Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Your Power to Reinvent a Life

Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God - Bob Pierce

The #1206 “fiction” series continues …


It was a cold day in NYC as Gabriel stamped his feet in a vain effort to stay warm. He had just come from a meeting of colleagues and friends to thank them for completing their annual Christmas project.  “Wow”, he thought, “$365,000 raised to provide Christmas gifts to 763 battered women and children hiding in shelters.  My network is …….. incredible.”

His eyes started to mist up as he thought about their generosity and he stamped his feet again in the cold.

As if reading his thoughts, the lady standing next to him at the bus stop said, “Public transit always seems like a good option until you’re freezing your buns off”, causing Gabriel to laugh. 

“You’re reading my mind”, he said as he turned to smile at her.

As he cast his eyes upon her, his eyes widened slightly.at the sight of her winter coat.  “That’s a very nice coat”, he said.

“Thank you”, she replied as she smiled, “I’m told that it’s a very exclusive coat available in only one store in America.”

Gabriel was still slightly in shock as he looked at her.  “You don’t know where you got your coat from?”, he asked.

“Well”, she said as she looked down at her boots, “It’s a little complicated and embarrassing.”

“What do you mean?”, asked Gabriel, feeling his curiosity rise.

“Well”, she continued, “I don’t know who bought the coat.”

“How is that possible?”, asked Gabriel as he sensed something developing around them.

“Well”, she said quietly, “I received this coat Christmas before last while I was in a battered woman’s shelter.  My soon-to-be ex-husband had been beating me up on a regular basis and one night I grabbed my kids and left.  A friend turned us on to a battered woman’s shelter and we spent that Christmas in hiding from my then-husband.”

“Wow”, said Gabriel, “I’m very sorry to hear that.  So someone at the shelter gave you the coat?”

“Sort of”, she replied, “One of the staff asked me one day what would my kids and I would like for Christmas and I thought she was joking.  I gave her a list and she left.  On Christmas morning, the lady came into our room with a bunch of wrapped gifts for myself and my kids.  When I opened my gifts, one of them was this coat.”

Gabriel swallowed hard as he listened but said nothing.

“Funny thing”, she said, “Up to then, I had the feeling that I wasn’t worth much and there wasn’t much hope for my future or the future of my kids.  As I saw what was happening that Christmas, I realized that someone out there actually thought I mattered.”

She paused, took her glasses off and wiped her eyes.

“Do you know what it’s like to believe that you don’t matter?", she asked Gabriel.

“It must have been quite difficult”, Gabriel replied, relieved that his sunglasses hid his own misty eyes.

“It was but do you know what?  That coat changed my Life”, she said.

“How so?”, asked Gabriel.

“Well”, she replied, “When it sank in that I mattered, it occurred to me that I had been given a chance for a new start.  I took a look at my situation and realized that not only was this not the end for us but that we were worthy of everything we wanted and with that, I set out to create a new Life for myself and my kids.  Here I am almost two years later and our Life is starting to take off.  I have found someone who is very good to me, my divorce is almost final, I have a great job and my kids are the happiest they have been in a long time.”

She paused and wiped her eyes again.

“All because of a silly coat”, she said quietly.

“It’s not a silly coat”, said Gabriel as he swallowed hard, “It’s a very nice coat.”

“Thank you”, she said as she smiled.

There was a brief moment of silence before she turned to him again.  “Do you know what the most amazing thing of all is?”, she asked.

“What?”, asked Gabriel.

“I can’t thank the person who did this for us”, she replied, “I have no idea who it is and have been told I will never know.  I feel weird that I cannot thank the person who created a new Life for myself and my kids.”

“That is interesting indeed”, said Gabriel, “What would you say to the person if you know you were standing beside them?”

“Wow”, replied the woman as she contemplated Gabriel’s question, “I honestly don’t know.  I think I would be so overwhelmed with gratitude that I might find myself unable to speak at all.  Many times when I am walking around, I find myself imagining who of the people around me might be the one.”

She paused for a moment.

“I hope someday I get to thank them for what they have done for me and my kids”, she said quietly.

“I believe that someday you will get that opportunity”, Gabriel said, smiling.

“You think so?”, replied the woman. 

Gabriel nodded but said nothing, unable to respond as he felt his emotions overwhelming him.

Looking down the street, she saw her bus coming and exclaimed, “Finally!”

Gabriel followed her gaze and said, “Lucky you.  That’s not my bus.”

As the bus stopped in front of them, she turned to Gabriel and thanked him for the conversation.  “I hope you and your family have a great Christmas”, she said, “Thank you for listening to my story.”

“Thank you for sharing it”, replied Gabriel, “I wish you and your two boys a very Merry Christmas as well.”

She smiled, turned and stepped up into the bus. 

As she flashed her monthly pass to the driver, something occurred to her. 

“How did he know I have two boys?”, she asked.

“Excuse me?”, asked the bus driver.

She turned towards the door of the bus and noticed that the man had his phone up to his ear.

“Remember that special coat we ordered for the battered women’s shelter a couple of years ago?”, she heard him ask the person on the other end of the conversation.

She gasped ……

…… the door of the bus closed …..

….. and the bus drove away as she watched the man fade into the distance.

To be continued.


© 2015 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved

Addendum - December 23, 2015

When I see videos like this (Warning – VERY disturbing content), with tens of thousands of likes and shares on Facebook, I wonder what kind of society we are creating.  Is it any wonder that so many people are desensitized when it comes to violence against women? [Author note - April 22, 2016: The offending video appears to have been taken down. It was a video of a man in his twenties beating a woman in the head with a metal collapsible chair. I don't know what was more disturbing, the fact that the video was made at all, that it was distributed or that it had hundreds of thousands of Facebook likes.]

We can and must do MUCH better.

Background

This story is a fictional musing based on an actual project.  This year, my colleagues and I raised $365,000 US and purchased gifts for 763 battered women and children in shelters.  The logistics are complex but the result is always worth it.

The project works like this.

We contact battered women’s shelters every Christmas and ask them to ask their guests what their needs are for Christmas.  They gather a list, send it to us and we fill it.  Some women refuse our request for pride reasons and many tell us to buy stuff for their kids only. 

The lists are often a mix of the practical (like coats and boots) as well as fun stuff like toys and games for their kids.

We are not allowed to see or meet these people for security reasons.  It is possible, from the shelter’s perspective, that we may in fact be “looking” for someone to report their location back to a batterer.  I have also been told that we would recognize some of the women, being wives of politicians, well-known businessmen, entertainers and the like and such recognition could produce complexity for them.

As I thought about the conclusion of this year’s project, I wondered – “Whatever becomes of the people that we have helped over the years.  Do they fall back into old traps and broken relationships or do they turn their Life around, having been shown that they matter by a complete stranger whom they will never meet?  Do they look at every stranger in the years that follow and wonder if that person is “the one””

I chose to believe the better reality when this story came to mind.

Find a way to help someone in need.

You NEVER know what outcome it will produce.

Series Origin

This series, a departure from my usual musings, is inspired as a result of conversations with former senior advisors to multiple Presidents of the United States, senior officers in the US Military and other interesting folks as well as my own professional background as a Wall St. / Fortune 25 strategy advisor and large-scale technology architect.

While this musing is just “fiction” (note the quotes) and a departure from my musings on technology, strategy, politics and society, as a strategy guy, I do everything for a reason and with a measurable outcome in mind. :-)

This “fictional” musing is a continuation of the #1206 series noted here.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Christmas and the Gifts That Cannot Be Bought–A Repost

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. – William Arthur Ward

You can give without loving, but you can never love without giving. - Robert Louis Stevenson

Sharing this story has become an annual tradition for me at this time of year and so, by popular demand, I share it once again (with a few minor modifications).


Some years ago when Harry Jr. was very young, I had pulled into a Toys R Us parking lot in New Jersey on Christmas Eve to buy him more "stuff".  Even though my son had so much stuff that he rivalled Toys R Us in inventory, for some reason I felt like I had not purchased enough for him for Christmas.

Just before I stepped out of my vehicle, a story came on my favorite National Public Radio station (WNYC in New York) and something about it caught my ear.

