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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 4 January 2014

Police, Crisis Response and Jedi Mind Tricks

I completely agree with this statement.  It's behavioural economics; behaviour isn't about rational thought, it's about neurological hardwiring, hormones and neurotransmitters.  We like to tell ourselves police are trained to the point of being Jedi when it comes to high-stress, life-or-depth situations, but they're not.

But they could be.  They could also be hired with an eye for natural proclivities towards crisis response.  This doesn't mean not hiring more aggressive psychological profiles - like any good team, you want a mix of responses and talents so as to have flexibility to adapt and manage differing situations.

This is a Plato's Desktop kind of thing - we're looking to choose between existing options, defending and overlooking the failings in our preferred choice and doing the reverse of the other.

There's another way.  There's always another way.  To find it, though, we have to stop being so defensive and start focusing on solutions.

Solution-based policy; what a fascinating concept.

Friday 3 January 2014

That Which Doesn't Kill You...

Can't argue with that.  In fact, many of us have been making similar arguments for a while now.

Here's the funny part - politics is all about the tough fighting it out and lasting, while the smart quit while they're ahead.  We're getting closer to the tipping point where the smart and tough are looking for greener pastures, while the Ford Tough types are relishing their chance at the spotlight.

Social tensions are on the rise, leading to unrest and friction.  It's the shedding of old skin and the continuance of the social evolutionary trend, all at once.  

Fun times, indeed...

Ahsoka Ronin

Good guys who try to beat the bad guys and do whatever it takes to achieve that goal become the bad guys themselves.

Anakin's a bit further on the path than the Council, but the journey is the same.  It takes another generation to show us that yes, redemption is always possible - you just have to be willing to put someone other than yourself first.

The Politics of Living Within Our Means

I would imagine that a bit of both theories - human degradation of the ecosystem as well as the introduced rat population - are correct.  People like to think in linear, one-off terms; co-morbidity is generally too much for us to fathom.  

There's plenty of precedent for each theory (the collapse of the Mayan civilization for the former, the death or decimation of countless species in the Americas from the introduction of humans during the Ice Age through to colonization and even purple loostrife).  Easter Island's not that big a place, after all.  

It's the other piece that I find really fascinating, though - the notion of our ability to adapt to ever worsening conditions.  This is totally true, and true for a reason.  Like any species, we are designed to survive, by whatever means necessary.  

Playing dirty, playing hard, culling the weak and taking every opportunity to muddy or bloody your opponents - that's survival of the fittest.  When there can be only one winner and the prize is power, anything you can get away with goes.  Envelopes get pushed, circles get smaller and eventually, you end up with oligarchies and dictatorships.

It's interesting to note that right now in Canadian politics, as elsewhere, we're seeing political power increasingly focused in the hands of leaders and their inner courts.  Economically, we've got a shrinking middle class, more wealth concentrated at the top.  What's the message both tiers are passing down to the masses?  "You people need to start learning to live within your means, work harder at pleasing us and then you can earn success, too.

The Canadian government is all about living within its means, as in fully exploiting what it has now, full stop.  We've got natural resources, we've got oil - who needs innovation when there's so much to mine right now?  If budgets are getting tight, simply turn off the taps, make do with less.  That's the ticket to sustainability.

This is what the people are doing.  We're increasingly buying our resources at Wal-Mart or the Dollar Store.  The poorest of the labour force are working three, four jobs trying to earn enough money to keep roofs over the heads of their families and keep food in their children's tummies.

Individuals are learning to live within their means, push off home upgrades, buy cheaper stuff, invest less in savings and education.  It's not The Grapes of Wrath, thankfully, but it's early days yet.

At least, individuals with less are learning to make do with less - those with money and access are continuing to live as they have always done, enjoying the finer things, looking for corners to cut, finding ways to download cuts to others.

Therein lies the biggest problem society faces today.  When the increasingly poor are told to live within their means, because the economy can't support them any more, but they see the wealthy living large, they can see something's wrong.

It's all well and good for the haves to tell the have-nots it's up to them to earn more, but when all the resources are in the hands of a privileged few who refuse to share, what is there to earn?  

