However, DRC suffers from a chronic ailment starting with the Congo Free State to the present. There are many examples throughout history.

Kleptocracy impairs normal physiological functioning of an organism. Life threatening conditions may appear dormant, until they metastasize. The earlier you catch symptoms of a developing illness, the greater your chances of survival. This means you have to be vigilant with your circumstances. The health of an organism, organization, institution, or government rely on the healthy functioning of the parts of the organism. This is not rocket science!

Giving way to lobbyist, or myopic loyalty to parochial ideologies is Kleptocracy! This is the beginning stages of an illness that threatens the entire country. Kleptocracy whether the theft of an entire country or stealing from a group of people is still a disease. Government responsibility includes preparing for the future. Making sure that citizens of tomorrow will have unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Constituents are busy developing socio-economic results. It is why you elect positions that are empowered to create a future. Government funding of Research and Development is critical to future technologies. Protecting the civil rights and creating economic opportunities is the purpose of government. Focusing on protecting political sponsors and not your constituents is pure and simple – KLEPTOCRACY!

Prism #04 – Distortions

Personal distortions create images that misrepresent facts. It allows you to paint reality the way you wish, rather than what it is! A successful perspective needs a compass to avoid myopic realities. Horizons are always distant vistas. You choose a course using your view of the possibilities. Arriving at that sight, influences your journey. The point is everyone has this common experience.

Individuals, and especially leaders, who push their parochial agenda, use this phenomenon. They will aggressively use distortions to paint horizons that misrepresent reality. You must be careful not to respond to what seems like quick solutions. Like the magician who uses distraction to distort movement creates the magic trick! Progress is an evolutionary process where you build on the past, leveraging the present, to get to a new future. Growth is not magic it is effort. Success is the balance between what is and what it can be!

Reality is the 24/7 global socio-economic environment of the digital culture. This change is altering institutional structures. The greatest impact is the changing nature of work. The industrial revolution transformed an agrarian culture to an urban environment. The digital evolution requires new skills and offers new socio-economic realities. Returning to a past that no longer exists is delusional! Organization must help move us towards this reality. When people do not know how to solve a problem, they distort circumstances in order to lull you into a false sense of hope. It is their agenda, do not let it be your agenda.

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