Technology, Bureaucracy and Corruption

WireIt’s been an accepted opinion that technology reduces corruption. Examples abound. India is a popular example, and is mentioned in books (such as Performance Accountability and Combating Corruption) and articles on the Internet. And, at least in the ways that people are used to, corruption is mitigated. Reduced? Maybe.

It moves, or at least the potential for it does. And that is largely a good thing, where fewer people have the opportunity to profit from the bureaucratic systems put in place to manage things – be it land, licenses and permits, or registrations. With less human hands touching these things in the process, there is less injection of ‘human error’ – conscious or otherwise. And that, too, is a good thing since such human error slows things down to the point where the system is bypassed or ignored.

When the system is bypassed or ignored, the bureaucrats will say that it’s corruption and create Law that makes it illegal to – or they might actually start enforcing Law that already exists. They do this rather than fix the system as appropriate, which creates resentment in the populace. This simmers. Boils. And now and then, given the right circumstances, it erupts – and when it does, violent or not, those that boil over almost never have a plan for overhauling the systems if they are successful. The cycle continues.

Every sociopolitical space on the planet has these problems – it’s a matter of degree, and it’s a matter of Will to remedy these problems. In implementations of democracy around the world, this Will is rare to see used on things that are unpopular. Politicians like to get re-elected.

At some point, people might figure that out. At some point, people might identify this flaw on a collective level and do something about it – because that is the root of the problem.

The Will to fix things versus the Will to be re-elected.

 

On Success

Money PropAn article yesterday had a headline along the lines of, “If you’re intelligent, why aren’t you rich?”. The teaser asked, “Why don’t people with high intelligence become successful?” I won’t bother linking the article because I didn’t read it – all because of the headline and teaser. There are so many things wrong with these things that I decided not to waste my time.

First of all, measures of intelligence are flawed. Secondly, success isn’t necessarily being rich – society may believe that, but individuals may not. Third, because of the prior 2 points, who is to say whether those with an incisive (unmeasured, immeasurable) intellect in certain areas or on a broad spectrum are actually unsuccessful?

There was a time I aspired to be both intelligent and successful in these contexts. I recall staring at a MENSA letter in the late 1980s and wondering, at that point, what being a member would mean to me. The idea that intelligent people should only hang around intelligent people didn’t really rub me the right way – because of my personality and the way I grew up (we could argue chicken and egg here), I counted loyalty and honesty to be the most important thing for social connections. My experience with those accused of intelligence did not demonstrate either of these things. I tossed that invitation in the bin. It was a big moment – a decision that to be intelligent I didn’t have to be recognized as intelligent by some group of people who sat around doing puzzles.

I hated writing that paragraph because in it’s way it’s self-defeating, but I believe it adds value in context. 

I’d already figured out life was a puzzle, a puzzle provided with no answer to work toward. There was no image on the box to guide me- society had one, but it assumed certain conditions that simply did not exist for me. When I applied for financial aid at college, as an example, I had the misfortune of not being of African or Hispanic descent and an inability to be dishonest about it. And yet I was a minority. Society didn’t care about minorities, it cared about appearing to care about minorities.

Churchill success quotationThere was little that I tried that I couldn’t do. This, in retrospect, came down to grit. Grit is what got me through my life so far; intelligence was only a tool. I can’t tell you the number of times friends and family told me that I would fail. Every time, without exception, I succeeded. Did I make lots of money? Sometimes. Did I spend it on the same people who thought I would fail? Sometimes. Why? Why would I help those who wouldn’t even give emotional support? That question haunts me.

I’m no dullard, yet I have met people who are – at least in some regards, if not many  – are more intelligent than I am. Being intelligent doesn’t actually mean anything, particularly in a standardized education system where intelligence is anything but standard. The world needs all kinds of minds (read that link).

And what, really, is success? Is it fighting to accumulate things that mean nothing to you when dead? Is it really all about accumulating wealth? Society largely says so.

SuccessI measure success differently. My success is about being able to look myself in the mirror and like what I see – not physically (as we get older, we appreciate that disappointment more) but emotionally and mentally. I am successful.

But financially? Well, that’s another story entirely. But because of how I gauge success, I owe no one anything. People owe me.

And their success determines my financial success, but does not determine my success.

I do that. And that’s my real success – not being tied to society’s version of success.

Single.

MarriedSillyInvariably, I run into people who are surprised I’m not married or don’t have children. This is largely because I typically don’t run into people unless I choose to.

The answers I give vary. They’re quick, sometimes witty, and always as incomplete as a person who thinks that they need someone else to complete you.

But today, for lack of anything better to write about, I’ll tackle this subject. About why I’m not married, why I don’t have children, and why I don’t see it as important.

