Tuesday, 30 January 2007

a glass house called "education"

The knowledge and experience of ‘the old’ is still considered the best instruction for ‘the young’. And so the education system continues to focus primarily on facts-based knowledge – how to improve grades and scores.

The reality today is that fact-based knowledge doubles every 18 months (according to the MIT), and by 2010 it will double about every four weeks. As the amount of information continues to increase, the time needed to learn all that seems necessary for various jobs, careers and professions can quite literally no longer be found.

The new challenge now is to create meaning and value from information –it’s about thinking, understanding, insight and perception. For which we require a totally new starting point for the way we think of and approach ‘education’.

Monday, 29 January 2007

the speed of change

1985 = 1,000,000 bits
1994 = 16,000,000 bits
2005 = 4,000,000,000 bits
2030 = 16,000,000,000,000 bits

Thursday, 25 January 2007

are your mental maps limiting you

We have become addicted to seeing our lives and our world in a certain way. It’s our mental map of how things are. Like the map of the world, everything looks and seems to sit a certain way.

The truth is that if you are an astronaut floating around in space, the world doesn’t actually look this way at all. It may appear to be upside down. And the more attached you are to seeing your world in one particular way, the more limited you are in recognising that there may be another way … or other ways.

Throwing stones
is about changing the mental maps of your world. Not to be replaced with other mental maps, but to be replaced with a world of open, endless possibilities. And somewhere in that crazy mix, are the possibilities for you and your life.

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

the annihilation of spontaneity

Naturalness is understood as the annihilation of spontaneity through perfect gardening.
While beautiful, a perfectly manicured garden is about as spontaneous as saying "I love you" on 14th February.

Friday, 19 January 2007

learn to forget

Why do children learn new skills much faster than adults? Because they have less to unlearn. We're all familiar with the "learning curve", but what about the "forgetting curve"? - the rate at which we can unlearn those habits, ideas and opinions that lock us in, and close us off to new possibilities and opportunity.

Thursday, 18 January 2007

the other side of the same coin

On 11th September 2001, 36,000 children died in the Third World from “structural adjustment” i.e. economic reforms forced on them by the International Monetary Fund, which demanded poor countries privatise their water supplies and withdraw food subsidies. [Source: UNICEF statistics]

Monday, 15 January 2007

the axis of mediocrity

The great affliction of our age is not the axis of evil – it's the axis of mediocrity. We’re far more likely to die from a lack of passion than from some great evil.

growing up in a glass house

I grew up in South Africa during the apartheid era. I caught “whites only” buses to school. I ate my school sandwiches on “whites only” park benches. I drank my beer in "whites only" pubs. I took a piss in “whites only” toilets. And throughout all of my school and teenage years it never ONCE occured to me that this was in any way out of the ordinary; or problematic; or just totally fucked. It was, simply put, the way it was. Like "the sky is blue". And I grew up – very comfortably – with that perspective ... in that glass house.

if you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun

no sex please; we're civilised

If you’re a person who enjoys watching porno movies, the chances are that you’re buying them on-line, or in carefully wrapped and sealed brown paper bags. If you’re a person who enjoys watching porno movies, the chances are that you prefer to keep your liking for porno movies to yourself; your little secret, carefully hidden from view. If you’re a person who enjoys watching porno movies, the chances are that every time you pay $14.95 to view the hotel in-house ‘adult movie’ you feel greatly disappointed; since they totally edit out the juicy bits.

But if you’re into violence ... well then, your tastes are well catered for. Just check out any free-to-air commercial channel on any Sunday evening [or any other night of the week for that matter]. Violence, which is undesirable and unnatural [arguably], is aired freely. Sex, which is both desirable and natural [undoubtedly, to a degree], is one big fat social taboo. And so my teenage son Nick doesn’t flinch at the sight of violence [Scarface is a recent favourite of his and his mates]. Yet he blushes at the mere mention of the word "sex".

