A World of Tweeple


Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

 

                                                                                                                                          John Lennon, 1971

 

 

The other day I watched Barkha Dutt’s,“We the Tweeple” on NDTV. While the debate centered on the significant spread of positivity and assertiveness that twitter in particular and social media in general have created amongst common folk, one could still sense disquiet amongst a section of the participants. I was left wondering whether there remained concerns unsaid and unanswered.

It is often remarked that the anarchism the internet and its various appendages have come to signify, holds out the promise of societal empowerment for the first time in the history of mankind. The eighteenth century English philosopher William Godwin believed that the ‘Euthanasia of authority” would need to be achieved through individual reformation. As the tweeple inheriting today’s world, have we taken the onus of reforming ourselves and creating an existence on our own terms, bereft of any Governmental and organisational controls?

So can the social media revolution be viewed as a way forward? A concern that is often voiced is that it is fragmenting society and breaking down societal bonds. But as I ponder, I realise that such shifts in society and its perspectives have occurred many times in the past. Be it the massive changes in the socio-economic structure, culture and customs wrought when we moved from a predominantly agrarian to an industrialised society. Or the relatively lesser breakdown of our sense of neighbourhood and community which the Television brought about. So why this rising shrillness and uncertainty about the negative impact of Twitter, Facebook, SMSs etc?

As I ponder some more, I become aware of a more fundamental shift. A shift that is taking human society away from ethnic, religious and community groupings to connectivities at the individual level. We, the technologically empowered tweeple, are no longer willing to accept family and community pressures to “belong” to specified groups. We would rather prefer to tap into diverse networks that meet our emotional or social needs.

Which brings us to the disturbing aspect of this electronic invasion of social media into our lives viz. the blurring between our inner private space and our outside social footprint. This has major implications on our “thinking out of the box” creativity, our behaviour and even our inner values. As we continue to lose more and more of our inner selves, would we not be losing out on our individualism, our inner peace- which is the reason why we were attracted to be a tweeple and its empowerment in the first place? Therein lies the dilemma and its irony.

So what happens as we move forward a few decades or centuries down the curve?

Would we become a wired node to an omniscient society with the capacity to access information at will, anywhere, any time? In return our innermost thoughts and beliefs on display for all to see and examine? Would those frightening visions of The Matrix, of Morpheus welcoming Neo “to the real world” where all people are wired to a central intelligence, come true in this fashion?

Or would social media become the enabler for our heightened individualism as we use its networked capability to achieve John Lennon’s utopia of “joining in and making the world as one?

In Learning……………………..

Shakti Ghosal

Acknowledgement:

  • Living Networked in a Wired World- by Barry Wellman & Keith Hampton.
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We need a second planet by 2030!


A Vedic Hymn to the Goddess Earth

                                                                                                                                                                             Atharva-Veda, XII,I

 Truth, greatness, universal order (rita), strength, consecration,creative fervour (tapas), spiritual exaltation (Brahman),the sacrifice, support the earth. May this earth, the mistress of that which was and shall be, prepare for us a broad domain!

 The earth that has heights, and slopes, and great plains, that supports the plants of manifold virtue, free from the pressure that comes from the midst of men, she shall spread out for us, and fit herself for us!

 The earth upon which the sea, and the rivers and the waters, upon which food and the tribes of men have arisen, upon which this breathing, moving life exists, shall afford us precedence ……….

                                                                               

The independent think tank,Global Footprint Network (GFN), insists that humanity is operating on an overdraft, having surpassed nature’s budget. According to its calculations,mankind would need a second planet to satisfy its hunger and dispose of the waste, as early as 2030.

I time travel back fifteen years to that weekend show of “Independence Day”, of that opening panorama of the low flying alien ship blotting the sun out, a technologically empowered species waiting to unleash, invade and take over our world and its resources. Are we also destined to venture out of our earth cradle on a similar mission?

As we welcome the seven billionth newborn into our midst this week, as our planet strains to host this level of humanity,many of us are left wondering whether doomsday predictions may yet come to haunt us. When Thomas Malthus forecast in the eighteenth century that our propensity to reproduce would outstrip our ability to sustain food and other resources,could it be that he was right after all and simply a few centuries ahead of the curve? While we might be able to stabilise the world population sometime in the  future, would the strain not become unbearable in the poverty stricken regions of Asia and Africa which face the fastest population growth?

Some of the red flags are already up. As Mathias Wackernagel of GFN says, “From food prices to the crippling effects of climate change, our economies are now confronting the reality of years of spending beyond our means”. Many may see this to be uncalled for scare-mongering and would repose faith in technology and Man’s creativity to provide the necessary scallop. Similar to the way Industrial and Green revolutions proved the Malthusian doomsayers wrong in the last two centuries.

But as I reflect on all of this,I wonder whether we are not missing the woods for the trees. Is this devouring of the planet’s bounty, from forests, fisheries, fresh water to minerals and oil,due to the population getting added?  Or is it more due to the ravenous greed of the existing one?

