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People Forgetting People

Iraq War soldiers and bombing
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It was 2004. The Iraq war had waged on for about a year. I, and my friends, [we] were still in shock over all that happened. He hadn’t listened! We protested. We wrote. We petitioned. We called. We bitched. We complained.

We didn’t want another Vietnam. We can’t do that to our people again. We can’t do that to our brothers and sisters. We can’t let them suffer for a cause, for a rich man’s war, that isn’t really about freedom at all.

So why is he doing this? Why? Why is this Yale graduate, son of an oil man, baseball team owner, married to a librarian enforcing this war?

The simplest answer, and the most comfortable one for my little brain to wrap around, has been that he was simply taking care of those he cares about. On the surface, it seems that he cares about contractors making $6k to $10k per day more than soldiers without shoes. On the surface, it would seem an oil company was more important than the people working for the company.

I related it to my own cirlce. I want my family and my close friends taken care of. I want them healthy. I want them to have secure jobs that give them benefits to help ensure good health. I want them to have access to clean, healthy food. I want them to be educated on healthful (clean air, clean water, clean soil) ways to take care of their families. I want them to have access to the American Dream, and not just the same station in life in which they were born.

My wants certainly can’t be that different from Mr. Bush’s, can they? On that macro level. On that big, 50,000 mile high level. We all really want the same things. We want our loved ones to be taken care of.

The difference is who the loved ones are. And, someone, in this myriad tangled web of life, we forget about people we don’t care about.

Mr. Bush is an extreme, political example, but I hope it highlights what I see happening all over. Recently, I was a part of a conversation where it was argued that the only thing missing out of a particular sustainability equation was the Environment. I was shocked, since the conversation was about an organization that only does work in the environment. No where, though, were people mentioned. Not the people who do the work voluntarily. Not the people who get the details done to do the work. Simply, people were missing from this conversation, and no one recognized it.

Sustainability was put on hold the year I graduated from college. With bank, market, and housing crashes – all fell like dominoes after 2008, it’s as if we couldn’t focus on anything but that which was right in front of us. And, still, three years later we are reeling. We’re still trying to calm the frenzy around us in order to organize our lives and dream about the American Dream.

In the frenzy, the environment wasn’t forgotten. The Sierra Club is still doing their job. I”m not saying the environment doesn’t suffer, I’m simply saying it wasn’t forgotten. But, people were.

Wages dropped. Homes were foreclosed upon. Details were lost that made people homeless and lose their jobs. benefits were lost affecting the health of many.

People were forgotten.

You can’t have a balanced three-legged stool without people. You can’t have a true balanced Triple Bottom Line general ledger without people. You can’t have a world, without people.

I am dismayed that after all we’ve been through, we still take two steps back. I’m dismayed that people are still forgotten and the gap between the haves and have nots widens. I’m dismayed that people are forgotten.

But, as if by a miracle, a group has risen up and shouted to not forget us. My question, today, is this: Can the Occupy Movement get people to remember people?

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Changes through Spruce

I am in this state of awe. I am in this state of amazement thinking about how we evolve as humans. We grow up learning from our parents, friends, family members to a point where we think we know it all and then life humbles us. Then, we watch others go through similar rites of passage, and sometimes we are impotent to do anything but listen because they too have to see that life will humble and sometimes that’s all its doing.

The Giant Sitka Spruce is a good example of that. Around 1250, it began its life from a seedling in a forest that had yet been touched by white men. The Magna Carta was being signed a world away and across an ocean. Soon, those countries across the ocean would experience plague, religious fighting, new religions, and mass exodus of various peoples who would slowly then quickly make their way to this land. This Sitka Spruce might have witnessed the vanishing Native American tribes the onset of Lewis & Clark the destruction of timber all around — all within its 700 year lifetime. We are mere blips on the map of this giant tree‘s life.

This giant tree has watched humanity grow, in ebbs and flows throughout periods of maturity and immaturity. This tree has watched new generations come in with their new ideas and new ways of doing things. What can we learn from this tree? What should we learn?

[flickrslideshow acct_name=”alexis22578″ id=”72157626948622512″]

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Tone & Tactic

3. Martin Luther King, Jr., a civil rights act...
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I am sensitive. Some have been annoyed with the level of sensitivity I exhibit on a daily basis. I suppose they might fear the desire to “walk on eggshells” around me. While imposing that sort of vibe is never my intention, I am sensitive to tone and I react to it. I suppose, that has made me “difficult to manage” in past employer-employee relations. But, when I think about who I am sensitive to, it’s not everyone. I can’t type it specifically expect beyond the tone and tactic used.