The whole thing is silly to me. That’s what it boils down to. That, though, is hardly a good answer for people – what I mean when I say that is that there’s nothing wrong with being an evolutionary cul-de-sac, and that I find most people regretfully boring. Those I do not find boring I rarely find a romantic connection with. It has happened. It may happen again. It’s just not something that I find motivational.

whynowI had a few of my paternal uncles try to encourage me down a path of marriage and children. One tried to be sly about it:
“I want you to settle down.”
“What do you mean, ‘settle down’?”
“Get married, have children…”
“You have someone in mind?”
“No… but I could look for you…”
“Sure. As long as you understand that I take a car for a test drive before I buy it.”

That conversation was never revisited.

Society was designed a certain way, and that way remains – as antiquated as it is. Young people are expected to know what they want to do with the rest of their lives even before high school these days. That’s folly. So how on earth would they know who they would want to be with for the rest of their lives at a young age? That seems like folly too. Toss in some religion, some parental pressure about grandchildren (how sad that is), and the notoriety of being single as you grow older.

societies shameSociety simply doesn’t know how to deal with people who don’t get married – exerting enough pressure to drive people into marriages that end a bit before, “until death”. Divorce. Children of divorce – of which I am one. My mother married 3 times, my father 2, and they didn’t stay married. And society, in it’s own way, has attempted to shame divorcees even as it shamed them into marriages.

What, exactly, is the point of that? Well, we could invoke some deity or the other, but I’ll invoke common sense: Continuity. The reason sex is such a pleasure – and I do mean such a pleasure – has allowed the population of humans on Earth to become what talking trees might call an infestation. The climate change debate? Less humans, less of a problem.

keeponpollutingThat some of us have figured out birth control is probably a good thing. But, by all means, keep polluting.

After all, society tells you what to do. Society tells you how to treat people. Society makes you feel like you are of value, even when that value works against a species.

No, you should probably thank us single people with no children for helping the planet last just a little bit longer.

Plus, we don’t have to deal with raising small humans, and we don’t stand the risk of being bad parents. Instead, we can help them enter a society and understand that they aren’t stuck doing and thinking as their parents and society dictate.

Live think dare different

Drone Writing by Humans.

ChainsA recent message on LinkedIn from a new connection had me laughing. I’m barely active on LinkedIn, as I consider myself retired from most of that, but it serves to amuse me more than educate me.

The message:

Thank you for connecting with me earlier. I reached out because I’m a big believer in using Linkein to create win win strategic partnerships with highly motivated individuals and businesses from around the world. If interested, I would like to briefly speak with you so you may tell me about yourself and business and discuss if we might potentially have any synergy together. Thanks in advance for both your time and consideration. Best Regards, ….

I cringed. A boilerplate. It could have been written by the Corporate B.S. Generator.

And I sighed. There were times I had to write like that, in that soulless speak of buzzwords – but it was never to be understood, it was so that it was parsed by Human Resource departments, or Upper Management. This sort of writing is only appealing to the people who either make the Koolaid or drink it. Here. I’ll take a stab at a better way of writing the above with some pointers in blockquotes.

Thanks for adding me [use of personal pronoun attempting to establish a human connection]. I try to connect to people and businesses I might do things with – having looked over your profile [which apparently was not done] I saw you have experience with [add what you found interesting] and thought I’d drop you a note. Maybe we could chat about it sometime?

See, somewhere along the path of writing for business, people lose what they really need for actual communication. The first is not to make the reader cringe. The second is to write toward an objective – what do you actually want to talk about other than overused buzzwords? I mean, I could write like that:

I can schedule a synergistic meeting such that we can holisticly evolve out-of-the-box solutions that leverage competently iterated open-source results. We can appropriately benchmark high-payoff outsourcing through synergistically facilitating scalable relationships in a many-to-many matrix. I look forward to working with you to progressively formulate sustainable ROI.

Regards,
Corporate Drone.

Or, I could just write, “Clearly, we can communicate here” which translates to:

“I communicate when I desire.

I take great joy in watching you squirm as you actually have to write something of worth to continue attempting to communicate with me.

Please, make yourself relevant or bugger off.”

Imagined Conversation.

My Late FatherYesterday marked 12 years since my father passed away. I am reminded every year in Trinidad and Tobago only because of Emancipation Day.

To say that our relationship was complicated would make a British person cringe at such use of understatement. We rarely agreed on anything, and if we did we, as individuals, wondered what was wrong.

So I wondered how the conversation would go, so many years gone by and myself having grown entirely out from under his shadow.

I expect my father would start it off. He was good about that.

