Five Scary Thoughts for Halloween

Waiting for my first trick or treater gets me to thinking about some of the ideas floating around our society that I think are really, really scary. Here are my Top Five:

5. Why do you want to make your ideas public? Said just last night by a kind man who admitted he never had visited a blog (which is pretty easy for him to not do as he does not own a computer.) Now this individual is also quite educated and reasonable, but I could tell as I described blogging and tweeting to him that he could not comprehend why people would see any benefit in sharing ideas as broadly and as often as possible. Given the difficulty and complexity of the problems facing our species right now, I see no alternative but to be part of the Great Insight Stream, from each according to his abilities, to each according to her needs. (said tongue in cheek.)

4. A great leader makes decisions quickly and never compromises. Oy!! Who came up with such a ridiculous notion? Maybe somewhere there is still an organization that can afford leadership by gut instinct and ideology (more on that later), but I’m not hearing too many success stories these days along those lines. Even an NFL quarterback needs to read the defense, work through his progressions, and make the right decision, which is often a compromise from his first choice.

3. I have the right to be invisible . OK, I admit you probably haven’t heard anyone say this directly, but if you listen carefully this is exactly the argument some people are making when they claim the right to privacy. If you think about it, most if not all of our actions have always been visible, but only to that limited number of people who could “see” what we were doing at any given time or place. If any of us did something criminal, the authorities would then go look for those witnesses who could testify to what they had seen. For the most part, today’s technologies don’t make activities more visible but they do reliably make a record of ALL visible activities; the digital record acts as the new witness. I myself am not sure where to draw the line here; some type of consensus will emerge. But I think we need to be clear that the right to privacy does not mean the right to be invisible.

2. If you’re a progressive, you believe in big government. Aaargh!! I consider myself a progressive because I believe humans have a lot of upside potential and as we collaborate and share more knowledge we will find better ways of doing just about everything. This does not mean, however, that I believe government has to do most of the heavy lifting. In fact, I fully expect Government to be one of the things we will find a better way of doing.

1. The US will become stronger if it returns to the past. It pains me that this even needs to be argued, but there you have it. Its funny how organizations in trouble and societies that become less confident revert to the same argument: we need to return to the principles of our glory days and just execute them better. Please, someone, show me one example where this strategy has actually worked. Deterioration in our competitive postures doesn’t occur because we’ve abandoned our principles; it happens mostly because the environment around us is changing. Ideologically-based attachment to old ideas is the greatest sin of politics.

3 responses to “Five Scary Thoughts for Halloween

  1. I like your Halloween “scare” twist. Very sound and unnerving ideas. Thanks for addressing some of these common myths.

  2. Pingback: Do We Have to Choose between Transparency and Real Authority? « RecoveringFed

  3. I tend to agree with your poster who posed the contrast between transparency and real authority and with your friend who did not automatically see the advantage of the public airing of thought. Carmen, your ability to exert power and influence no longer resides within the structure of an organization, so naturally you must opt for a public forum, because you want to have influence (and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that). But just because a thought is not publicly expressed does not mean that there is something wrong with either the thought or the thinker. Sometimes keeping a thought to oneself is a common courtesy. Sometimes the massive bombardment of unmanaged thought is a distraction (the kind man you mentioned might be enormously successful in his field thanks to his ability to focus and shield himself from distraction). Sometimes a thought expressed at the wrong time or in the wrong venue causes needless turmoil or undermines the potential of an idea whose time has not come. Sometimes a thought or information if publicized can be used to hurt someone or a group of people.

    It’s great to think that expressing oneself is an automatic plus, and in your case, Carmen, you have nothing to lose in doing so. But it’s pretty obvious these days–especially with respect to politics, but still the case regardless of the organization involved–that thoughts, ideas, and decisions can be viciously and deliberately misconstrued and distorted, making the need to keep some things quiet, at least for a while, a necessary part of survival and the accomplishment of goals.

    Finally, I don’t know why someone thinking they have the right to be invisible is scary. Moreover, it seems legitimate to me to think that if I am a law-abiding citizen, my electronic tracks in the world should not be assembled by the government or anyone else to influence or manipulate me in ways that cause me personal or professional hardship, embarrass me, or cost me money.

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