Reflections 29th May.

Photo by Chris Linnett on Unsplash

On my Mind

Mischief

In Middle English to be full of mischief was to be miserable; to make mischief was “to result in misery.”

Mischievous Governance

I was reminded this week that trust and respect are built one relationship at a time, but can be quickly destroyed at scale. As the ongoing, sad spectacle of the hubris and arrogance that can accompany power played out via the Sue Gray report, it was not that which triggered the thought. It was the mischievous action of changing the rules so that breaking them becomes a tactical option without penalty, reached without consultation with,or permission of, those who will be affected.

When the elected consider themselves appointed, we have reached an important inflection point. I was going to say dangerous, but I think important is better because it gives us more positive options. The Boris saga will play itself out until he is either ejected by political fratricide to be replaced by a new, “improved” cloned version or more likely by the electorate for whom his constant marginal mischief becomes just too much. But respect cannot be restored at scale. We need alternatives that are more grounded in the lived experience of more people than those who frequent SW1.

If ever there was a time for the New Citizenship Project, it’s now.

He knows nothing and thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career.

George Bernard Shaw

Mischievous Marketing

For those not having the power to rewrite their own rules, sleight of hand is a useful alternative. The art of mischievous misdirection.

All brands were challengers once, fighting for attention amongst a sea of rivals, but as time and scale do their work that sea becomes a tiny pond dominated by a few big fish, giving challengers a hard time, because they can.

Big Fish however get lazy as hubris sets in, and a golden period of high returns is projected to go on forever. It doesn’t of course and along the way, every major brand has its Boris moment, when people notice the flaws that rhetoric and marketing can no longer hide. Then the drive goes on to buy respectability and trust via the acquisition of one of those challengers to hide behind.

The thought occured where insight often occurs – whilst shaving. I make a conscious choice to go for challenger brands without big marketing budgets, where word of mouth is more important. A few years ago the comfortable world of men’s grooming was shaken by the temerity of a couple of new companies making equal or better products, sold direct, for a fraction of the price of the majors. I was in. And then, quietly and without fuss, it was swallowed whole by Schick, with barely a ripple on the surface. But corporate behaviours, like murder, will out and gradually the slick marketing, a presence in the Supermarkets, and the faux personality constructed to scale the challenger all came together to make me wonder. It took nearly a year, but there it was. The packaging, the price, and the expensive clothing, like a token wife on the arm of an ageing tycoon.

The thing of course, is that switching to a new challenger is easy. Shaving, for all the consumer hype, is hardly a thing of high technology. The product is enormously replicable, but the ethics and intent of those making it is not. So I now use a new brand you’ve probably never heard of, and I’m not going to tell you. I like it, and those who make it, a lot. Just as it is, and they are.

Marketing is what you do when your product is no good.

Edwin Land
Serendipty. Seth's Blog on Saturday. Craft and Imperfection.

There is an alternative. Artisans are those for whom the beauty and contribution to society of what they make is the work, and New Artisans are those who do that today, knowing what they do matters.

Mischievous Malice.

Politicians long ago lost their ability to hide their characters, and most mischievous marketing carries limited impact, selling us stuff we don’t need at prices we can ill afford. Although it’s corrosive (and a conscious choice we make) the majority of brands, like most political careers, end badly and it’s rarely calamitous.

The same cannot be said for those businesses that do not make things, but extract the stuff from which they are made. Carbon Based Energy, Natural Forests, Minerals and ecosytem abuse in all its forms.

From the outset, we have been extracting the irreplaceable as though it’s a bottomless pit, magically replaced by the Gaia fairies.

In the 47 years between 1970 and 2015, human consumption of Earth’s natural resources more than tripled. Our use of natural resources is expected to continue its growth and more than double from 2015 to 2050.

https://www.theworldcounts.com

The 1970’s saw us understanding, scientifically as well as instinctively, what we are doing. Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring”, Ernst Schumacher’s “Small is Beautiful” and James Lovelock’s Gaia Theory all made a compelling, if ignored case.

It was also the time the age of the consumer went into overdrive, with wealth from any source as the route to salvation, evidenced by what we could buy and driven by wilful blindness of politicians in it for power they had no idea what to do with.

Myopia becomes not just mischievous, but malicious when it is induced by those with selfish, short term agendas. Even now, knowing what we know and with the evidence being felt by those without the resources to buy their way out of it for a while, it continues. There are people far more knowledgeable and fluent than me when it comes to sustainability. My interest is in what we do now that we know beyond all reasonable doubt.

Mischief, of course, works both ways. It’s just a question of who is made miserable, and I’d like to nominate those whose wilful blindness and intent keeps the juggernaut rolling.

The biggest weakness of consumer driven markets is that a great deal of what we consume is superfluous, and around a third of what is created for our consumtion, from food to clothes, goes almost directly to waste.

And we can do something about that. As the saying goes, “fool me once, shame of you, fool me twice, shame on me”

How much, what , and who makes what we consume is a choice, and consumption is the root cause of the ecological challenges we face.

There are a many groups we can align with. My choice is New Citizens . We can all find one that works for us. The thing is, to do it.

Marginal Mischief works both ways.

“No man is exempt from saying silly things; the mischief is to say them deliberately.” 

― Michel de Montaigne, The Complete Essays

Making Me Think

Is it wrong to steal from large corporations? A philosopher debates the ethics

An interesting thought experiment from The Conversation.

Imaginology

A chasm divides our view of human knowledge and human nature. According to the logic of the chasm, facts are the province of experimental science, while values are the domain of religion and art; the body(and brain) is the machinery studied by scientists, while the mind is a quasi-mystical reality to be understood by direct subjective experience; reason is the faculty that produces knowledge, while emotion generates art; STEM is one kind of education, and the liberal arts are wholly other. A great article in Aeon Magazine.

Choices we make

For decades, 3M withheld evidence showing PFASs accumulate in the environment and in people’s bloodstreams and have potentially toxic effects. Now embroiled in chemical-related lawsuits, 3M has recently decided to donate money for an award to the Online News Association. Should the ONA have accepted? From Undark Magazine.

Focus.

Elon Musk. Love him or hate him, nobody would accuse him of a lack of focus.


Rhythms

I started posting as a way to get my thoughts written down to help me get them in order. That turned into a daily blog, then bi-weekly. As I’ve learned, I’m going to once weekly in an attempt to do more for those of you that are good enough to follow me with less.

The process also gave rise to the New Artisans project earlier this year, which in now morphing into a community of those who define and direct their work, rather than let their work define them, as we all look to live more meaningful, generous lives within the bounds of the planetary possible.

The idea of rhythms was triggered by a worthy article on ” the rhythm of business” that was so joyless (all process and checklists) that I looked for where the music had gone. Business does not have to be turgid. I found inspiration, as I often do, in the New Artisans who are Early Years Educators.

If you have children, or were one once, have a look the five minute video here (Sorry – I cannot post it direct). Made me think.


A Closing Thought

We all, adults and children, have an obligation to daydream. We have an obligation to imagine. It is easy to pretend that nobody can change anything, that we are in a world in which society is huge and the individual is less than nothing: an atom in a wall, a grain of rice in a rice field. But the truth is, individuals change their world over and over, individuals make the future, and they do it by imagining things can be different.

Neil Gaiman

Have a wonderful week.


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