Tag Archive: elasticity


We each create or confront deceptions of varying magnitudes almost everyday of our lives. Whether it’s an advertisement, a fantasy story, a padded bra, or even just hopeful thinking, things that can’t quite be classified as truth surround us. Which begs the question, is fiction necessarily malevolent? Can it possibly be harmless or even useful?

Personally, I feel a strong physical reaction when thinking about the concept of dishonesty. My body tells me it is unequivocally a bad thing. So it’s a challenge for my head to consider the idea openly and candidly. Never the less, it seems a worthy endeavor given the ubiquitous presence of this grey area.

This is where artists have a vital role to play. Creativity allows some freedom with accuracy. Exploring and interpreting things through art offers the creator a chance to face the truth and fiction of reality without the constraints most of us feel. This is the arena where fiction, which is inherently dishonest no matter how thoughtful or sincere, is clearly useful. It makes for entertainment, drama, excitement, passion, adventure and fantasy. It gives the imagination sovereignty and the freedom to roam. It is easy to love fiction in the art world.

How about the real world? Can we embrace dishonesty through our choices while abhorring it in our minds and hearts? What does this internal opposition translate to for our health and wellbeing? Should we simply embrace the minor dishonesties or is that a slippery slope toward pathology? Things become even more perplexing when you consider that wishful thinking, optimism, hopes and dreams are all concepts that live outside of the truth category.

They are somewhere between. Not exactly true yet, but not a lie. It’s the definition of grey. Are leaders being dishonest when they set high standards of achievement for themselves and their charges? Is charting new territory dishonest?

In asking all these questions, it may seem like I am setting you up for some answers. Alas, I have none. My opinion is that fiction can be a useful way of examining the truth and teasing it out of the deceptions that surround it. Almost any of these subtle dishonesties represent works of imagination. Visioning or dreaming is, in my view, an essential step to actualizing anything and so could never be a bad thing regardless of its relative “truth”.

Ian Leslie in the Economist:

There is a gushing river of verbal creativity in the normal human mind, from which both artistic invention and lying are drawn. We are born storytellers, spinning narrative out of our experience and imagination, straining against the leash that keeps us tethered to reality. This is a wonderful thing; it is what gives us our ability to conceive of alternative futures and different worlds.

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Shaun Chamberlain, the Brit with the best darn title for a post-industrial blog on the whole darn internet, Dark Optimism, has an important reminder for anyone who thinks that sitting this one out is an option.

We cannot not change the world, whatever any of us choose to do. And as we change it, it changes us. And as it changes us, we change it. We Are All Activists.

Since there’s clearly no use in avoiding it, we might as well examine the options and get proactive with our activism. So here’s Dimitri Orlov on the roads most often traveled to “change”:

Any reform of a complex system, such as our existing one, involves further investment in social complexity through a wide variety of costly initiatives. And here’s the problem: there is no longer either the money or the energy for such initiatives. The default is to just let it collapse, but such an outlook, perfectly reasonable though it is, is generally not regarded as optimistic enough.

During the sustainability movement of the 1970s, optimistic, reform-minded expositions seemed useful; now they are starting to seem like compulsive anxiety coping behaviors: knock three times on wood, throw a pinch of salt over the left shoulder, mention sustainability and renewables.

So where does this leave us? I agree with Orlov on both counts. None of those approaches, incremental change without systemic change, nihilism or blind faith, seem to be producing any results.

If you do believe that there is something decidedly off about our system, what are you supposed to do about it. Emotional responses like fist pounding, ranting and chanting, are often unavoidable, and equally unproductive.

The Net Positive path offers up “Forced Obsolescence” as a profoundly simple yet effective alternative. The idea is to find ways to just Go Around the flailing behemoth of the terminally ill Industrialized-Globalized model of society. Leave them behind as you transition your own life without “asking permission” by wasting time on policy change.

The major problem with expending your energy working for policy change, is that it requires a fair and functional democracy to have an impact or even happen. Between campaigns that cost a billion dollars, $3.5 billion in lobbying last year alone, problematic electronic voting machines, corporations considered people under the law that use cash as their “free speech”, and a disinterested, anesthetized populous, democracy is becoming a fading memory at all but the most local level in this country.

Therein lies the problem and the solution. We still have our local communities, bastions of resilience in a world run amok. It is here that we can take our stand and walk right past the corporatocracy. It will require an open mind, a willingness to see change as a scenario where things improve rather than one of loss. It will require us to back away from our screens once in a while and actually interact with each other, on the ground, in the flesh, at the town hall or the farmers market. Forced Obsolescence means voluntarily relinquishing our addictions to the unsustainable outputs of our industrialized production model in order to make them disappear.

But we won’t even really see them disappear. We’ll already be facing forward, partnering with each other, walking into the human-scale future of our own design. We’ve done it before!

