Monday, August 08, 2005

Online dating

Ahh...finally an interesting topic! Online dating is currently sweeping our western (and likely eastern) societies. In our constant quest for increased efficiency in our lives, it seems that we have even lost patience in the "get to know people" phase and instead screen people online by reading their profile and chatting for a bit first before the first meeting. I took a job in the Northwest Territories at the beginning of the year (with a population of 3500) so I have some first hand experience on what I perceive to be the pros and cons of this new cultural phenomenom.

What I noticed early on was that people seemed to be much more open about what they were looking for; both in terms of "who" and also what type of relationship. This was initially what turned me on to the whole process. Meeting someone, and hitting it off, often would change your perceptions on what you were looking for in the first place. If, for example, I meet a girl and like her....all of a sudden I am compromising what initially were crucial stipulations to any new relationship. It seems that a beautiful girl can quickly derail any rules that I set up in advance. So...I joined Lavalife to check out what all the buzz about online dating was about.

First off, its not very expensive (for guys). You pay as you go, and over the course of 4 months...ive spent maybe 30 bucks and have "met" quite a few girls online. Guys would easily drop this amount of money at a club trying to impress even one the money probably won't discourage anyone. I think another advantage of the "profile" aspect of this setup is that you are able to ascertain what kind of communicator the individual is. For me, it is tremendously important that people I associate with have an above-average ability to communicate, and especially anyone I would date. The fact is, if you can't generate a one-page response saying something about yourself and what you are looking for in a charismatic and intelligent way, with the benefit of spellchecker and time for revision, you are likely even worse in person.


These took a little longer to figure out. First of all, girls are VERY good at choosing the absolute best photo of their life and putting it on their profile. This means that if you a) see more pics of them or b) meet them in person, the flaws that they have will be revealed, and you may be disappointed. Second...especially for get absolutely flooded with messages from people you have absolutely no interest in. For some, it may discourage you from revisiting the site and trying to sift through all the junk. chatting on a site like Lavalife seems to be kinda like the equivalent of meeting a girl for coffee, and 10 other guys show up. The deal is, men seem to outnumber women by a fair margin, so any extra special ones will likely have 10 guys that they are chatting with at any given time. Personally im not a big fan of this kind of setup. In fact if a girl wants to talk with another dude, I tend to suggest that she drop me a line when she is more interested in me.

Regardless of any pitfalls that people will experience engaging in these types of activities, it pales in comparison to any of the engineered ways that we currently have to meet members of the opposite sex, namely bars/clubs/maybe campus. But the really funny thing have almost 0% chance of orchestrating a good relationship. Almost all of the "success stories" that I have heard from couples seem to revolve around chance encounters and coincidences. Personally, I suck at knowing what and who I want, so I like being pushed around by fate.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Does Destiny Exist?

Well...I thought that I had this question adequately solved. Things are going well in my life and I was satisfied that all outcomes are determined through a set of circumstances that are somehow interrelated and somewhat orchestrated by some form of organizational power. I came to this conclusion after attempting to calculate the odds of events unfolding in a certain way, if in fact it was merely chance. Take the following scenario: I fall in love with a co-worker. In order to calculate the odds of this event to occur, you need to trace all of the events that led up to this. For me, there were several that guided me to this particular workplace. So what would you say are the odds of the following:

1. My brother worked there
2. It was a block from my house
3. It had the clientele that I was comfortable with
4. It had a great reputation
5. They were hiring just as I left my former employer

So, not such a big deal right? It is a pretty trendy place so maybe the odds were pretty good that I would work there at least once during my lifetime. I have always grown up on the southside, so of the bars in the region, this would have been my likely choice. Hiring periods are quite frequent in this business so its not too far-fetched that this was coincidental.

Here's where things get complicated though....what are the odds that I lived on the south side? What are the odds that someone from Kingston ends up in Edmonton? What are the odds that I would be single at the time (I'm never single). What are the odds that my brother worked there? You could even go back further....what caused my parents to want to move to Edmonton? What inspired the owner of the bar to begin operations at that specific location?

So really, you can go back as far as you want in identifying the factors that lead to a specific outcome. In fact, often this analysis will not only lead to an assessment of events in your own life, but also the lives of others will become intertwined as well. If done correctly, you will see that for any of your life's events, there were millions of individual factors that would have had to have worked in unison in order for it to be realized.

So, what do others think on the subject? What were the odds that you found your dream job or the girl you married? This type of thinking fascinates me as there truly are no answers. Like many things, it boils down to what you believe.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Why do national governments seem so useless?

The picture is me wondering "Where the hell has all the taxpayer dollars gone?!?"

Lately, I have been hearing much talk regarding the apparent ineffectiveness of our governments. It seems that both Canadians and Americans are getting frustrated with the way governments function. People claim that much of the spending that goes on is wasteful. Indeed media has brought to our attention many examples. I'm sure those of us in Canada are aware of the "sponsorship scandal" or the "gun registry" fiasco. Being an auditor, I have personal experience dealing with government organizations with very little in the way of spending control and accoutability.

I can't blame these people because they are working within a system that is really messed up. First of all, because it's party politics, members of government must appeal to what the party wants and not necessarily what they feel is best for the country. This makes it difficult to advocate a more balanced approach (ie half republican half democrat) because you will be accused of not being loyal to your party. Not to mention the huge pressure that members feel from lobbyists and big corporations for things like favourable tax breaks and new legislation. And seriously....I don't know many people who can resist monetary rewards for a few favors!

