HOPE for CHANGE. Sounds silly now…

OverObamaTaoBarack Obama told us he’d CHANGE America.  During the campaign, when Obama was asked about the CHANGE he would bring to Washington, he didn’t describe specific policies or proposals as much as he asked us to HOPE for the CHANGE.  The Tao Te Ching says that “hope is as hollow as fear.”  It appears Obama’s CHANGE is also hollow.

Why is hope as hollow as fear?  Because hope and fear both come from thinking about the future Self.  If an individual thinks that things will get better, they feel hopeful, if they think things will get worse, they become fearful.  HOPE did not ask us to be the change we want to see in the world.  It asked us to dream about a future with President Obama.  If we want authentic, evolutionary change to take place in America, we need to act.

Evolutionary change is rooted in ancient truths, spreads through informal channels and is applied in the most unlikely places, far from the glamour of the conventional and mainstream.  When the change emerges into the popular consciousness, it doesn’t  come packaged in a CNN Special or a New York Times commemorative coffee table book, it comes from unconditioned voices protesting a taboos that makes the experts uncomfortable.

One of the reasons it’s so difficult for evolutionary change to insert itself into culture is that evolutionaries find it difficult participating in conventional conversations which are based upon assumptions they disagreeable with.  Gay marriage is a perfect example.  A progressive will argue that the government should recognize any two individuals who want to marry while a conservative will say the government should only recognize marriages between a man and a woman.  An evolutionary would deny the government the right to recognize marriages. Why would government – the people with the right to the legitimate use of force – be informed of an individual’s marital status, must less authorize people to change that status.  The answer to this questions leads to much more significant ones about our government’s state of Constitutional noncompliance and the intrusive nature of the income tax, among others.

When evolutionary topics enter the mainstream media narrative, not only does a web of new questions emerge, but so does a world of new possibilities.  It’s like the scene in the Wizard of Oz when the curtain is pulled and the wizard is revealed as a normal man using a powerful machine.  Our natural reaction to the man behind the curtain is curiosity: who this man is, what does he want and what can his machine do?

In America, the people ‘behind the curtain’ work very hard to keep us inundated with never-ending debates, pointless news, meaningless art, disposable products, and futile projects that make it difficult to become aware of evolutionary perspectives.  They don’t do this because they want to suppress us: they do it because they want to suppress themselves.  By lying everyday to earn money and privileges that fill their ego’s with the phantom of ‘success,’ they get their vengeful reward – Vengeful because they view themselves as the victims.  From their perspective, they haven’t been victimized by the neoloiberal economic paradigm, but by other individuals who have robbed them of their dignity.  The theft may have occurred in a playground decades ago or it might take place everyday at home or at work but their need to control their environment comes from an inability to control themselves.  Homes, clothes and cars that signal outward ‘power’ often signal inner weakness.  That weakness comes out on the nights and weekends when the mind wanders away from work and ‘success’ and into its dark recesses containing more fundamental questions about competency.  Did I do a good enough job? Was my text message too revealing? Should I have said that to my father? These questions all stem from one root: did I do the right thing?  It takes a leap of faith to ask the question honestly enough so it can actually be addressed: Did I do the Right thing?

It’s a spiritual question and it requires a spiritual answer.  What is that answer?

Welcome to humanity…

We Thought for Ourselves

We’ve lived through a time period of unprecedented information centralization.  Never in the history of humanity has such a small group of people controlled the content consumed by so many.  This centralization is characterized by three factors: ownership, control and penetration.

In the early 20th century, there were hundreds of media companies.  Now, five global media conglomerates own 90% of the ‘mainstream media’ Americans consume.  All of the media properties owned by these conglomerates operate serve the same few hundred clients (corporate advertisers) for the same benefactors (large shareholders.)  This enables a few thousand corporate managers and shareholders to determine, consciously or unconsciously, the frame through which news and information is delivered.  These people, directly and indirectly, determine the taboos that hundreds of thousands of employees work hard to pass on to hundreds of millions of consumers.  This process is  subtle – indeed it’s become institutionalized – but it’s results are spectacular.  Corporate media has constructed an entire worldview around the concept of limitless consumption by piping it directly into the average American for over four hours a day.  This unprecedented degree of penetration by a group of organizations who’s primary motive is to trick Americans into watching more TV advertisements explains why so many in the US are obese, in debt and ignorant of their nation’s history.

It’s easy to forget that until a century ago, a million people had never been ‘informed’ of events in a standardized way.  News from far away places came through many mediated layers – whether it was written, pronounces or socially spread – and often fell on suspicious ears. The concept that humans could ‘know’ that something was happening outside their reality did not exist like it does today.  Without the glare of highly produced media, Americans relied on family knowledge, ancient wisdom and their own experiences to develop an understanding of the world.  They could make  informed decisions because they trusted their experiences, understanding that core principles of human interaction aren’t dependent on time, space or scale.  What is true for a village is true for a nation and an empire.

