“Yea, but we do.”

I was in the gym the other day and there were weights all over the place, but they weren’t on any racks. Some dumbells were strewn on the floor and the barbells were left on the bars. I arranged the weights that I needed, racking some to make room for the weight I wanted, and I did my exercises. When I was done, I started to put the weights back, but I hesitated, thinking, “Why should I? No one else did.” Then I thought of Erik.

Erik is one of my most interesting friends. He is a writer, which might explain why he was so interesting. He likes Goth clubs, but he always seemed to be an outsider, like he was researching a book he was writing. He dresses their way, he likes the same music, and he is highly tolerant of their unique lifestyle. But Erik isn’t angry at anyone. In fact, he likes everyone. His smile literally beams as shiny as his shaved head and black combat boots. I like Erik because he simply does his thing, with adventurous heart and a thinking mind. I visited him soon after he had moved to Las Vegas and we found ourselves in his gym.

We did bench press and the weights were not racked. We arranged the weight for ourselves and did our sets, taking turns until I finished the last set. Erik started putting the weights away, and I said, “Erik, let’s leave them. Other people didn’t put their weights away.” Erik didn’t look up as he continued pulling off barbells, “Yea, but we do.”

I thought about this a few days ago, although I’d shrugged it off at the time and helped him begrudgingly. I thought about how easy it is to pass up doing the right thing. Our actions are lost in anonymity… all of us shop at the big superstores which use greeters now as they try to replicate the feeling of the mom and pop shops that they (and us) are putting out of business. We buy things made in the China because it would require serious effort to go without that item or find an alternative to it that was made here. It’s easy to keep our money and retirement accounts with the Wall St banks after they defrauded people, because everyone else is. What difference does it make when there are so many people out there doing the same thing?

The difference is because it’s wrong.

So I returned my weights to the rack. No biggie, I know. And I’m only one person. But I’m part of a larger environment, and if I don’t think about that, and more importantly, if I don’t do something about it, then I am part of the problem. Other people may not do anything, but Erik’s words are still strong in my head:

“Yea, but we do.”

Advertisements

MLK commemorative post: Dr. King fought against the majority. Today we have the same fight.

Dr. King once said: “We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering with our capacity to endure suffering.” And so, today, we too, must sacrifice to take control of our lives once again.

Dr. King fought against the apathy of the white majority and today we also fight against the apathy of a majority

Dr King inspired others to face the powerful and established practice of discrimination. The discrimination which Dr King fought against was based on race, but it didn’t affect the mostly white US population. Society went about its business, just like today, but today our apathy led us to a recession that almost resulted in the total economic collapse of our country.

A corporate system without consumer oversight is a system that will promote inequality

Today we have a cultural acceptance of our powerful financial system, which has slowly grown and allows us to spend less and have more money in our bank accounts. The benefits of this system are for everyone, from the corporation to the consumer. Still, the situation threatens the very structure of our free society.

Power follows money, and today we see a movement of power from elected officials to a corporate minority. This concentration of power has grown so large that when the existence of a few banking and automobile corporations was threatened, the whole country was affected: Regardless if you were rich or poor, we lost businesses, jobs, and retirement savings.

We can reclaim power over the institutions if we follow Dr. King’s advice: Sacrifice.

A sacrifice of personal financial growth. As Dr King sacrificed, we too must sacrifice our way of life to correct the injustices of today: We must turn away the money that trickles down from careless and dishonest Wall Street bankers and the corporations. We must control our own finances and earnings to take back the power we are giving them. We must move our money to local banks and credit unions. Institutions should be dependent on us. Not us on them.

Race cannot be used to determine who is given opportunity, and neither can capital

Today, as in the past, we have a grave danger that cannot be ignored. We cannot continue to be apathetic about the division of the country into rich and poor, just as the population before the 1960s was apathetic about the division of the country by race. We cannot continue to watch our capital accumulate in the hands of the minority. The future of our society depends on our capacity to sacrifice and to recognize the power we have as consumers.

Yes. We can.

TED Talk Tuesday: Your neighbor isn’t stupid or lazy



Why is there apathy? Meslin says it is because our environment encourages it. Apathy is in our nature, just like our determination, selfishness, and kindness. But our environment is a powerful promoter, of both good and bad traits. Meslin describes how society makes it hard to to be active in your community, how media depicts heroism as being for the chosen few, and how the system makes political involvement uninspiring and the political process complicated and manipulative.

“As long as we believe that people, our own neighbors, are selfish, stupid or lazy, then there’s no hope.”