The same thing applies to politics.  When the people who keep the trains running are told to work harder, take on more work, sacrifice more for the job - but see the people at the top passing the buck and taking advantage of expense loopholes - they get a little jaded, too.  It's true for the electorate, too.

This is the mood the current conservative wave has been capitalizing on - those who don't live within their means, be they unions, the poor or the urban elites, have been branded as the bad guys.  But those doing the branding are still living pretty large themselves.

Easter Islanders learned to live more simply, giving up on the trappings of civilization - including complex, hierarchical leadership and specialization.  They also didn't live in urban environments, like most of us humans do now.

Cities are manufactured ecosystems that require people to live beyond their individual means to function; if everyone is a gardener, a clothier and a carpenter, nobody is fixing roads, keeping water clean or putting out fires.  

When Cook found Easter Island, people were getting by on what they had, which was less, and had ceased to accomplish great works.  They also had no government.

There's a lesson in this.

Thursday 2 January 2014

The Cause

Political candidates, if they have smart people on their team, will be encouraged early on to clearly answer one question: "why are you running?"  There are two public answers to this question - one, because you stand against something; this was the approach that got Rob Ford elected.  Two, less populist and often harder to position is standing for something.  If you're the incumbent, that can be the status quo/your record.  If you aren't, however, it has to be something innovative.

The reason it's really hard to sell something new is because people may not get it.  You can look for precedent elsewhere, but even then it comes down to what will actually resonate with the voters (or at least, your targeted coalition thereof).

Which is why politics is rarely about ideas, it's about brand - the strength of your candidate's and the weakness of your opponent's.  This is why politics bleeds idealism and the survivors, the ones who last long enough to move through the backroom ranks tend to be cynical, manipulative and unafraid to go for the jugular of whoever they feel stands in their way.

There are a lot of people in politics who only pay lip service to public answers to "why are you running?"  For these people, it's the win that matters.  Politics is competition, like a rugby match.  You want to be known as a winner, because being a winner gets you more access, more finery, a more fearsome reputation, clout whatever.  When it's winning you believe in, you will convince yourself you believe in anything that will get you ahead.  It's a small step from there to saying or doing whatever it takes for that win, no matter the cause.

Not everyone starts off this cynical; many actually do start with something they believe in.  A surprising many carry those beliefs all the way through their careers.  It's rare, if not impossible, to find anyone who has willingly compromised a core belief because they say political advantage in doing so.  After all, you can't effect change if you don't win and you can't win unless you're willing to bend the rules a bit - after all, everyone does.  Right?

A common example of this here in Canada is paying for party memberships.  You'd be surprised how many candidates' teams do this.  You'd be saddened by how many see nothing wrong with the practise, then turn around and disparage Doug Ford for handing out cash to constituents.  It's not the principle, you see, it's how blatantly he breaks it that offends them.

Here's the rub, the uncomfortable truth that is anathema to politics.  If the cause is truly the thing you believe in, then winning isn't everything.  You don't run unless you plan to win, of course, but the cause has to come first and stay first, always.  Otherwise, you get people who will do things like commit to running for a seat whether they win leadership or not, then back away afterwards.  You'll get people making challenging, structural promises like Senate Reform or real transparency and then forget those promises when they win.

That's what leads to public cynicism in politics; it's also why so many people fail to make a lasting mark on the political landscape.

On every campaign I've played a significant role in, we changed things whether we won or not.  I can think of one where my candidate didn't win, but the one who did used some of our lines in their victory speech.  In at least a small way, we made our cause their cause.  It often sucks to see your work and ideas brought to fruition by someone else, but always remember that without you, that idea wouldn't be there in the first place.  

Some of the most politically influential people aren't politicians at all.  They have dedicated themselves, their talents and their resources to something they believe in and as such, can never lose. They only learn how to do better, making new connections, refining ideas and laying track along the way.

Political people will ask the question "why are you running" and look for an answer they can sell.  It's very rare that they stop, look in the mirror and ask themselves what they will do about that cause if they lose.  

The answer to that question is the difference between wins or losses and true accomplishment.

It's one we need to be asking more.

