Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Hunt for The Guilty

Aetius Romulous:
Editors Screed

It is fashionable amongst the chattering classes, when times of trouble loom, and crisis casts its cloak of foreboding across a nervous landscape, to identify the guilty, hunt them down, and crucify them. It's a full contact sport, with everybody participating. We here, on the cusp of an International Financial meltdown of historic proportions, are in our own time scouring the rocks and scrub for the culprits of the mess - the once invisible Wall Street faces of the corporate guilty, splayed out and nailed to wide screen monitors all along the road to Rome. However, Like Spartacus in Armani, just how guilty are the guilty, and of what offence? Are business "ethics" to blame for this one, or are we pinning tails on donkeys who are guilty of nothing more than following the rules?

If there is anger at all, it is because we all face the specter of having less than we did before. Less of everything, less stuff. For a generation there has never been such an occurrence, never an event of similar gravity and magnitude. Less stuff is sending tremors through everything we know, rocking our world in ways we simply can't seem to comprehend. Born on second base, the Baby Boom generation thought it hit a home run, only to be thrown out rounding third. The culprit is the system they built from the ashes of World War II, and maintained well beyond its useful life. A global Financial Architecture designed specifically to increase wealth and economic hegemony, infused with the ideals of Democracy and Freedom, nailed to the planet through ever increasing global free markets, and run on fiber optic cable that would have defied the imagination of any alive when the design was struck in 1944.

Freedom, as we in the west have come to define the term, means freedom to get stinking rich, predominantly. Similarly, Democracy allows that each and every one of us has an equal say in how stinking rich we can get. From birth - and no more so than America, "The Gold Mountain" - each member of our culture is taught two things (among others of course); that we should work as hard and as smart as we possibly can so that we may fill our scorecards with enough junk that the Jones's will never catch us, and that we should at every opportunity disavow exactly this should we at any time be captured by events. As a young Ebenezer Scrooge said so well, a century and a half ago; "This is the even-handed dealing of the world....There is nothing on which it is so hard as poverty; and there is nothing it professes to condemn with such severity as the pursuit of wealth."

Given those specifications, is it any wonder then the Architects and Financial Engineers - who were born in the Suburbs on the same streets as the Nelson's, Cleaver's, Bundy's and Osborne's - designed, Democratically, a system that takes full advantage of every avarice of human nature, protected under law, so help me God, Amen. For a generation wealth, status, and beauty have defined the American dream. We celebrated excess, and held it's winners high. We gloried in its wonder and perfection, and shoved it down the throats of Heathens and Idolaters', burning their villages to the ground in order to save them. We marvelled at their riches, the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, the Young and The Restless, The Bold and The Beautiful.

And that was before the internet.

Bill Gates - American Icon, Boomer, Geek, and 50 Billionaire - was a game changer. He and his "gentle, this won't hurt a bit" named, International Mega Corporation, Microsoft, brought the internet to every home in America - and every 50 something Financial Wizard with an office. In an effort to re-live the carefree, all expense paid days of their youth, the Boomer Financiers plugged in, turned on, and tuned out, leaving the computers to do the rest. Imaginary wealth piled up like a virus, the Boomers adding zeros to their scorecards for the glory all Mankind. The earth shook beneath their feet as the "Masters of the Universe" spanned the globe for conquest, the booty floating back in houses, Hummers, and credit for the loved ones left behind. The only "Ethic" they embraced as they built the only world we know, was the one we all embraced together, that is, until right now.

Far from a "lack" of business ethics, it is precisely because of those same ethics that we are in the mess we are. The incessant need for more, better, faster, cheaper - hard wired into the soul of our culture - and the singular Ethic of Gain, is to blame if there is any blame at all. Not the Hero's - now myths - with whom we tasked with building the game. If Ethics are to blame at all, they are the Ethics we share, the cross to bear.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Looking for Directions on the Information Highway…

Brianna Popsickle
Letters From A Suburban Prison

I’m at the gym the other day, when a woman pointed to my iPod and asked, “What’s that? Is it for music?”

Are you kidding me? I smiled to myself; someone who knew even less than me about the latest technology.

“This is an iPod Shuffle, ” I replied proudly. “Holds about 250 songs.”
Just then another woman asked, “But how do you get the music onto it? Is it the same as an MP3 player?”

“What’s an MP3 player?” someone else chimed in.

That’s how it began. Suddenly everyone was spouting words like Lime Wire, iTunes, CD’s and dockable units, telling stories of their failed attempts to understand it all. The common theme was one of frustration.

I remember as a child, my mother dancing through each room as she did the housework, listening to the same 45 record, playing over and over again. Women today are so much better off. We can listen to all of our favourite tunes through our earphones, while gardening, biking or working out. Well we could, that is, if we could just figure out how to get the #@$!!!!! music on to the #@$!!!!! little iPod thingy.

I’m big enough to admit this. My son downloaded all my favourite songs to my iPod, which I never leave home without by the way, before he left for university. He showed me a couple of times how to do it, and I thought I had it, but didn’t. Needless to say whenever he’s home for a visit, I ask him to add more songs.

But I‘m not alone. I realized this that day at the gym, when the word iPod created more buzz than who got kicked off The Bachelor the night before. It was like an AA meeting for the technically challenged.

