r/The_Donald

Perspective is important. Even when I’m confident in what I know, I remain critical of any potential bias. No echo chambers. No thought bubbles.

Fox News and Sinclair have been letting me down as a source of counter-points. The agenda has been too obvious. They now seem to be playing into willful ignorance instead of delivering a valid counter-argument.

I’m a big fan of Reddit. I’ve found most of the posts in the_mueller to be factual and balanced. I knew The_Donald wouldn’t be the same, but I had hoped it was similar. it wasn’t.

My home feed was flooded with The_Donald posts. Probably about 15-20% of my feed and most earning under 2k up votes. I was hoping for facts and nuggets I wouldn’t find anywhere else. I was hoping to better understand their perspective and what they were dealing with. I couldn’t. If the post wasn’t designed to be inflammatory, the comments would pick up the slack. There was no rational discourse, just hate and toxicity.

But nobody wins while it’s still us versus them.  We need to bridge that gap and that’s not the same as them conceding.

A Brief on Spectral Thinking

I’m sure I’ll dive into this again at a later date as my understanding of it continues to grow but I wanted to unload some of these thoughts for now.

There seems to be a natural evolution of thought from binary, to categorical, to spectral.

You have men and you have women.  It’s one or the other.  Except for intersex.  So 3 categories and everyone fits into one of those 3.  Except there’s at least 9 distinct categories of intersex.  So 11 categories, and that’s it.  Except these traits are expressed differently in each individual so it’s as if everyone ultimately ends up in their own category and it’s way too complicated to have infinite categories so why not just a spectrum?

You’re either gay or you’re straight.  It’s one or the other.  Except for bi.  So 3 categories and everyone fits into….

You’re either smart or you’re not…

You’re either privileged or you’re not…

It’s either black or white…

You’re either good or bad…

So if spectral thinking is next level, what’s after that?  My guess is another axis.

Duality of Privilege

When you apply the concept duality to privilege, it creates a rather interesting perspective.  Consider example A:

John is the child of a wealthy family.  His grandfather did very well, and John’s parents never had to work.  John grows up knowing that he won’t have to work either.  John’s parents lead a lavish lifestyle and give John is given everything that he asks for.

As a result of his unique circumstances, John has a unique perspective on life.  In that environment, I could see it being extremely challenging to develop qualities like a strong work ethic, perseverance, or the ability to deal with scarcity.  I could also see it being difficult to develop healthy relationships with others for a variety of reasons.  This doesn’t sound like a life of privilege to me.  Consider example B:

Jane is the daughter of two working class immigrants, and is raised in a rough neighborhood.   Jane grows up admiring the work ethic of her parents, knowing how their sacrifices let her grow up in a better place than where they were from.  Jane doesn’t have much growing up, but she appreciates what she has and learns how to work towards the things she wants.

In that environment, Jane was given several obstacles and challenges which John would be unlikely to face.  I’d like to think there are two ways to look at this.  You could say that John is privileged to not have to work for anything.  Or you could also say that Jane is privileged to have learned a great work ethic when she was young.  Perhaps there’s a key difference between these two though, in that Jane earned her work ethic while John didn’t earn his family’s wealth.  While that may be true, neither Jane nor John earned their circumstances – in this case, their family.  Had Jane been born to John’s family,   would she have turned out any differently?  Had John been born into Jane’s circumstances, would he have developed Jane’s work ethic?  Who’s life would you rather be born into?  If you’re like me and picked Jane’s life because it would probably lead to a more balanced, fulfilling, successful, and healthy life, wouldn’t that be the more privileged life?

When you think about our greats, from Muhammad Ali to Connor McGregor, from J Lo to Jay Z, from Abe Lincoln to Narendra Modi, from Indra Nooyi to Oprah Winfrey, from Ben Franklin to Steve Jobs, and from Charles Dickens to JK Rowling, you start to see a pattern of overcoming a more challenging set of circumstances from a young age.  You know who I don’t see?  I don’t see the children of billionaires.  How often do we see the children of wealthy families behaving as inspiring leaders that move the world forward in a positive direction?

I think that inheritance doesn’t exist in a meritocracy but that aside, I genuinely don’t have any issues with someone inheriting a fortune and then settling down and living a comfortable life with their family.  I just know that’s not the best environment for producing good human-beings.  It looks easy, and nice, and better, but it lacks the struggle, and it’s the struggle which defines us.