The fact is, until we can find a way to change human nature in general....we will have a hard time convincing politicians to somehow be better than the average human. That is all they are....after all.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Small town VS Big City

So here I am living in small town nowhere in the Great White North. Lately the rose-colored glasses have begun to wear off and I am beginning to lose my optimism in regards to my long term service here. So....It seems like a perfect time to compare the virtues of both types of locales and hence make a clearer decision regarding what would be more desirable in the future (for me anyways). I apologize that this post will be somewhat selfish in nature as I normally try to tackle world issues on this blog.

Small Towns

-Friendly people who are genuinely concerned about your activities
-a sense of comraderie generated by a sense of isolation from most media portrayed lifestyles
-able to go anywhere in town and recognize people you know
-dont need to care about fashion, hairstyle, latest trends or popular culture
-higher salaries for professionals and laborers
-a break from the constant buzz of the big city life
-zero commute time
-complete inability to go broke due to lack of expensive stores
-unparalleled nature and freedom
-certain laws seem to go unpoliced as local cops tend to be pals with everyone

Big City

-More people = More competition = Higher drive towards corporate success
-countless fancy places to spend money on
-ability to acquire high fashion
-able to go anywhere in the city and guarantee to meet at least one person you dont know
-Night life, venues available to "dress up"
-haute cuisine (I friggin LOVE icewine)
-haute couture (I friggin LOVE Holt Renfrew)
-constant new streams of people, so if you are unsatisfied with the current changes by the day

Hmmmm...tough call. I think that it's a good idea in this day and age for all people to attempt to experience both sides of this coin. The fact is, everyone would come up with different points in assessing the pros and cons of each unique situation. I am officially on the fence regarding
this topic....I am gonna let the winds push me to one side or another.

Thats just how I like it.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

In Pursuit of Beauty

Well its been a while since I have written on a new topic....haven't really felt the need lately. I received a request to comment on the pursuit of female beauty. I'm a my ideas will be somewhat limited, but I do feel that my profound sense of respect for them may shed light on a males perspective.

We must remember in this age of confusion that seldom are their merely one cause for what ails us. Often, our afflictions, whether they be medical, social, spiritual or otherwise, have numerous issues which affect its impact on our lives. One hotly debated topic seems to be the conceptualization of beauty for women today. It is true that over the years, the ideal woman has changed. The kinds of clothing, the style of hair, makeup, even the personality that is being encouraged seems to be in constant flux.

Here is the problem as I see it. Like everything else, humans have this tiresome tendency to attempt to formulate a template that identifies an ideal situation. We have done it with political systems (ie capitalism vs communism). We have done it with organized religions (ie muslim vs christian). We even do it with social morals and norms. This would be fine in itself, except after a group of people find that something works for them in their lives, they then attempt to impose it upon others, and rationalize that they are in fact helping them. The concept of beauty is no different. First society has conceptualized the ideal body type, hairstyles, fashion, breast size, sexual behavior, etc and now will attempt to "help" women acheive these ideals. But just like the other ideals mentioned above...all people are different in their own way, so no two people will desire exactly the same things out of life. Believe it or not, there are many men who have no interest in the "supermodels" of the world. In fact, it seems that the sexual taste of humans is perhaps the most diverse of all our tendencies. It truly guarantees that there are individuals who would enjoy the company of everyone on this planet. Granted some of us are less in-demand than others, but through relativity, you quickly realize that the less of something you have (in this case opportunities with the opposite sex) the more you cherish the instances in which you experience it.

In tackling how we got to this point (ie unrealistic image goals for women) it is obvious that we must accept the idea of supply and demand. The fact is...because many of the goals that we have established (ie toned physique, perfect breasts, beautiful skin and teeth etc) are virtually impossible for the majority of women, that makes those woman that can attain such lofty goals quite rare. And much like diamonds are coveted by us for their rare beauty, so too are our women (of course, men are beginning to have similar pressures like "abs", sexual virility etc).

So...what is our generations response going to be on this issue? I suggest it would be the same response that we will have for pharmeceutical companies who imply that we aren't good enough, or a deceitful political system who imply we aren't smart enough, or a church that implies we aren't godly enough. The fact is, humans are the most beautiful things that have walked any earth. But not because of our idealized versions of us. What makes us so uniquely beautiful is our incredible diversity. Our diversity of thought, interpretation, love, attraction, culture, physique all guarantee that we will always be beautiful, each in our own way.

We have been conditioned for a long time, by many of our organizations and institutions, to believe that we are never good enough. This type of message cannot endure on our planet any longer....we are much too wise. I am grateful that so far we have proven to be unsuccessful in our struggle to render everyone the same; to have everyone worship the same, and speak the same, and govern the same, and love the same. I have never been a particularily violent man, but the one thing that I would fight for would be the protection of our diversity in all ways.

Always remeber that without "evil", there can be nothing "good", without ugliness, there would be no beauty. In a way, doesn't this truism render our undesirable aspects just as valuable as the ones we covet?

