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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Saturday 7 April 2012

What does Stephen Harper have in common with Howard Hughes?

Friday 6 April 2012

Thinking First: Political Marketing, the Marketplace of Ideas and Engaging Citizens

 Part of accomplishing this is creating a market place of ideas and keeping a bead on the traffic flow. Facebook, polling, comment cards, etc amass data and feed into this. So do aggegrates and next-gen social/policy networks like the ORION Network

These marketplaces are also providing opportunity for idea sharing and new audiences but to attract attention, providers need to be spectacular.  How do you really ensure you stand out in a crowd and engage potential audiences in the right way?  By understanding how engagement works in the first place.

That means, directly stimulating positive physical responses in the crowd; you're looking to nudge things like oxytocin levels and positive neurotransmitter connections, ie dopamine.  to accomplish this you first have to understand how the brain perceives and responds to stimulus. Hence, neuro-marketing and NLP, even the renewed focus on mental health with hints at proactive approaches.

To understanding this stuff, you have to think about it; much of cognitive function is counter-intuitive.  The more you think anything through, in all it's variables, the harder it becomes to fall back on reactive responses

It's a brave, exciting new world.

Thursday 5 April 2012

Barack Obama is a Vulcan

And there you have it.  All the "Obama's a citizen of a different country" stuff is so dreaming small.  You see, Barack is an awfully Vulcan-ish name...

Austerity Now - A Greek Tragedy

This poor, Greek soul isn't the first and won't be the last.  The response to austerity measures for some, when so many still have ridiculous wealth (no endeavour short of solving poverty or war is worth such sums) and minimal skin in active politics, is only going to get worse.

As the water hole shrinks, the number of sales calls (wasn't there a law about that) coming in on the phone, the dirty tricks being used to con the vulnerable to give up what they have, etc. increase.  Cries of "circle the wagons" and "with us or against us" rhetoric are going to grow louder.  So will the voices of protesters, the frustrated many as they wait for someone, anyone with enough inspiration or anger to emerge for them to rally behind.

We will see more acts of horrific violence that will be carved off as their own thing, completely removed from a broader social sickness.  We'll identify problem groups that are tantalizingly other and tell ourselves if we could wrap them up and throw them away, the same would happen to our social woes; poverty, crime, a lack of work.

It is a cycle that has repeated again and again in society, but it can be changed, if we cut the chord of history.  First, we need to cast our eyes further down the road and muse about what kind of world we want to see tomorrow.

Connectivity.  A changed social structure.  More accommodated, empowering opportunities at the bottom, making for a better labour class for the top to exploit - to less income, but leaving greater legacies.  Those that resist will be shamed, by suicides like the one in Greece or sad stories of personal horrors, or angered by massacres or brought to their knees by hordes of angry masses.  Unless they trip forward.

The Board is set for a social change of massive proportions.  All that's missing is the hand of the player. 

Or is it?

Wednesday 4 April 2012

Susan Delacourt on the Social Trend:

Lead By Example

It's a beautiful story that shows how leadership can come from any level.  Title doesn't matter - what matters is commitment and follow-through.

It's such a simple, powerful, universal concept - do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Not, do unto them solely that which is profitable to you, nor do unto them what fits within a prescribed mandate.  Real leadership must go further.

I know political leaders that have gone into campaign offices and folded flyers with volunteers.  I know MPPs who have served meals at food banks.  At the same time, I know people off the street who have gone out of their way to help a stranger or even done simple things like leave inspirational messages on the seats of Bixi bikes.  It's not about the credit - it's about doing the right thing simply because it needs to be done.

Lead by example.  There is no power greater than that.

Martin Luther King on Poverty and the Social Organism

" has strengthened the forces of reaction in our nation."

     - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

He refers to Vietnam, but in a speech about poverty.  That's something too many people with power refuse to see - the more you close yourself off from poverty, the greater violence will become. 

A hand can't feed itself - it can only gain strength by supporting the whole.  Society is exactly like that.

Tuesday 3 April 2012

Politics - Honourable Profession or Bloodsport?

The Trudeau vs. Brazeau fight has produced a lot of commentary about the fight and fighters, but also about the state of politics itself.

For me, two stories stand out in particular:

It's our society - it's up to us to decide which approach we want.  It'll take courage, sportsmanship and mutual respect to build the kind of society we tell ourselves we aspire to - the only question is, are we up to the challenge?

Politics is a Blood Sport OR We Move Forward Together

I absolutely agree - politics is a blood sport.  I've written about that fact on this blog more than once.  Along those lines, I've written about why the bar room brawlers in politics continue to be successful on the backs of others, undermining the system - and their own success - with each hit they score.

It happened to the Federal Liberals.  It's happening to more than a couple other Parties out there now, too.  The "you're with us, against us or irrelevant" attitude is all too pervasive; the careless dismissal of others (staff, supporters, potential allies) as "dead wood" because they don't aggressively toe the line only shrinks the political gene pool, resulting in increasingly bitter partisans duking it out while our democracy cracks all around us.  Vikileaks and Robocalls weren't random individuals getting carried away - the perpetrators were informed by an ugly political culture that encourages underhanded tactics, so long as you don't get caught.