2014: The Year Canada Goes Mental

I remember having a great conversation with Louise Bradley about this very subject at an Economic Club of Canada luncheon.  A friend had bought me a ticket, because she felt it was something I should attend; the ECC's President, Rhiannon Traill, had offered me a seat at her table because she'd read a bit of my blog and thought I'd have something interesting to add to the conversation.

Louise, Rhiannon and I, as well as a few others, talked about the need for entry points, opportunities to connect the issue of mental health with broader audiences that didn't realize this was their issue.  Mental health and the Justice System was a biggie, as was the idea of optimizing the mental wellness of police themselves.  If you can make this an issue of support, not contention, I argued, you can make it easier for partners to get on board.

The same applied to the Knowledge Economy and productivity in general; when it's brain work you're after, it's cognition you need to support.  Standard labour supports aren't designed for that - they were developed more than a century ago to facilitate the industrial economy.  Introducing the concept of cognitive labour, I argued, would make it clear to employers and policy makers that mental health was a core bottom-line issue.

A third entry point was the then-gestating concept of renewed citizen engagement which has since become the well-branded Open Government movement, a sort of government-led variation on Occupy.  Social media and online tools, I argued, are facilitating what Don Tapscott calls Networked Intelligence; intelligence is brain-work, which connects it to mental health.  Done correctly, these sorts of tools and strategies could bring more people into the conversation in meaningful ways; the more you feel engaged, the more you're focused on solutions, not problems.  It's a behavioural economics thing, which is also mental health.

All of this, of course, was about opening doors through which people could walk along to a place where we all belong, collaborate and develop shared solutions.  The point was (and is) to break down barriers that prevent circulation - to disrupt the top-down hierarchical system that has been fostering social atrophy.  

Like any organism, the body politic requires circulation to function properly.  A healthy society, to truly be healthy, must also be a conscious one.  Consciousness is awareness of the landscape, of others and of oneself.  It's at that level of social consciousness that we're emerging.

The partners are there, the ideas are there and increasingly, the will to collaborate is there.  Leaders at more and more influential levels are all getting on board with the same concept, though they don't necessarily see how all the pieces fit together or use the same taxonomy.

With a few elections on the horizon, there's a real opportunity for political leadership to get on board as well.  Whether they do now, or their successors do later, the picture emerging is a bright one.

I'm just happy to be part of it.

Trudeau and the Just Society Redux

If you're pissed off at the number of fundraising emails being sent out by the Liberals, they largely don't care.  They are assuming, as political people tend to do, that any and every grievance gets washed away by victory.  

It's typical campaign logic - push people hard, almost as if they were soldiers.  They may get mad, some of them might even walk away, but when you win all those who were brow-beaten, guilt-tripped or pushed beyond all rational limits will rejoice at being part of something successful.  All will be forgiven.  

Better yet, you will know who the weak links (the people who walked off) are so as to avoid them in the future.  You'll have your core group of soldiers, those who endure and are willing to put the win before all else.  What else do you need, when winning is the goal?

Of course, this is the sort of system that develops cynical political operatives that suffer from an almost PTSD-like need for continual combat and become unable to work with those they identify as enemies. 

It also results in the "entitled-to-entitlements" attitude that the public is so fed up with.   

As time marches on and the pressures grow, you find more and more people falling into your "unsuitable" column and your list of tough, aggressive, battle-hardened soldiers starts to shrink.  This is why Stephen Harper's grip is starting to slip - too many people are on the outside, know they'll never be on the inside and have stopped caring.   

Herein lies the great irony of Team Trudeau, a group of young, smart, capable people with lots of ideas, but who have come of age and largely lived within the political culture that Trudeau, as a brand, has chosen to stand against.  They want to change the system, yet are using refined versions of the tools they're familiar with - tools and tricks that, by their very nature, reinforce the political status quo.

The debate about whether to hold off on policy to present as limited a target for opposition versus a more substantial reveal now to start hooking Canadians to more than just platitudes is the wrong one, in just the same way that a strict focus on numbers to the exclusion of morale is counter-productive to what Trudeau hopes to accomplish.