Sunday, June 26, 2005

me Posted by Hello

The Inherent Fallability of Story Telling

The Inherent Fallibility of Story Telling

I imagine that over the course of human history we have had in our midst many individuals who would have been able to shed light on the various problems that we were experiencing. Unfortunately, historically speaking, even the best messages would become distorted as it was passed from person to person and region to region. Of course this is a natural occurrence. I have heard this phenomenon referred to as “broken telephone”. In primary school, we learned that by retelling a story from classmate to classmate, after about 30 retellings, the story was quite different from the original. Keep in mind that none of the students were actively trying to manipulate the story, but merely retelling the same story told to them with their best ability. Admittedly we were young children, so perhaps our inexperience played a role in the story’s distortion. However, many times since that day, I have experienced the exact same tendency from individuals in all demographics and walks of life. I trust the reader would have personal experiences in this regard that would shore up my assertions. This is the basis, and always has been, for why I take the contents of all official religious works a degree of reservation. Even devoid of all ulterior motives that have been suggested of those who have “translated” or rewritten versions of our treasured books in the past, there is still that innocent tendency mentioned above. It would be unfair to expect a story retold over thousands of years to be in pristine condition. This is why our obsession for defining what was said, how it was said, in what context it was said, and under what connotations (eg. Literal vs. Metaphorical) it was said continues to baffle me. We have fought many bloody battles, when you really break it down, over a game of broken telephone. If we are all in agreement that we originated together at some location(s) (I’m unsure if we are), then it stands to reason that at one point we all communicated in the same way (formal language or otherwise), we had similar social constructs, and most importantly we had a degree of religious/spiritual understanding among us. It is logical to assume that as population grows, humans have a tendency to seek out less populated areas where they would enjoy greater freedom. Regardless of the catalyst that you believe set this in motion, the key is that it happened. Logically, as humans settled different areas with different topography and climate, their skin changed, as did their language, culture and concept of spirituality. This is all completely reasonable, and I would argue inevitable. It seems today that we have forgotten that, at some point, we were all members of the same family. We are members still. I have some ideas (that I bet are quite common) as to why our judgment in this regard seems so clouded with irrational beliefs and behavior:

1. Leaders, in all capacities, have always found it easier to lead groups with somewhat homogenous views. Over time, humans became more and more segregated from their distant cousins (due primarily to migration, currently due to national/religious boundaries) and therefore increasingly different. This means that everyday that passes; a leader would have more and more difficulty in converting an outsider into their version of desirable behavior. This idea perhaps explains that there are so many diametrically opposed societies in the world today. Everyday I spend in western society, for example, my understanding of it increases and likely my understanding of other cultures decreases. Without understanding, emotions such as jealousy, aggression and fear seem to manifest in us. Likely a quick scan of current events would substantiate this claim.

2. Religions, at some point or another, have begun to value themselves more on membership numbers than substance of ideas or the benefits that people experience from them. In short, the measurement that we use is often power in numbers. This tendency also makes logical sense. An easy way for someone to gage the validity of their theories or ideas is to count the amount of people who agree. If this person experiences competition, they can easily compare these same numbers and decide who is “more right”. It may be even more compelling to value in this way because if the alternative of “added benefit” to those effected (eg congregation) was used as a measurement of current and past success as a religion, members would be forced to acknowledge the behaviors, interpretations, and decisions that inflicted harm upon not just outsiders, but their own membership. I would hazard to guess that for many religious leaders this would be a stressful analysis. So, as the status quo currently dictates that strength of numbers is a valiant pursuit, we are prone to use the simplest technique to gain membership in our groups. The simplest of course is how well we can tear down the messages of other groups. This insures 3 horrible outcomes: misstatement of our own groups’ historic/current behavior to make us look better, misstatement of the “other” groups’ historic/current behavior to make them look worse and as a result greater stratification between us with each passing moment.

Given these two forces at work (admittedly quite similar) it is no small wonder why we seem doomed to repeat the same misunderstandings, disputes, conflicts, and full blown wars. Do keep in mind the other factors that I have mentioned earlier in this paper that would also apply to our inability to see our own commonality (ie Lost…..Conflict). Also keep in mind that throughout the evolution of our written representations of God(s) there have been individuals/groups who we are quite certain took intentional liberties with the information that they used for translation and revision (eg King James I).

Are we ready to live as family again, or is our current understanding of one another’s position the best we can hope for? I place much more faith in us than that.

The Role of Our Conquerors

The Role of our Conquerors

I would like to stress another lesson of past changes in thinking and perceptions. In particular, in the event that the above shifts occur, I would like to emphasize understanding and empathy. Those individuals among us whom we feel are responsible for the perpetuation of the various ills we have suffered will only appear responsible at the outset of the conflict. Historically, because of the results of repressing human emotion and how we deal with deception, humans, once they begin to react, often do so rather swiftly. Often times, judgment is rendered against those whom we view were in control of the situations we had come to despise. We need now, more than ever before, to accept that each of us would have failed in similar ways had we been given the same opportunities to lead. In fact, often times the regime that replaces the status quo proves, over time, to be no better than its predecessor. To expect our leaders to be above the types of rationalizing, conflicts of interest and vicious competition that we succumb to on a regular basis is patently unfair. My hope is that our pen chance for vengeance is far exceeded by our need for resolution, once and for all. If we truly intend on solving our world’s overall problems, we will have dire need for those with intimate knowledge of how our good intentions have gone so terribly wrong. Members in the upper echelons of our societies will serve an incredibly valuable role, once they no longer have any power to cling to. They will be able to demonstrate in great detail what types of scenarios were the most difficult to resist. Without them around at the conclusion of the restructuring, we will certainly be doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. We have had many revolutions and uprisings against various types of regimes during human history. Perhaps one of the reasons why we weren’t able to adhere to the new ideals that were introduced was a direct result of our inability to maintain relations with those who perpetuated it in the first place. Without truly understanding our misdirection, misinterpretations, and mistakes, the solutions we introduce will prove temporary. We will irrevocably doom our ancestors to the same struggle which we have faced for thousands of years.