“I’ve been dead 12 years. What have you done?”
“Well, I’ve turned things around on the land. People have gotten to know me and are coming around.”
“Good. You learned how to deal with them. I didn’t think you had it in you to squeeze them.”
“Well, I didn’t squeeze them.”
“What? They’ll take advantage of you!”, growling, “You can’t be soft! They’ll walk all over you!”
“Well, they walked all over you when you were confrontational.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I have 12 years of knowing what I’m talking about. Your ashes blew away from Mosquito Creek with you not having enjoyed anything about the Estate. I tell the people who have problems with you to go down there and shout into the wind.”

He sighs, grinds his teeth and looks off.

“So, are you married yet? Children?”
“Nope.”

He sighs, grinds his teeth and looks off.

“What about your cousins? Are they dealing with their land?”
“That’s not my business.”
“So you don’t know?”
“Ask them yourself. The answer they give you may not be the answer they give me, the answers they give may not be what they are actually doing. Why waste time worrying about things like that?”

He glares at me, then sighs. “That was always the problem I faced.”

“And I don’t have that problem simply by not making it mine.”

“What happened to the workshop?”
“Oh, you’ll love this. Your sister closed it.”
“What?!”
“Yes. Your brother had a stroke, a lot of things happened afterward that boiled down to her taking control and she closed it. ”
“You were supposed to run it! Or one of your cousins!”
“Well, truth be told only one of us ever really wanted to run it and when it came down to it, he didn’t really want to either. And your sister made sure of that.”
“Hmm. Which sister, anyway?”
“What, you folks still don’t talk?”
“Don’t be a smartass, tell me which sister.”
“Does it matter?”

Again, the glare.
“No, it doesn’t.”

“See, you’re all dead but two. It’s a brave new world.”
“How is it?”
“If you were here, you’d probably die of heartbreak.”
“Oh.”
“Yeah. So did you ever talk to your father like we’re doing now?”
“Many times.”
“Drove you crazy, didn’t it?”
“What do you mean?”
“You never really got out from under his shadow, did you?”
“What?!”
“Well, the closer to death you got, the more you talked about his visions and plans.”
“I did?”
“Yeah.”
“I didn’t realize that. So are you trying to do the same as you get closer to death?”
“Nope. Your visions and plans are gone with you – have been for 12 years.”
“So why the HELL are you even talking to me?”
“I thought it would be interesting. I thought about how you imagined your father, and I imagined mine. And you’re here. And now… you’re gone, left as a part of my memory and imagination in a small room of my mind. I may visit you from time to time, but you are only me remembering you.”
“You always talked about shit like that. Unproductive!”
“Generally speaking, yes, this was unproductive. But it was closure.”
“What?! You little…”

And he’s gone. What’s more, I’m free of him.

Clarifying Syntax: Eats Shoots And Leaves

Shoots & Leaves.As luck would have it I ran into Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation in a local bookstore here in Trinidad and Tobago. That’s the upside of the bookstores in Trinidad and Tobago. A hungry reader finds themselves reading off their own beaten path because the books on the shelves simply haven’t been purchased since they were published.

Bookstores in Trinidad and Tobago are a topic worthy of their own book, if anyone would read it.

Amazon.com never suggested it for me. Of course, my digital shadow is not known for reading books like this. Amazon.com doesn’t know I have a Reverse Dictionary within a foot of my left hand, or that next to it are rare paperback copies of Sir Isaac Newton’s works.

As I started reading it this morning, chuckling at a few things, I came to think of why I had always been interested in these sorts of things. Was it my mother the poet? No, not really, it simply made her happy that I was interested for a while in poetry as a child. Was it the devastating accuracy I needed in saying what I meant to my father when I was growing up, being understood? Partly.  The anniversary of his death was yesterday, and I might write something on that.

And so, as I started reading the book, all of this came flooding back. Writing was an outlet, a way to think through things, and most desperately a way to be understood. There is folly in that; even the best of writers is limited by the reading comprehension of the reader.

If you are interested in writing, take a look at this book. I’m only through the first chapter with my first cup of coffee. That alone was worth the price for me so far. The rest, as they say, is cream.

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation

Salt and Iron

Experimenting with food coloring and water (17)When nothing is given to you, you learn to take what you need with the tools you have. When you have no tools, you learn to make your own tools; sometimes those tools are for building and sometimes those tools are for taking – sometimes they are both.

When things are given to you, you learn to get others to give you things. When they don’t give you things, you complain and try to find ways for others to give you things; you compete with others who are now being given things, and in competition there is blood.

Sweat and blood versus tears and blood. Salt and iron. A world of salt and iron, where sweat mingles with tears with blood congealing; a competition of ‘get’ and ‘have’, a competition of ‘get’ and ‘have not’.

Circumstances dictate which we do until we decide which we want to be, and to understand which we want to be we have to understand the choices.

Always, it comes to salt and iron.

The water is the intent.