The back-story. A few of my college roommate situations were less than favorable. Some people have college roommates who end up their best friends for life. Mine bordered on the manipulative and controlling. It was the first time I had seen such dynamics, and I still wonder at their outcomes. One gal was a strange hypochondriac who whined and used strange tactics to blame me and our third roommate for her psychological ales – strangely during exam weeks. The other, tried to use force, the threat of coercion, and guilt tripping to get her way – whatever that way was. In retrospect, both individuals were craving some intimate human connection but used very strange tools to get what they thought they wanted.

It seems the roommates I had who craved attention have morphed into colleagues who crave or demand respect in other peculiar ways. When someone asks me to do somethign for them, in a work situation, I have found I will expedite the request if it was asked of me nicely and with respect. If the colleague were to demand something, I dig my heels in and put up a fuss! Usually because I feel insulted that my time wasn’t a factor in their consideration.

For example, “Would you be able to generate that letter for me tomorrow?” is much different than “Michelle, create the invoice by 9am Wednesday morning.” First, the question begs – as a colleague, do you have the authority to task something to me? Answer: no. Second, the question begs, what would you gain by demanding something of me, so trivial? Answer: unknown. I suspect this is the individuals way of doing things. I know I have had to retrain my brain to make requests instead of demands all around, and I am less than perfect at it, but I do try.

Back to the roommates. The college roommates wanted power, of sorts. They wanted respect, but they had ineffective ideas of how to get it. I really think they wanted, in part, the idealized version of the college roommate: staying up late, chatting about whatever, giggling over boys, and pursuing dreams together. Things get difficult in relationships when pretense is dropped and we start being ourselves. We get quirky. We want to execute our own plans. Our needs change. Growing up is learning to deal with our own needs in a continuum of allowing others to deal with their’s.

These interpersonal relationships are simply a microcosm of our larger world. So, in light of Osama bin Laden‘s death, there have been circulations of a Martin Luther King Jr. quote, that I think fits here too.

Through violence you may murder the hater,
but you do not murder hate.
In fact, violence merely increases hate.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A good means will bring a good end whereas a bad means, no matter how trivial, will bring a bad ends. Let us all remember this in our dealings with other people. No matter what we may think of them, people deserve a basic human respect deserved to us all. And, that respect is shown in the most trivial of correspondence. From the roommate to the work colleague to the family member, we would all do better to approach situations with love rather than hate.

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Fiction: Setting the Stage

Polar bears on the sea ice of the Arctic Ocean...
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So much was the same, yet so much different. Technology still whizzed by and people always had a hard time getting used to it. Not unlike with the introduction of cars to iPads and smaller phones and personal computers. The older generations always thought it was moving to fast, and the younger generations embraced it until they turned into the older the generation and wanted it to slow down too.

In America, it was still Right vs. Left. In Europe, social taxes were still higher. There was a new blend of third world countries with whom to pawn of the labor the richer countries didn’t want to complete. There was still waste. There was still overconsumption. There were problems of years before that technology couldn’t solve because they got worse, out of hand, or it wasn’t time yet. There were problems of the past, though that technology could (like the never ending cycle of waste to nuclear energy, that surprised most everyone).

The polar ice caps were simply a sea now.The Amazon Forest was burned 20 years ago for one final farm-land push. Earthquakes had shaken parts of California loose where Los Angeles and San Fransisco were now islands. Florida was half the size it used to be along with the rest of the Eastern Seaboard. The Netherlands receded in-land. Italy was half its size. South Africa was no more.

Polar Bears had been extinct for 30 years. Most “tropical” birds died out before the Amazon Burn.

New species were born to take their place. We had new trees, new “natives” as they had been dubbed. As the climate changed, so did the surrounding environment. Desertification hit strange areas and caught people by surprise. No one expected the Great Lakes to dry up, but they did. With most of the belts around the equator looking more dessert and less tropical, and the seas where the polar ice caps used to be looking more tropical and less frigid – life certainly changed.

The neigh-sayers forgot that all creatures are resilient in their own way. They wanted to put so much fear in the hearts of men to change, they simply forgot that we can survive and we need to embrace our knowledge in order to do so. What they wanted though, was simple recognition that we must be stewards of this place we call home. That recognition came with the Amazon Burn.

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No Conflict

Cover of "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team...
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In the Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Lencioni explains that trust solicits vulnerability, so that when you arrive at conflict, you can have conflicting ideological ideas comfortably because you’ve exposed that vulnerability.

When discussing trust, he routinely explains we misunderstand trust. We interpret trust to mean a prediction of past habits. So, when we “trust” someone to do something excellently, it’s because they’ve performed above par in the past. This is a mistake because people change and no one is perfect. People get busy, they get sick, they get older and their minds change – so expecting someone to, for example, run a 5 minute mile their entire lives because they’ve done it before is an incorrect assumption. Yet, that’s how we (collectively) define trust. “John always runs a five minute mile, so he will again today.” Well, he might, and he might not. He might do better, he might do worse. What if he sprained his ankle the day before? He might limp a long and be doing well do get a 9 minute mile!