The Progression of Visionaries

Often times, in speaking with people on these issues over the last little while, it was suggested to me that I may benefit from consulting someone whom they claimed knew much on the various subjects we attempted to tackle. In keeping with my beliefs, I welcomed their ideas and attempted to contact these individuals. In actuality, I wondered if some of our hidden visionaries were actually quite visible in organizations that entertain unique notions so I was anxious to find out. It was during this process that I realized how difficult it was to remain true to ideals. Let’s examine a simple situation. Someone, at some point in their life, becomes aware of certain ideas and begins to share these ideas with those around him. If these ideas are received with zeal and agreement then he will be inspired to seek more and more people. Also, those who have been exposed to his ideas will attempt to share those with others but more importantly, will attempt to learn more from this individual. The best way to learn from someone you respect is to remain close by so that as wisdom presents itself, you would be first in line to benefit from it. This is quite common if one examines the progression of our “documented” prophets. The more compelling the ideas, the more people would surround him. Naturally, these people would also want to protect this individual from people or situations that may bring harm to himself or his ideas. What I experienced was exactly this situation. At some point I imagine this individual would have been quite accessible as he would have passionately wanted to share his ideas with the world. It is directly because of his passion that he was so revered by those who crossed his path and conversely why his inner circle grew exponentially. However, currently the buffer established by his organization is so great that it is virtually impossible to access his wisdom. Sadly, when one possesses righteous wisdom, no matter how grand in scope, eventually as word of it spreads, the man behind the wisdom is worshipped more than the ideas themselves. In today’s world protecting our ideas/theories/beliefs from those who would oppose should not be our priority. Exposure to as many viewpoints and theories as possible is the quickest way to ascertain your own truths. It is also the quickest way to learn acceptance of the truths that others embrace. Logically speaking, only institutions/organizations that are well aware of their own errors of judgment would warn us against exploring ideas and beliefs other than those they have provided. If I knew something to be completely true or factual, I would encourage others to seek other options because I would know that all pursuits of such alternatives would simply back up my assertions in the end. Perhaps it is time to ask the question: Why are there individuals among us who fear our collaboration?

Generational Curiosity

Generational Curiosity

The following idea is likely peppered with ego, optimism and a measured amount of unwarranted faith in my generation. Nonetheless I feel compelled to include it among the rest of my thoughts. This entire theory was set in motion by our increasing ability to discredit and disrespect dissident, heretical, or non-conformist behavior. Likely our skepticism in those who suggest the road less traveled is well earned. As I think back to the times that I was presented stories about self-professed, or otherwise endorsed, prophets or visionaries, it is normally accompanied by either horrible results (ie Waco) or treacherous results (ie faith healer exposés). As such I share in a sense of cynicism when individuals cross my path whisper of far out theories.

Those of us who gain from a system unaffected by dissident behavior would surely enjoy the ease with which these individuals are cast aside. While in the past, governments/religious leaders have been forced to defend their actions from time to time in thwarting attempted coup d’etas, the new societies of the world tend to police themselves. In vast regions of the world, institutions barely have to flinch when revolutionaries attempt to garner support. Our own people seem to, at least officially, viciously oppose protest of any form. We seem hell bent on our objective of production, with little justification allowed for slowing the process down. What perhaps may not be an anticipated side effect of such a situation is at the heart of how we may succeed in what I hope to be our hidden (even from ourselves) objective, and the title of this paper. I would like to think that our mounting compulsion to protest the various historical “truths” that we have clung to for so long is a sign. On the surface, many of those on the various picket lines, in all forms, appear to know little of what they speak. The message that I take from this increasing phenomenon is more general. It seems apparent by our muddled, yet constant attempts at solutions, that many of us can sense that something is wrong with the world. Some of our wisest prophets are likely among us as we live today, but have learned the lessons of the past. This is the side effect that I speak of. We have learned that for all of our good intentions all over the world, the crucial ingredients that have always been missing have been co-operation and timing.

My generation seems thoroughly convinced that protesting in all forms has been rendered vastly ineffective in spurring change. The upside to this result is that although we avoid initiating such topics amongst one another, I have experienced a floodgate of ideas streaming from my contemporaries in all walks of life the instant they realize that I have no such compunctions regarding the subject matter. We no longer voice our displeasure, but in every home, on every corner, in every classroom and cathedral, we are thinking. More so, we are wondering and analyzing why we continue to misunderstand one another when the information crucial for mutual understanding has been available for ages. If enough critical thinkers of this nature, in the process of keeping an open mind, are also moving up the ladder’s of government, religion, cultural groups, military, and corporations, what I yearn for may well be within our grasp. I suspect that our self-oppression of dissident views may, in retrospect, be seen as our greatest ally in maintaining a momentum that seems to be growing in the hearts of our men and women.

Of course I sound overzealous, but if ever we are able to shift our perceptions enough to stagger the status quo, I would truly love to walk among those who would see it fall. If that day never comes, I guess I’ll be the best accountant I can be, which isn’t so bad.