"We're the solution," the partisans will tell us.  "All you need to know is that the only way out is through (insert Party name here)."  That's complete bullshit and it's unfortunate how many decision-makers have convinced themselves otherwise.  Shrinking the water hole never produces long-term wins.

It doesn't have to be this way.  People are at their best when they're pouring all of their energy into something bigger than themselves; a shared vision for a better tomorrow.  It works at the family level.  It works at the community level.  It works at the partisan level, from time to time.  There's no reason this can't happen at the national level, if we have leadership that actually believes that collaboratively, Canada can be more than the fractured sum of its parts.  It starts with a little thing called honour.  Honour in politics is brilliantly described in this piece by the Citizen's Andrew Potter.

Fortunately, there's one decision maker who gets that it isn't one way or the highway, but the shared aspirations of the collective - current and former staff, supporters, average citizens, even the opposition - that provide the best solutions for these challenging times.

If we can't work together, we'll die alone.  Or, the glass-half-full version of this grand notion:

Monday 2 April 2012

Work, Stress, Illness - and Reduced Productivity, Increased Healthcare Usage, etc.

From Workopolis on a theme I have discussed, elsewhere:

Study: Why the majority of working Canadians are stressed on the job

I ran into a former colleague at the subway recently and after we chatted about mutual colleagues and our lives, she casually mentioned that she was looking for other opportunities. Her last job had been causing her an unhealthy amount of stress, she hadn't been able to sleep or even enjoy her time off because of anxieties about work.

She's not alone. A study by Statistics Canada found that six out of ten employed people said that work is their main source of stress. What the study also found is that workers who are stressed about their jobs tend to be well-educated and have white-collar jobs. Three-quarters of them had a college or university education and over half held jobs in management, professional and technical occupations.

What are the reasons for job stress?

Lack of Job Security

Outsourcing, layoffs and downsizing all contribute to high stress levels. These actions affect everyone in a company. People who are insecure about whether they'll have a job in the next few weeks won't be able to focus and often suffer from a lack of confidence, efficiency and a lack of energy.

This category also includes contract and temporary work. Not knowing your work situation when you're on contract can be stressful especially when the company waits until the last minute to either renew your contract or terminate your employment.

Office Politics and Bullying

Whether it's the mean group at work or a boss who likes to play favourites, office politics is a top cause of job stress. This can intensify if workers have no outlet to complain or feel that there is no recourse to deal with the situation.

No Recognition

If you're not recognized for your work contributions this can lead to resentment which could lead to a drop in job performance and stress. This becomes a vicious cycle and soon you're hating your job and stressing out about it.

We're not talking monetary recognition, which is always nice, but simple recognition by a boss for a job well done can go a long way. A lack of recognition also hurts a company as top talent leaves for better corporate cultures.

This category also includes a lack of feedback, good or bad. People want to know they're doing the job correctly. Not telling them leaves them trying to guess and stressing out about their performance.

A Lack of Control

An employee who has no say about their work situation is not a productive employee. He is a stressed employee who feels adrift because all decisions that affect him are made by someone else.

Micromanagement and over-management are also sources of job stress. They leave no room for the employee to be creative, make decisions or make mistakes. Instead, people quit or go on stress leave.

The StatsCan study says that mental health problems which includes stress cost employers an estimated $20 billion annually. That's $20 billion. Think about that. It's much cheaper to ensure that employees are happy and ideally stress-free. Not only is it good for them but ultimately good for the company and the economy.

Delisting Painkillers Won’t End the Pain

If I follow the logic correctly, the theory is that if you remove the substance that’s being abused, then substance abuse will stop.  Those that abuse painkillers like OxyContin do so for purely internal reasons; it’s something they need to get over, with help if necessary, but essentially it’s a “their” problem.
I really hope I’m wrong, because that is so far from the truth as to be cringe-worthy.  Yes, addicts form bio-chemical dependence to substances, but to focus solely on the internal world of the addict is to see but a small fraction of the story.  Look at the broader picture – what are the lives of these people like?  What’s the family life like, the work life like, the social life like?  In short, what external factors might people be trying to escape from?
There is a strong correlation between physical health, mental health and environmental factors.  Look at The Unheralded Business Crisis inCanada as just one example of a report detailing this reality.  In more cases than we would like to admit, back pain, headaches, cardiac issues, etc. can be related to life stresses, like poor work management.  Taking away the options people have to mask these stress-related symptoms isn’t going to solve the problem, only create new ones.
When we tell ourselves addicts or people suffering with mental illness conditions like depression and anxiety are “weak” and just need to “get over it,” we’re sticking our heads in the sand.  The longer we ignore the reality – that our outdated social model is part of the problem – the worse it’s going to get.