For the next 10 minutes, I sat in silence and listened to the story.  When the story was over, I started my truck and drove out of the parking lot in silence.

I had received an important message about Christmas when I needed to hear it.  The “teacher” always appears when the student is ready and my Christmases have never been the same since.

Of the many traditions I have at Christmas, there are two that I find to be important:

  1. I always listen to the story I heard on WNYC at least once.
  2. I always share the story with others and encourage them to listen to it.

The story I am referring to can be found here and in the video below.

Henry Faulk–Christmas Story

Listen to the story closely and after it has moved your heart, follow your instinct and allow it to guide you in what you do next.

The Nature of Gifts

When we are young, we look forward to the gifts that Santa will bring and that family and friends will give us.

As we move into adulthood, we learn to appreciate the opportunity to give gifts to those who are important to us as well as those to whom we send gifts to anonymously.  At the same time, we are bombarded by commercials encouraging us to buy as much as we can for others and to treat ourselves as well to “small” items such as new automobiles, expensive vacations, etc.

While the ability to give and receive gifts in difficult times is a privilege, there are many gifts around us that no one could ever afford if a price tag reflecting their true value were applied to them – gifts such as but not limited to love, friendship, camaraderie, companionship and service.

And as I reflect upon my personal and professional Life and I remember the great people who have come into my Life, whether to lift me, enrich me, teach me, learn from me or test me, I realize that some of the greatest gifts that I have received in my day-to-day Life, in addition to my faith, are those people who have made me a better person.

Where would I be without those people who knowingly or unknowingly taught me, influenced me, guided me, lifted me or corrected me?

More importantly, how can I thank so many people for such valuable gifts?

In truth, it would take as long to thank them (or longer) than the years I have remaining, but I suspect for many of them, it would be gratitude enough if I took the opportunity to make sure that I do for others as others have done for me.

Difficult times are with us and before us.  As you take time during the holidays to buy tangible gifts for others, don’t forget the value of your intangible gifts.  Gifts such as love, kindness, friendship and support are much more valuable, last much longer, never break, never tarnish, never need batteries, are always the right size, are always in style and will affect far more people than the tangible ones.

And unlike many gifts that never fit, these gifts are never returned as undesired and in fact, are often returned in kind or paid forward (oftentimes in multiples of the original gift).

When we receive such intangible gifts, we know their importance and their value.

Let’s remember this when we choose to put these gifts “under the tree” of someone who could use them this holiday season or any time of the year.

As you celebrate this holiday season, please remember those who are not as fortunate as you are.  There is more than enough love to go around – we just need to make the effort to share it unconditionally.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, Happy EID or Merry Yule.

However you celebrate these days, cherish them.

And help others find a way to cherish them as well.

In service and servanthood, love and gratitude.  Create a great holiday experience for yourself and others, because merely having one is too passive an experience.

Harry

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Real Problem With The Syrian Refugees

Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth. - Buddha

The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is. - Winston Churchill

The #1206 “fiction” series continues …


In a refugee camp somewhere in Turkey, in the middle of the chaos, the blended cacophony of animal, man and machine, the stench of unwashed bodies, the stink of raw sewage and the smell of cooking food, a small child sat, looking from side to side for comfort and for love ……

…. crying.


…. while evil men and women planned ways to sneak terrorists into Europe amongst the innocent fleeing for their lives ….


…. while powerful people who never liked the European Union saw the tsunami of refugees as the leverage they’ve always sought to disband the union or at least re-establish the borders of their nation as in days of old ….


…. while other powerful people sought to leverage the plight of the desperate to prove that the idea of the European Union was worth saving ….


…. while certain banks and corporations sought ways to improve the bottom line while promoting a message of service to humanity ….


…. while ordinarily good, rational people tore each other apart on social media over whether refugees were safe to accept or not, forgetting that an intelligent, respectful common ground needed to be found quickly between the people who believed that all refugees were terrorists and those who believed that no terrorists could sneak in amongst the displaced, arguing from the comfort of their homes as people died in the wilderness ….


…. while politicians sought to leverage useful material from an affront to humanity, either within their party, within their nation or across the globe ….


…. while charities sought donations to help the ravaged and the homeless, even those charities who had no intention of actually helping them ….


…. while mass media sought the best heart-tugging story to win the ratings war, oblivious to the real human causalities ….


…. while military engines around the world cited the refugee crisis as the justification for a budget request for a new gun, bomb, plane or ship design ….


…. while religions attempted to re-establish why they mattered as they demonstrated their outreach potential or their innocence ….


…. three men in a darkened room observed the holographic images before them.

“This crisis spins forever as does many other that they have piling up”, observed the first man as he stared at the images, “Why do you think this is?”

“Perhaps”, offered the second, “they are so focused on their own intentions that they have lost sight of what they should be doing and the carnage that is ensuing while they pontificate on what is best.  Maybe they don’t really care as much as they would have others believe.”

“Or maybe”, said the third quietly, “just maybe, it is possible that too many people benefit from things remaining just the way they are, with the innocent being tossed aside as collateral damage.”

The images before them disappeared until only one was remaining.

As they stared at the image before them, the first man said, “Maybe it is none of these reasons.  Maybe there is a simpler but darker reason that you are both overlooking.  What if such divisiveness was useful to someone for another reason?”

The second man started to speak but then closed his mouth in silence, reflecting on what he had just heard before returning his gaze to the hologram.

The three men stared in silence at the image of a small child ….

…. crying.

To be continued.


© 2015 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved

Background

Read into this what you will, come to any conclusions you wish to reach, accept any responsibility that you have the courage to accept and blame all the people you want to blame.

While we argue over “stuff”, while people seek to use such events to their advantage, while people argue vehemently, disrespectfully, dishonestly and ruthlessly without facts (relying on emotion or agendas) and while people lack the ability to solve problems intelligently, respectfully, collaboratively and ego-lessly, innocent people are dying, either genuine refugees or people at the hands of terrorists.

We need to recognize the importance of finding solutions to both problems quickly.

And then we need to recognize that we are all either part of the problem ….

…. or part of the solution ….

…. but not both.

Which would you like to be?

Which do you think you are?

How do you know?

Series Origin

This series, a departure from my usual musings, is inspired as a result of conversations with former senior advisors to multiple Presidents of the United States, senior officers in the US Military and other interesting folks as well as my own professional background as a Wall St. / Fortune 25 strategy advisor and large-scale technology architect.

While this musing is just “fiction” (note the quotes) and a departure from my musings on technology, strategy, politics and society, as a strategy guy, I do everything for a reason and with a measurable outcome in mind. :-)

This “fictional” musing is a continuation of the #1206 series noted here.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

When Social Media, Opinions and Politics Collide

Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance. - Plato

Science is the father of knowledge, but opinion breeds ignorance. – Hippocrates

Ahhhhh, the #nlpoli (Newfoundland politics) hashtag has lit up once again as Newfoundlanders find their three favorite religions; social medial, sharing opinions and politics colliding or colluding (take your pick).

As a Newfoundlander myself, I don’t know of any culture that does it with as much passion as Newfoundlanders do, to their compliment as well as to their detriment, and for this reason, one has to be careful whenever venturing out into the final frontier that is sharing one’s opinion in that great Province.

A Progressive Conservative candidate in the upcoming provincial election, Tina Olivero, has now learned this full well although she should have been aware of the potential for complexity having lived in the Province a good part of her Life.  The CBC covers the controversy here - Tory candidate Tina Olivero draws Twitter ire after health comments.

In a small #nlpoli explosion, Ms. Olivero made some pretty disturbing claims this week regarding the power of positive thinking and mental wellness to potentially cure cancer, epilepsy and the like.  In a world where beating the tar out of people on social media has become a global sport, she was immediately beset upon by the Twitterverse with a cacophony of taunts and insults.

Premier Davis, when asked about her comments replied in typical politician fashion – that his cancer was cured by chemotherapy but that there are others who believe that a strong mental outlook can cure disease.  He then went on to make a correlation that veterans of wars died so that people like Ms. Olivero could share such opinions.