The Wisdom of Innocence and Experience

The Wisdom of Innocence and Experience

I trust that many who read this paper are familiar with the phrase “You will understand when you are older”. As I have begun waking up hung over on workdays, and paying the price, I suspect that in many cases, these assertions are indeed correct. But at times children can display a kind of wisdom that defies the understanding of those who have lived a lifetime of concessions and rationales. The kinds of questions that the very young ask of their elders are often much more profound than is normally assumed. For example the question “Daddy, why do you have to work far away?” and the obligatory response “You will understand when you are older…” have a much simpler, yet wise undertone. What I believe the child is wondering is what is gained from the apparent sacrifice of leaving loved ones for months on end. As our children have little understanding of money, or the emphasis that is placed on it, our rationale as adults falls upon deaf ears. What we may want to begin asking ourselves is “Are we truly gaining wisdom with age, or merely developing rationales that seek to excuse us from our obligation to learn?” Perhaps our knowledge as adults could be tempered with the innocent, yet no less valuable, knowledge of our children. We should acknowledge that they have often not yet learned how to develop excuses like we can. Nor are they able to disguise emotion like we do. Nor are they as willing to “grin and bear it” like we do. They certainly don’t appear to have the mindset “If I work hard for my family now, but don’t have time to spend with them, I will make up for it later.” Are we still so naïve as to assume that we will be given enough chances to make up lost time on this earth? Perhaps we believe that we can make it up in the afterlife. Personally, regardless of my spiritual beliefs, I certainly don’t plan on gambling time lost with family in the hope of being handed new time to play with. Perhaps the next time a child looks at us and seems to perceive misery, or stress, or fatigue, we might take heed of their apprehensiveness about how we choose to prioritize our lives.

The other side of the coin that I see us often ignoring (especially in Western society) is the knowledge that our elders desperately want to pass on. We not only have little time to listen lately, but we increasingly rationalize that in our elder’s twilight years would be best spend in the company of complete strangers who make money off their last days. We claim that we are not able to provide the kind of care that our parents require to be comfortable, especially when they are physically or mentally disabled. I wonder how many people out there got the message days after the fact that their parent had passed away. Even if those of us in our “prime” honestly believe that there is nothing left to learn of our aging relatives, perhaps we can at least respect the insatiable urge that someone running out of time feels to pass on the knowledge that they feel they have. Perhaps they would like to share how much they regret committing their parents to nursing homes, in retrospect. Perhaps they would advise to not take the time we have for family and friends for granted as they had. They are likely fearful at this point that there may never be a “make-up game” that will serve to absolve them of the guilt they feel. They may be able to warn us about the mistakes that they feel they made in rationalizing your importance to them. Or maybe they are just rambling on…. Just in case they are not, don’t miss it. This would be the only guaranteed regret of your entire life choices.

Of course, we rationalize daycare in much the same way as nursing homes. I suspect that such concessions on our priorities took centuries to develop. It stands to reason that such mentality changes would be quite gradual because they are completely against our instincts as human beings. I suspect 10000 years ago, a mother would rather cut out her eyes than hand her child over to complete strangers for 75% of their waking hours. I am sure that similar feelings would have erupted when a suggestion was made to send our elders to an institution so that they could be more efficiently dealt with. It is no surprise that such concessions only get easier. I doubt that occupancy rates in either sectors will fall in the short run. Perhaps within our various assumptions regarding coming opportunities to make up for the concessions of our loved ones that we have made, we should leave a little room in our realm of possibilities that this may be the only chance we ever have.

Apathy Stemming from Institutions

Apathy Stemming from Institutions

We, as humans, have always tended to fit along a leadership spectrum. On one extreme would be those among us who are “born” leaders (whether or not they, in fact, learned to do it over time). On the opposite extreme would be those individuals who are quite content in empowering others to act in their best interest (to the extent of “other’s” ability to know what those interests in fact are). As leadership is currently a valuable commodity in the world today, it seems logical to assume that those who are content to follow greatly exceed the population of those who are compelled to lead. Likely, this proportion has fluctuated somewhat over our history, but nonetheless, those inclined to lead have enjoyed at least small amounts of autonomy while they were empowered to determine how to define the current priorities of their sphere’s of influence. It is useful to consider how governments have managed to become so entrenched over the span of human history. It seems due to the simple fact that those who empower (ie voters) are far less likely to document and analyze situations that have deceived or confused their positions in the past than the likelihood that those empowered will document past political successes and failures, in designing a current platform. It is this concept that seems to explain the progressively more entrenched systems of government that we have in place all over the world. I embrace our current need for government, but I feel that at this stage we should spend some time evaluating the tradeoffs that occur when we rely significantly upon agents to carry out our wishes on a daily basis. Take for example how we currently express our compassion for those less fortunate, so to speak. Every year, a portion of our income tax goes towards helping individuals with things like job training, social assistance, disability benefits, and child subsidies. I have noticed that the more an individual contributes to these programs, the less he feels the need to help them in face to face situations. We seem to rationalize that we have already helped someone who may approach us in our daily lives for help in some form, through our tax contributions. We also seem to assume that employment (in jobs that still enjoy a sense of utility in today’s add/drop spiral) is something of a birthright. “Anyone can get a job” is a fair statement to make. What I find troubling is my feeling (mentioned above) that we all have a path in the world. If this is indeed the case, then perhaps the path of those in need may have been for a vocation that we have decided was not worthy of monetary remuneration. Perhaps the work that they could do we have decided we no longer need? Some among us may find it quite difficult to have to consider monetary implications in choosing a vocation. It is unfortunate that criteria such as time commitment flexibility, enjoyment of the work, ability to relate with co-workers or bosses often must take a backseat to ideas such as “will I still be able to pay for my car loan, credit card debt, mortgage etc, if I follow my DREAM”. Do we truly believe that our soul first considers the monetary implications before communicating to our bodies and minds what we are compelled to pursue as a vocation? Given the persistence of individuals who seem to not fit in to our mold of productivity in our various societies (materialistic or otherwise), we might wish to consider the notion that these individuals may, in fact, be very valuable. Perhaps some of these individuals, consciously or otherwise, may have realized that not having money was in fact a SMALL price to pay for the freedoms that they enjoy. I would hazard to guess that while we are laughing at them for begging, they are laughing at us for making such a concerted effort at stressing ourselves out beyond all prior imagination. How, in the process of being so productive, 50% of us (in Western society) don’t have time left to love our spouse in a real way, rationalize that we will spend time with our children LATER, convince ourselves that the ones who gave birth to us will receive better care from those they don’t know, and somehow decide that friends are a waste of time. I find this to be quite a bit more amusing than someone who refuses to join us. I would suggest that next time a homeless person asks for money, attempt a different rationale in dealing with him. Suggest to yourself that perhaps there is a great deal of wisdom in someone who resists our system so vehemently. Offer him money, but instead of running off to avoid the distasteful site, stand beside him, and you will learn much of what you are missing. I am quite sure that individuals we have attempted to ignore our entire lives would be eager to share with us what they know. It is the most beautiful part of humanity that we still remember.