The most challenging moments of my life directly preceded my most significant moments of personal growth.  If this pattern stays true for others, is adversity not to be embraced as the fuel of progress?  If so, perhaps privilege represents someone who’s arrived at the destination without having made the journey.  If so, perhaps there’s an argument to be made for an empathetic approach to this whole ‘privilege’ thing.  If we’re lucky, it might be contagious.

The Popularization of Victimhood

I grew up in a low income neighborhood where things were probably a little rougher than average.  It was mostly immigrant families who came here with very little, in search of better opportunities.  In neighborhoods like these, opportunities were scarce so you learned to fight for every opportunity and every advantage.  Sometimes that meant finding ways to sneak two lunches at school.  Sometimes it meant stealing part of the lunch from the person who got up to go to the bathroom.  Everyone was always being tested – if you left an opening, you got hit.

Sounds like a rough place, but it wasn’t without ethics.  Those with disabilities were always off limits, and often befriended by most popular kids.  If someone targeted them, they were immediately protected, and often by the toughest kids.  Others were simply known for being too nice to be picked on, and were supported for taking the high road.  The rest of us.. were fair game.

The appeal of victimhood doesn’t resonate with me and recounting through my childhood, I might I understand why.  When you grow up in an environment where just about everyone is starting at a disadvantage, working your ass off to get to the status quo is the status quo.  Drawing attention to our circumstances for the sake of sympathy or outside intervention just isn’t where we choose to put our energy.  Instead, we work hard in school, become productive members of society, and give back to the community so that we can solve this problem for future generations.  Today, our community center has the largest food security program in the city, one of the best basketball programs in the region (NBA Cares just redid our gym), and gets 75% of it’s funding through fundraising – largely from community alumni.  This is how I learned to deal with disadvantage.

The other remarkable thing that happens in this neighborhood is that we produce great people.  We’re not without our bad eggs, but generally speaking, we’re polite, kindhearted and well intentioned.  Even the friendships made there are more like family than friends now.  We were terrible to each other, but only when it didn’t matter.  When it mattered, we would fight tooth and nail for each other.  Perhaps it left me with a different perspective on when things mattered and when they didn’t.

This is why I struggle to relate to what appears to be a developing culture of victims.  Where I might see an opportunity to redeem myself, it’s as if they see an opportunity to draw attention to themselves.  It’s often under the premise of ‘raising awareness’ which seems well-intentioned but it’s a somewhat incomplete strategy on its own.  There’s a wide gap between being aware of something and understanding it.  Fortunately for all of us, awareness generates dialogue and dialogue helps to develop and circulate good ideas which ultimately help us understand what we’re actually dealing with and how to make progress.  The problem though, is that the solution is to popularize redemption.

Redemption isn’t just inspiring, it’s informative.  It says yes, you can get dealt a shitty hand and still come out on top – here’s proof.  It says look at what I just did, take what you can and apply it to your situation.  The better the story, the more viral that information becomes.  Some of the greatest stories in human history are based in redemption, but you can’t have redemption or all that fantastic personal growth that comes with it without adverse circumstances.  I can’t help but think that with the right perspective, adversity can be seen as positive.  It’s when we suffer that we learn the most about ourselves and the universe around us.  Adversity is that fuel that pushes us forward in the most meaningful of ways.  For the record, this is all from personal experience.

The problem with popularizing victimhood is that it’s encouraging the wrong behavior.  It’s like celebrating the loss rather than celebrating the win.  It’s also creating a sense of pessimism where people are spending more time looking for ways in which they’re being harmed than they are looking for ways in which they’re being loved.  And by the time we’ve all identified as a victim of something, what have we accomplished?  Do we still make a conscious effort to sympathize for a victim when everyone’s a victim?  Do we continue to use the word victim, both for someone who was killed in a mass shooting and for someone who was whistled at on the street?  Where I grew up, the word victim was often reserved for a drug overdose or a homicide, the kind of event you couldn’t overcome.  Now it’s a hashtag, part of how we identify, and indicative of social virtue.