”My name is Susan, and I can’t program my DVD recorder”.

“My name is Maureen and I can’t download music”.

And it wasn’t just about the music. The talk turned to cell phones and text messaging, DVD players and digital cameras. Now who can find fault with digital cameras? You can delete pictures you don’t want, you can crop photos, it’s amazing technology, what’s not to love? But please, someone, for the love of God, show me again how to get the pictures from the camera to the computer and printed out. Show me one more time, how to remove red eye without little brown spots appearing everywhere.

As the discussion continued between moans and groans, the topic turned to emailing and MSN. I have to say I was impressed. These same women who could not play a movie on a DVD player, could not download photos from their digital cameras and didn’t know what an iPod was, sang the praises of MSN. The reason? Their kids are at university. Which proves women can, and will do, anything, if it means talking to their kids. Even if it means, learning the technology.

I happened to mutter the word Facebook to the woman beside me. The room fell silent. She looked at me in awe and said, “You have Facebook?” Everyone listened as I explained I got it because everyone I worked was half my age, and I didn’t want to feel disconnected.

Do I use Facebook? Rarely. Do I enjoy Facebook? Not so much.
Have I made friends? Oh yeah.
I received a message on Facebook from my cousin saying “Hi Brianna. Smile, you’re on a hidden Eyecam right now”. “I sure hope not, I replied. Because I’m sitting at my computer in my bra and jeans, waiting for my top to dry.” Turned out not only did my reply go to her, it followed some sort of ‘thread’ and went to everyone that had received the original message. I started getting messages like, “Where do you live?” and “What colour’s your bra?”

I scan Facebook periodically, whenever I feel the need to know exactly what people are thinking or doing at that moment. One friend’s update said, ‘Eliza is busy bathing the kids’. Another said, ‘Trudy can’t believe how there’s not enough time in the day’, another, ‘Sherry is thinking about the weekend’. I don’t mean to be rude, people, but seriously, WHO CARES? I want to scream that if Trudy didn’t spend so much time on Facebook she might find there’s plenty of time in a day. And who takes time out before bathing their kids to tell everyone, they’re bathing their kids?

So when a colleague asked me the other day what women’s issue I was going to write about next, healthcare, equality in the workplace, or daycare? I replied, “Those are all very important issues that everyone is talking about, but I’m going to write about what’s really pissing women off. I’m going to write about the forty-something women out there who are lost in today’s technology. We’re traveling down the information highway with no one to ask for directions.

In these days of hard economic times and layoffs, I have a suggestion for teenagers everywhere. Start your own consulting business. Now! We forty-something women will be happy to pay you to teach us all you know about iPods and MP3’s, text messaging and Facebook. Your business will flourish, your savings account will grow. Just don’t ask me to pay you on-line.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Who Is Terra Naomi ?

Who Is Terra Naomi?

Just a girl. A person amongst billions, a voice within the choir.

In the summer of 1957, on the other side of a generation and half a century away from Terra Naomi, George Harrisons mother bought the 12 year old a cheap, department store guitar. No doubt, the young prodigy spent many useful hours, locked in his dockside Liverpool bedroom, thrashing away at the tin strings that wouldn't hold a note against the adolescent hands of genius. From the first garbled "G", through the steady stream of wonder and discovery, Harrison worked that guitar. Across the stinking town, whose docks received the failing plenty of Empire, and buried in another bedroom, thrashing at another tin guitar, was another awe struck adolescent, another dull seed of change and revolution. Paul McCartney met Harrison on the bus to school, which took them on a long and winding road towards John Lennon's house, and history.

The Beatles need no introduction - a noun, a verb, a universal word on the tower of Babel. And as always, a chance confluence of human destinies, all slammed down upon the planet within walking distance of Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields, time to impact dependant solely on the opportunity that all should meet on a grimy bus in an unknown place where a black and heavy telephone was a wonder and a luxury. A random act of fortune, and nothing more.

Terra Naomi is John Lennon. Terra Naomi, - alone in a room in a house in a town in a place on the earth we know not where, thrashing away at a guitar - is a genius, a potential point of change and revolution, waiting for the bus to come and wisk her off to history. The world is full of young John Lennon's, thousands - maybe millions - spread across the earth in rooms and towns and places that are the true community of man. Human beings, human voices - individuals with thoughts and ideas and problems and solutions...and that basic human yearn to be heard. Terra Naomi is John Lennon, born in the age of the internet.

When Terra Naomi got her first guitar, she already had the internet. As she banged away at the same strings Lennon did, in the same way and for the same reasons, she did so with sound, video, and YouTube uplinks; MSM, Yahoo and Twitter. Millions across the planet, speaking a universal language of music, text, and emoticons, shared her joy and the wonder of discovery. Her world wide web of family and friends attach, imbed, and post in exponential fashion, her long and winding road but a millisecond from her bedroom, to click, to view.

And so, here she is - Terra Naomi, just one of thousands of John Lennon's who together are building a new earth out of the rubble of the old, a community of expression rising from the bedrooms in the towns and the places on the earth we know not where, all delivered to our own homes and towns and places, "Across the Universe".