Above was my attempt at defining the hazards of writing off those we know little of. It occurs often whenever we become disassociated with those we judge. I should probably caution us about one more popular notion that I hear from others. It is the notion that because often those who are destitute spend donated money in frivolous ways, they shouldn’t give them any and spare them further shame. If even our good deeds that come from our hearts now demand productivity to exist, we are truly quite lost. I will not clarify this as I’m sure the above should do a sufficient job. There is an additional cost of delegating our responsibility to our brothers and sisters. By administering help instead of offering help face to face, much of the benefits we feel in our hearts, on both sides of the exchange are completely lost. I have never felt as good paying taxes as I have giving even one dollar to someone who needed it. In speaking with these types of people, I realized that the stories of kindness they cherish most come not from the $1000 dollar support checks they collect monthly (not sure how much, varies I’m sure), but from a $5 dollar bill they received from a passing child. Helping to heal these individuals, and to help re-include them in our world, has never been about the money. But by sending our money to government, who then send it to agencies (after taking an administration fee of course), who then dispassionately dole it out to them, we remove all human kindness and the resulting empowerment in the process. So to sum up the current situation:

1. Those that we assume benefit from our money do not get all of it
2. The money they do get often makes them feel worse inside
3. Our mandatory contributions don’t make us feel as good as if we placed it in the palm of their hand, accompanied with a small smile (not too long, your on your way to work remember?)
4. Our mandatory contributions doesn’t show them that we care about their well-being

Perhaps the next time we are in a position to render judgment upon our neighbor, we could keep in mind our good timing that allowed our own vocational inclinations to nicely coincide with products and services that economies still value. I certainly was never given a choice as to what vocation(s) I would be suited for. And there are certain jobs that I could physically perform (much like the able-bodied homeless’ ability to work for, say, McDonalds, as I often hear) but over time would find myself so miserable inside that I would be forced to discontinue it completely, or completely break down, hurting myself and those I care for. I am quite certain that we all understand that concept. Perhaps we should also consider other groups, organizations, cultures, and nations that wealthy countries/organizations throw money at and re-evaluate, along the same lines, why it never seems to work. It is time to humanize our thinking and our gifts.

P.S. For those more spiritually inclined: Try to picture our celebrated prophets of days long past. These individuals were often quite strange, had unusual habits, would rant and rave to passersby, and often cared little for personal appearance and hygiene. Take a close look at our homeless and those that have been successfully marginalized. Some of them may appear strangely familiar. True wisdom has always sprung from an acceptance of ignorance. We have much to learn from those we have stopped listening to.

The Add Drop Spiral

The Add/Drop Spiral

As I am an accountant (articling student) by trade I came across an interesting theory that is presented to intermediate accounting students. The Add/Drop Spiral is meant as a cautionary tale that warns of a company’s self-delusion in relation to the profitability of its various products. Here is the situation: Assume that there exists a company who supplies 5 products to consumers. At the annual meeting among management, it is suggested that they examine the profitability of their individual products. They agree to examine contribution margin (Revenue – Variable Cost). In their analysis, they find that product number 5 provides less profit per dollar invested in it than the other products they provide. The rational decision is made to drop that product and use the resources formerly allocated to that product and disperse them to the remaining product lines.

Of course, since this analysis works quite well in identifying the “weakest link”, the same process will likely be performed next year. In fact the company will likely repeat this process until only one product remains, which logically will be their most profitable one. The idea in accounting is a cautionary tale due to company’s tendency to allocate a portion of overhead costs to each of their products, using various methods. The key is to understand that as the allocation base becomes smaller (in this case, less products to share in the burden), it becomes more and more difficult for products to justify their own existence in the firm, because every year the overhead allocation attributed to them will increase. It is quite an interesting analysis in itself but I found the full extent of its power was in its ability to metaphorically describe our own diminishing roles in an increasingly efficient society/global economy. In this world, our usefulness, as determined in an economy, is defined by our productivity (regardless of how productivity is defined).

There are instances when an Add/Drop scenario is performed on a firm’s labor force. In fact, this tendency is increasing quite rapidly, as firms are feeling ever-increasing competition in their respective economies. Currently, manual labor processes are the ones easiest to target as the innovation required to render obsolete such processes requires very little in the way of AI programming. This allows those of us in the information, or consulting, or government, or various other white collar industries to rationalize that the gradual obsolescence of their hard-working brothers and sisters are in the glorious interest of progress. What we don’t seem to understand is the ease in which this escalating process can escalate to the point where there may be only one “product” left that we deem valuable enough to keep (or more likely too difficult to replace for the time being). I have heard the notion that when technology eliminates one job, another is created, so the net loss of our own usefulness is nil. This is quite an impressive display of rationalism indeed. If it were really a tradeoff on a one to one basis, you would need to assume that technology isn’t really efficient. If it were, the innovation should be able to at least reduce the need for general process.