Is the “flattening of the world” as Thomas Friedman aptly puts it, bringing those additional billions of the developing world onto that level playing field? And what happens when these billions start aspiring for the materialism of the west, for that “great American dream”? Kamla Chowdhury, Professor, IIM Ahmedabad, in her Earth Charter theme provides an answer, “We live in a world which has an obsessive preoccupation with growth and unlimited confidence in new developments. We have pursued the philosophy of cancer which grows and expands on its host, eventually killing it. We are behaving like the cancer cell, killing earth by using it ruthlessly and unsustainably.”

So what is the way forward? To heal the earth, I believe we need to heal the individual. The post industrial era ushered in a societal belief of the supremacy of Science and Technology and these became the only approach to knowledge and power. In the process we have become rewired towards greed, aggrandizement and become spiritually contaminated.Methinks we need to regain the moral and ethical values to take a holistic view.

  • Perspective shift towards technologies and innovation with a human face.
  • Societal values and Economics that would cooperate with our world and its ecology rather than exploiting it.
  • Spiritual positivity and sustainability in our thinking and actions.

Can we empower ourselves to adopt a new paradigm for development based on the above values? That surely would be the biggest turning point in human history.

“The world has enough to fulfill all our needs but not our greed.”

Mahatma Gandhi

In Learning………………                                                                                                                                                  Shakti Ghosal

Acknowledgements:

  1. Global footprint Network : http://www.footprintnetwork.org/
  2. The World is flat A brief history of the  twenty-first century : Thomas L. Friedman
  3. The Earth Charter: Kamla Chowdhry.

Wall Street protests and beyond: winter of our discontent?


 

 

Now is the winter of our  discontent

Made glorious summer by this son of York;

                                                                                                                                         Richard the Third, Act 1, Scene 1


 

The Wall Street protests have now  gone viral to more than eighty locations globally. Different places, contrasting  paradigms but same underlying issues. The protests are focused on corporate greed, on rocketing wealth and income inequality, against booming bank profits  post Government bailouts, about average folks struggling to keep their heads  above water in a tanking economy. Banners read: “We are not merchandise in  bankers’ hands!” in Lisbon, “Why am I not  economically represented?” in Dublin. A mix of anger, frustration and disconnect are palpably on display.

As I watch the flickering images  on the news screen, my mind’s eye goes back to John Steinbeck’s “The Winter of Our Discontent”. It tells the story  of Ethan Allen, a former aristocrat, now fallen on hard times. As he struggles  to make two ends meet, he maintains high integrity and honesty. But family and  peer pressure makes him resent his lowly position, forces him to give up his  long cherished values and embark on a dangerous and corrupt path……

I ponder. Is the society at large similarly headed? Is this the twenty first century denouement of Capitalism? Or a clarion call for a deeper change inside each one of us?

To the detractors, Capitalism is a fundamentally flawed model with the sole focus on profiteering. Numbers take over from morality; we get obsessed with what is monetarily productive but socially destructive.

As Aristotle had said, “Man by nature is a social animal…………… and anyone who does not need to partake of society is either a beast or a God.” We have been genetically wired to share, care and give away but this runs counter to the capitalist theory of economic progress. We are thus getting re-wired to reward selfishness but punish altruism. So what are we morphing into- Aristotle’s Beast or his God?

Our sense of purpose and values get subsumed and even contradicted by those of our organisation. We get hijacked into believing that our life’s purpose is to be successful within the corporate world, achieve that beautiful house on the lakeside or aggrandize a stable of top end cars. Such externally imposed beliefs take centre stage and drown out our true values. Our thoughts and behaviour become hostage to these underlying beliefs and as we wallow in our self created materialistic cocoon, we can no longer “hear” our true inner self. We may have once held dear the value of “environmental sustainability” but may now have become reconciled with our organisation’s growth plans of iron ore mining requiring degradation of a virgin environment. In our youth, we may have believed in “equitability of society” but as CEOs, may be perfectly willing to maximize stakeholder returns by retrenching employees through automation and out-sourcing.

While a knee jerk reaction may suggest increasing taxes on Corporates and individuals, excessive taxation endangers initiatives and aspirations, the fountainheads of progress. Clearly a shift in our perspective is needed. Could we reward and support a culture of direct benefit flows to the immediate society and the environment? Can we create a great corporate culture with Purpose over Profit? Can we re-align corporate values more with our own individual ones? Can we light up the corporate sector with glorious values as under?

  • Express love and care
  • Service to others
  • Pursuit of truth
  • Quest for excellence and perfection
  • Improve the World

In the October 2011 McKinsey Quarterly report on “The second economy”, author W. Brian Arthur speaks of how the emerging digital economy is causing large sections of human jobs to disappear, never to reappear. How the future economic challenge would be to shift from producing prosperity to distributing prosperity, how it would become increasingly difficult to apportion future wealth through jobs.

As stakeholders, could we shift our perspective to accept corporate valuation based on non-profit values as above apart from profits? Do we have the conviction to change winter of our discontent to the glorious summer, upholding our core values of universal inclusiveness and fairness? Or would we choose to go along the path taken by John Steinbeck’s Ethan Allen?

