Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What keeps me up at night

What am I afraid of? I'm afraid that a small boy will stab a police officer in the eyes with a pair of scissors, and nothing will ever be the same.

Night. A demonstration, or a riot? Fire and fear, anger. It’s about food, about water, about hygienic conditions, about safety. It’s about desperation.

(On our own continent, North America, where These Things just don’t happen? People don’t riot in the streets for food. We have food banks and social assistance, don’t we?)

And yet, tonight, here are Women, Men and Children crowded together, a single beast howling for fairness, crying out in anguish for Lack.  Women, Men and Children, real and makeshift weapons brandished high, surging forward together:  a Force, a Wave,  rising to break against the Wall of Enforcement inevitably blocking its path.

Enforcement braces. Waits.

Wave smashes Wall! Spatters fly left and right, crowd crushing forward in a beautiful liquid flow, a choreographed dance of forward, full-stop, arch and FLY back. An inside-out waterfall, from above. A taste of hell from within.

Cracks, shots, screams, thuds, shouts, growls, roars; one tumultuous Roar of raw human violence. Teeth bared, the animals rise to their nature.  No spectacle in the Universe can match it (thanks be).

A grand human battle, as in days of old, when knights and villagers fought, quite literally, Tooth and Nail for their very survival. As in days of now, in countries far away where they can be safely ignored. And today, where we didn’t expect it and certainly don’t want it. Here. Somehow, it must be the fault of the Instigators. So Power whispers in our ears, as we witness from what we hope remains a safe distance.

In the end, of course, vicious Power must win by any means necessary, because anything less accepts defeat. Power cannot compute Defeat. Power is single-minded.

But what happens next?

Devon, nine, small for his age, hungry and ready to fight. Devon watches a big, ugly cop slam his Little-Tough-as-Nails-Mama with a club. Devon hears the crack of her skull and he sees the fluorescent glow of her spirit fly from her open mouth and dissipate into the night as her body slumps forward, bloody hair in her face.

Devon’s rage defies gravity. He flies through the air, latches his legs around that cop’s chest with the grip of a cobra. Scissors raised.

And what happens next?

What else could happen? Devon stabs the cop in the eyes. Again, and again. Power, that fairweather weasel, sees his Champion falter and just jumps ship; Devon’s gaping Hate beckons and Power lustily fills the void. Now the man’s high-pitched anguished screams pump Devon like energy. Now he wants to hurt, he wants to kill, he needs to take this life.

And next?

Hands, fists, boots, pain, pain, pain, pain, can’t breath, can’t see, can’t think, can’t move, can’t…

Eight cops beat Devon to death in the space of a minute. Eleven other cops see only their brethren gone wild on a child, and rush forward to stop it. Cop Brawl pulls in seven more officers before the crowd surrounds them. In under five minutes, reinforcements find twenty-six cops being torn to pieces by hundreds of people, regular people fighting each other for the privilege of giving their hate free expression. Nine of those cops are already dead.

And next, of course…

Someone opens fire.

Days and thousands dead before Power satisfies his immediate longings. Of course, he is never satisfied.

We know how to prevent it. We have the resources to prevent it. Finding the Will...I have my hopeful days and I have my days of dark visions and no faith that the amazing beauty of individual humans can ever be translated into the larger social systems.

Then again, 1,000 years is a long time. Never say never...right?

Thursday, January 19, 2012


(taken in Markham, Ontario...or somewhere like that)

Corporations are job eliminators. But it’s not their fault.

Corporations make money by providing value to customers who pay them. There are three major ways to win a customer: sell it cheaper, make it better, treat them well.

Under the “sell it cheaper” category, there are three major ways to sell it cheaper: cheaper materials, cheaper value production, cheaper distribution.

Under the category of cheaper value production, labour often comprises the bulk of costs. The most effective business model would provide 100% of value with $0 spent on labour or overhead. In the real world, this ratio is one of the most important efficiency measures: labour dollars to produce one unit.

Thus, businesses constantly and rightly seek production efficiencies and technology that permits fewer jobs to produce more value. A good corporation owes value to its shareholders and must pursue the goal of “sell it cheaper” without compromising product quality or customer experience, so as not to jeopardize the other two ways of winning customers (make it better, treat them well).

“Why did you eat me?” asked the ghost mouse. "I pulled the thorn from your paw!"

The lion licked his booboo, yawning. “Because I am a lion,” he replied.

Corporations eliminate jobs, as fast as and wherever they can. It’s their nature. 

I am a Lion
(Toronto Zoo, 2011)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Nothing's Free

I've always found it funny - the "Free" "Market". Like parking on the "Drive" "Way".

I believe we could rebuild the free market economy by consciously mitigating efforts at externalizing costs. A free market may not be an effective arbiter of priorities, but disaster comes when costs are not allocated appropriately to their points of incursion. Under-valuing resources is only the beginning. Obfuscating cost allocations has become an industry unto itself.

Where all the theory and spreadsheet wrangling, outsourcing and downsizing, shaving and tightening, speculating and trading hit reality is in the lives of people.