The simple fact is; when an organization considers whether or not to fund research and development for the purpose of technological improvement, those in charge of the department will often argue their case by stating all the cost reducing benefits that the firm will realize over time, once the change is implemented. Conservatively speaking, 90% of the time the reduction is composed at least somewhat of labor costs. Now would perhaps be the time on this planet to realize that successfully reducing labor costs is the direct result of rendering another member of our society obsolete. Hopefully it does not also result in further exploitation of regions of the world that offer reduced labor rates. Now to attempt a further enlightenment of those who feel that they are somehow above this phenomenon: There are two main criteria that companies use in deciding what sector to target in the next round of year end meetings on cost reductions. The first, and currently easiest, is those whose processes are mechanically simplest (for example: supermarket checkout workers, mine/oilfield workers, assembly-line workers, construction workers, cultivators, bank tellers etc.). The second is, naturally, those knowledge workers (white collar) whose expertises are extremely costly. I trust that once management in various areas hit a temporary wall, in terms of their ability to automate processes they will likely shift attention to work that revolves more on our ideas and critical thinking skills. In performing an analysis, they will certainly see that although sophisticated AI programs are currently quite costly, they A)constantly fall in price at a rapid rate and B)the higher the wage rate for the sector targeted, the more easily they could justify huge initial outlays of funding to R & D to begin the process.

So, to those who feel particularly comfortable that they can rise above the process in motion I would caution them to consider the above progression, which is completely logical, innovative, and performed with the best of intentions. Maybe only your children, and likely many other areas of the world, will suffer its effects. Does that make you fortunate?

Prescription Drug Craze

Prescription Craze:

I find it fascinating; our ability to look for (and often find) ways to improve our standard of living and quality of life. Like many of our innovations, religious organizations, and institutions, this general idea of prescription propagation was set in motion with the best of intentions. However, I find it equally obvious that good intentions are often not enough to ensure a beneficial outcome for mankind as a whole. In the case of pharmaceutical companies, it is their prime motivation to identify the basic ailments that we suffer from and eliminate them from our list of worrisome traits, as we define them. Regardless of our (I find often misplaced) judgments we attribute to the various “illnesses”, I find that this behavior in general, seems to lead to catastrophic results.

You see, the most worrying proposition that I often consider is a simple question: “What do pharmaceutical companies (led by equally good spirited members of our world) do when they have successfully found “cures” (assuming even the seemingly unavoidable side effects are dealt with) for every personality trait, illness, and deficiency that the market creates a demand for?” I believe the answer is quite common in organizations like labor unions, marketing firms, external consultants, even government administrators, to name a few. When there is no problem left to solve, it is up to those relying on the proceeds of solutions to convince us that a new problem exists, or that an issue once thought to be solved is no longer. In the case of labor unions, it means that the equitable treatment that certain workers currently receive may no longer be accepted as sufficient. In the case of marketing firms, if there seems to be no demand for the product they are in charge of marketing, they need to create that demand by changing the perceptions of their target market in terms of their needs. In the case of external consultants, if in examining an organization for ways to, for example, cut costs, and none are found, they often may simply look a little harder. In the case of government it is painfully obvious why the same issues keep reoccurring. Without these “issues”, there may be no basis to re-elect them.

Do we truly believe any of these various entities would ever claim that they are not required? That their services have “run its course”? It is truly no different in the case of pharmaceutical companies, nor can we expect it to be. They will rationalize a new “illness” coupled with their new “cure”, likely complete with side-effects. Perhaps this may clarify my earlier introduced concept of “conflicts of interest”. These types of, what I find to be inevitable, outcomes are simply a result of our innate ability to rationalize our motives and the conflicts of interest that exist when we attempt to justify our motive’s results. There is certainly no conspiracy in the world, in my estimation, simply a summation of successful self-interested parties. That said, we need to decide if results like: dependence on drugs to functionally have sex, deal with shyness, deal with an overactive imagination, deal with our visual appearance (plastic surgery craze), deal with the stress of our patently unbalanced lives, deal with our children’s tendency towards disobedience, and anything else that we determine are undesirable in our world, are all outcomes that we deem necessary to be content in our various life paths. It may be useful to keep in mind that it is exponentially more difficult to overcome a reliance on drugs (whether real effect or placebo), than it is to rationalize its use in the first place.

Perhaps you can find examples of this in your life or the lives of those you know? With every passing generation, we are becoming definitively more reliant on various pharmaceutical modifications to function, and for every prescription that is written with the best of intentions, the next one will be written with somewhat less attention paid whether it is truly necessary. It may be useful, if you vehemently disagree with my ideas, to research recent charges of misdiagnosis of A.D.D. in children. Apparently we had decided that energetic, creative, sporadic and patently “inefficient” children needed to be medicated. I wonder: when did a short attention span become an adequate reason to issue mind-altering drugs to CHILDREN?

The Lost Art of Honorable Conflict

The Lost Art of Honorable Conflict

Warfare appears to have always been somewhat a part of our world, from time to time. I do not believe that humanity is inherently violent but I am resigned to the notion that often conflicts are inevitable. What I do not accept is that we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over and over. Our conflicts in the world today seem to sound more and more familiar as time goes on. Also, it seems that the reasons upon which we form a basis for our involvement in a conflict (regardless of the side we choose) become more and more convoluted. I have some major problems with the validity of certain conflicts all over the world. These problems lead me to question the very existence of these conflicts. I will briefly list them below:

1. Those that present the information that forms the basis for war are seldom called upon to fight in those wars that result. Perhaps more frightening is the concept that often these individuals may actually gain from their various pronouncements. This creates a dangerous conflict of interest situation for those involved. For example, if popularity measures reflect substantial falls in support, and if reputable studies show that Wartime leaders are, say, 50% more likely of being re-elected than Peacetime leaders, can we truly expect individuals subjected to this concept to be somehow above its influence? I suspect that those who achieve status and power may find it difficult to accept defeat with honor instead of rationalizing an event that may distract their sphere of influence from the very ways they merited defeat in the first place. This is not meant to criticize any one government, army, or religious organization with military ties. This is simply my attempt to shed clarity on why there is an increasing number of individuals who mistrust the reasons for conflict that are provided to them.