Personally, while I believe in the power of positive thinking to a certain degree, if I get very ill, I prefer the power of positive science accompanied by positive thinking (in that order).  Ms. Olivero had to know that expressing her controversial opinions would elicit a venomous response from people, both inside and outside of the medical field.  In particular, people who struggle with mental illness or who have survived cancer, are going through it or have loved ones going through it will no doubt be made to feel angry or insulted by such suggestions.  As someone who has overcome much myself, both by illness and by accident, I can only shake my head and hope that people don’t lose their money or their lives following such beliefs.

Ms. Olivero has also expressed to people in the past that she believes (or believed, I don’t know her current belief system) that she is one of ten prophets as identified in books about Urantia, an alleged new age concept where extraterrestrial forms are channelling positive news to people on Earth.

Are these things normal?

I don’t know – whose definition of normal do you wish to embrace?

I read the Bible daily.  For as many people who applaud me, there are an equal number (or more) who would condemn such “silly activities by an intelligent man”.

I believe that there may be a case to support the fact that extraterrestrials may have visited (or are visiting the earth).   There are many who would tell me that this is crazy also and are only too happy to tell me.

Again, I ask you – what do we define as normal?

The reality is that the beliefs she has expressed are her own opinions.  While they may not be evidenced-based and may in fact be potentially dangerous if one embraces them, most of us know enough about the world to not blindly follow them so why are we getting so venomous about them as if they have directly impacted us? 

Most of us know the difference between the range of opinions in the world that vary from the normal to the mentally ill or illegal, understanding when to agree, when to disagree, when to ignore them and when to report them to the authorities. Appropriate responses to opinions (including type and level of emotion expended) commensurate with the opinions themselves in large part show others who we are – many forget this and reveal their own challenges (or ignorance) in an effort to crush someone else (even if for the right reasons).

If I looked over the Twitterverse with an eye to finding what I perceive to be outrageous, insulting or downright insane opinions, I could spend the rest of my Life being insulted.  #nlpoli alone could keep me thus entertained forever, likely to the detriment of my mental and physical well-being.  Meanwhile, the person who owns the opinion I disagree with would continue to live their Lives unaffected by my thoughts on their beliefs.

As for Premier Davis, he took the politician’s way out.  His diluted response when asked about her, both condemning her and condoning her, with a reference to the ultimate sacrifice of veterans, was weak, disappointing and typically right down the middle.  He implied that veterans died so that we could say and do whatever we want.  I beg to differ, believing that they made the ultimate sacrifice so that we could live a Life that contributes to a better world, not one that detracts from the world or adds confusion to it.  If I follow his line of thinking, they may have died so that I could be a criminal. 

Sorry, Premier Davis, I am a literalist – the right to express an opinion (or take an action as a result of an opinion) is fine as long as it doesn’t intentionally harm others mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually or financially UNLESS the person being “harmed” is in fact being stopped because they are harming others.

It is important that one’s opinions and beliefs about such things be known when offering one’s self for public service.  Once those opinions are generally known, should other people strongly disagree with them, then the people in disagreement should save their energy for a greater calling – the expression of their opinion by way of the ballot box.

The Bottom Line

Ms. Olivero has shared opinions that appear to not be grounded in science or reality.

While I strongly disagree with her beliefs, I would suggest that few of us would have the courage to share our own opinions and convictions in such a public way nor are we all as perfectly normal as we define normality to be as we destroy others from the safety, distance and anonymity of our laptop, tablet or smart phone.

Premier Davis has offered a weak response to questions about Ms. Olivero’s opinions.

Both have spoken and revealed elements of their beliefs.

That is their right.

If you don’t like it, express your opinion at the ballot box.

That is your right.

In doing so, you won’t need to be offended by either anymore.

In service and servanthood,

Harry

PS No matter how wonderful, relevant and important an opinion may appear to be, the one who expresses the opinion must always be cognizant of how the opinion will be received and therefore must accept all feedback, whether it be praise or condemnation.  No one can ever claim to be a victim when feedback is less than desirable for such feedback should have been anticipated before the opinion was offered.


Addendum – Maturity in Light of Feedback- November 18, 2015

Ms. Olivero was tweeting videos tonight, taunting people who took umbrage with her previously stated opinions.  Such exchanges are not helpful or mature, especially for the person whose opinions ignited the initial firestorm.  Here is an example (unless she deletes it) where she is taunting a person who recently lost a loved one to cancer.  Almost simultaneously, she posted this video (unless deleted) saying people shouldn’t take pot shots at each other. <<Author note – November 19, 2015: Ms. Olivero has deleted both videos.  Both can be seen here: PC candidate Tina Olivero addresses 'Twitter hate flurry'>>

Her Twitter bio says “Everyone is a leader. We don't need to be fixed, we need collective intelligence!”  It goes to show that chanting a mantra and living it can be difficult things to accomplish simultaneously.

Premier Davis cut her a break today and she took advantage of it, further condemning both of them. 

True character is revealed when weak leadership is present.


Final Chapter – Ms. Olivero Resigns – November 19, 2015

An interesting moment in Newfoundland and Labrador politics comes to a close with Ms. Olivero removing herself from the current election process.

Her lengthy resignation letter is at the bottom of this post.  It is intriguing how she doesn’t acknowledge any of her contribution to the events that transpired, how 3 of her 4 key points are directed towards “the media” and how it seems that this is everyone else’s fault that she has to step down.  No other analysis is necessary at this point.

This is her opinion.

She is entitled to it.

Ironically, she posted this photo on her Facebook wall a few days ago.

Anger and Leadership Quote

There may be something anti-climactic in this picture in regards to how her resignation reads.

It is time for people to move on and to allow her to resume her Life.

Her resignation letter follows:

I am stepping down as the Candidate for St. John’s East-Quidi Vidi.

After two weeks of campaigning it has become very clear that expressing my views on current issues has a massive impact in the political arena.

Mental wellness is a very serious issue and a person’s health and well being may include many approaches.

My view of wellness "includes" self awareness and that view has prompted the hate mail and backlash that has occurred in the last 48 hours online and in the media.

I have tried to explain that my words were taken out of context and in some cases, words were quoted that I didn’t say at all.

The media invitations to speak up on this matter have been declined because I believe that my words would be further misconstrued. So last night I addressed the situation in the best way possible through a controlled environment with my Facebook post entitled “My Story”.
With "My Story", I hoped the media frenzy would calm down and I could continue to campaign and focus on the people of my district.

That was not the case.

Today I was emailed by a reporter who has gone through my past with the hopes of discrediting me and plans to release his findings tomorrow.

This is the indicator that the environment for leadership in public service needs an entire new structure when it comes to media.

It’s time to clean up our own back yard and that starts with holding some of the media to account - NOT ALL media but some!

For these reasons I have chosen to step down:

1. The media is not in control of our outcomes and I am not prepared to be held hostage by any media - such as the email of the reporter today planning to "expose" me.

2. Stepping into a political campaign should not entail scrutiny with a targeted intent to harm - from the public or from the media.

3. Those campaigning for leadership roles should not have to put themselves, their families or their businesses at risk - emotionally, financially or in any other way.

4. We as a people, should not accept that media has power over us.

We get what we tolerate.

When we allow these incidences to happen we are the makers of our own demise.

A climate of no leadership is crippling because those who could best serve us will most likely never do so because of the type of experiences I have just encountered.

Worse than that it is unacceptable that a person's way of life, beliefs and ideas are used against them to support a “tweeter” or reporters’ bias, improve ratings, viewership or engagement.

I simply don't accept it because, this is not who we are.

A wise man once said, if you continue to dig up dirt eventually you will lose your ground. Today the media, social media, and our leadership culture overall has lost ground.

I sincerely wish all our candidates and parties in the provincial election, the very best.

Tina Olivero


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

How Do You Terrorize the Desensitized?

Have we raised the threshold of horror so high that nothing short of a nuclear strike qualifies as a 'real' war? -  Arundhati Roy

In the age of technology there is constant access to vast amounts of information. The basket overflows; people get overwhelmed; the eye of the storm is not so much what goes on in the world, it is the confusion of how to think, feel, digest, and react to what goes on. - Criss Jami

The #1206 “fiction” series continues …


Sometime in our not-too-distant future

He looked furtively from side to side, observing the mix of humanity walking past him with mixed emotions.  His mind reeled as he wrestled with a dichotomy, hating everything that these people stood for while simultaneously feeling sad and alone that he was never able to partake of its many gifts.  He didn’t see their struggles, sadness, anger or difficulties but instead focused on their blessings, happiness and apparent abundance and he hated them for it.

