A National Strategic Narrative

I attended a conference last year called PopTech in Camden Maine. Couldn’t go this year, but did have a chance to watch some of the live feed. One of the presentations featured Naval Captain Wayne Porter and Marine Col. Mark Mykleby — military strategists working at the highest level of government. Together, they present highlights from their paper, “A National Strategic Narrative.” Their ideas ” less military force, more social capital and more sustainable energy practices ” have caused a stir in policy communities. Their proposal is one of transition away from some old policy ideas that no longer apply in the Google age.They want to move the nation towards an open system that seeks equilibrium in an interdependent global ecology; to move the idea of national security from containment to sustainability: from theories of control to theories of credible influence; from power to narrative: a national strategic story that doesn’t “hold the jello” quite so tight; towards a citizenry that demands purposeful participation. They rightly point out that government can only reflect the values that its citizens embody and that competition cannot be a zero-sum game in a deeply interdependent world. They focus on three issues they believe to be the highest social priorities to maintain a healthy nation moving forward. 1.) Education 2.) Security 3.) Energy I would personally put energy at the top, for without cheap, concentrated energy, access to education will erode as our economy weakens. Their brilliant talk concludes that we, as a nation, are moving towards polarizing ideologies that offer little more than divisive ultimata. Porter and Mykleby insist that we need a collective narrative that takes us beyond today’s ideologies; that will inform our skill, knowledge, and ultimately our technologies. Please invest 21 minutes in this important  

The Very Idea of Humanity

Gus Mantel As man advances in civilization, and small tribes are united into larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all the members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. This point being once reached, there is only an artificial barrier to prevent his sympathies extending to the men of all nations and races. If, indeed, such men are separated from him by great differences in appearance or habits, experience unfortunately shews us how long it is, before we look at them as our fellow-creatures…The very idea of humanity, as far as I could observe, was new to most of the Gauchos of the Pampas. This virtue, one of the noblest with which man is endowed, seems to arise incidentally from our sympathies becoming more tender and more widely diffused, until they are extended to all sentient beings. As soon as this virtue is honoured and practised by some few men, it spreads through instruction and example to the young, and eventually becomes incorporated in public opinion.  – Charles  

Living History

Just back from a month long “living Western history” trip. Dan finished a year of AP World History, so good timing. We started with the birth of democracy (ancient Greece circa 500BC) and explored forward 2000 years to the Renaissance (Florence circa 1500AD). We also included Minoan and Mycenaean history (Crete, etc.). Our connection gave us a day in London with a stop at Abbey Road  

Zeitgeist 3 – Moving Forward

Peter Joseph (probably not his real last name) has released a new Zeitgeist film. I disagree with a number of Peter’s “Venus Project” assumptions, conclusions, and leading questions. I also found his first two films especially lacking in solid content, relying more on hearsay, dubious history, and weak conspiracy theories. In some cases, Zeit 3 is terribly naive (“upgradable” technology, idealized production and distribution incentives and strategies, utopian city design, overstated energy alternatives, etc.). Yet I’m sharing this movie with you because I think the film is a good conversation starter and especially good thought provoker, addressing a number of profoundly important questions. I find it ironic that the filmmaker, an atheist, uses a John Ortberg lecture as his core value statement — ultimately pointing to the failure of GDP as an adequate, or even relevant, measurement of our individual and collective well-being (a position I passionately agree with). I’m convinced that we need to start thinking towards third-way “systems-based” economies that combine the best elements of free-markets and central resource planning, while retaining the liberties of an unalienable rights-based republic re-imagined in healthier paradigms of resource sustainability, human empathy, and global-equitable access to fundamental human needs. Centralized economies fail for many reasons. One reason is because, historically, they haven’t appropriately rewarded the people and organizations who excel and add real value back into the community. But cultural definitions of excellence, value, reward, and community vary subjectively. Corrupt, bailed-out banking systems and an obese military-industrial economy are two areas in which we can start to radically re-define the terms excellence and reward. And we can start to expand our definition of community from tribes and borders to a sense of global family. I agree with the filmmaker (@ 2:16) that we are faced today with a potentially fatal “value system” disorder and (@ 2:20) that many of today’s economic assumptions are gross distortions driven by temporary access to cheap, concentrated energy. For the health and well-being of our great grandchildren and our planet in general, we need to develop a better informed and more comprehensively linked value system between our economic systems, our natural resources, and our fundamental connectedness as a human  