Justin Trudeau wants to change Canada's political culture.  He wants Canada to feel like a society again; he wants people to have confidence in their leaders not on narrow issue-bases like economics or national security, but as leaders.  Trudeau doesn't just want to form government - he wants to catalyze a movement.

This is possible; quite frankly, the timing has never been better.  Canadians don't trust government; we don't trust the people in government, but beyond that we don't have confidence in the institution itself.  There is nothing, no identity, no brand, no vision that currently binds us together.  People are worried about security, sustainability and about what we're leaving behind.

Trudeau has opted not to be tightly scripted, meaning he's got as many opportunities of unexpected moments of brilliance as he does gaffes; over time, making these choices will get easier.  The important thing is that he's created his brand and differentiated himself from his opponents through sincerity.

I think this is the approach his team should be taking to policy.

Instead of throwing a massive book of policies at the people and bracing for the inevitable attacks that will emerge from opponents and media alike, the Liberals need to articulate a clear vision of what they think Canadians want their future to look like.  

This is what Pierre Trudeau did with The Just Society - the path to get there took time to build, but people could see where they were headed.  The same was true of JFK; the goal of putting a man on the moon was considered far-fetched when it was suggested, but it gave the people something to strive towards.

While Tim Hudak has smartly put out a series of policy white papers as litmus tests/catalysts for the sorts of policy prescriptions he may bring forward, there's no vision in place.  Smaller government isn't a destination, nor is fighting unions.  His is a technocratic approach, the same most politicians take.  It doesn't leave the people with a sense of where we may go, only what our leaders feel we should stand against.

Instead of focusing on what to reveal and when, Team Trudeau needs to define what their/his vision is, where they want Canada to head.  With careful thought and consideration, it's not too hard to find a series of connecting issues, ranging from the silver surge to economic stagnation and a dearth of innovation and tie them together into one theme.  The same holds true for environmental health, infrastructure well-being and the whole open government/open data movement.

Canada, quite frankly, is sick.  It's a country increasingly at war with itself, atrophying and decaying in all the wrong places.  We're falling behind as other jurisdictions race ahead to embrace new industry, new ways of engaging citizens and a practical, rather than just rhetorical commitment to transparency.

One-off perceptions aren't the way forward; to foster a Healthy Society, we need a holistic regimen of initiatives.  Most importantly, we need flow - not top-down, nor left-right, but circulation, engaging all people and all ideas within the body politic.  

This is an evolving process, meaning ideas will be presented, tested on smaller scales and if they work, expanded.  It means thinking laterally; how do the pieces fit together?  Forget isolated coalitions - what do shared solutions look like?

The more people see this approach working, the more the vision of a healthy society becomes like a virus, infecting people with the belief, the hope that things can work.  Opposition Parties can attack the idea as silly, but with every criticism they throw forward, they provide an opportunity for growth and adaptation.  It's a war they cannot win, so long as the focus stays on the vision first.

After all, when we focus on money and numbers, that focus becomes about us and what we get in opposition to others.  That's not leadership, that's opposition.  It's great for a Party to do well and yes, it's true that people like being part of something winning.  But what of the Party itself? What is it part of, except for a system that people no longer believe in?

Team Trudeau needs to think better - in fact, I believe they want to think bigger.  What we, as citizens need is the same thing they, as political operatives need - to be part of some whole that is greater than the sum of its parts, the parts being each and every one of us.

Stephen Harper: The Winter Soldier

It's really hard not to fall into Game of Thrones references these days - they just apply so well to the current political landscape.  We have devious leaders playing selfish, destructive games; we have a society that is beyond frustrated with the failing system in place today and, of course, there's a lingering anger/fear of something bad on the horizon.

But there's something else at play here; something no less uncomfortable, something the same leaders who consider themselves Machiavellian manipulators par excellence are missing - largely because it's almost against their nature to do so.

Our society has been outgrowing the ability of our current systems - educational, healthcare, political, jurisdictional - for a while now.  Without big threats on the horizon, our leaders and their supporters have been focused on consolidating power and bending wills rather than crafting solutions and bringing people together.  Canada has been safe - that's why it's been so resistant to the adaptations other nations have embraced.

