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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.

Friday 2 January 2015

Arrogance and the ISIS Parable

ISIS is a lot of different things to a lot of different people.  It's worth noting that, for a collective apparently pursuing an Armageddon agenda, they're pretty focused on governance and infrastructure.
Yet what are the marketing strategies they're using for recruitment?  Are they bringing in and, once they've got 'em, training their militants for a sustained conflict and perpetual suppression of a local populace?
I'd say the short answer is no.  ISIS recruits aren't prepared for consequences, nor is ISIS itself.  They feel they can carve out a corner of the world, scare off outsiders and set up their own feudal enterprise.
They'd do well to study why feudalism fell in the first place.
ISIS is sloppy.  It's people are sloppy and can't but be sloppy because of their starting premise.
Nobody can bring about the end of the world.  But they can sure end themselves if they don't think ahead.
And the only way to think ahead is to think empathetically, which is exactly what ISIS-ians are trained and encouraged not to do.
There's a lesson in this.

Wednesday 31 December 2014

Faith and Ender's Game: Let's Finish It

"It isn’t the world at stake, Ender. Just us. Just humankind. As far as the rest of the biosphere is concerned, we could be wiped out and it would adjust, it would get on with the next step in evolution. But humanity doesn’t want to die. As a species, we have evolved to survive. and the way we do it is by straining and straining and, at last, every few generations, giving birth to genius. the one who invents the wheel. And light. And flight. The one who builds a city, a nation, an empire."
What is genius?  Is a genius the person who innovates something new, or who conquers all that came before?
There's no great secret to humanity.  We are a product of evolution, a fibre in the ever-evolving ecosystem.  Truly, we don't matter, except to ourselves.
We yearn to live; more than that, we yearn to have.  But having and living are not the same thing.  The man who builds an empire, who defeats a democracy - they may be history's actors to some but in the grand scheme, they are arterial blockage.
Those who see themselves as superior, or more worthy, or at the least more capable of surviving than others miss the point entirely.  They don't matter.  Their ideologies don't matter.  Our species as a whole is an insignificant drop in the ocean.
But therein lies the real secret of humanity. 
The ideological leaders set themselves up as figure heads of causes.  The substance of their cause doesn't matter; if people buy in, then the cause becomes more than the sum of its parts.  People will sacrifice their resources, their lives, even their freedom if they feel the cause matters more than they do.
We don't matter.  Who we are doesn't matter.  Whether we're eulogized or inscribed in history books doesn't matter.
Because we're capable of so much more. 
Not on our own.  Not as islands.
We want to live.  We want to survive.
Nothing lives forever.  Nothing remains the same forever.
Change is the universal constant; genius is the ability to be that change.
Not to freeze a moment in time, for moments don't last.  Not to close off the outside world, for every island gives way to the sea.
Be more than the part you are.  Be the sum. 
That's where we end; that's where We begin.

Tuesday 30 December 2014

Stephen Harper: History's Non-Actor

Karl Rove once declared that Conservatives like himself were history's actors; progressives would be stuck studying the impacts of Conservative actions.  The basic premise of this approach is exactly the same as that of, say, a Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi or the ISIL gang, but I digress.
I don't think Stephen Harper sees himself as being in the vein of a Karl Rove, or a Dick Cheney.  He probably feels he's a lot smarter than either of them are.
And his biggest weapon, his secret advantage, the master stroke of his strategic genius has always been this - back away.  Do nothing.  Talk big about whatever, because if you say it confidently and frequently enough while denouncing your opposition, people will believe you - but when it comes to brass tacks, just stop doing things.  Wherever possible, stop things from happening, period.
Has Harper changed Canada?  Of course he has, in much the same way as Toronto Council has changed things like public transit or wastewater infrastructure.  Neglect results in change.
Harper doesn't see himself as one of history's actors - that's too pedestrian for a genius Machiavelli like him.  No, Harper is more like a producer, calling the shots from the sidelines and doing so through production cost attrition.
I'll say it again - Harper is a one-trick pony, and always has been.  His success comes through the actions of others; on his own, he's the guy pouting in the washroom waiting for someone to budge.
You can call that many things, but leadership is not one of them.