The MAE Foundation

Gathering up those things which shape our thoughts We pack as though a journey to forever is stretching out ahead Saints go naked Prophets look back wistfully Choking vapours drive life out of corners And rivers graciously receive our poisons Like trusting children Patient figures stand and wait Gazing down at rusting rails To unknown places with no names – Ralph Steadman 1997 (from Plague and the Moonflowers) My talented friend Richard recently told me of a new philanthropic work to help Burmese genocide refugees (150,000+). The work employs music and musical instruments to enhance opportunity for creativity and hope into lives that survive on $20 per month. Richard has seen how music can positively change individuals and communities oppressed with struggle and little hope. Fittingly, the name of this new work is The MAE Foundation (Music Alters Everything). Richard’s vision includes the mobilization of the music industry (composers, producers, musicians, etc.) to become involved in this important work. I browsed some YouTube videos on Burmese genocide to put in this post, but literally broke down after a couple minutes. The inhumanity is unspeakable. I encourage you to browse over to Richard’s site (in beta), and do what you can to  

Ivory Coast

Jan 2011: My cousin left Ivory Coast in late December and was home with her folks for Christmas. The standoff continues in country, hundreds of people have been killed, and it’s not looking good. 8 Dec: e-mail from cousin.. “Today the Ambassador told us to prepare for the worst, and talk to our local staff about the possibility that expats will be evacuated… it’s quite dramatic.” 6 Dec: updated news HERE. Does not look promising. 4 Dec: My cousin e-mailed today from Abidjan City in the Ivory Coast, Africa. She is country director for a large U.S. government relief program in Cote d’Ivoire. The country held their first free /democratic elections in many years this week. She was part of the massive multi-national election observer team. She had earlier outlined for me some details of their roles as observers. All Cote d’Ivoire polling places (including the key northern and central provinces) were staffed with official multi-national observers who counted and cross-counted every vote on-site, and who then physically accompanied the paper votes as they were transferred from polling places to the capital of Abidjan. The observers remained present while central voting authorities re-counted all votes and tallied results. I won’t get into the story that followed, but in essence the highly popular challenger (Ouattara) won by a decisive margin (55% – 45%). However, the incumbent administration delayed announcing the results for three days, claiming “vote rigging” and fraud in the northern districts. Yesterday, Cote d’Ivoire’s  “Constitutional Council” (under control of the current government) declared 400,000 northern votes “invalid” and awarded the election to the incumbent (Gbagbo), who was sworn in just hours ago. My cousin is quite worried about what will follow in Abidjan. Some are predicting widespread civil unrest throughout the country, and perhaps all-out civil war. International reaction has been swift and decisively united: the incumbent must step down and allow the legally elected president to assume power, as reported moments ago by the BBC: “Mr. Obama said Independent Electoral Commission, credible and accredited observers and the United Nations have all confirmed this result and attested to its credibility.” He congratulated Mr. Ouattara and said the international community would “hold those who act to thwart the democratic process and the will of the electorate accountable for their actions”. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France – the former colonial power in Ivory Coast – told Mr. Gbagbo to “respect the will of the people, abstain from any action that might provoke violence” and to help establish peace. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon earlier called on Mr Gbagbo “to do his part for the good of the country and to cooperate in a smooth political transition”. The chairman of regional bloc Ecowas, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, said all parties should “respect and fully implement the verdict of the Ivorian people as declared by the Independent Electoral Commission”. The head of the UN mission in Ivory Coast also said it regarded Mr Ouattara as the winner, while the African Union said it was “deeply concerned” by the developments. The head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, said the IMF would only work with an Ivory Coast government recognised by the UN. “The Constitutional Council has abused its authority, the whole world knows it, and I am sorry for my country’s image,” he said. Is it just me, or do these people have that look that says “I know what I’m doing is totally wrong, but I don’t want to lose my  

The 18th Camel (15,000 Tribes)

William Ury’s brilliant TEDxTalk on the mediation of conflict. The solution to global mistrust? Invest twenty minutes and find out (as we meet on the balcony). I also want to share one of the comments from TED.com addressing William’s talk… “From this moment on I will no longer identify myself as a member of any group which is in opposition to anything, anyone, or any other group. I will focus my energy on the creation and maintenance of a ‘balcony’ perspective. My position will be one which surrounds issues, my view will be one which includes the right of all views to be represented, my action will be to embrace US ” all of US ” on behalf of the enlightened future we can grow together.” -Puran Lucas  