Thinking this way made it easier for him to do what he was told was his duty and destiny but even now he wasn’t sure.

“Should I do this or should I find another way?”, he wondered, desperate to know that he was doing the right thing or what the right thing even was.

He clenched his hands in frustration, inadvertently squeezing the small device in his hand and thereby committing himself to an outcome before he could decide for himself.

No beautiful virgins awaited his arrival.


Three men sat in an empty room and observed the violent event with cold, dispassionate, dark eyes.

They had been privy to the man’s thoughts and emotions for his entire Life, from the moment of his birth, to his years of being bullied and intimidated, to his desperate need to be wanted and appreciated, to his befriending by people who sought goals contrary to his own but which he was vulnerable to embrace …. right up to the moment that they were observing now.

“His hatred ran hot”, observed the first dispassionately.

“Perhaps”, countered the second, “but it didn’t run as deep as many believe it did.”

“Silence”, commanded the third, “Observe.”

They turned their attention back to the holographic image that floated between them.  Emergency crews were responding to the event and fear was evident in the immediate area. 

“A normal response for them”, the first man observed, “So what?”

“Perhaps”, the third man replied, “But do you notice that their media no longer covers it in detail like they used to.  There was a time when much analysis would be offered by the groups humans refer to as news agencies but now such events barely command a mention.”

“Why?”, asked the second.

“Because”, began the third, “They have spent so many decades desensitizing themselves through over analysis of such events that violence and a lack of sensitivity to such events has become the rule and not the exception.  Social media, which they invented so that they would be better connected with each other, has revealed that many carry pain, unbridled anger or other semblances of brokenness that they routinely and ruthlessly thrust upon the masses.  Social media has given a voice to many who shouldn’t have one and who years ago would have languished in private, with their evilness, contempt and brokenness destined to remain trapped in their minds until they died.  Pornography, once an underground interest, now exists as an accepted mainstream form of entertainment and seeks to diminish the sacredness of intimacy in humans, reducing human contact to acts of lust or violence or opportunities for power or self diminishment.  Their news and entertainment industries now routinely portray violence and death in a way that it is often more graphic than the real thing while simultaneously making such images entertaining, engaging and even desirable.  Even their religions, supposedly meant to inspire, have been reduced to acts of corruption and evil and positive leadership of any type, whether in government or otherwise, is difficult to find.  For leadership, they are so desperate that they look to entertainers who beguile them with empty drivel wrapped up as inspirational material with a demand that people live as they say and not as they do.  In regards to what we are watching right now, terrorist acts and warnings became so common over time that terrorists kept having to outdo previous attempts in order to achieve the same shock and horror value until they finally reached a point where they could no longer top previous efforts and so their efforts no longer produce meaningful results.”

He paused for a moment.

“The reality”, he continued, “is that humans cannot be terrorized in the traditional way anymore.  Their tolerance level to shock from anything, including events such as this, has finally reached its pinnacle.”

“You are saying that humans cannot be terrorized at all?”, asked the first, frowning as he contemplated the information presented to him.

“I didn’t say that”, replied the third, “I said that they can no longer be terrorized in the traditional way.”

“What does this mean?”, asked the second.

“It means that a unique event never before seen by mankind and so horrific that no amount of exposure in present society could have prepared them for it is required to both terrify them and unify them in their humanity”, the third said, no trace of emotion showing in his voice.

“And do you know what type of event this would be?”, demanded the first, “It sounds like such an event could either correct the race or destroy it.”

“Observe”, replied the third as he turned his attention back to the holographic image before him.

Two images were presented simultaneously, one that represented the rebirth of humanity and one that represented its apocalyptic end.

“Why are you showing us two images?”, asked the second man.

“Because”, replied the third man, “Two possibilities are present.  What determines which one becomes their reality is up to them.”

He paused for a moment before continuing.

“It comes down to their awareness of their humanity and what unites them instead of what divides them”, he said quietly.

All three men resumed their attention to the events taking place on Earth as emergency crews concluded their clean-up activities.

To be continued.


© 2015 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved

Epilogue – By Way of Deception, Thou Shalt Do War

“We have leveraged these terrorists for years”, a man said as he watched the news in a hotel somewhere in Washington, “And now the news doesn’t seem to care anymore.  How can we drive our agenda if the news doesn’t help us?”

“Fear not”, his companion replied, “While the news is not as sensitive as it used to be, we can still promote the message that such people do not represent our beliefs and that we continue to be peaceful.”

“For how much longer?”, asked the first man.

“Not sure”, the second man, “But we have something else in progress that may be useful.”

The first man nodded as they both resumed watching their television.

Background

This post was inspired by two tweets by B.D. Foley, a retired CIA Operations Officer and author, in response to a tweet that I shared earlier today.  Here are the tweets:

Original tweet

Response

His tweet is actually a paraphrase of a quote from his book, CIA Street Smarts for Women: Spy Skills to Tell the Prince from the Predator.

Here is the original quote from his book:

There's so much violence in our society that terrorists must wonder how they can continue to terrorize. Westerners have seen it all in the violent games, movies, and TV programs. Terrorist chants of "Death to America, death to everyone" are now met with yawns.

When a man of Mr. Foley’s background makes an observation, even casually, I think it is worth sitting up and paying attention to.  His book, while directed towards women, is a book that we all should read, for our own protection and for the safety of our partners and our children.

The epilogue (referencing the Mossad’s motto) is unrelated but something that is intriguing to me.  In addendum 2 of my blog post If Paris Surprised You, Then You Are Part of the Problem, I made an observation about the Muslim belief of a concept called taqiya.  Here is the relevant excerpt from that blog post.

Addendum 2 – A View From a Muslim – November 15, 2015

I was discussing my blog with a Muslim today.  He and his family fled Iran just before the Revolution in 1979.  He asked me if I was familiar with taqiya, a concept whereby a follower of Islam may deny his faith, lie or say / do deceitful things or commit illegal or blasphemous acts, especially if they are in fear, under attack or need to accomplish a task that honors Allah.  It is written into Sharia law as an approved and condoned practice for the previously noted reasons. It is described here (Wikipedia) and here (How Taqiya Alters Islam's Rules of War).

When I asked him how you can trust someone who is encouraged to lie “in a way condoned by Allah” to promote the objectives of one’s faith, a faith where jihad is one’s religious duty because of the obligation to convert everybody to Islam willingly or by force, he shrugged and said “you can’t”.

He admitted that a Muslim could deny affiliation with extremists while privately endorsing them, could proclaim to be peaceful to your face while literally stabbing you in the back and could even burn down their own Mosque if it could be pinned on “someone against Islam” (establishing innocent victimhood) while at the same time remaining calm about it to show they are a peaceful religion.  In other words, anything that advances the cause of Allah is permitted.

This concept intrigues me.

It is not to suggest that all Muslims would lie for any reason, although whether someone was telling you the truth about their faith or was lying to mislead you is something you may or may not detect until additional damage was done.

While this is officially a part of Sharia law, other religions are not exempt from lying to serve their own needs, including abuse by Catholic priests and other atrocities committed “with the blessing of God”.

Of course, this concept is not limited to religion alone.  Politicians and other people routinely lie under the guise of representing our best interests.

I think we are a complex race, filled with phenomenal potential, a potential that is weighed down by complexities that we create for selfish, greedy or power-centric reasons.

If we can get past these things, we will all be better off and will be free to live up to our phenomenal potential.

What do you think?

Do you think we can reach this potential?

How long do you think we have to “get it right?”

Do you have the appropriate background and data to backup your assertion?

Are you sure?

What happens to you or your family if you are wrong?

Series Origin

This series, a departure from my usual musings, is inspired as a result of conversations with former senior advisors to multiple Presidents of the United States, senior officers in the US Military and other interesting folks as well as my own professional background as a Wall St. / Fortune 25 strategy advisor and large-scale technology architect.