So, we misinterpret trust to mean a prediction of outcomes. When shifted to ourselves, that means, we feel we are to be expected to behave as past performance dictated. That means, there could be no room for mistakes. If there is no room for mistakes, people feel pressure to NOT own up to their mistakes. They are not willing to be vulnerable. Past history, say at a job, could show that if one made too many mistakes they would get fired. What is too many? What’s the measure? What’s the standard? Perhaps it’s not clearly outlined or dictated (later dysfunctions of accountability and attention to results). There is an underlying fear that if one makes a mistake they will get fired. So, we refuse to be vulnerable and open up to the mistakes we make because our job or really neat volunteer-project-and-resume-builder could be on the line.

Rollin said to me, “A manager has the power to make a bad employee good and a good employee bad.” The example he used was of an Olympic Chef for the 1996 Olympics. There were two line cooks who got in a knife fight. Instead of firing them, as would the gut reaction be of many, he worked with them through the conflict and they became star line cooks.

Life happens. We get busy. We get interrupted. We can’t always perform to our desires. We often under-bill how long a task will take, so disappointment mounts when it takes two or three times longer than our miscalculation. We make mistakes. And, then, we fear to own up to them to really solve problems and figure out what’s going on.

So, what? The deadline is missed. Will it matter in 100 years? Likely not. Sure, it matters to you because you have integrity. And, that’s great. Maybe we set the bar too high. And, you know what, that’s okay. What’s not okay is setting ourselves up for failure. What’s not okay is saying something needs to be done two weeks before a meeting when you know you can’t do it. Sure, that’s a great ideal to work towards, but making it a hard and fast rule sets you up for failure and repeats the cycle of negativity.

Martin Luther King Jr. liked to say that the method to the means mattered. That is a bad means makes a bad end. So, if we want a good end, we need a good means. A pathway to failure is, in my opinion, a bad means. Not recognizing disagreement and forging ahead is, in my opinion, a bad means.Recognizing mistakes and learning from them, in my opinion, is a good means. It gives you the strength to really build on the shoulders of giants and improve for good – through healthy and healthful conflict.

I hope we can do this.

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Created Equal

Jefferson adams
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Religions and governments are based on values that shape our thoughts and form, ultimately, the laws with which we agree to obey: our social contract. They might have divine inspiration, but they are all written by humans and subject to human error and error in interpretation.

In a previous post, I expressed contempt with parts of the Bible that suggest and/or state that women are lessor than their husbands. This particular part of the bible is a letter written to convert and educate non-Christians and early Christians on how they deemed Jesus‘ teachings. Sure, I’ll buy divinely inspired – but the Bible, no matter how many Men may have blessed it, is up for interpretation pending the history and context of the time. There are many contradictions within, and if one suggests that you must take the whole bible at face value without heartfelt interpretation, they are either ignorant or trying to sell you a bridge you can’t afford.

Our government was formed by shaping some vision and stating some initial values. When we first ceded from British Rule, you may recall we began with a document: The Declaration of Independence, lovingly written by Thomas Jefferson. In the first few lines it is stated that

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,[72] that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. (Wiki on the Declaration of Independence)

What did that mean at the time? White, property owning, Protestant, Men. That’s what that meant. It was time, war, and paradigm shifts that changed that meaning to include all Men of any color any property status, and Women. Some today would still argue that Women are not a part of this ideal.

People still think women should be in the home tending to home things, a definition that has been denigrated, especially, over the last 50-70 years. An idea that the only important work people can do is outside the home, making money – not necessarily taking care of those we love.

In some manner, though, I feel we have come a long way from those first changes of thought. Women can vote. We can choose (although it’s a tough, not very equitable choice) to work or stay at home. We can choose how many children we want. We can choose. We have become more accepting of all sorts expressing their love for each other (I’m talking about homosexuality and interracial relationships). We have simply become more understanding, more inclusive, more in line with “All men (people) are created equal.”

Then someone reminds me the bible says, women are to be subordinate to their husbands as their husbands are to God. And, then I think of the line in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner where Sydney Poitier’s character states to his father that nothing will change until the older generations die out.

I don’t want to discredit what our elders give us, for they are the giants with which we build and rebuild our society, evolving it for a better society tomorrow. But, sometimes, it feels like there are these chains of oppression simply holding us back – preventing us from valuing all walks of life equally and it feels like that won’t change until the older generations pass on to another life.

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Election Day 2010 Midterm

The economy is in the crapper, despite mild improvements. We react against that which we deem in power. What does that mean and what has it meant since the Civil War? It means in a midterm election we vote against the party in control. Who’s in control but the Democrats. No matter what one might think about who got us into this mess, spin and desires for change will make sweeping changes. Official results won’t come out for 21-30 days, but generally the night-of counts are right on.

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