Identity politics, where your social status and implied virtue is linked to your level of victimhood.  A racial minority? 1 point.  Female? 1 point.  Gay? 1 point.  Disabled? 1 point.  Straight white male? – 3 points.  I have to admit, there is some irony in how the popularization of victimhood has systematically marginalized straight white males.

As much hate as they get, this isn’t as much of a white guy thing as it is an old people thing.  They want control because they’re afraid of what will happen if they’re not in control.  They’re intolerant because they’re afraid they don’t know how to deal with change.  In a world of uncertainty, they’re afraid and are desperately trying to keep things the same.  In a world of change, we’re quickly taking over.

Let’s focus less on what we don’t have, and more on what we’re going to create.

Solutions that Create More Solutions

I was reading a Harvard Business Review article a while back and it was talking about the dynamic of a self-perpetuating business.  An easy example is the classic ‘customer first’ strategy:

If you always put the customer first, the customer is always happy and if the customer is always happy, then they’ll keep coming back and every once in a while, they’ll come back with a friend.  As more friends become shoppers, the business grows and more locations can be opened to serve more friends.  As more locations are opened and the business scales, it can reinvest in itself, ultimately leading to better customer service.  And the cycle continues.

Good customer service is a solution to the problem of bad customer service, but it’s also a solution that creates more solutions.  There are other solutions that create more problems.  Cost cutting can be an example:

Revenues are down so you look to cut costs  to maintain profitability.  You realize you can fire your top performing employees who are being paid the most, and replace them with new talent who will work for half as much.  Next year’s forecasts are now back in line with corporate targets.  Solution?

Probably not.  Firing your top performing employees is a quick way to decimate your organizational culture and that leads to lower levels of acquisition, retention, and production.  It was a solution in that it was able to achieve reduced costs, but it also created a problem by way of significantly reduced revenues over the long-term.

This isn’t a business concept.  It’s a universal concept.  It persists in the laws of physics as well as in the truths of philosophy, and it’s one which the world desperately needs to understand.

You have the compassionate crowd who actively fight racism with racism, and actively fight against free speech to protect free speech.  It won’t work.

You have the intelligent crowd who spend most of their time picking apart bad solutions, and then defer to whatever benefits them personally, lacking the understanding that this is all a collective effort.  That won’t work either.

I’m still trying to understand why intelligence and compassion are at odds with one another, because they also share a very significant connection:

The most intelligence decision you can make is a compassionate one, and the most compassionate decision you can make is an intelligent one.

This isn’t neutral territory between the left and the right, this is the guiding star that we should all be following.  Compassion is the compass, intelligence is the map.

 

Me Too?

I appreciate the perspective that I have on sexual harassment, not because I understand it, but because I am making progress in understanding it.

Back when I was working at the banks, we had a training program that they would send us out to Toronto for. By the third trip, our cohort had gotten to know each other and one night we were on the hotel rooftop having drinks. A bunch of us were standing in a circle and one of the ladies decided she would show some interest. She walked over to me, started whispering things in my ear, then started rubbing my chest, then her hand went in the shirt, then down the pants.. all while I kept up a conversation with the others in that circle. I was obviously getting a lot of looks, but I kept pulling her hand out my clothes, politely told her to settle down, and laughed it off. It took about 20 minutes, but she eventually moved on and took someone else back to her room.

This was 5 years ago and I want to share what I’ve learned. It was only recently that my experience occurred to me as an example of sexual assault because it didn’t feel like it.. and I think I know why.

Part of it is that I’m quicker to compassion than I am to fear or hurt. She had a husband and kids at home, but she was on a work trip, drunk, tying to bed a guy half her age in front of a small crowd of coworkers.. I knew she was probably going through a rough patch so I tried to handle the situation with dignity. I wanted her to be better off than when we met.

I genuinely think we could all use a little more compassion in our lives, but it’s important to understand that it was easy for me to arrive at compassion because I never lost power or control of that situation. I was twice her size. Even if she were twice my size, I wouldn’t be concerned that she could force herself on me. In my mind, I was safe from what she was trying to do, and it let me act with compassion.

Most women aren’t twice the size of the men in question. All that safety that I felt likely wouldn’t exist for a woman in that same situation. For many, I’d wager that safety becomes fear. As we continue to discover/understand what gender equality really means… physical stature and the physical safety that comes with it is still a very real inequality.

