system two

system two
start-up thinking in the enterprise

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

a mid system crisis....

Are the issues in our print media, in our democracy and economy linked?

Like the extreme weather events in the movie the “day after tomorrow”, each seems to be gaining momentum. Should they all peak simultaneously; one can imagine a tear in the fabric of our collective minds which recent history teaches us is not a good thing. Like a collective mid life crisis we appear to be unable to muster the energy to keep the contradictions inherent in our lives at bay.


The problem is one of visibility. The "man in the street" (of which I count myself one) doesn't really understand the mechanics of the world around him. He knows as little about the underlying forces that influence politics, as he does about those which shape the economy and the society in which he lives. He never did. He likely never will. We all pretend we do – but of course, secretly, we don’t.

It is this ignorance, and the appalling liberties sections of society have taken because of it, that is at the heart of the problem. When lack of understanding went hand in hand with the ability to easily ignore - all was well. Now, even though we desperately want to, we simply can't ignore the structural deficiencies in our societal model.

Lets be honest with ourselves. No rational argument in politics, religion or economics can deliver anything like a coherent reason as to why anyone poor should support the status-quo. By anyone's measurement - the inequalities within our societies are shocking - and incredibly, for the last 20 years at least - they seem to have been getting worse. However hard writers on both sides of the political spectrum have tried to justify it, since the death of absolutism, no one has come up with a solution that really works. For my money Marx came close - very close. But unfortunately, practical application was an issue.....

Bottom line - the way we manage society is fundamentally broken, has been for centuries and everyone in real power of course knows this. It is the base from which they govern.

This paradox, this “crisis postponed” is surprisingly well understood. We frequently study it and allude to it in our literature and films (Animal Farm, Chomsky’s life's work, The Matrix, A Scanner Darkly, Fight Club etc). Up until the birth of the web, most of us were happy to mortgage reality, to continue the fiction of a “free” world just to get us through the day.

A juicy steak is a juicy steak - right? here

You were a hard cynic, if for instance, you explicitly accepted the deaths of a proportion of your countrymen in terrorist attacks, and the deaths of millions more in the third world, as a by-product of your need to consume - but in effect that was the decision you made, every day, just by getting out of bed. We have always had the option of facing up to the contradiction - but frankly - there's a Magnum re-run on TV tonight...

Now, with the advent of the very human web, where the sins of the powerful live undiminished, truths – previously avoidable - are increasingly difficult for us to ignore. Contradictions so large that no head burying will prevent them from being noticed, are continually rammed in our faces. Ever wondered why you can only read Private Eye for a couple of plane journeys before you stop buying it?

Newspapers, politics and the economy are being pulled apart by an asymmetric anger of implied understanding. Forget charging for content, or reforming the expenses system. Liquidate all assets and head for the hills….

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