Information Ecology

William Gibson (who gave us the term “cyberspace”),  interviewed in TIME Magazine “My guess has always been that the thing our great-grandchildren will find quaintest about us is that we made the distinction between here and the Internet… Here [is being] colonized by what used to be the other place.” New and emerging technologies are allowing historically repressed creatives to rise and collaborate. While these voices have always been present, pre-virtual “information ecology” kept them marginalized and suppressed. But yesterday’s social platforms are now appearing as structural relics, allowing (for the first time in human history) the latent creative population to flourish. Many said Rousseau’s dream of a true city-state “peoples’ republic” became less plausible as populations grew. They could not have conceived of a global connective network that, when allowed to remain free of state or corporate control, opened new doors of unprecedented global empathy and equality. “The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said “This is mine,” and found people naive enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.”  – Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1754 Our “social contract” is being rewritten by the new voices of a virtual world. As Gibson notes, what used to be the “other place” is being transformed into “here and now.” What was once “them” is now us. This seismic shift in social identity will take longer to impact strongly embedded patterns, such as religion. But fundamental global change is moving forward and inevitable. The TED phenomenon is a prime example of this global flattening. TED’s curator Chris Anderson gave a talk this year at TED Global adding yet another voice to this growing awareness that we are not meant to be separated into ideological ghettos, but forged together in a grand creative enterprise. It’s a good talk and I encourage you to watch it. Imagine a global communications pool in which all persons can share their thoughts, dreams, faith, best ideas, etc.. in the spirit of Rousseau, the protocol intelligently prioritizes experiences and brings the collective mind into view of all participants. But it’s more than a “view” from a distance. Fundamental inequalities, suffering, and marginalization is brought forward as if experienced in our own household, in our own family. The plight of others becomes our plight. Global horror and injustice becomes our nightmare, as well. But with this, the boundless creativity, resources, and potential of the new collective also becomes our own, so that one day we may say with complete authenticity (quoting Michael Roe) “what’s been done to you feels like it’s been done to me.” And most importantly, we will live and prioritize our lives in accordance with these newly experienced global realities. ich all persons share their thoughts, dreams, faith, desires, etc.. the communication protocol amasses the collective ideals and dreams and experiences together and brings the collective mind into view of all participants. What we get is a bell curve distribution. The same average ideology we have today in today’s dead tree iconography, but on the grandest human scale. But here’s the good news. Most people won’t participate at this collective level. Many people will be mostly watching TV, or engaged in some other passive activity. The passives vs. the actives. The creatives vs. the ____________. Refined leadership will always be a part of community. But that leadership will move from a small, professional, clergy, CEO-style, stage-centric hierarchy model to a vastly larger, distributed, creative mind – a true collective mind of the amassed creative population working in common resonance, with a common Spiritual center, yet not bound by inherited institutional  

Everything is possible, and almost nothing is certain (Havel)

“The single planetary civilization to which we all belong confronts us with global challenges. We stand helpless before them because our civilization has essentially globalized only the surface of our lives. But our inner self continues to have a life of its own. And the fewer answers the era of rational knowledge provides to the basic questions of human being, the more deeply it would seem that people, behind its back as it were, cling to the ancient certainties of their tribe… The abyss between the rational and the spiritual, the external and the internal, the objective and the subjective, the technical and the moral, the universal and the unique constantly grows deeper… Politicians at international forums may reiterate a thousand times that the basis of the new world order must be universal respect for human rights, but it will mean nothing as long as this imperative does not derive from the respect of the miracle of Being, the miracle of the universe, the miracle of nature, the miracle of our own existence. It logically follows that, in today’s multicultural world, the truly reliable path to coexistence, to peaceful coexistence and creative cooperation, must start from what is at the root of all cultures and what lies infinitely deeper in human hearts and minds than political opinion, convictions, antipathies or sympathies: it must be rooted in self-transcendence. Transcendence as a hand reached out to those close to us, to foreigners, to the human community, to all living creatures, to nature, to the universe; transcendence as a deeply and joyously experienced need to be in harmony even with what we ourselves are not, what we do not understand, what seems distant from us in time and space, but with which we are nevertheless mysteriously linked because, together with us, all this constitutes a single world. Transcendence as the only real alternative to extinction. The Declaration of Independence, adopted two hundred and eighteen years ago in this building, states that the Creator gave man the right to liberty. It seems man can realize that liberty only if he does not forget the One who endowed him with it.”      – Vaclav Havel, July 4, 1994, Philadelphia, PA, USA accepting the Liberty Medal Read the entire, probing, timely, deeply relevant speech