That doesn’t mean that we should feel bad for being men, but it is a reminder that as men, we need to step up.  If you have the power to harm, you probably also have the power to protect.  Imagine if instead of hearing about a high profile sexual harassment case once a week, we heard about how the men around that person stepped up and shut it down?  That’s a future I’m willing to help create.

I Think I Just Figured Out Flat Earth

So a good friend of mine, who most would assume is an otherwise intelligent individual, brought up the flat earth thing to me a few weeks ago.  It’s not that I was unaware of it, it’s just that I didn’t expect it coming from a friend.  After a bit of teasing, I humored him and asked him why he thinks the world is flat.

As it turns out, he didn’t necessarily think that the world was flat, it was simply a fun exercise in challenging the widely held belief that the world is round.

He asked me how I knew the world is round.  I told him that nobody falling off the edge was a good start.  He said that if they had fallen off, they weren’t exactly in a position to tell everyone about it.  Then I suggested using spatial reasoning to understand how someone could travel due east in a plane and end up at where they started.  So he asked how I knew a compass would take me due east.  I said by tracking the magnetic poles and letting you know where due north is.  He suggested that with a flat earth, the north pole would be a center point and where we think we would be moving in a 3 dimension circle around the planet’s equator, we would be moving in a 2 dimensional circle around the north pole.  Ok, but that would mean that someone couldn’t circle the globe by flying due south.  Has anyone?

I don’t know any off the top of my head but that seems like something that someone would’ve done.  He said that from what he’s read, apparently nobody does.  Huh.

I was tempted to start digging for sources to see if that was true but we were at a dinner with others so I tried a different angle.  What about satellites?   He said he didn’t know enough about satellites to know either way.  What about pictures from space?  You can CGI just about anything these days.  Huh.

So l asked us both to try and wrap our heads around how many people from all around the world would have to be in on this for evidence to have not leaked.  Astronauts, government officials, physicists, pilots, military, Redbull, Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking… and the list goes on.  Now consider how the scientific community has laughed this off while the flat earth community is absent of anyone with a PhD in physics.  I told him that it all seemed very unlikely.  He replied, “But it’s possible”.  I agreed, and then asked, “have you ever thought that we might be in the matrix?”

I think poker should be taught in school simply for the purpose of teaching probability.

I had to concede that we might actually be on a flat earth, not because I thought we were, but because I didn’t have all the necessary information to confirm otherwise.  What I did have though, was a strong enough understanding of other related factors which created a very strong case for a round earth.  The probability of a flat earth being kept secret from the general public for decades, if not centuries, is an extremely unlikely scenario.  If we hold the flat earth to be true, it literally undoes the laws of physics that we’ve come to understand.

I suppose that’s the beauty of it all though, it doesn’t matter how much you know, you can never truly confirm or deny anything.  Even if you have all the evidence you think is necessary, you still have to concede that none of this may be real.  Huh.

So if you can’t confirm or deny anything, if nothing is concrete, if everything is on a spectrum and nothing is entirely real, how do you proceed?  Probability.  Is the world round?  Probably.  Take one step forward.

What that conversation also highlighted for me was that most people probably believe the earth is round for the same reason that people used to believe the world was flat – because that’s what they were told and they assumed it to be true.  If it’s in our nature to challenge our beliefs, why are we so surprised that we’re challenging the belief of a round earth?

From my research on the flat earth theory, there seem to be two camps.  There’s the camp of people who genuinely believe that the earth is flat and aren’t interested in seeing evidence to the contrary.  Then there’s the camp who are saying that things don’t add up, and are looking for alternative explanations.  That’s legit.  There are plenty of things that don’t add up in this world and history would suggest that governments aren’t always the most accurate sources of information.  Alternative theories to explain events like 9/11, JFK or the moon landing are a healthy measure to keep people accountable to what they tell us.  If we just blindly accepted what people told us, we’d all still believe the world was flat, or round, or in a VR simulation operated by advanced aliens.

I just wish that for the sake of conversation, we could reach a point where we could speak a little more honestly about this stuff.  Is the earth flat?  Probably not, but did you know that Antarctica is bigger than Canada and barely anyone flies over it?  I wonder what kinda cool stuff has yet to be discovered there… wouldn’t that be the perfect location for a secret Hydra base?!