2. Economic and/or political gains are often made both during the conflict, which may unduly prolong one, and after the conflict, which may unduly lengthen an area’s occupation. This is at the heart of what I call the lost art of honorable conflict. I consider this to be analogous to a simple physical confrontation between 2 people. Upon the defeat of one, the other does not allow him to leave the battlefield to mend and reflect, but instead moves into his home, and then appoints a friend (or a selection of friends that may be chosen from) to then rule over the defeated. Do we still not see the dishonor in this situation? Surely, among our neighbors, if we witnessed such a result we would likely oppose on the grounds that it is an unfair expectation for the victor to have. I have yet to even introduce a notion that the victor is also 100 times (conservatively) the size of the vanquished! Do we still believe, on this battlefield, that there is any honor to be won? Have we forgotten that we once cheered for David in his struggle with Goliath? It seems, through our own institutions all over the world, that we have constructed our own “Goliath”. Unfortunately, we have also forgotten how to defeat him.

3. Technology. I am assured that improvements in technology save lives on both sides of the conflict. This likely is correct. What I am deeply concerned with, however, is the extent that technology can dehumanize a very human tendency to sometimes rely upon violence to settle disputes. You see, in days past, there was a failsafe, so to speak, that would ensure that in instances where the opponents were mismatched, it would not go further than necessary. That failsafe was a human’s tendency to break down after a certain amount of exposure to truly senseless bloodshed. Human beings can instinctively sense a broken opponent. It is often what compels a combatant to spare his adversary further pain/death. But with our new technology, especially on the “Western” side of the world, we essentially are able to effectively remove the power of such an emotion because soldiers seldom are close enough to their opponents to look them in the eye. There is another revelation that combatants often have during, or after, a conflict. That revelation is twofold; they see that they are not so different from those they fight (ie acceptance and understanding) and they begin to see that they need not fight again on the same issues. In both cases, it is essential that both sides at least accept the notion that no understanding will be reached, then, or in the future, if one side merely mails bloody retribution to the other with no need for human contact of any kind. Because every rational army seeks to avoid human casualties through technological advances, I do accept that this result is also with the best of intentions. However because of the growing disparity among opponents on earth, we may never again learn a valuable lesson about taking a human life, because we never had to look him in the eye when we took it. Perhaps the world would be truly content with one side fighting with satellite lasers, while the other fights with swords. Casualties will certainly be 10000 to 0 and entire nations will be enslaved into a sphere of influence that they never wanted. I will never again celebrate a result such as this as an Honorable Victory.

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Can there be one religion to unite the world?

For a long time, humans have benefited from formal houses of worship in which to learn and share ideas about God. This has truly been a beneficial experience for mankind. However as I look at the state of our world today, I wonder if it's shortcomings have begun to outweigh its benefits.....

It is for this reason that I believe organized religion, as we have come to conceptualize it, must come to an end. I say "must" because I believe that our ability to collaborate and understand our neighbor far outweigh our need to belong to official houses of worship. We seem to have reached a stalemate all over the world where many belief systems have been established and entrenched in the minds of people. So deep in fact, that we seem unable to consider viewpoints and accept beliefs that differ from ours as being equally beautiful and valuable to our spiritual enlightenment as a human race.

This also creates a situation ideal for the perpetuation of misunderstandings between cultures and nations and the solidification of elitist mentalities across the globe. By believing that your teachings are the only ones sanctioned by God, it means that you are explicitely condemning the spiritual practises of others. Why would God have made us all to beautifully different if he expected us all to believe and interpret in the same ways? The mentality of "I'm all right, you're all wrong" leaves us open to all types of manipulations, often the kinds that end in social predjudice and even outright war. We are no longer ignorant of our overseas neighbors and can no longer claim ignorance in our participation.

It is not difficult to see how humanity has gotten to this point of a regimented belief system. I imagine in ancient times, humans were filled with wonder when observing the world and each other, much as a child exposed to a brand new experience. At this point we would not have been concerned with the "rules". We would simply have been curiously taking in all of life's mysteries. However, once human beings are comfortable that they have a firm grasp on a concept, many of them will jockey for position as being an authority on the subject. We begin to write books teaching laymen how to understand what we understand. It was at the peak of this jockeying that during the 3rd Century CE, the Roman Empire converted to christianity and the separation between church and state ended. What resulted was a purge of all things pagan (conveniently lumped together as pre-christian spiritual ideas). We have stuggled with this tendency ever since. It is my contention that we were never meant to define, codify and regiment a system of belief and impose such structures on others. Our diversity has always been the main reason that we have found the world to be so beautiful.

I welcome any and all proposals that may break this status quo of perpetual misunderstandings between our various schools of thought in regards to the correct words and intentions of our Creator. We once lived in a world where an open showing of spirituality, regardless of its form or language, was encouraged by those around them as a beautiful expression of gratitude for the wonder found in every corner of the world.

It is never too late to experience this world anew. We have come so far to understand each others differences. All that is left is a global embrace.