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,


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.


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?

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