I am not a member of a union, although I have been in the past. I don't necessarily support everything they do. Unions, like any large organization, are subject to flaws in the system.

I also speak as an outsider. I live in Illinois and so I don't have first hand information about the issues involved in the demonstrations that are going on in Wisconsin. What I know is what the media is reporting. And what I hear is truly disturbing.

That said, I stand in full support of the Unions in Wisconsin in their fight to preserve their collective bargaining rights.

A very serious illness is sweeping the country threatening the American people. My personal opinion is that we have never recovered from the first great depression. Americans have a serious insecurity complex that has laid them vulnerable to abuse by any entity that is bigger or richer or more powerful. The fight in Wisconsin is just one of many cases of society and justice run amuck. It's a telling symptom of the disease that's sapping our society. Others:

  • pervasive age discrimination in the work force.
  • the constant discrimination, finger pointing and demonizing of anyone who is in any way "different".
  • the continued elitism practiced in corporate America that is, quite literally, trying to force workers into neat little boxes based on whether they conform to arbitrary pre-defined criteria.
  • competition, taken to extremes, in an all-out struggle for power and – indeed – survival 
  • the closed-minded approach to business, organizations and individuals that says "It's my way or the highway"

These are just some of the pieces of a system of complex practices not easily isolated into individual component but all intertwined to promote a society where survival of the fittest at the expense of human potential and dignity is pervasive.

I do believe we're not looking at just how pervasive these symptoms really are. In fact, there are just enough exceptions to the rule that intelligent discussion is stymied. But at any level these are attitudes and practices that, left unchecked, could be the undoing of society as we know it.

Examples, for Real

We all know about about age discrimination. It's alive and well. There's a lot of discussion on this point, but very little is really being done to rectify it. The obsession with youth continues to dominate the media and marketing. And senior citizens struggle to reclaim a place in public discourse, jobs and purpose for being.

This country has suffered from discrimination and finger-pointing for years – most prominently since the early 1900s.. Throughout this time there's always been an underdog whether it be the Italians, Irish, Orientals, Blacks, Hispanics, and now Muslims. Each group has had to fight for the privilege of being accepted in "polite" society.

Women went through a stage of refusing to learn how to type, because they didn't want to be boxed into secretarial positions with no opportunity to advancement.. It's the attitude and practice that insists that if you are working as a waitress you're not likely going to be considered a prime candidate for a position in an office.

On job boards' resumes are crammed into pre-defined classifications and those that don't fit simply fall through the cracks. At interviews, people are judged based on their dress, their makeup and hair style as much as they are based on their attitude and skill set…styles change seasonally and those that don't keep up are left out of the mix. Candidates are judged by how many degrees they have and which universities they went to, and how long ago. While those who engage in systematic self-education are rendered suspect. Interviews with candidates fail explore a person's desire to continue learning and growing in favor while focusing on how many dollars the candidate contributed to past employers' bottom line.

Competition is a good thing. But taken to the point where we undercut each other and and refuse to work together for the common good…where we look to demonizing and destroying the competition…that's another thing entirely. This is what appears to be happening in Wisconsin. Get rid of the Unions. Oh, yes. Render anyone who is not of my political or religious or ideological persuasion impotent .. absolutely. The President isn't one of  "our own" therefore he is attacked vehemently and thwarted in every effort to do what he does best, lead the country. Some of our politicians are masters at this game. Corporations are too. Take a look at the the fight between oil and scientists and those companies that would pioneer clean energy, ecology-friendly initiatives. But these aren't the only cases by a long shot.

Have We Forgotten

Competition is a good thing. It feeds the energy that propels us on to bigger and better things. Once competition  is eliminated, lethargy sets in. 

Different is the stuff that allows everyone to shine. More than that, it's the very thing that allows life itself. Once we all become inbred to the point of same-ness…when we no longer are able (or willing) to stretch and explore we've lost the drive to grow. One person's experience and views aren't the whole truth. They can't be. We each see a different aspect of truth and reality through the prisms of our own experiences. We all bring to the table differences that, when incorporated, make us stronger and more vibrant as a people.