Americans naturally understood that violence enables theft and war was immoral.  They didn’t need their newspapers to explain how a general could get rich from war: they intuitively knew war profiteering always takes place.  Americans naturally understood that food with unknown origins could very easily be unsafe.   They didn’t need a reporter  to inform them of the danger of food processed by mysterious factories.  With common sense gleaned from everyday experiences, humanity not only survived the dark days before TV and centralized media, they thrived.

In 2009, our media has never been more advanced.  One would imagine that advanced media would create a more harmonious and intelligent public but that doesn’t seem to be the case.  Our economy has problems no one can grasp.  Our military is embroiled in a war that started with a reverberated lie.  Our food system is unsustainable and dangerous.  Our stores are filled with products of low quality made in places we’d like to pretend don’t exist.  Our population is increasingly addicted to prescription (read: corporate produced) drugs and imprison millions of Americans for distributing and consuming illegal (read: non corporate) ones.  Then we ask the same media companies that crafted our current insanity to explain why we’re all so crazy.  Of course, they can’t address that question. How could they?

After thousands of years of human civilization and amazing technological advancement, why are we still so easily hoodwinked by the magician behind the curtains?

There is good news and that good news is that you’re reading this, which means that after a lifetime as an unwilling consumer of centralized news and information, you’ve found yourself consuming media from decentralized sources.  The internet is fundamentally changing the way we receive news and information and thus, it is changing our perspective and freeing us from the chains of homogeneous, standardized, centralized media.  It is freeing us from the media that is financed by corporations that are financed by our consumption based economy.  On the web, there is media from CNN and NBC written by people who ultimately have to answer to their advertisers, but there is also media written by us: and the only people we have to answer to are ourselves (and our audience.)

More good news: while the mainstream media cries that centuries old news institutions are crumbling, decentralized networks of local blogs and reputable source are stepping into the void.  The marketplace loves this new form of media: the faster, better, cheaper of independent journalism can’t be stopped.

The Future of Capitalism is Not Corporate

Every organization’s structure is defined by the way in which it’s members communicate.  During the industrial era, when top-down mass communication systems allowed a small group of people to send messages to large groups, corporations flourished.  As networked communication systems such as the internet spread, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that a new batch of organizational entities will emerge that will out compete corporations because they’re structured to thrive using networked communication systems.

Why won’t corporations be as competitive as these new organizations?

Corporations have a very simple incentive system that is best understood as ‘low costs, high prices.’  Every product a corporation makes is designed to cost them the least amount of money possible while simultaneously allowing them to charge the highest possible price.  Shareholders profit off the margin between those two numbers.  This business ethic, to charge the most while providing the least, is so common it’s easy to forget its perverseness.  The basic assumption in this ethic is that neither the people who produce the product, nor the people who consume it are of value.  Both entities should be marginalized as much as possible so that the difference between the cost and price is greatest, allowing the shareholders, the only entities truly valued by the corporation, to make as much profit as possible.  Increasing shareholder value is the sole purpose of a corporation as defined by the law.  In other words, it’s actually illegal for people within a corporation deliberately perform tasks that do not ultimately increase shareholder profit.

Corporations achieved what no other organizational structure had been able to do: they took us from the farm field to the electric field.  Just as corporation succeeded guilds to power the industrial revolution, more flexible structures will succeed corporations to power the information revolution.

The industrial economic paradigm is that resources are scarce while labor is abundant.  The information economy is the opposite.  Information, unlike traditional ‘working capital’ such as a factory or a resource, is not scarce: it’s abundant.  Information can only create value if it’s organized, synthesized and made consumable by intelligence.  Once made consumable, information can be shared with any and all parties interested in consuming it.  This difference creates a ‘high cost, low price’ incentive for information organizations.  Why?  Because competition is fierce and scale is instantly achievable.

This paradigm is most obvious in open source organizations like Wikipedia where the amount of time  being invested in the product continues to increase while the price remains stagnant (zero.)  The internet in general operates under the same laws because the open source community – a massive, decentralized collection of programmers who write code and release it online for free – continue to build an even more robust technological infrastructure for all to enjoy at zero cost.

Most of the products and services we consume, online or off, are commodity products given significant value via information.  McDonalds top down information distribution system informs it’s myriad franchises how to make a valuable burger and fries, how to market and how to keep costs low, among other things.  If a network of burger restaurants came together, using online collaboration tools, to create a virtual franchise that fulfilled the same role, but did it through a network instead of  a hierarchy, then they could create an information product for burger joints more powerful than McDonald’s and, eventually, defeat the corporation.  This is the future of our economy: networks of independents out performing hierarchical corporations.  This is cooperation capitalism.