Winter has been coming for some time, yet we have sapped ourselves of the will to evolve with the times.  We are woefully unprepared systematically and culturally for what's to come.  

Which is where Stephen Harper comes in.

Harper has been escalating power consolidation, starving government agencies, starving not-for-profits and undermining the very fabric of our democracy.   He plays the divide-and-conquer game; he punishes critical thought from anyone who doesn't reside within his inner circle or otherwise think the way he does.  

Harper has also been shutting himself off from the real world, meaning he's lost touch with the pulse of the nation.  

When you think you're an empire-builder, after all, the reality of the plebes doesn't matter.  You tell them what to think; their job is to fall in line.

History tells us how well that approach works.  There certainly are enough examples to turn to.  They also provide precedents for Harper himself.

While he thinks of himself as a successful politician, a man above, Harper is actually nothing more than a functionary.  If it wasn't him in the role he now plays, it would have been someone else.  In fact, there are many out there right now who are playing the same part.

Our Prime Minister may think he is irrevocably shrinking government and remolding Canada into a permanently conservative country; he's wrong.  Harper is simply serving as political brushfire, clearing out old growth to allow for the emergence of more evolved, more progressive structures and ideas.

In this sense, Harper is the perfect non-leader for our times, a soldier clearing the decks for what's to come next.

After all, winter is invariably followed by spring.

Wednesday 1 January 2014

Two Converging Trends in Canadian Politics:

The government has facilitated this strategy by allowing departments to criminalize whistle-blowing in their codes of conduct - as the House of Commons just did.  The RCMP, CIDA and the Library and Archives of Canada have all been in the news recently for the same reason.
Work in government and have concerns that corruption, unfair practices or even poorly thought-through decisions are being made?  Best not to have an opinion or even think about rocking the boat; your job, even your freedom may be at risk.
Of course, this should come as no surprise.  It's getting harder and harder to keep secrets, as political people at all levels are increasingly realizing.  In particular, social media and the digitization of information has made it dirt simple for information to get out both intentionally and accidentally.
Faced with this reality, politicians and backroom operators who may cut corners for the good of the realm (i.e., the Party or their own fortunes)  have two options - one is to reform their behaviour so as to be able to withstand scrutiny.  The other is to try and clamp down even harder.  History tells us where the latter path leads, yet that's the road being taken.
Canada has an innovation deficit.  Our government is basing policy decisions on weak data and putting ideological pursuits before sustainability.  What impact does this have on the morale and dedication of staff?  What does it do to the ability to recruit and retain talent?  Just as important - what do Canadians themselves think of this trend?
If you're a political communicator, this is a communications issue; the biased media is out to get you, the pundits are all in the pocket of the other guys, internal people are overstepping their mandate by releasing information in disloyal fashion to the public. 
People don't really care about direction, because they don't understand it - only the confidence and message-control of the leader matters.
Which leads us back to point #1.
Team Harper, as well as other political teams out there, will look for the mud pies to sling - Senate Scandals, poorly-phrased quotes on China, so on and so forth.  They think these headline-making gaffes and failures are enough to sink a government, without as much contextual analysis as is warranted.  Why bother?  We are smart, they are dumb - they won't notice or be able to respond, simply because we are better than they are.
When you make the rules, you have all the answers, right?  The trick is to stifle any opposing perspectives.
Which is exactly what's happening.  Which is fuelling our winter of discontent.  People don't trust politicians, they don't believe in government and with a growing number of pols flaunting our laws, there's less impetus for average citizens to do anything differently.
So - what happens when these two storms converge?

Tuesday 31 December 2013

The Naming of Things: Owning Free Speech

Criticism is important; without it, poor ideas go unchecked and new opportunities are missed.  If people like Galileo and Newton had never bothered to question accepted wisdom; if inquisitive minds like Sigmund Freud or Alfred Kinsey had not thought to explore taboo topics, we'd all be lesser for it.

There is a huge chasm, however, between criticism and opposition for opposition's sake.