While this musing is just “fiction” (note the quotes) and a departure from my musings on technology, strategy, politics and society, as a strategy guy, I do everything for a reason and with a measurable outcome in mind. :-)

This “fictional” musing is a continuation of the #1206 series noted here.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Terrorism and the Ignorant Mind–The Other Soft Target

To deny that human beings are filled with anti-social passions betrays a denial of reality and a lack of self-awareness. One has to be taught nonsense for a great many formative years to believe it. - Dennis Prager

Political correctness is about denial, usually in the weasel circumlocutory jargon which distorts and evades and seldom stands up to honest analysis. - George MacDonald Fraser

I think the greatest illusion we have is that denial protects us. It's actually the biggest distortion and lie. In fact, staying asleep is what's killing us. - Eve Ensler

How often it is that the angry man rages denial of what his inner self is telling him. - Frank Herbert

<< Yeah, I liked all 4 of them … sorry :-) >>

As the world continues to sort through the terror of Friday’s attack in Paris, with mourning, anger, fear, revenge and every other feeling sweeping over and through many people around the world, there is another interesting element developing.

It is the exposure of the uninformed mind, the mind that makes choices based on emotion and not data and then feels emboldened to step on anyone who dares to disagree.

A couple of examples ….

The press is reporting today that the mother of the three of the suicide bombers claims that her son did not intend to hurt anyone, even though he was wearing a bomb belt, was armed with an AK-47 and was with other individuals equipped in a similar way who had stated intentions to kill people.  When I shared the article (which is here Suicide bomber 'blew himself up because of stress', says Ibrahim Abdeslam's family), people on social media told me that it was clear that I didn’t have children (which is incorrect) because if I had children I would understand the mother’s statement.  Some people went on to tell me that I was wrong when I stated that the data implies that he entered the situation with intent to hurt people and they concluded by saying that we should sympathize with the mother and the bombers.

I don’t know about you but if I walked down a street in any major city in the western world wearing a bomb belt and carrying an assault rifle, I can’t imagine any police force assuming I was out for a day in the sun.

And whether or not he recanted once everything started is something only he will ever know as he died in the event.

What was interesting in the interaction with all of the people, some in public messages and some in private ones (the latter being examples of the lack of courage to share their venom publicly lest someone see them for who they are) is that they were so passionate about it.  In essence, the mother was right, they were right and I was wrong when the argument itself was irrelevant and doesn’t change the result.  None of us with the exception of the mother are even connected to the event but the passion and emotion of the uninformed and misdirected was drawing them into a fight not worth fighting and more dangerously, was inviting them to take a semi-defensive, semi-supportive stand in support of the terrorists.

Meanwhile ….

Premier Brad Wall of Saskatchewan recommended to Primer Minister Trudeau via a tweet (and attached letter) that “refugee initiative cannot be data / quota driven. Safety must be priority”.  The tweet is here (image of it is below).

Premier Wall tweet

He didn’t say no to refugee admission – he said we need to apply appropriate levels of prudence as we honor our Canadian tradition of helping those in need.  Whether this is purely political, is meant honestly or is a combination of both, I agree with executing prudently while helping those in need and so I tweeted the Premier that I agreed with his prudent statement and position..

John Riche apparently took umbrage over my support (as if I matter at all) and immediately began to taunt me over what “I was afraid of”.  Mr. Riche is a businessman in Mount Pearl, Newfoundland according to his Twitter profile:

John Riche bio

His opening taunt to me is a tried and true technique for bullies and intimidators who use emotion over data in an effort to accomplish their objectives.  While most “normal” people wouldn’t argue with prudence as long as we honor our obligation to serve others, the misguided and uninformed have a translation problem – either what they read gets distorted before it enters their brain OR the translation arrives in their brain correctly and they intentionally, wilfully and forcefully argue using an invalid representation of it.

After a few exchanges, where Mr. Riche cited irrelevant data such as American refugee studies showing no terrorists were amongst them (which has nothing to do with the present situation, is not entirely true as presented and is an irrelevant position within the context of Canadian immigration) and where he again demanded to know what I was afraid of, I told him to go lead by example, adopt a refugee into his home and then lecture the rest of us to do more.

John Riche tweet

My response

He disappeared after this but out of curiosity, I wondered who this was who had attempted a courage-less drive-by tweeting and so I took a look at his Twitter stream.  It proved to be informative as to the MO of the individual.

A tweet that he issued (not a retweet of someone else) stood out.  Here it is – incredibly disrespectful to a Premier – original tweet here unless he deletes it and image below:

John Riche tweet

It appears to me that insulting and taunting is his MO and that discussing things rationally, calmly and using data within the context of our present situation is not something that is of interest to Mr. Riche.  Frankly, not only would I never issue such a tweet, I would fear that issuing such a tweet to a public official would get me put on a watch list of some kind.

It also reflects poorly on organizations that he works with.  I can’t say I would want to do business with anyone who shares such opinions in this way lest I be on the receiving end of such ignorance in a business context.

The Bottom Line

While I’m not picking on Mr. Riche, the interaction I had with him highlights an important problem that we have in the western world.

How do we EVER hope to solve the problems that affect us collectively if, when differences of opinion occur, we attempt to solve them in this way, with the winner being the loudest or the person who wields the most heavy-handed communication.  I wonder also if Mr. Riche would have the courage to say the same thing while standing right in front of Premier Wall.

Civil, rational, data-centric, fact-focused dialog is essential to solve the difficulties of the world including terrorism.  The world is a beautiful place and human beings have phenomenal potential but there are some stupid, dangerous and ugly problems present that require a lot of dialog amongst a lot of great people in order to make those problems go away.

We will all live or die together on this lump of rock floating through space and so we all have a say in what happens here.  In addition to our opinions, we also have gifts, talents and strengths that can and must be brought to bear to make the world a better place.

When invited to share your mind and your ideas, bring your passion to the table as well as passion can prove to be a great motivator and convincer.

However, don’t use your passion as a hammer, otherwise you may discover that few people care about what you say ……

…. and someone may bring a larger hammer to the table.’'

And in some cases, you may merely be putting the Twit in Twitter in an ignorant, cowardly way that doesn’t bring us closer to bringing the world into alignment with its potential.

In service and servanthood,

Harry

For a little fun, I offer this whimsical piece for those who love to troll others. :-)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

If Paris Surprised You, Then You Are Part of the Problem

Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced. - Soren Kierkegaard

Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality. - Nikos Kazantzakis

<< Author note: This post is much longer than my typical posts.  Apologies in advance – I had a lot to say. :-) >>

Once again, the world is rocked by a significant terror event and once again, while I express my grief, frustration and anger with the world at such a senseless act of killing, I have to ask one question.

Why are we surprised?

To help me understand this question, can you help me answer / understand the following questions, observations and musings?

Why is it that ….