No one person or corporation or political party has all the answers. And not one of us exists solely for the benefit and welfare of the other. Corporations, businesses and political entities are supposed to work together to serve the people. These are all structures that are devised by people to make life better for all of us. The people don't exist to serve the corporations or businesses or politics. When people start hurting, as many are in this economic chaos, it's time to look at what ails the system, and fix it.

Rules and laws are a good thing. Absolutely. But they can't be absolute. No man has the insights needed to tell a woman what she can do and can't do. Because foods or plants might be abused by one person that doesn't mean that a law should be enacted to outlaw all use…some may need those very foods or plants for survival. Killing is against human nature. No doubt of it. But there are times when circumstances leave no alternative. Abortion on its face is reprehensible any woman who has had to resort to that will agree. But no man – or woman – has the right to judge another for resorting to it any more than they have the right to kill one person for killing another in self defense.

Human rights are indeed paramount in our struggle for survival and a more sane society. But one man's human rights end where another man's begins. We each are responsible for our own actions. And just as important, we are responsible for building a society that supports the good of each and every member in it. 

The Questions We Face

Where did this concept come from – this attitude that one entity has the power to control at the expense of all others? Are we still fighting the unfinished business of the first great depression? Do we have to still go back to fighting the same old battles of survival of the fittest and be damned with everyone else? Or are we at a turning point where we can emerge into a more civil society based on incorporating the best of all our talents and viewpoints to create a better world where all men have equal value and equal rights? Is America – and indeed all mankind — standing on one of those historic precipices that will significantly change the world as we know it for better or for worse? 

The Power of Asking Questions

Business - Not As Usual, That's Life Comments Off on The Power of Asking Questions
May 142008

Who is living your life?

Are you making decisions based on media reports? On emotional triggers embedded into all the communications that bombard you 24/7?  Are you swayed by all the pretty graphics and the ominous numbers/statistics that seem to be so authoritative?

We’re in a highly competitive commercialized society where we can’t escape persuasion and sales tactics. It seems that no matter where we turn someone is selling us something – whether it be what food we should eat, which politician we vote for, what we do with our lives. No matter what we do, someone is right there telling us what we should or should not do, what’s good for us and what we’re good for.

Way too many people repeat, like so many parrots, whatever the latest newspaper, or radio host said today or yesterday as if quoting from the bible, without understanding. And, I’m watching them make significant changes in their lives based on what someone else’s criteria.

But I’m also seeing a very healthy trend toward people asking some of the harder questions and delaying their decisions just long enough to get past the emotional claptrap. Recyclers are opting to trade items rather then discard and they’re finding ways to extend the useful life of items that once were considered past their built-in obsolescence. More people are willing to risk being just a little bit different. It’s not as important to dress in gray flannel as it once was in order to be acceptable. And, yes, people are learning to do without. Latest and greatest isn’t necessarily a great calling card for marketers any more.

Even while torn by emotional messages, like fear, people are learning to ask hard questions. It’s true that human nature is such that we do re-act when someone plays on our emotions – our fears, our desires to impress others or be a better parent. And, it is true that we buy what we want before we buy what we need. The marketers have that right. But the formulas don’t seem to be working quite as well as they once did.

It’s true, we bought into the belief that "everyone is a salesperson". And, as salespeople (regardless of what we’re selling), we’ve learned that the best way to sell anything is to play on emotions first, then present statistics with lots of graphics and pretty pictures and testimonials. That may work in a purely commercial setting. But, now there are just too many mixed messages, conflicting sets of statistics and testimonials attributed by people we have no reason to believe.  It’s possible that the golden goose is on it’s last legs.

What’s happening? People are beginning to re-discover how to think critically based on their own best interests.  More important, they’re going back to a very old philosophy my grandfather taught me:

Before making any decision, he’d say, ask some very simple questions:

Why is this important?
Why now?
Why is this person telling me this? What is his/her vested interest in my decision?
So what? Why should I care?

What do these simple questions tell us? Invariably, they uncover a telling underlying question: Where’s the money?  They allow us to understand the full story (beyond the sound bytes and pretty stories); they give us time to step beyond knee-jerk emotional reactions; they clarify the vested interest the individual(s) behind the information we’re being given; and, they clarify the inherent priority of that information in our own lives.

With this background information in hand, we can make a valid – unemotional – decisions based on our own self interests. 

Here’s to living your own life!

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