One seeks to move the conversation and with it, understanding forward; the other simply seeks to stop conversation dead in its tracks.  It's why in Politics, the goal of Opposition Parties is to grind government to a halt; it's why violence is the weapon of choice for those who've run out of ideas.

Goldenberg makes some excellent points; online anonymity is a refuge for cowards, though not the last one - merely the latest.  This can be a good thing and a bad thing; whistleblowers fearing for their careers and, in some cases, their life may want to do the right thing but not be prepared for martyrdom.  

At the same time, there are the trolls; these are the people who will say online under pseudonyms what they would never say in person.  These are also the folk who will break a window in a riot because they feel they won't get caught, or will join in a lynching when there's already a crowd with noose in hand.

But these people aren't an isolated demographic, one group that can be singled out - they are people, just as we are.  Therein lies the great irony and the deepest lesson.

We dehumanize people when we take away their names - by calling someone an  infidel, a Jew, a faggot, a bleeding-heart, red-neck, latte-sipping urban elitist, monster or any number of variations, we are removing their individuality to better fit a simple, emotionally satisfying narrative.

It's why, over time, we've feared and loathed the Inscrutable Oriental, the Arab menace, the 1% or the unwashed masses.  It's why the bad guys we dreaded most, be they the zombie apocalypse, the hive-minded aliens, partisans or The Other can always be understood as one homogeneous collective.

When trolls hide behind anonymity, they are equally stripping away their own individuality.  Perhaps the unaccountable attack makes them feel powerful, as does being part of a mob, but the very act of slipping into a pseudonym turns a person into a caricature, interchangeable with any other troll.   When we can and do act without consequence or attack without consideration, we dehumanize ourselves as well.  We trip away the thin veneer of civilization and revert to nothing more than animals.

It's beyond tragic that those who will raise their voices the loudest in defence of individual liberty and free speech as often as not are seeking freedom from everything that makes humanity special.

It's never been freedom and anonymity that has made us distinct, nor isolation or stagnancy; it's ownership, individuality and the ability to become more than what we are.  The flip side of I may disagree with what you say but will defend your right to say it is think before you speak.  

Thinking is not innate.

Which is why this is where I part ways with Adam Goldenberg.  After much study, thought and conversation, I've come to the conclusion that we are all-too often hung up on romantic notions of the superhuman ancestor, the idea that in simpler times we were better people.  I don't see much support for this in history.

As such I don't feel that, with the Internet, our collective decency is at risk.  I don't think there has ever been a collective decency.  In fact, I'd argue that stigma is an evolutionary development that was intended to keep small kinship groups safe from predators, competitors and illness.

The idea of collective decency isn't something we're straying from, but moving towards.  

It's a slow, tedious, painful process with almost as many steps backwards as there are forwards, but such is always the nature of progress.  

We began with the naming of things - ascribing unto them labels and identity born of our own perception.  This is language.

Where we're moving to is understanding the names others give themselves.  By understanding how others view themselves and us, we better understand who we are, as individuals.  Call it an introspective property inspection as well as an exploration of society's holdings.  It's also known as mindfulness or consciousness.

Conscience may make cowards of us all, but consciousness is all about ownership.  And light.