Sunday, 14 January 2007

too much of a good thing kills the appetite for life

No more seduction, no more desire, no more jouissance even. All we have is an endless repetition, a general accumulation which marks the superiority of quantity over quality. Out with seduction! There is only one question left, whispered by a man in a woman’s ear: "What are you doing after the orgy?" [Jean Baudrillard]

Tuesday, 9 January 2007

be alert and alarmed = the politics of fear

In December 2002 the Australian Federal Government launched the first phase of a counter-terrorism awareness campaign, with the tagline BE ALERT, BUT NOT ALARMED. BE ALERT, BUT NOT ALARMED has been supported with a continuous, heavy media presence since then. The latest phase [Jan 2007] is a booklet for small and medium sized businesses on how to minimise the risk of major acts of terrorism. It includes essential advice such as "have a first aid kit; work out how you would deal with specific hazards such as a bomb threat; establish a chain of command".

All up, the Australian Federal Government has spent a total of $8 billion on counter-terrorism since September 11 [The Daily Telegraph, 9th January 2007]. Good on them - for we must surely be living in one of the safest places on earth as a result of their efforts.

Apparently NOT. Australians are more fearful of a terrorist attack today than we have EVER been. Check out these polls run by ninemsn.com.au:

Monday, 11 September 2006: Are we any safer since the events of September 11, 2001?
Yes: 13009 (27%)
No: 35143 (73%)

Friday, 08 September 2006: Do you fear a terrorist attack in Australia?
Yes: 37391 (47%)
No: 42823 (53%)

3rd October 2006:
Has the Iraq war reduced the threat of terrorism in Australia?
Yes: 5590 (12%)
No: 41431 (88%)

I'm not an expert on terrorism, and I cannot say whether or not the world [Australia] is a safer place today that it was on 11th September 2001. But I do know people who won't use the Sydney Harbour Tunnel, preferring instead to be blown up on the Harbour Bridge [despite the two security guards who patrol it 24/7] than drowning in a sea of concrete. And i do know a whole heap of people who avoid public transport.

Rather than allay our fears and concerns, BE ALERT, BUT NOT ALARMED has made us more alarmed than ever, by the mere suggestion that we shouldn't be alarmed. It's like telling your 3 year old kid "watch out for the baddies, but don't worry - they won't come creeping into your room in the middle of the night".

Saturday, 6 January 2007

hotel california

Last thing I remember, I was running for the door. I had to find the passage back to the place I was before. 'Relax,‘ said the night man, ‘we are programmed to deceive. You can checkout any time you like, but you can never leave’.

[The Eagles, Hotel California]

Wednesday, 3 January 2007

Advertising Standards Bureau = a glass house of note

Plans are under way for a major TV advertising campaign to encourage Australians to complain to the Advertising Standards Bureau. While the ASB found awareness of the ability to complain among consumers to be 'surprisingly high', the biggest impediment to them complaining is their own apathy. Under the system, a single complaint is enough to trigger an investigation of an ad, which is often upheld. In the past year an ad for Coca-Cola's new Zero drink depicting a young man standing on top of a bus attracted the most complaints, which were subsequently upheld. The board ruled that it promoted irresponsible behaviour and the ad was pulled."
[Sydney Morning Herald, 31.12.06]

So, an ad for Coke Zero was banned because it promoted irresponsible behaviour. We live in a country of 20 million people, and it takes just one person to complain for an ad to be banned. Lowest common denominator democracy at work. And as if that's not enough, the ASB are now going to spend money on running a campaign to encourage even more of these sort of complaints.

Fantastic! I'm delighted my children are now going to be even better protected from their own stupidity and lack of common sense. Perhaps we should run a campaign targetting everything that promotes "irresponsible behaviour", not just advertisements. My list for 2006 would include:

Little Britain.
Skating With The Stars.
State of Origin Game III.
The Chaser's War on Everything.

Little Feet.
Casino Royale.
Snakes on a Plane.
Jackass: Number Two.

