“Like everyone else, you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.”
Morpheus, The Matrix
Canada is embroiled in the beginnings of an ethics/corruption scandal – some folk organized vote-suppression calls in a manner that was undeniably unethical and anti-democratic. Shockingly, in this age of social media and information access, these calls are slowly circling back to bite the perpetrators in the ass. Who could have seen that coming? A bit prematurely, to be sure, but some other folks are making comparisons between this and Watergate, the mother of political scandals. When there is so much evidence of how stunts like this can go horribly wrong, why would people continue to perpetrate them?
And why do we insist on sticking by “gate” as a suffix for any new political scandal that comes along?
Also in Canadian politics, we had a federal Minister trying to pass a security law that gives control over who pokes their noses into the e-bedrooms of the nation to unspecified parties, without much in terms of justification required. The response has been been outrage from a generally complacent public. The Minister reacted by telling an Opposition MP “he can either stand with us or with the child pornographers,” later denies having made the comment and eventually has to backtrack entirely. There’s also evidence that this Minister has been aggressively defending a Bill despite not being entirely clear on the content. What gives?
Related to the Toews Affair, a Liberal staffer took it upon himself to dig in to and expose Toews’ dirty laundry – setting himself up, robo-call like, to reap what he sowed. Did this guy think his actions through? If so, did he disregard the consequences and do it anyway?
Many outraged people got behind vikileaks, saying that it was okay to fight fire with fire, essentially reacting in the same way as Toews and the young staffer did; some are now suffering from an outrage hangover. What caused the hyper-emotional reaction?
Then, there was #tellviceverything, a clever response to the Bill that invited people to overshare with Toews, making a mockery of both the Bill and Toew’s position. #tellviceverything has been heralded as a brilliant piece of politicking and has also inspired a following. Why?
Connecting The Dots
The global economy is in the bust part of the boom-and-bust cycle – a cycle we’ve been through before. The Conservative Party of Canada is slowly imploding, a train wreck unfolding before our eyes, despite having the benefit of seeing the exact same scenario play out for the Opposition Liberals over the past decade. Broadly, it’s like society is a macrocosm of Charlie Brown; we tell ourselves that this time, we’ll kick the ball and are repeatedly caught by surprise when we don’t.
How can we continuously not see this coming?
I could go on and on about history repeating itself, but that’s boring. What we really want to know is, why? What’s the math behind this?
By and large, people are linear thinkers. We see life, business, even conversations as a trajectory, like a train heading somewhere. Our carrot-and-stick approach to education, business and politics all serve to keep us on this linear track. In reality, though, our world is a bit more like an equation – it’s multiple trains leaving multiple stations at a variety of times and speeds. You can’t do the math if you don’t have all the variables.
If you could map out those variables, what would they look like? Perhaps something like this:
This is a map of a neural network. This a map of a societal network.
This is a map of ideas.
Here’s another story that’s slowly taking hold of the global subconscious; there’s a rising awareness of a mental illness crisis that’s costing us billions of dollars and impacting productivity, family life and social cohesion. We’re trying to find new ways to treat the growing numbers of anxiety/depression cases, which is a lot like trying to cure lead poisoning. At the same time, we’re looking for ways to make “crazy” people with conditions like bipolar disorder or Attention Deficit Disorder more normal.
Normalizing = train wreck.
Empowering = filling in the dark corners of our cognitive, social and global maps.
By repeating the same behaviours over and over again, we’re building up social repetitive stress injuries. On the individual level, these injuries manifest themselves as diagnoses of cognitive stresses like anxiety and depression. On the social scale, we have protests, revolutions and a burgeoning economic meltdown.
The solution? We need to add a few dimensions to our linear process – think outside the box, if you will. Every journey needs a destination, but you can’t plan your trip without a map.