Take the “vote-with-your-$$” to the next level and vote with your life. And don’t waste too much time worrying about whether your own little choices in your own little life really even matter to the giant problems of the world. Not only are they effective, they are the only thing in the world you can actually control.

Sometimes it’s a lot easier to oppose injustice by signing a petition, screaming your head off at a rally, or otherwise bemoaning the horrible atrocities perpetrated by banks, corporations and governments every day than it is to change something, anything in your own life.

Don’t forget that there is no such thing as a passive, Net Neutral life. Every activity equates to an energy transaction with the world at large. Your very existence has an effect on the world whether you agree or not. So if you’re not helping the situation, you are by definition hurting it. It is the height of hypocrisy to practice arm-chair activism, preach to your friends and whine to your lover if you’re not willing to stop contributing to injustice with your own lifestyle choices. But if you’re not willing to translate your feelings, values, hopes and fears into actions, you need to question whether they really truly matter to you at all.

Thanks Iceland!

“I believe this is the first time a constitution is being drafted basically on the internet,” said Thorvaldur Gylfason, member of Iceland’s constitutional council.

The tiny island nation who was hit so hard in 2008 is using adversity to create opportunity. They are re-drafting their Constitution. And when I say they, I literally mean the people of Iceland themselves.

Using every social media outlet imaginable, from a youtube channel chronicling each discussion to a facebook forum and even a flicker account with photos of the representatives in action, the government has created maximum transparency and participation from their constituents. The people themselves have actually created the documents themselves, and what’s more

If the committee has its way the draft bill, due to be ready at the end of July, will be put to a referendum without any changes imposed by parliament – so it will genuinely be a document by the people, for the people.

Mob Rule at its best!

Photo: fotothing.com

Margaret Mead

She’s an anthropologist who examined the intersection between culture and behavior, a study that’s only become more crucial as time has gone on. Although she has many choice words of inspiration for us, one in particular stuck out as something that must be said and understood more often by everyone on a Net Positive path. The end of the current form of civilization we have been experimenting with is only that. It does not signal the end for man kind but a new beginning.

Even though the ship may go down, the journey goes on.



photo: lawntea.blogspot.com

Habits

This interesting article by Johnathan Rowson at the RSA caught my eye. Those of us who are awake in the world are often frustrated when we encounter people who aren’t and desperately search for ways to influence the behavior and choices of those who seem to be oblivious to their effect on the world. Understanding a little bit more about behavior in the macro sense, as well as perfecting our ability to master our own behavior are important first steps in the crusade to inspire better choices and behaviors in others.

Our actions define our character. Habits make up a large part of our actions. From the obvious physical ones we do all day (breathing) to the judgements, reactions, and other mental positions we rarely examine but are heavily invested in, our habits can be beneficial or destructive. Being vigilant about the habits you form and the ones you shake is a great way to become more mindful in your life. As Rowsen points out:

Habits are important because they define who we are, but also because they can be changed. You breathe automatically, you see automatically, but you think, decide and act habitually. Confucius captures the point nicely when he says:  ’Men’s natures are alike; it is their habits that separate them.’ But habits are acquired and conditioned behaviours rather than strictly automatic. They are second nature rather than first, and therefore amenable to the influence of deliberation and reflection.

To bring changes to our behaviors, our perspectives, our lives and our world, sometimes the path is deceptively simple. Just start small. Shake up your routine in easy and non-threatening areas. Rituals can be comforting and even productive, but they can also discourage growth and evolution. Take a different path to work, drink out of a different cup, sit in a different chair, or go so far as to brush your teeth with the other hand.

These little blips on your comfort radar can help wake your senses and shake the auto-pilot coma we call living.

No matter how much knowledge, reflection, and deliberation you bring to bare, you need behavior to change behavior.  Thought alone will rarely change a habit, because willpower is scarce and depletable, and rarely sufficient to turn the thought into action on an ongoing basis.

Dwelling on breaking the bad habits can be a drag and put you off the whole exercise. In the Net Positive spirit, we need to focus as much (if not more) attention on creating the habits we’d like to have. Rowsen suggests that there is a threshold of 66 days to form a new habit. Which means a behavior that is automatic and no longer needs to be consciously chosen, in short it’s a part of your character. This article he sites from Psyblog is an expansion on the concept of time frames for behavior modification.

For laughs. And a reminder to be thankful it’s not the ’50’s!


An incredible analysis of the macro issues in human behavior and influences can be found in a new documentary called Zeitgeist: Moving Forward. It’s a far-reaching documentary that covers so many of the topics critical to a Net Positive awareness and deserves to be watched in its entirety (despite the epic length of 2h40). The first hour or so focuses exclusively on human behavior and presents a comprehensive analysis delivered by compelling experts. If you’re at all interested in why we are the way we are, view this as the foundation to your quest.