“There is a power in love that our world has not discovered yet. Jesus discovered it centuries ago. Mahatma Gandhi of India discovered it a few years ago, but most men and most women never discover it……………. 

And this morning, I think of the fact that our world is in transition now. Our whole world is facing a revolution.”

Martin Luther King, Jr
.

 In learning…………                    Shakti Ghosal

The Ballad of Steve Jobs- What take-aways?



Steve Jobs is no more. An icon of our times passes on. Gigabytes of eulogies, outpourings and videos are all that remain to remind us of him.

As I sit on the keyboard, I wonder what is it that compels me to add my own tuppence about the Man. I did not know him personally. I have never met him. My only connections are two devices that I own- an IPod and an ITouch. But wait! There surely must be some other connection. I revisit the video of his Commencement Address at the Stanford University Graduation Ceremony delivered six years back. And I see myself clapping in front of the monitor as the last video frame fades out.

I set out to determine what really made the man. Not what I could draw inspiration from. But more a curiosity about what made Steve tick, what were those inner moorings that made him go on the path that he did.

To conform to the expectations of his foster parents (who had adopted him at birth), Steve went to college but dropped out soon after since as he himself put it, “I saw no value in it”. Clearly Steve’s values and associated beliefs lay elsewhere. Which brings us to our Lesson number One. That no matter how hard you try to achieve goals set by other people, you are bound to  under-perform or fail if they are not aligned with your passion, your own underlying beliefs.

Even after dropping out of college, Steve continued to attend classes where his interest and curiosity lay. It was then that he did a course in Calligraphy, something which his heart proposed rather than his mind. Steve goes on to tell us how years later, he could use this competence to build beautiful typography into the MAC computer.So Lesson number Two. Listening to your heart is listening to your inner values and beliefs. And this unleashes high energy, great feelings and ultimately terrific results. To use Steve’s expression, “…. when I look back in life, I can see unrelated dots connecting…” This is the power of positive beliefs.

Steve believed that getting fired from Apple, the company that he created, was the best thing that happened to him. The event allowed him to gain awareness of his own self on a much higher plane. It also allowed him a deeper understanding of two other aspects about himself.

One, having become a hugely successful entrepreneur at a young age, Steve developed damaging inner beliefs like, “My creative passion is essential for the organisation, I know best etc”. These led to the display of negative behaviours of arrogance, overbearing know-all attitudes etc. Clearly this was not conducive to organisational harmony and development. As Steve himself puts it, “sometimes life hits you on the head with a brick” to bring you back to your roots- your values and passion.

Second, his getting fired allowed him  to positively confront and overcome his self doubts of  “not being good enough”, to face  his fear of “ being perceived as a public failure” which almost made him “ run away from the valley”.

As he fought pancreatic cancer, Steve acknowledged that a constant awareness of death allowed him to powerfully clarify his priorities and make the big choices in life. As he remarked, “almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. ”

What a fantastic shift in perspective! Such self awareness surely has the power to change our beliefs and thoughts and become a powerful driver of behaviour change harnessed for great forward motion and success. Are we willing to take the baton and move forward? Are we ready to re-unleash the requisite creative energy and passion for the NEXT- PIXAR? And this remains our final lesson number three.

As Steve remarked, “Stay hungry, stay foolish”.

On Underlying Beliefs


 

 My instructor remarked in class that this was one aspect of learning that can be barely scratched on the surface through class work. It’s something one needs to continue to experience and explore.

Beliefs are like gnomes. They guard and control our thoughts and behaviour (like the ones in mythology which guarded  underground treasures). So we end up having the good gnomes which support our conscious behaviours to achieve set goals as opposed to the bad ones which skulk under the surface, unknown to us but ever ready to frustrate our well meaning thoughts and plans. These in fact constitute the major part of our underlying beliefs (UBs) – collected from our past, ingrained into our sub-conscious world, colouring our perceptions and driving many of our behaviours up the wrong street.

So how do we recognise these underlying beliefs and what do we do after that?

It stands to reason that if we are unable to control our behaviour, we would not achieve what we would like to do. This mostly happens when our behaviour, unknown to us, are moored to deep seated UBs. So however hard we try, we fail.  And we end up getting frustrated and giving up, without even realising what really happened.

The way forward is to become more aware of oneself. As we start doing this and consciously observe the way we think and act, we start understanding what drives our behaviours. What do we notice? Do we see gaps between what we “say” we believe in and what we really end up doing? If our answer is yes, than it’s time to identify and take stock of our underlying beliefs, determine which of them are preventing us from moving forward and then act to uproot them from our system.

And how does one do that? Which brings us to possibly the most critical step. Once we have identified our UBs, we need to bring them out into our conscious thoughts. As we examine our UBs consciously, we are more likely to find answers to, “Why we act the way we do?” With this we would be able to start to unlock the truths of what we truly believe in.

So every time we are faced with a challenging situation, we need to take a helicopter view from above to find out whether there are some underlying beliefs lurking beneath our behaviour and actions. Once we see the connections, we would be in a position to choose- what to retain and what to let go.