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CCE in brief

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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 14 July 2012

The Puzzle of Leadership


My views on leadership are on record; when we view elitism and leadership as inseparable, we're creating a false dichotomy.  But then, we also define success these days by material gain, which inflicts the notion of a zero-sum game; there's only so much of everything to go around.

Alas, the world's not a black-and-white place, is it?

Conscious Leadership

I have worked with a great many people in positions of power - political, private-sector, union, etc.   Too many of them put their tribal interests before the good of their industry.  Some of them don't even care about their own partisan interests; they're in it for themselves.  I am seeing an increasing number of these folk either suffer internal strains caused by the dog-eat-dog climate they foster or having their brand tarnished in the grand arena that is social media.

There are others, though, people who do what they do for the right reasons and often take on the narrower objectives of partisanship reluctantly, out of loyalty.  Some have gone so far as to internally speak truth to power, only to be censored for doing so by the first bunch.  The bravest accept this risk going in, but do what they believe is right regardless.  These are the folk that give me hope.

Then, there's us, those that don't sit in the orbit of power.  We might be voters, but our votes come only every four years; our capacity to influence is limited.  We might be shareholders, but shareholder meetings have limited ability to effect substantial change.  We might be union members, but when we're offered limited choices, we can only decide on limited outcomes.

In a recent column, Dan Gardner wrote about the power of social media to connect people.  I'll take his direction a bit further down the road; social media doesn't just connect people, it creates stronger, crowd-sourced voices.  These voices cannot be ignored by those at the top; they have the power to condemn, praise - and offer alternatives.

Like every layer of socialization that has come before it, social media will also be manipulated and nurture corruption, but those pulling the strings will have to think through the potential consequences of getting caught far more than any who have come before them.  As strategies weigh wider bandwidths of consequence, even the corrupt will be forced to engage through a consciously pro-social lens.

This has been the trend of history, alluded to by many a philosopher over the years.  While the leader who is feared is great, best is the leader who is loved.  The Master, however, is barely recognized at all; when their work is done, the people say "amazing, we did it all by ourselves."

How many leaders today are conscious of this?  They're going to have to be.

Don't Hate Harper

"But in the anti-Conservative fever swamps, there’s no discussion. There is rage."

I've said it before and, sadly, I know I'm going to be saying it again - in his attempt to play the emotion card as a way to make Canada more conservative, Stephen Harper is only succeeding in making Canadians angrier. It should really come as no surprise - when you keep hitting the fear button, you make people more reactive. You tell them their resources are being taken away, you trigger a deep-rooted gut-reaction that rails against rather than stands for.
It's a disconcerting trend. People are beginning to feel that discussion can't work, that militancy is the only way to make things happen. Screw the other guy, we're going to fight for what we know is right. While the trend towards reactive, emotional behaviour society-wide is not all on Harper's shoulders - we've been witnessing the rise in violent division across the Western World - his approach is adding fuel to the fire.
This isn't good for Harper, nor is it good for the long-term prospects of his party. It certainly isn't good for Canada, or our position in the world. The solution, though, isn't to fight fire with fire, to become that which we might stand against. The answer, as always, is to drill down to the places where we agree and engage the Other in finding shared solutions.
Move Forward Together is not and cannot be the property of any one given group - it has to include everyone.
If we can't live together, we're going to die alone.

Friday 13 July 2012

CFN - To Each Their Own Doesn’t Always Work – Harper Government Please Don’t Let it Happen Again

Wednesday 11 July 2012

Mind Your Mind

This is a brilliant, complex essay from a great mind.  I think that he's right, our individual genetic processes aren't mirrored in group dynamics.  I don, however, think that individual neuro-psychology combined with environment factors change the way we respond to the group and as a group.

I focus on a divide in function between two parts of the brain - the limbic system, older, more reactive and the neocortex, housing latteral thought and executive function.  The neurotransmitter dopamine, which plays a significant role in pro-frontal activity, also induces pro-social behaviour and traits associated with mania, religious and otherwise. 

Internally, we have reactive areas of our brain and proactive areas.  In ideal circumstances, these halves work as a system.  Of course, our system is not ideal, nor the balance perfect (or understood) in broader communities.  The limbic, reactive, survival-of-the-fittest section leads to certain, selfish-behaviours; engagement of the pre-frontal does makes us more pro-social and able to plan.  When it comes to internally-induced behaviours, we can lek for our own interest, participate in the herd or not for our own interest or innovate and lead for our own interest.  It's possible to be all about you but still be motivated to do public good.

Tuesday 10 July 2012

The Art of Politics

How do you square the circle on doing business with people who are committing human rights attrocities that you claim to abhore back home?

You have two choices - one, cognitive dissonance

Two - you broaden your game and make fostering conscious civility part of your strategy

Either option means flexing new cognitive muscle, expanding synaptic connections.  But then, that's always been where we're headed.