  1. We spend billions on surveillance equipment that can eavesdrop on emails, phone calls and everything else, where someone out there can probably tell me my bathroom schedule and yet for a couple of hundred dollars, someone can undermine all of this with untraceable, undecodeable communication as I described in National Security – Arming Both Sides.  It has not been confirmed that the terrorists communicated over the PlayStation 4 network (unmonitored) and plain old paper communication via courier, undermining the entire surveillance effort.
  2. We spend billions on aviation security, with all of us presumed to be terrorists until proven otherwise and with a bottle of water holding the same level of distrust as a WMD while the professional terrorist can still compromise an aircraft as I noted in Aviation Security and Ignorance in the Land of Make Believe and as proven with the recent downing of a Russian commercial jetliner.
  3. We find bacteria on Mars and jump up and down that “Life” has been discovered, more than 25 states have laws that convict a person of fetal homicide if someone kills an unborn child and yet abortions of Life (proven to be aware of it’s surroundings) are allowed under the guise of “a women’s prerogative”.  How can we champion Life when we do so only when convenient and rationalized as such?
  4. We champion western values and yet some studies suggest that infidelity rates run as high as 70%, with infidelity being responsible for as many as 20% of divorces.  Apps that promote infidelity like Tinder and Ashley Madison don’t diminish our values – they reveal our diminished values.  We talk about western values as something Holy and sacrosanct – I doubt that few of us know what they are and fewer of us live them consistently.
  5. There is as much hatred on social media over things like politics, religion, climate change and everything else as there is with the terrorists whom we despise and, amazingly, we exhibit unlimited hatred towards each other while arguing over what to do with the terrorists. We look at the terrorists as being zealots – sometimes we don’t need to look that far to find “radicals” who prevent us from reaching our ultimate potential.  
  6. Social media, while unifying in many ways, strips more social graces from society every day and is increasingly becoming a place where ignorant trolls use bullying and emotion-laden intimidation to shout down those whose fact-based opinions deserve to be heard.  Those who try to escape social media find that for as much as they complain about it, they are addicted to it and cannot stop using it.  There are now types of depression associated with the use of social media.
  7. The true danger we face with terrorism, nuclear weapons, cyber security and other areas that could send us back to the dark ages (or worse) cannot be discussed.  Ooooops – I’m not allowed to discuss this either.  Pretend I didn’t bring it up.  All is well here.
  8. We feel that unlimited love solves everything.  While love is very important, if you believe that it can overcome anything, remember that the next time someone is choking your Life essence out of you …. or your partner … or your child.  Pour out the love and see if it changes anything.  Chancellor Merkel said this after the terror attack: “We believe in the right of everyone to seek his fortune and live, to the respect for the other and tolerance.  We know that our free life is stronger than any terrorist. Let’s give the terrorists the answer by living our values confidently. And as we affirm these values throughout Europe. Now more than ever.” The violent person merely laughs at such an assertion, an assertion that will get more innocent people killed in ignorance of the realities around us.  Love is important but it is not impervious to hate as some believe.
  9. We feel that unlimited violence is the better answer to the ineffectiveness of unlimited love.  A look at Iraq and Afghanistan for supporting data reveals this to be a fallacy also.
  10. We feel that adding a French Flag watermark to our Facebook avatar makes a difference even if we do nothing else.
  11. As a corollary to the previous point, we voice EXTREME anger at those who do so when it is their prerogative.  We get angry when terrorists challenge our freedom to live as we choose and then we condemn our fellow citizens when they do just that.  I was intrigued to see a number of Muslims that I know voicing how disgusting the Facebook watermark is but not mentioning a word about the attacks themselves.  Intriguing choice of priorities that muddy the dialog.
  12. We treat symptoms of radicalization and not actual root causes as I noted in Aviation Security and Ignorance in the Land of Make Believe.
  13. People believe their faith is the answer to the world’s problems while in truth, faith is a double-edged sword, also contributing to many problems in the world.  Many of the faithful don’t truly know whether their exhibition of their faith is actually making the world better or worse.  Perhaps more should heed the call of their Holy Texts to look within before judging others.
  14. We are blind to the realities regarding the Syrian refugees.  Of course radicals are going to slip in with them – that is the opportunistic reality of war.  When people say “be careful of this”, lefties get all excited saying that we are condemning all refugees with such talk and that we should shut up.  We are not condemning all refugees – we are saying let’s be aware of this reality and deal with it appropriately while helping those who need our help.  It is intriguing when people seek to silence others because of their own biases and hatreds and yet condemn terrorists when they seek to do the same. <There is an important update regarding this in Appendix 2 below>
  15. We wonder why surveillance doesn’t catch terrorists.  Think of this.  In Europe alone, 6,000 nationals went to Syria to be radicalized and 1,500 have returned to “make trouble” at some point.  It takes 100 law enforcement officials to monitor the efforts of 3 terrorists.  That’s 50,000 dedicated men and women to watch the 1,500 who have returned, 200,000 to monitor all 6,000 should they all return to Europe.  Don’t forget that law enforcement personnel have non-terror responsibilities also.  Do you think you can do better?
  16. Soft targets are called soft targets for a reason.  Easy to hit and high emotional-content when hit make them obvious choices for anyone looking to strike at our society as evidenced by our own mass shootings that hit schools, theaters and the like. While we champion soft targets as examples of what makes our society great, they are also what make us vulnerable.  If we want the such targets to remain soft, with little or no security, then we have to accept they will always be targets for somebody and we should stop acting surprised every time such targets are attacked.
  17. Pursuant to the previous point, after the Charlie Hebdo attack, I pointed out in Charlie Hebdo, the Realities of Terror and the News Media that you can have perfect security OR total privacy and freedom but you cannot have both.  If you believe you deserve both or both can be realized, then you are seriously deluded or need to share your insight with the world since no one else has figured this out.
  18. The mentally and intellectually insecure, including the far left and the far right (armchair Ghandi’s and Rambo’s), believe that merely asking questions is justification to attack the querent.  Example: I asked someone the other day why the Religion of Peace has references in its Holy Text to hatred for and killing of people who do not convert to their faith and I was immediately accused of being a racist (and other things) for asking.  One gains understanding by asking questions.  Those who shout down such questions are the very ones who suppress answers which in turn would have lead to information, knowledge, wisdom, application of wisdom and solutions.  Don’t bother refuting such questions with “then why does it say *blah* in some other Holy Texts” – this is an intentional misdirection to avoid answering the first question and merely exhibits one’s ignorance.  <There is an important update regarding this in Appendix 2 below>
  19. We accept garbage information from our “leaders”.  In the early 1990’s, my former father-in-law (now deceased), a decorated Colonel in the USAF, used to tell me stories about one of the largest concerns that the military had.  The concern?  That a group of terrorists would commandeer US commercial aircraft and fly them into domestic targets.  He worried because, as he said, if it happened and the order came to “splash” the planes to save lives on the ground, the fighter pilot might pause if he thought that his mother, father, brother, child ….. was on the aircraft and in that moment, command and control would be lost.  My father-in-law said they had been telling the “upper brass” for years that this was an inevitability with the current security in place.  Ten years later, I listened to leaders say how surprised they were when 9/11 happened.
  20. We have terror attacks in places like Beirut 48 hours before Paris (by the same terrorist group) and it hardly draws a whimper from the media.  We are all humans despite our color, creed and nationality – don’t we all deserve the same coverage?  Pursuant to that point, I was disappointed when Erin Burnett demonstrated her bias when her coverage kept honing in on the one American killed.  MANY people died and MANY families are suffering right now.
  21. Pursuant to the previous point, what would happen if terrorists “did their thing” and we hardly gave it a look, thus denying them the exposure they are so hungry to obtain?  Does our mass media feed terrorism?  Possibly.
  22. Why are we not concerned about the weakening of society through the advancement of political correctness, where soon we will have sanitized everything from society that offends us?  Since everyone is offended by something, there is no limit to where this can go.  There are people who deliberately muddy the waters by saying things like those against PC are in favor of child pornography (for example).  They do so to intentionally confuse the discussion for reasons often known only to them, forgetting (or maybe not) that political correctness also emboldens people seeking to take advantage of others. Merely mentioning political correctness has offended some of you.
  23. Why do we not see the irony of reverse discrimination that is in affirmative action?  For every person who screams in your face about how important and effective it is, there are studies now showing that while it has helped some people, it has hurt many, including those it was supposed to help (Google the studies – there are too many to list here).  When coming to the table to defend this program, please bring data and check your emotion-laden rhetoric at the door.  Also remember that when we raise ANY group for the so-called correct reasons, another group is potentially diminished even though we claim that all are equal in rights and potential.  Please understand the impact of this before taking action.  Some people don’t care that others are diminished as long as their target group is taken care of nor do they care that discrimination and diminishment fuels hatred which leads to other problems.
  24. When we ask questions of our “leaders”, we are added to watch-lists, no-fly lists or whatever.  Inconvenient truths need to be answered – the leaders were elected to serve the people with accountability and transparency, not with intimidation and obfuscation for the purposes of hiding their own agendas, incompetencies and the like.  Maybe they can’t solve the problem despite their best efforts and instead, have become positive-energy-promoting PR engines to keep us happy, keep them elected or both.

Pause … the list is longer than I thought it would be (profuse apologies).  This is actually the short list.

