Thursday, February 21, 2013

Moving Forward


Moving Forward
Tony E Dillon-Hansen
17 Feb 2013

Diane Ravitch said about education reform that “The greatest obstacle to those who hope to reform… is complacency.” While she may have been speaking about education, her comment reflects upon any noble crusade for reform.
Listening to the news recently, one would think that we have achieved great milestones with respect to equality as pertaining to the LGBT community. While we may have finally crossed some dimensions of the struggle, there are still many throughout the United States that do not enjoy any semblance of equality whom those in specific states or cities enjoy (notwithstanding the federal DOMA restrictions). We may have had our moments including when a President (whether premeditated by political campaigning or not) recognized the civil rights strife in the current era as inclusive of the LGBT community. We, however, cannot rest on our laurels thinking the war is won. We cannot become complacent.
The work of many years and the milestones that we have achieved, thus far, can easily be vaporized if we do nothing to keep the pace moving forward. The Promised Land cannot be thought of as here and now, but instead, that moment will only be when equality is achieved for all of our brothers and sisters.
For all of the advances that we have gained, there are those that are actively working to stem or to reverse the tide because they have now had to endure major setbacks. We do not have to think too far back to remember how that feels on our side. In 2010 (just couple years ago), judges were voted out of office because of narrow-minded bigotry while more states voted to exclude marriage from loving couples. In Iowa, we are but a couple votes away from having a constitutional amendment proposal in Iowa to exclude marriage. To think we have somehow escaped the gravity of bigotry and right-wing mantras in American politics is erroneous and dangerous to the cause of continued freedom.
Further, complacency sanctions people to be lulled into inactivity and even arrogance. Even great athletes lose important matches and games if they think they have finally achieved the winning point without actually finishing the win. The time to rest is not now. The time now is to keep the presence in the face of, as well as to keep the pressure upon, lawmakers to help equality to remain alive. The time now is to help friends and family to remember what equality and freedom mean at the ballot box. For those that have yet to enjoy equality, we must help to further their cause because we are reminded of how breathtakingly close we are.
We know the people of the far-right are planning the next move, and again, they will be well-funded. They are digging through numbers and stories to find material that they can use to destroy equality. They are planning on less active voting in the next elections. They will use fear; they will use so-called traditions; and they will use fabrications and distortions of truth to further their agendas. They will paint pictures of burning Rome, will recall angry prophecies of the Bible and will ridicule ideas that promote diversity. They will cast terrorism and diversity as mutual enemies of the state. We know this because we have seen this. They are still using these tactics and we can expect them to continue this pathology of destructive lies, especially if they think we are complacent with our recent victories.
Conservative Barry Goldwater said, “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice…moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” Complacency cannot be our resolve, but instead we should be even more vigilant. No society can base its traditions upon lies and deceit unless they are all liars and deceivers. No society can continue to be great when the whole of its members are disallowed to expand in culture, knowledge and skills. As Martin Luther King Jr said, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” We must further the cause of equality without prejudice, respect of diversity, respect for all families, and adherence to the truth. We must do this not just in our community and state, but we must also help our LGBT friends and family elsewhere.
We should be extreme with defending our rights because they are granted to us by a higher power. Equal justice and love for neighbor is essential to what Jesus taught. No one should be allowed to distort that, and no one should place liberty (or equal justice) in the wavering hands of whatever the current tyrannical majority believes. Nor should we allow hateful lies to stand uncontested.
Freedom, justice and equality may be birthrights, but we know that some would ensure that we do not get to enjoy these God-given benefits. They purpose their negative lives so that we do not get our share of the pie. They may do this because of some false notion of a superiority complex or they may simply not want to share the fruits of society with all. If they will not allow us to celebrate and to enjoy our birthrights, we must be ready and willing to fight.

Friday, February 1, 2013

A Flat World 3.0?


A Flat World
9 January 2013
Tony E Dillon-Hansen

There are many people who like to describe the world as “flat”, notably New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman. This is supposed to describe globalization as a measure of the growing competitiveness and interdependence between cultures and countries of the world that has been a feature of modern society. This supposedly indicates that cultures are working together more relegating national borders to mere dots on a map. In contrast, others suggest that these claims are quite exaggerated compared to actual data.  Their assertion is that there are relatively small interactions between cultures and countries.  This presents an interesting discussion about the nature of globalization and cultural interactions both globally and locally because we do not have to look far to see that true global interaction is far from realized. 

The points made by Mr. Friedman’s allies have been readily absorbed by many in academics, economics and politicians. With some empirical observation and interviews with a few entrepreneurs, we can see the world through the eyes of those who work on a global level. Through these, we see how some markets have changed from local to supra-national markets that span OECD countries as well as some non-OECD countries.  We can see vast supply chains that stretch across the globe whereas the previous generation tended to keep those supply chains within domestic borders. 

These long supply chains require a consideration of foreign disruptions, competitions, and government policies that differ from local markets.  American companies (doing business overseas) along with government had to change how they managed competition and economics due to the rapid expanse of foreign companies and governments. We should find this to be curious when capital markets have spread the chain (or web) across unfriendly and competitive regions of the globe when the ultimate sale is local. The supply chain may be spread across the globe, however, the places people go to buy the finished product is local, and conversations we have are with our selected communities.

Friedman, using his showcase stories, argues that the current globalization trend is driven by individuals creating and collaborating primarily using a “common” flat technology platform spanning vast networks.  With the explosion of social media, interactivity and connections span multiple continents between billions of people that previously were unable to connect. There is reason to believe that people are much more connected globally as well as locally. This is a bit of overstatement and generalization based upon perceptions.