Meslin made me realize that the bigger and more complicated our system grows, the more apathy will creep into our actions. If we can see that the system we are building is making our future both easier and impersonal, we can change it. In effect, we must save us from ourselves. And in a society so free, if we do not, we only have ourselves to blame.

So let’s reach out and empower ourselves. Start buying more from the people in our community. Let’s not give our money to careless and dishonest Wall Street bankers. Let’s vote less for the two parties and more for the third party that hasn’t been compromised by money. We can make the change. As Ghandi said,

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Your neighbor isn’t stupid or lazy.

And neither are you.


Follow me and I will take you away from the everyday.

If this is something you care about, then SHARE it. Let’s get out of the stands and into the game. Let’s interact.

TED Talk Tuesday : The only absolute is whether you tried to do the right thing


Damon works in AI (Artificial Intelligence) and he faces the problem of programming ethics into computer programs. Think that’s hard? Then look at the moral framework you use in your own life and realize it’s much harder than you think.

What Damon talks about is how we, as the programmers and users of technology, must decide how to use this technology.

Plato tried to find absolutes of justice. Like the 1 and 0 of ethics. Good and bad.

John Stuart Mill said we must do the thing that results in the greatest good, a simple numbers game.

And then there is Kant. He may have had the formula, but it’s no easy method. In fact, it’s the hardest way for humans to live:

We must use our reason.

“The sad truth is that most evil done in this world is not done by people who choose to be evil.

It arises from not thinking.”
Let’s start a conversation. Is it right to buy foreign goods? Give our money to dishonest Wall Street bankers? Give the government the power to take our right to trial to protect us from terrorism? Take a job we don’t enjoy just for the money?

Don’t worry: There is no right or wrong.
But we must have a reasoning for our actions. Otherwise our lives aren’t really our own.

Here’s to a new year of doing what we want and knowing why we do it.

Dr. King fought against the majority and today we have the same fight

In Washington DC yesterday there was a commemoration of a monument to honor Martin Luther King Jr. A number of speakers talked about Dr. King…about his words and how they inspired so many, but also spoke of his actions. And the mention of action made me hopeful. Dr. King once said: “We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering with our capacity to endure suffering.” And so, today, we too, must sacrifice to take control of our lives once again. We must fight to utilize the consumer power of the majority against the concentration of power in the corporation.

Dr. King fought against the apathy of the white majority and today we also fight against the apathy of a majority

Dr King inspired others to face the powerful and established practice of discrimination. The discrimination which Dr King fought against was based on race, but it didn’t affect the mostly white US population.  Society went about its business, just like today, but today our apathy led us to a recession that almost resulted in the total economic collapse of our country.

A corporate system without consumer oversight is a system that will promote inequality

Today we have a cultural acceptance of our powerful financial system, which has slowly grown and allows us to spend less and have more money in our bank accounts.  The benefits of this system are for everyone, from the corporation to the consumer.  Still, the situation threatens the very structure of our free society.

Power follows money, and today we see a movement of power from elected officials to a corporate minority.  This concentration of power has grown so large that when the existence of a few banking and automobile corporations was threatened, the whole country was affected: Regardless if you were rich or poor, we lost businesses, jobs, and retirement savings.

We can reclaim power over the institutions if we follow Dr. King’s advice: Sacrifice

A sacrifice of personal financial growth. As Dr King sacrificed, we too must sacrifice our way of life to correct the injustices of today: We must turn away the money that trickles down from Wall Street and the corporations. We must control our own finances and earnings to take back the power we are giving the Wall Street bankers and the corporations. We must move our money to local banks and credit unions. Institutions should be dependent on us. Not us on them.

Race cannot be used to determine who is given opportunity, and neither can capital

Today, as in the past, we have a grave danger that cannot be ignored.  We cannot continue to be apathetic about the division of the country into rich and poor, just as the population before the 1960s was apathetic about the division of the country by race.  We cannot continue to watch our capital accumulate in the hands of the minority. The future of our society depends on our capacity to sacrifice and to recognize the power we have as consumers. Perhaps Dr King’s quote should be amended slightly:

We shall match OUR capacity to inflict suffering with our capacity to endure suffering.

9-11 is the wake-up call that is still ringing

Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. I listened to news reports about the attacks, and grew sad in remembering what happened. Then I tried to think about why those men would want to attack the US.