Time to Face the Realities of Our Situation

The attacks on Paris are once again inviting us to explore some grim realities.  When we pretend that problems don’t exist in the world or when we choose “solutions” without understanding their potential outcomes (either wilfully ignoring them or not bothering to think things through), we should not be surprised when the result is not as we expected.  Such surprise comes from actions taken (or not) due to ignorance, incompetence, insecurity, stupidity or a sense of inferiority (or some combination thereof).

When we offer, accept or defend such solutions, we are part of the problem, despite our beliefs and claims to the contrary.  We are never victims – we produce outcomes by our choices and actions (remembering that inaction is also a choice).  As a result, we should never be surprised when our choices create the result they produce. 

It is intriguing that we appear to have a basic disrespect for Life, values, honesty, relationships,ethics, morals and the other things that we champion as making us great but we get offended when someone else uses violence to demonstrate this same level of disrespect against us.

As a result, we are being divided – by our own selfish needs and actions, by our thoughtless actions without regard to consequence, by incompetent leadership and by the acts of terrorists who seek to diminish the great potential for humanity.

Are you going to just sit there and allow this to happen or are you going to actually do something about it?  Do you think we should be working together around what unites us and what can lift us to our ultimate potential or are you going to continue doing whatever you are doing?

Because what we are doing is not solving anything and in fact, is allowing the world’s problems to grow in complexity, intensity and frequency.

And that makes us part of the problem … and an essential part of the solution.

Until we become part of the solution, Paris will happen again … in London (again), in New York (again), in Washington or anywhere else where our overconfidence in our security and our incompetence in addressing the woes of the world leave us vulnerable.

If we wait too long, then we will eventually have a MAJOR shakeup that will terrify all of us.  Then again, there are those who believe this is already underway and is unstoppable, including friends of mine who have advised many Presidents of the United States.

It’s time to stop being victims of our choices and to reclaim our potential as the great, loving, wise intelligent race that we claim to be and to oppose anyone who dares to prevent us from reaching that potential.

Are you ready to REALLY be part of the solution?

Are you sure?

I close with two items.

The first is the story of the fence.  It goes like this.

The Fence

There once was a little boy who had a bad temper.  His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the back of the fence.

The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled down.  He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.

Finally the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all.  He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper.  The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone.

The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence.  He said, “You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence.  The fence will never be the same.  When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one.  You can put a knife in a man and draw it out.  It won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound is still there.”

-------------

Eventually if the world, represented as the fence, is pierced too many times, then it will be compromised so badly that it will fail regardless of how many “nails” we pull out.

Why do we want to wait until our ability to stand is tested?

The other is this verse from “The Snows of New York” by Chris De Burgh.

There are those who fail, there are those who fall
There are those who will never win
Then there are those who fight for the things they believe
And these are men like you and me

I think we have something worth fighting for, but such things are reflected in what we do more so than what we think or say.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,

Harry

PS Some of you know that you are contributing and making a difference.  You will read this, nod and go on to the great things you are doing.  Thank you for what you do, whether it be someone who serves in our military, our first responders, other people charged with our security, people in health and education, genuine, authentic leaders and even the person who helps kids walk across the street safely.  It all matters.

However, many of you are doing next to nothing or are actually contributing to our demise, caught up in greed, selfishness or other vile attributes.  Those in this group will get angry about reality and will reach out to condemn me for writing this or to condemn the many who are making a difference.  Spare us all your wasteful anger – turn this energy into something that makes a difference to yourself, your family and the future of the world.  Reality doesn’t care what you think – take a look around you at the many problems that require solutions and the many people who are already doing their darndest to make those solutions a reality.  There are many great models to learn from – emulate them and you and the world will be better for it.

Meanwhile, if you claim to know all the answers, then put your solutions to work otherwise shut your mouth – you are part of the problem.

If you have solutions, the world is waiting for them.

What are you waiting for?


Addendum – My Motivation For Writing This Post – November 15, 2015

As a long time strategy guy, I have been in more emergency planning sessions from the local level up to the national level in multiple countries than I care to remember.

For the many meetings I have participated in, a few things stand out:

  • Emergency planners are rarely if ever given the resources they need to effectively plan for emergencies even though you are assured that all possibilities of emergency have been accounted for.  They are told to do what they can with what they have and told to assume that it will never be needed so an incomplete solution is acceptable.  Truthfully, there would never be enough money or manpower to plan for everything anyway and so people choose what seem to be the best things to tackle.  Ever wonder why, no matter how much planning we do for terror attacks, natural disasters and the like, that it always catches us off guard and we make up a solution on the fly?  This is why.  I heard a guy once compare his emergency planning job to training to run in a marathon, only to discover when he got to the race that the street was covered in glass, he had to run barefoot while dodging snipers and with a 50-pound sack on his back.
  • Emergency planning people are great people who sacrifice family time as well as making mental, physical and emotional sacrifices in order to help people they will never know.  Many turn to drugs, alcohol or other vices to keep them distracted from the world they live in.  One person in particular told me that he makes it day-to-day by trying “not to stay sober”.
  • Many planners hold themselves up to standards that the people they are protecting don’t do for themselves, even though the latter demand it from the former.  It is easy for the latter to claim victimhood later in ignorance of this.
  • Some guys in emergency planning have a pool to see what disaster will overtake us.  While this is a fun way to blow off steam, the most humorous part is that the winner will not live to collect.
  • Some people at higher levels actually want to see a disaster, with the belief that it will cull the “dull and ignorant”, leaving humanity to start over with a better DNA pool to draw from.  This form of defeatism is dangerous given that certain disasters don’t have restart potential and it detracts from those of us trying to make a positive difference.
  • I have been told by many to stop encouraging people to do more for themselves – that collapse is inevitable and we should just let it occur.  The realistic optimist in me cannot accept such a demand.
  • Some actuaries would sit in meetings and calculate the mortality rate of the participants, with the belief that our efforts and frustrations would prove to be our own physical undoing.
  • Some people believe that it is better to have some predictable incidents come true rather than fewer.  The reasoning is that while people die when events occur, if they occur as predicted, it proves that prediction models are accurate and can thus be trusted to head off “the big one”.  Fewer incidents occurring as predicted suggest that our models are not accurate and thus, “the big one” may catch us unawares.  There is a high probability that the latter may occur anyway.
  • Truths are inconvenient, messy, frightening, complicated and in some case contravene national security.  The phrase “you can’t handle the truth” is more applicable to more people than many realize, although there are many capable citizens who would be better prepared and greater contributors during times of need if they knew more.
  • Some planners look with contempt at the citizens who waste their lives while others sacrifice their lives for the lives of the ignorant and indifferent.
  • Many people, including myself, have told others we would trade what we have been exposed to with anyone else for a taste of mental freedom.
  • Some enjoy the testosterone rush that comes with the job.  They are the minority.
  • Politicians and other leaders keep too much information restricted not because of national security concerns or anything of the like but because it is easier to get elected on a feel-good, got-you-covered platform instead of a “we have no idea what we would do if xxxx” platform.

Emergency planning is tough and planners involved do an amazing job with what they have been given and what they are allowed to do.

Resource constraints, circumstances and egos prevent them from doing a greater job and from engaging the populace more.

Many of us find this frustrating.

And it was this frustration that prompted this musing.

In service and servanthood, always.

Harry


Addendum 2 – A View From a Muslim – November 15, 2015

I was discussing my blog with a Muslim today.  He and his family fled Iran just before the Revolution in 1979.  He asked me if I was familiar with taqiya, a concept whereby a follower of Islam may deny his faith, lie or say / do deceitful things or commit illegal or blasphemous acts, especially if they are in fear, under attack or need to accomplish a task that honors Allah.  It is written into Sharia law as an approved and condoned practice for the previously noted reasons. It is described here (Wikipedia) and here (How Taqiya Alters Islam's Rules of War).

When I asked him how you can trust someone who is encouraged to lie “in a way condoned by Allah” to promote the objectives of one’s faith, a faith where jihad is one’s religious duty because of the obligation to convert everybody to Islam willingly or by force, he shrugged and said “you can’t”. 

He admitted that a Muslim could deny affiliation with extremists while privately endorsing them, could proclaim to be peaceful to your face while literally stabbing you in the back and could even burn down their own Mosque if it could be pinned on “someone against Islam” (establishing innocent victimhood) while at the same time remaining calm about it to show they are a peaceful religion.  In other words, anything that advances the cause of Allah is permitted.