Guinness World Records 2007.
Sexual Segregation in Vertebrates: ecology of the two sexes.
The Prince of Australia...and other Rebels, Rogues and Ratbags.
Why Do Men Have Nipples? Hundreds of Questions You'd Only Ask a Doctor After Your Third Martini.

MANEATER: Nelly Furtado.
I TOLD YOU SO: Keith Urban.
I DON'T NEED A MAN: The Pussycat Dolls.
Robbie Williams.

Kyle and Jackie's morning show.
Photograph of Saddam Hussein about to be hanged, which appeared on the front page of every daily paper.

how to behave at Manly = glass houses galore

"Messages that drink-spiking and public urination are unacceptable for Manly will be splashed across The Corso pavement in brightly coloured lights under a new plan to improve behaviour. Other code signs will inform visitors that fighting, drunkenness, drugs, harassment, threatening behaviour, offensive language, vandalism and under-age drinking are unacceptable." [The Manly Daily, 29 December 2006].

Great. Now i can visit Manly and feel safe and protected from all the bad people and nastly things in the world. Thank you Manly Council GM, Henry Wong. Although i do reckon you've left a few other essential items off your list:
Don't shit on the pavement.
Don't vomit in other people's bags.
Don't laugh at people in wheel-chairs.
Don't shoot at passing vehicles.

glass houses

It is said that fish are the last ones to recognise water. In the same way, we are the last to recognise the glass walls that constrain and contain our own lives. Consider:

“This is how we do things around here” is a glass house that contains our thoughts and our actions.

“I really need to be accepted by other people” is a glass house that inhibits self-expression.

“I have a rational explanation for it” is a glass house that limits our experience of life and the world.

“Oh, get real!” is a glass house that constrains our dreams + aspirations.

We spend every minute, of every day, thinking and, saying and, doing things that reinforce our glass houses. And if we do, perchance, happen to come across a different point of view – one that doesn’t fit, neatly inside the glass house – we chuck it.

The effect of this on the human spirit has been devastating. Inertia is commonplace, with most people feeling stuck-resigned to the fact that nothing will ever really change. We complain that life is no longer an adventure. Many people are dissatisfied with important things in their lives, even in the face of their successes.

The effect of this on business has been startling. Mediocrity and conformity is applauded and rewarded, with few people willing to really stick their necks out. Organisations have become a sea of sameness, where everyone thinks and behaves professionally and no-one thinks and behaves differently. Work for many has been reduced to a white-collar factory.

Fortunately, the glass house is not shatterproof. People are hungry to be challenged, self-expressed, and fulfilled. I have dedicated my work to throwing stones in the glass house. And while a stone thrown somewhere sideways and slightly upwards wouldn’t necessarily bring the whole house down, it might cause a tiny crack. Which, in time, might be the cause of a much larger and longer crack.


the economy = the 2nd biggest glass house of all

The Australian Wheat Board paid $290 million to Saddam Hussein in bribes [during the so-called Oil for Food program].

The debate in the press and on the airwaves was all around "who knew, what, and when?" The debate was all about "did the AWB pay tax on that money?" The debate was all about asking "how are we gonna start trading with Iraq again?"

Interestingly, the debate has never been "why the fuck were we selling wheat to the Iraq in the first place". It seems a little odd that while, on the one hand, it's fine to bomb the shit out of Iraq, on the other hand it's also fine to do business with them - in ways that fill their coffers as well as their stomachs.

Paying $290 million in bribes to Saddam Hussein - at a time when Australia was 'at war' with Saddam Hussein - I mean, isn't that treason? Apparently not, and the AWB has in fact been rewarded for its practises. Just late last year the Australian Tax Office made a ruling that the bribe was tax deductible. Hah!

If you or I applied these sort of principles and practises to our own lives and business dealings, we'd be had up for a raft of moral and legal misdemeanors. It's as if 'the economy' operates in a sort of weird world of its own, where nothing else matters except the deal.

Feb 2003. One of the rare occasions when Sydneysiders had a voice