Ignorance promotes aggression

If you truly knew your enemies, you would not only see them as having different ideas, but as a father or mother, son or daughter. They love their family and try to help provide a good life. They just want to be happy… just like you and me. Ignorance dehumanizes the Americans that are being targeted. And ignorance about the terrorists leads us to fear them.  Fear is a feeling of insecurity. When we don’t know a person, we’re cautious.  And when we don’t know a situation, we are fearful.  But knowledge gives us power over the situation, and it gives us the power to decide whether attacking is justified. Those who call for war sound the most confident, but in fact, they are the most fearful, whether they are patriots or terrorists.

The 9-11 attack is the wake-up call

Did the terrorists surprise you on 9-11? They surprised me. I realize now that the attack is our wake-up call to find out what is happening in the world. The attacks happened in a world in which the US spends massive amounts of money and sells loads of military weapons. In fact, the US is the biggest spender and biggest weapons exporter of any other country in the world. We provide money and arms to different countries and different groups. Some of them have fundamentalist religious beliefs and/or have powerful ethnic grudges. Our money influences these alliances and animosities. After years of involvement, we have developed a worldwide reputation, accurate or not.

With our money comes great power, and great responsibility

How do we stop future terrorism? We start taking responsibility. We start thinking about the consequences of our actions. What do you think we can do to prevent people from developing a mentality that would make them attack us? Asking these questions is part of being an accountable and empowered American.

I know we can do it.

It’s easy to follow the crowd, even when the crowd is wrong

I went to a fitness expo and was walking by the vendor booths, where they were giving away samples of supplements and magazines. I was walking around the side of the area, past an unmarked table that was stacked with packages of sports drinks. I saw a person reach in a package and take a bottle. Soon there was another person, and then another, and then a whole crowd of people started taking bottles. A few people even grabbed a whole package! Soon, a sale representative of the company selling the product noticed and came over to stop it.

I wanted to steal a bottle or two after I saw that there were so many people who were involved. I thought that it wasn’t really wrong since the company was planning on giving it away. I don’t feel good about my inaction, because I should have said something to prevent others from stealing.  And then I thought of my banking.

What does stealing sports drinks have to do with your bank?

The name of the bank is Goldman Sachs, and it made some really bad investments worth $1.2 billion. To try to save itself, it sold the investments to its customers and then made a $2 billion bet that the investments would crash. It didn’t tell its customers it bet against the investment.  And then the investments did, in fact, crash.  The federal government fined Goldman Sachs $550 million for fraud, and then gave it about $13 billion to keep it and its customers from going bankrupt.

As an individual, you have little power, but together, we can make a moral society

Would it have made a difference if I had said something while people were stealing the sports drinks? Possibly. There may have been too many people for my voice to have made a difference. Individual action has little power. But when that one person who speaks out becomes two people, and two becomes four, and four becomes thousands, then our actions become quite influential.  Because other people continue to use Goldman Sachs as their investment bank does not make it right.  Neither does our government allowing the bank to continue doing business. Tell three of your friends about what Goldman Sachs did to its customers and let’s ask ourselves whether we want to support a dishonest business.

I know we will make the right choice.

For details on the Goldman Sachs fraud, please go to the Rolling Stone article

Do the right thing, especially when no one else does

Tomorrow is Monday, the head of the work week but the weekend is recess time. This is my life, like it is for most of you, but this blog is about jumping off the swing between play and work.

I was sitting by the pool one weekend, reading The Art of Non-Conformity, by Chris Guillebeau. The book is one of the main drivers that has empowered me to let go of the swing. I recommend setting aside a snippet of your day for one week to have Chris realign your perception of work and life. As I lay on my lounge chair reading, I noticed two young girls jumping into the pool. I saw one climb up on a molded plastic chair. The chair wobbled and tipped slightly as she jumped into the water. I watched the other girl start climbing up on the chair. I spoke forcefully across the pool, “You guys, that is bad idea.” They both immediately stopped what they were doing. One of them quietly said, “Ok.”

There was a couple close-by to me and the guy said, “Good going, man.”

I replied, “I couldn’t help saying something. It would ruin my day to see someone wreck themselves right in front of me.”

And the two girls were right in front of us all. It was a small pool, with at least five other people besides me sitting around it.  Why hadn’t anyone said anything?

During the week, we gather into groups, in our offices, managed by others and by our schedules. We know our responsibility there. When we are not working, we are back on the playground, but without our teacher. Whose job is it to supervise? We supervise ourselves. We decide when something is right or wrong and it is our responsibility to speak up.

I felt good after preventing the girls from having an accident. But I felt strange that I had hesitated because of the acceptance of the others.  I think everyone has the same sense of right and wrong. We just need to be reminded that we can express it, and take responsibility for something outside of our work description. We should not be afraid to speak out even though no one else will.

Our existence as human beings depends on it.