He then described some potential attack scenarios in the West that made me want to throw up including mass scale attacks in the food industry.

Meanwhile, in the US today, US officials said terror attacks in the US similar to the Paris event are practically impossible.  I wish I shared their enthusiasm and confidence.  While surveillance is broad and deep, past experience is the best predictor for future behavior and results.

A group known as the Battle Class Society, made up of Marines and Special Ops forces, released this statement over the weekend (click on it for a larger version):

One person's view

Is this fear mongering or an appropriate call to arms?

Should we be concerned?

Are you sure?

How do you know?


Friday, November 13, 2015

Newfoundland Politicians–Candidates For the People or For the Waterford

One of the reasons people hate politics is that truth is rarely a politician's objective. Election and power are. - Cal Thomas

A politician thinks of the next election. A statesman, of the next generation. - James Freeman Clarke

The general election in my ancestral province of Newfoundland and Labrador is just around the corner (November 30, 2015) and as I ponder what type of future the citizens of that great province are contemplating, I can’t help but cast an eye of discernment over the candidates themselves.

As a person who evaluates people using data, I always examine politicians by the things that predict their behavior – things like their ethics, their morals, their values, their character and the people that they associate with.  It is contrary to how many voters evaluate candidates – based on their party, their looks, the selfish needs of the voters themselves or a small subset of the politician’s intentions or beliefs without looking at the larger picture.

It is because of how many voters select their candidates that they don’t foresee where their candidates will take the government and so today’s Leader-of-the-year, can-do-no-wrong hero becomes tomorrow’s despised, have-to-get-them-out-at-any-cost bucket of manure. 

The people leading us into heaven today become the people leading us into the apocalypse tomorrow and yet the funny thing is that they didn’t change and neither did we.  The only thing that changed was the revealing of their character, their motives, their abilities and their intentions.

And so now as I cast an eye of discernment over the candidates in the upcoming general election, some interesting things stand out:

  • At least two candidates who are heavily into BDSM.  I don’t care about their personal preferences but their spouses are unaware of their interests since their acts are performed with others.
  • At least one candidate who believes that they are one of ten prophets on planet Earth who have been selected to channel a new way of living on the planet, advice which is being sent from beings from another planet or dimension.  One individual tried to convince me that I was one of the ten as well.  Really.
  • At least one candidate who makes a living promoting products and services for a company founded by a man who has been fleeing US authorities for years, wanted for fraud, tax evasion and a pile of other things associated with this company.  We are the company that we keep.
  • More than one candidate who already has lined up lucrative deals with private corporations and individuals.  Forget the Tendering Act – it is merely a suggestion that is easily circumvented.  Some businesses are smart – they have secured the help of all sides.  The humorous thing is that each candidate is unaware that they are all being used.
  • At least one candidate who has spent so much time gathering dirt on other people ala J. Edgar Hoover that the candidate is unaware that dirt is being shared about them amongst others with the belief that this may be leveraged to their advantage some day.  Some people have been waiting for an opportunistic moment to take the person out with litigation – the timing may be right if the candidate is elected since litigation is as much about emotion and leverage as it is about facts.

The list in front of me is long, complex, disturbing and frightening and includes most of the candidates.

Don’t ask me for it – I won’t share it – at least for now.

When I suggested on Twitter that I might share it, eight candidates reached out to me to ask me who I was outing.

Seven of them are on the list.

Oh well.

I’m not expecting candidates to be perfect.

However, I am expecting candidates to be in a position in their Life such that they can’t have their personal interests used against them in order for others to achieve greedy or nefarious objectives.

For some, I would expect the candidates to at least be sane since they are leading the Province legislatively, morally, etc.

And while there are politicians who exist to serve the people and leave the place better and stronger than they found it, they are in the minority.

The rest fall prey to greed, ignorance, ego and opportunism – either their own or someone else’s and it either takes them off the focus of serving the people who elected them or it throws them into disarray as they find themselves serving different masters who use personal information to direct their puppets.

When these things happen, we find them ignoring data at the risk of the Province.  When I wrote the blog post Newfoundland–Should We Just Shoot It And Put It Out Of Its Misery? in March of 2014, where I discussed the concern of the Newfoundland Government projecting $105 / barrel oil while Goldman Sachs was projecting $80 / barrel or worse, I was contacted by the Government and told to stop fear mongering.  As I write this, oil is hovering around $41 / barrel and budgets in the near term do NOT look good.  Ego has a way of not listening, doesn’t it?  Ego’s favorite tool, unfortunately, is intimidation and not education.

When these things happen, we find people using power to promote the unqualified or their own selfish needs.  When I wrote the blog post The Power of the Four-Poster Interview in October of 2013, I created a fuss when I opined on why and how someone with a high school education and no relevant job experience could be appointed to chair the College of the North Atlantic Board of Governors (amongst other appointments).  I suggested that it was possibly related to the reality that the minister who made the appointment and the person who was appointed were dating each other.  No conflict of interest there.

When these things happen, we find people who forget that they exist to serve the interests of the people transparently and honestly.  When they don’t as I mused in the blog post Muskrat Falls–Mastering the Art of Communication Failure in October of 2014, people should rise up in arms.  Instead, they complained a lot in coffee shops, op-eds and call-in programs.  That doesn’t change much.

Such things suggest to me think that despite the quality (or lack of) in people who get elected, the Province relies on the hard work and insight of the bureaucrats to make the Province work at all.  I mused about this in October of 2013 in the blog post The Newfoundland Government–Headed For the Garbage Can.

If the great people of Newfoundland and Labrador dare to demand better of their government, I would suggest that they dare to demand better of their own level of discernment first, to understand why a candidate seeks to be elected and whether that candidate is truly capable, able and worthy of serving the people.

Desire to serve the people is not enough – worthiness, ability, capability and intention matter.

The Bottom Line

Many fine, well-intentioned, capable, intelligent, moral, ethical, character-driven people offer themselves for public office.  We should never forget this or the sacrifices that such people make in order to serve us nor should we become cynical of the great system of democracy that we live in.

Unfortunately, it is rare to find all of these attributes within a single body and so government often elates us during the honeymoon phase only to leave us seeking the divorce lawyer quickly thereafter when the elation of the early romance has worn off.

The interesting thing that voters should always ask is this:

Why is it that when most politicians are voted out of office or leave of their own accord, they often leave the place worse off than it was when they were elected yet magically their personal situation has greatly improved during the same time period, with much additional prosperity (however you measure it) projected for them in the future.

To the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, know your candidate well before casting your vote on election day.

To do otherwise is to subject yourself to something you may not like and which may be less than you deserve.

Or at least less than what you think you deserve, for if you don’t make your choices wisely, you deserve whatever you get.

In service and servanthood,

Harry

PS For those who don’t understand the Waterford reference, it is a facility that is part of the hospital system in the Province. The Waterford facility has at various times contained treatment centers for those suffering from various psychological concerns and so years ago, to suggest that you were sending someone to the Waterford was to suggest that they weren’t terribly well-balanced.

As for what motivates me to write posts like this, I ask you consider this quote from Romans 12:2

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

People complain a lot about politicians but do little, thereby giving them more to complain about.

This doesn’t make sense to me.

Does it make sense to you?

What are you doing about it?

When?


Addendum – The Courage to Not Conform – November 13, 2015

Many times when my blog posts muse about unethical, immoral, illegal or strange behavior, the people affected or people representing them reach out to me and tell me that I can’t say what I said.

My reply is always “If I have said something not factual or not accurate, then tell me immediately and I will correct it or retract it otherwise the post stands” and I never hear from them again.  Oftentimes, what I have shared is just the tip of the iceberg and they recognize that to pursue their intention is to invite much worse to be revealed.

Unfortunately, many people who have gotten used to bullying and intimidating others into silence fall back on such techniques automatically to defend actions that they know are incorrect.

I don’t know what’s worse … that they find those techniques to be an acceptable form of defense for the indefensible or that people easily fall prey to such tactics, even when the people are in the right.

Are you easily intimidated?

Are you sure?

How do you know?