Monday 30 December 2013

NotifEYE For Missing Persons

Problem solving is a curse.  It doesn't turn off.
So, while there are those to turn to hope, or hate, or combatting hate in the light of Christopher Peloso's disappearance, I'm automatically thinking about who can help locate him now and what can be done to provide more rapid, less public assistance for everyone down the road.
Here's where I'm at now.
The Crime Prevention Association of Toronto (CPAT) has partnered with Guardly, a smart start-up with a Security App that's first in class globally (they're based here in the city, I might ad).  Guardly's basic App helps people in situations of distress (being chased, for instance) to send their geolocation to a set list of friends and security providers, up to but not necessarily including 911.  It's a lot easier to hit a button discrectely then to have to place a dead-giveaway call.
CPAT's contribution ups the game significantly.  One of the additions in their NotifEYE App is a push function; say you're a senior in Toronto Public Housing, have health issues but no family or friends who will come and check on you.  Instead of falling, breaking a leg and being found dead a week later because someone complains about the smell, let's say you miss hitting a pop-up you get daily on your phone asking if you're okay.  This sends a warning to a service provider who will place a call and, if there's no answer, ensure someone physically goes to check on you.  Your life could be saved.
Could this sort of application be used for people at greater risk of going missing?
There are all kinds of privacy and freedom issues that will surely be raised at this point, but read on. 
Some seniors have dementia issues.  Some people with depression issues, or schizophrenia or other conditions are more likely to feel the need to extricate themselves from a normal environments.  You could include some youth in this list, too.
If the person at risk and their family/caregivers/friends were to discuss such a NotifEYE system at a point where the at-risk individual was in a good headspace, parameters could be set with the goal of creating a clearly understood system, a safety valve that works for everyone.  In the case of pre-established period of time without contact, family/friends/caregivers could send out a simple message that says "are you okay" or something equally innocuous just to know the at-risk individual is okay.  The content and features of the push could be discussed and tailored by everyone concerned; the number of pushes allowed in a day or month could be established in advance.
The goal of such a tool wouldn't be supervision, but emergency.  Like any emergency preparedness tool, it ideally would never be used, but you'd be ready when and if the need arises.

Sunday 29 December 2013

Laying Foundation for 2014


Now's the time of year where political pundits spill their tea leaves into their coffee cups and see what's in store.  They tend to start with some low-hanging fruit - almost-certain eventualities they can comment on now so as to claim wins later.  From there, they look at the key personalities - leaders, their inner circles, big names on the stage that can sway headlines.  

Pundits will look at the map in terms of electoral districts - the West vs the East, Quebec, the 905, so on and so forth.  By breaking the population up into sub-groups, the theory goes, it's easier to predict what ripples starting where will shape the shore tomorrow.

In this way, they operate in much the same way as Political Parties do; they look for and nurture coalitions, star candidates and the keenest, known-commodity operatives.  From this perspective, it's a clear picture of Power, Party and People, lined up in just that way - if you can own or dangle the promise of power through a Party the better your chances of driving action, dollars and votes - and controlling behaviour - of the people.

But there are other forces at play that the seers at the top tend not to foretell.  As technology and social media connect people from coast to coast and around the world, we have a dynamic that reaches beyond political barriers.  People see the idealized  version of how others are living; they're also seeing that the sufferings they face are shared by many.

Governments of many stripes across the world are caught in an increasingly dissonant drive for #OpenGov, while at the same time the NSA is making headlines for questionable breaches of privacy and Canadian citizens are being turned away at the US border for private health-related matters.  People are paying attention, and they're not impressed.  This is particularly true as, no matter what or when, they are relentlessly bombarded with political messaging that makes to effort to provide answers, vision or even a bit of human connectivity.

People like symbols, protagonists and simple narratives.  It's why we like to tell ourselves individuals shape history for better or worse.  This largely isn't true; leaders are most often products of the mood of the people rather than the Machiavellian manipulators they claim to be.

The truth is, pundits and the people they ponder live in a world apart.  They look at the world through a lens of self-interest that blinds them to many of the deepest realities of the times.  Everyday folk aren't interested in electing one Party or another; they are worried about their future.  

It's not about politics for them - not leaders, not Parties, not occupiers of capitalized residences.  It's about the world they face when they walk out their door and the world their children will inherit.  Far too many parents these days carry the quiet anguish of the subtle realization the world they leave behind won't be as kind to their kids as it was to them, and that's troubling.

These people don't feel there's leadership at the top, so instead are looking laterally.  Social media is increasingly becoming a tool of communication rather than messaging.  Despite the cynicism, service providers including those in uniform are looking to work with each other and the people they interact with; they're recognizing that cooperation is the only sustainable way forward.  

If the people at the top refuse to play along, well, the game gets played without them.  

For this reason I don't think the greatest adventures of 2014 will be tied to Political Parties - in fact, I imagine Parties are going to have to adapt to them.  It'll be the people themselves, online and in person in both proactive and reactive fashion that will be the ones to watch.

Just something to keep in mind - after all, a healthy society is one with the capacity to adapt. This sometimes involves shedding old skins to allow for growth.