The Great Divide

As a by-product of doing a short course in web-development I have had a business idea which I believe has the potential to be as big a player in the global business arena as the likes of Amazon. The problem I have is the lack of money to make it happen, and until I manage to get enough money to develop this plan to a point where I can take it to potential investors without the risk of having my idea stolen, my idea is dead in the water. So I need to make some money in other ways to breathe some life into my business plan, even if it is only to the point where I can approach investors without the risk of having my idea stolen. So aside from job searching, I have been researching other alternatives to generate some money to get my business going.

In the course of this I have been following some lectures about finance, in particular global finance, and economics. I have found this to be very enlightening, not for the obvious reasons though. While these lectures have been really useful for showing the application of those boring economic concepts from lecture halls to real world situations, and digging really deeply  into the operations of the financial markets, these lectures have also reminded me of some human concepts I first began to examine when studying Social Anthropology and Development. Concepts such as the human propensity toward acting in ways that were against our own best interests when facing times of severe hardship and uncertainty.

My first encounter with this was when reading about how various populations behaved in times of famine. There are a number of development economists that had researched extensively into the reactions of populations to famine, and they repeatedly reported behaviour that was against those peoples interests, in terms of their long term survival. It really didn’t matter whether the famine was in China, India, Ethiopia or any other location human logic goes out of the window. Unfortunately the study I did was some time ago, and due to the loss of several storage devices along the way, I have lost the research work, and the essays I produced, so I am relying on memory. (As I am no longer a student of the university I studied with, I no longer have access to their library and database of literature to draw upon.)

Anyway, one assignment I was given while studying development was to examine the impacts of a global commodity upon the world. Now obviously my first instinct was to select one of those commonplace daily evils which we all enjoy, so ignore the damage resulting from the products production, i.e. coffee perhaps, although there are many of these commodities to choose from. And I was well on my way to writing an essay of this nature, although I do not remember exactly which of these commodities I was going to write about. I just remember that I had almost completed my essay when I deleted it and began from scratch. My new topic was the impact of the global sale of fear.

In this essay I explained that as consumers we were increasingly being subjected to fear marketing, to encourage us to buy products. Diet products, cosmetics, clothing, food, everything that was currently on the market was being sold in a way that was responding to a fear. These were fears of not being beautiful enough, or thin enough, being caught wearing last years fashion. If we didn’t drive the right car, we wouldn’t look successful enough. If we wanted to get the dream job we had to look the right way, and if we didn’t we failed. Failure was to see yourself on the bottom of the heap, with the unemployed, the over weight, the ugly people. And if I look around me now, the world has only gotten so much worse. Years of social science research has continued to be ignored as the world has become increasingly fearful.

Our fear of terrorism has grown to the point where we as people around the world are reacting in ways which are illogical and against our own best interests. In the US that fear has reached fever pitch, and as an outsider I have looked on with feelings which have ranged from disbelief to complete awe. But, then when I look back at my own studies into human behaviour; I am reminded that it is not as illogical as it first seems. It is exactly the type of behaviour that would be expected from people that have reverted to the economics of surviving just another day, where the coming of tomorrow ceases to be a reliable truth. The reality is that the producers use of fear to market products was a strategy that was learnt from politics, and politicians are exceedingly skillful in weaving a web of fear.

Never in my lifetime have I ever witnessed an election, or a referendum without at least one side delivering a warning that if you failed to support them the sky would fall. From time to time the general public has acted on these warnings, and fear won the day. I have also seen that fear fail. I am yet to see a situation where the failure to heed the warning caused the promised calamity, death, and destruction. And I have never yet seen salvation descend from the heavens because we ignored the message of fear and followed the word of enlightenment. And you have to ask yourself why, when these messages are so strong do we at the bottom tiers of the great social hierarchy never actually experience any changes to our daily lived experiences? Remember these are messages of impending salvation in the form of wealth redistribution vs. total economic collapse, rising crime, and social destruction that we are being told are at stake. Have you ever seen any one of these things happen? I haven’t.

It hasn’t happened because it is all true while being untrue at the same time. There are a few things that you can be assured of though. If the message you are listening to is using fear to sell it to you, you can be assured it is an empty message. It may contain elements of truth, almost all conspiracies do. By containing elements of truth they distort our awareness that something fundamentally wrong. And by the time we have been subjected to the huge number of these conspiracies we are left questioning our own ability to trust our eyes to decide if something is black or white, up or down. That confusion is power to a few, but, which few? And which of these conspiracy theories are not conspiracies after all, but are actually more true than the mere product of crazy imaginations? The only way we can work this out is to stop listening to the noise of others and start believing ourselves again.

As individuals we need to start reading about all this boring stuff, the economics textbooks, the finance textbooks, history textbooks, and not just from the authors that we agree with, we need to challenge ourselves by reading those books penned by those you disagree with, and look around you, what are you seeing? Truth lies in challenging your core beliefs, being willing to accept that something you consider to be a fundamental true might be wrong. Until we do this we cannot expect to discern fact from fiction, reality from conspiracy. This isn’t easy because most of us get our core beliefs from our parents, and parents just do not lie to their children, right? Well they can give you the wrong core beliefs, not because they are lying to you, but, because their parents were also wrong. It’s not because they didn’t love you or were liars, but, because they also were given the wrong messages and core beliefs to pass on.

There is a really good reason for doing this, and it’s not so you can stand up to your parents and tell them they got it all wrong. It’s because whether or not you believe that something is real, if it is true, your life will be affected by what is really happening, whatever that might be, not by what you think is happening. Your best responses that deliver you the best outcomes are those responses to what’s real not whats imagined, and we cannot possible hope to know where we really stand on any issue until we know what that issue really is. And it is knowing the truth that frees us from continuing to do the same thing over and over again and getting the same dissatisfactory results.

It really frustrates me that people are so unwilling to challenge their core beliefs that instead of discussing issues, points of view, facts, and evidence, we have embedded ourselves into a form of tribalism that response to anything that challenges us with insults, and pointless yelling over each other. While those at the top are living fat on our labours, that barely return to us a yield that can satisfactorily support us. We all see it, we all know what is being mentioned when the conversation mentions the 1%. We might dream of joining the 1%, but, somewhere deep within ourselves we also know that we have more chance of riding a camel through the eye of a needle than joining that 1%. This is particularly true now that the US government has reversed net neutrality rules. Those great business ideas that might challenge the already existing internet behemoths, the Googles, Amazons, Facebooks, out there now face yet another glass ceiling. These decisions to not foster better business, they suppress creativity, competition, freedom, and consumer choice.

So, I never set out to write a lecture. But, it probably sounds like it. But, if you read this, and you are looking to take something away from taking the time to read this, please let your take away be, a commitment to looking at both sides of a debate before forming your opinion, and better yet, consider that there may actually be a third, fourth or fifth side to a debate by becoming more informed about the issues, and have an informed opinion.




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