We’ve created a stage rush. Pushing costs out and around, pushing, pushing, and it’s The People who get crushed between the throng and the hard, hard wall of the stage. Enjoy the show.

Nothing is created or destroyed, only changed. We can transform the numbers a thousand ways, but at some point, the costs come from somewhere. Someone pays. When we mine resources in Ontario to ship to China for transformation and shipment back to Canada through Singapore, and it costs less than manufacturing in Ontario, someone is lying about what it really costs, and who's paying.

I didn't need an MBA to tell me that, but it confirmed my suspicions.

We've made the Free Market into a game of who can cheat best, and our governments have written the rules to match the play. It's a bastardization.

Next step: Valuate Earth. I want my 1/7 billionth.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

To Freedom, Humanity!


What would you rather be doing?

Every once in awhile, I’ll hear a news story about someone in an office or factory who won the lottery. “Will you quit your job?” the commentator asks. “Oh, I could never leave my job!” they insist.


I mean, besides the fact that it’s impossible to keep working beside people once they put on that lens…I ask you, who among us doesn’t have a dream of owning our own time? Freedom has long been the dream of slaves.

Did you forget that we’re slaves?

I have a dream. I wake up in the morning, refreshed and excited to greet the day. I stretch, pick up my coffee, check in with the twitterverse and blogosphere, send some love into the Universe, exercise, and spend the day writing fiction, cat on my lap. I eat a tasty and nutritious dinner with my family and enjoy a summers’ evening with them. I fall asleep easily and sleep well. Nowhere in that dream do I wash dishes, prepare meals, clean up cat litter.

It’s not a giant dream, but it’s one of mine. What are some of yours?

We all have them! We all long to be free of the tyranny of work. Work SUCKS! We just want to bang on the drum all day.

And we SHOULD be able to do this. Why can’t we?

Because we allow the vagaries of human whimsy to drive our innovative efforts, and place individual human desires above what’s realistic. That’s why we have 79 kinds of gum with exactly the same ingredients. That’s why the technology exists to solve almost any problem, but hardly anyone can afford it for far too long. I’m not convinced there is enough trickling down to reach the bottom before drying up.

The Free Market is driving the dream upward. The Entrepreneurs who were once of us, for us and with us, have been displaced by impersonal conglomerates where no one is responsible for anything but the bottom line. Our stock marketeers are making themselves Feudal Overlords. Trickle-down only works when something is trickling down. We encourage the rich to tie money up rather than spend it (spending being the only means of spreading it out) and it is creating a Great Divide between those who must work, and those who have choices.

Don’t misunderstand. I am very grateful to the Free Market for getting us here. Slavery was required for humans to be the machines that made things happen. We did it! We got here! We grew and grew and did more and more, and we cracked the genome! We have computers and robots – better machines than us! We know how to get to the moon! We dreamed it, and it’s here, and it’s incredible. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Without competition and the draw of significant reward, innovation and creativity couldn’t have come so far. The widespread slavery of humans in creation and production, was required to allow for execution on what was possible. Without the fierce competition for basic needs, humans would never have submitted to it. Give them enough to eat and a place to live, and they will do what they feel like, not what needs to be done!

Allowing the slaves participation as consumers of innovation helped spread the wealth from the feudal overlords to a middle class of people. The mantra of ever onward! Constant Growth! That’s the cheerleading we needed to get here. And it worked. It even gave the illusion of freedom, this idea that you can improve your lot, that the sky is the limit. Still, 40 hours a week is a lot, and for most people, it’s the minimum. It doesn’t leave much time to enjoy Life.

The thing is, we don’t have to live like this anymore. We could decide that being a human is not an immediate sentence to a lifetime of work. We could make birth an entry to the universe’s vacation resort. We could decide to use our Collective Will to create utopia for everyone.

Not tomorrow. Not in my lifetime or yours, but does that give us the right to keep our foot on the gas when we can see the ravine? Imagine what technology could do in 3012. That was a trick. You can’t.

In any case, my point is this. We are behaving like children. Gimme gimme gimme. Why should I? It’s MINE! We are acting like teenagers. I choose my own friends! The world is black and white! What’s the point?

We have the technology and know-how to begin spreading not just survival, but even convenience more broadly among humans at a much faster pace, if we lower the prices by reducing the profits. Uh oh, can’t say that. That smacks of taxation or redistribution. Bla bla bla. Let’s put it another way. We have the technology and know-how to begin spreading stability and even convenience more broadly among humans at a much faster pace, if we understand that we live in a finite system. Constant growth is not a requirement, it’s a mindset. And it’s simply not an option.

It’s time for us to grow up, Humanity. We’ve had our childhood, we've spent our teen angst, and we've even crashed the car. 

Now, it’s time to settle down and have a family together.

It’s time we realized the reality of our situation and the depth of our power. It’s time we wake up and have a dream, for all of us, a thousand years from now, that life IS easy and work is what we choose, because we love it and it gives us a chance to better our situation and that of humanity, not because we can't eat otherwise. When I come back, I want my life to be a vacation from the tedium of eternity, no matter what family I’m born to. All this dog eat dog within Ourself tires me out.

To Freedom, Humanity!