Enbridge, A Mircocosm?

Monday 9 July 2012

Jason Kenney - Do the Right Thing

There is a rapidly closing window on the degree to which people are going to accept the moves being made by Stephen Harper's government.  On the one hand, there is the continual decreasing of services and supports - the Census, the Long-Gun registry, funding through CIDA, now this.  It's gotten to a point where they're even trying to revise the definition of Canadian.  On the other hand, there's the mounting series of scandals ranging from F35 cost-overruns to Dean del Mastro's campaign funding. 

To ensure they keep having their cake and eating it too, Harper's government, of which Jason Kenney is a prominent spokesperson, is doing two things - decreasing transparency and increasingly pushing the fear button.  An indignant population is a complacent population; it's the 20th Century version of bread and circuses.  But Canadians aren't indignant - they're getting angry.

We're not in the 20th Century any more, but it increasingly looks like we're doomed to repeat it.  While the Tories seek to shrink Canada and disconnect from global engagement on anything that isn't directly tied to trade, the first plumes of smoke are rising in Europe, which right now is a social and economic box of kindling.

Canada's boots-on-the-ground military has shrunk.  The respect being paid (figuratively and literally) to our veterans is being diminished, lessening the appeal of military service to potential recruits.  An increasingly frustrated and bitter Canadian populace is turning inwards, worrying less about the trouble we were warned were at our shores to the troubles we're now being told are at our doorsteps.  People that have viewed Canada as a safe haven are being told they're not welcome - another story that we've heard before.

Team Harper's unforgivable flaw, the theme Jason Kenney has not questioned is that they have dedicated themselves so blindly to their political ideology that they are ignoring major changes in the global environment.  The path they are taking us on won't end well - not for their Party, not for our international reputation, not for Canadians.

I have zero interesting in saying "I told you so."  I would rather congratulate Kenney on doing the right thing now, before it's too late.

So long, Industrial Economy - And Thanks For All The Fish

Heather Mallick pulls no punches, as is her right - though if she intended to spread word on her concerns about the Hudak/Hillier White Paper on Unions (because that's truly all it's about), invective like that won't help her connect with the unconverted.

She makes some serious points, though. In the non-unionized world, employment is frequently a subset of serfdom - employees are expected to do market research, strategic planning, leg-work, etc. with no training, little or no direction and frequently under the thumb of negative micro-management (criticism of the non-constructive kind). Employers see their responsibility limited to the provision of payment, with turn-over being the best way to root out problems. This in spite of the mounting evidence that these rigid top-down employment models are highly inefficient.

Of course, there is an obvious model of yore that, consciously or not, the Hudaks and Hilliers are trying to copy. It's called Feudalism. Feudalism was an incredibly inefficient model that kinda sorta worked for a few back when populations were smaller and property was more rural - but it isn't a model that has any hope of survival in an urban reality.

Thing is, Ontario's an increasingly urban place - with increasingly urban voters. Hillier's micro-targeted plan might appeal to the landowner crowd, libertarians and some of the 1%, but anyone thinking about the long-term will see this is a dead-end strategy that would exacerbate the broader, structural problems we are facing.

Hudak has spent his entire adult career in politics - all he knows is wedge-issues and attack messaging. Leadership requiers a bit more than that; you need to look beyond voter blocks and think of the big picture. I would suggest Team Hudak go back to the drawing board, think a bit bigger, talk to the Christine Elliots within his Party. Ontario needs a plan that moves us forward; we can never go back to before.

Sunday 8 July 2012

Justin Trudeau: No Easy Answer

I know a lot of people who dislike Justin Trudeau - some of them from personal experience. A common diatribe is that he's shallow, self-absorbed. I also know a lot of people who like Justin Trudeau, some from personal experience. They say he gets the game that is politics, but that he equally gets the stakes.

Personally, I don't know the guy. Having met him once, I don't feel I'm qualified to make an informed judgment - not about the man, not about his outlook, his leadership skills, his vision or his tenacity. What I like is the fact that he seems to be taking the gravity of his choice and it's potential consequences seriously. Leaders don't vie for press and title - those are just trappings of the job political animals salivate over. Leaders see civil service as the highest honour, the gravest responsibility - and act accordingly.  Of course, all that could be dressing - politicians have been known to say what they're told needs said, from time to time.  Every now and then, though, you find one who really is in politics for the right reasons.

There will be Trudeaumania; there will be an Anyone-But-Trudeau movement, too. For Trudeau himself, this makes the challenge steeper, but changes its substance none at all. Like all candidates for the leadership of the Liberal Party, if Trudeau steps into the ring it's going to be up to him to show all of us, fans, detractors and ambivalents alike, that he's the right person for the job - not just for leader of a Party, but for Prime Minister of an increasingly fractured country that we all love dearly.

It's up to us to hold him accountable to that. As it should be for all our politicians.