The exaggerated perception shows in how Americans perceive larger budget portions dedicated to foreign aid versus actual figures or even in comparison to domestic aid and spending. We can see the changes in news reporting over the years that contain dwindling amounts of international news (unless you listen to NPR). 

As well, we can consider the quick action of making a connection via social media versus actually having a conversation with someone from across the ocean. Is that connection just based upon a profitable network opportunity or are we truly seeking to learns different ideas? We may be crossing the globalization threshold espoused by Mr. Friedman’s allies if we are willing to learn from others especially regardless if we agree or comprehend the premise of their ideas. Yet, the West is more likely to visit and to discuss news from the West, as opposed to say Central Africa, based upon distorted notions of technical and philosophical growth. This limits our own ingenuity, resourcefulness and expansion to ideas of supposedly superior cultural growth and assumptions. 

We can see the result of this in the rejection of the West by Arabic countries. There are divergent opinions and priorities between people in different parts of the country, the state, and even between churches that claim the same denomination within a few blocks of each other. The LGBT community cannot understand why some do not see the connection of marriage as love between people rather than an exclusive tradition. People who have never understood the feeling of being considered second-class do not understand the pride of wanting to be part of the promised-land that is equality. We may live in a world that enjoys accessibility to ideas, but we are comforted when contained within our own familiar realm of thinking, sometimes deliberately.  Whether it is called the “big sort” or “wisdom of the flock”, people tend to get their desired information and opinions from the selected sources and people.

Technology can help to overcome supposed localizations and physical limitations that people have built over time (e.g. nation-state, religion, high schools, neighborhoods, political parties). Yet, to claim that people are using technology to actively reach across various barriers is muted if less than 10% do the stretching. One only has to look at your own social media to see with whom you interact, the events and the places you go. Even more, consider how many conversations with people outside of your community (whether LGBT, local city, school or family) that you have participated. We self-select, intentionally or not, what places we go and with whom we interact. 

We have to question Mr. Friedman’s ideas because the idea of a flat world cannot be realized when most people do not go beyond their realms, regardless of a global web or the few entrepreneurs. There are issues with global impacts like climate change, oil supply, and expansion of technology. Still, we prefer to hear solutions from people like us.  Those global problems require global cooperation and discussions rather than simply giving orders and expecting everyone to fall in-line. Those issues require more drastic actions than a button click.

Globalization can teach us much about ourselves and our expectations, but how do we go beyond our own perceptions?  The technology and capacity is ready if we are willing to expand. Of this I agree with Mr. Friedman, we should do what we think is possible, however improbable, because someone somewhere will do it.

A Flat World (for AccessLine Iowa)


A Flat World (for AccessLine Iowa)
17 January 2013
Tony E Dillon-Hansen

There are many people who like to describe the world as “flat”, notably New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman. This is supposed to describe globalization as a measure of the growing competitiveness and interdependence between cultures and countries of the world that has been a feature of modern society. This supposedly indicates that cultures are working together more while relegating national borders to mere dots on a map. In contrast, others suggest that these claims are quite exaggerated compared to actual data.  Their assertion is that there are relatively small interactions between cultures and countries.  We can see examples of this in our own community where we do not have to look far to see that true global interaction is far from realized due to the divided nature our society is embroiled. 

With some empirical observation, we can see how some markets and communities have changed from local to global in scope as espoused by Friedman’s allies.  Some aspects of capital markets may be spread across the globe, however, the places people go to buy the finished product is local. As well, the interactions that we have are with our selected communities.

Friedman further argues that the current globalization trend is primarily driven by individuals creating and collaborating through a common flat technology platform across the vast networks.  With social media that allows interactivity and connections to span multiple continents between billions of people that were previously unable to connect, there is reason to believe that people are much more connected as a global community through a simple button-click. While some networks, like Facebook, have expanded to over 500 million across several continents and supply chains have allowed for global connections, there is a bit of generalization based upon hopeful perceptions.

The overstatement is evident in how people interact within and outside of their respective communities. There may be a common technology (e.g. social media, currency, telecommunications and others), but people are self-selecting their conversations they wish to participate.  This inhibits the true realization of globalization.

As I have argued before, we can consider the quick action of making a connection via social media versus the action of having a conversation with someone from across the ocean and learning the culture. We know that people, in the same room, can have totally different conversations in complete opposition to each other without ever saying a word to each other. We can cross the globalization threshold only if we are willing to learn from others regardless whether we agree with the different ideas. 

We are more likely to agree, participate and rally around points that favor our own perceived interests based upon notions of philosophical openness and growth. Yes, we should affirm truths, and we should not be afraid to call out erroneous ideas. Listening only to what we want to hear and yelling above the opposition, however, limits our own ingenuity, resourcefulness and expansion.
We may live in a world that enjoys accessibility to ideas, but we find ourselves contained within our own realm of thinking, sometimes deliberately.  Whether called the “big sort” or “wisdom of the flock”, people tend to get their desired information and opinions from the people around them. We can see this in how people organize throughout different parts of the country, the state, and within cities. Even religious organizations that claim the same denomination, within a few blocks of each other, do not want to understand the other religious opinions and priorities (e.g. marriage or other traditions). 

People want to believe they have the correct ideas (regardless of logic) and will reject anything that conflicts with that.  When leaders promote conflicting ideas, they get rejected as not leading (e.g. Obama) because they do not align with those paradigms. Those who never found themselves considered lower class do not want to understand the pride of those wanting to be included in the Promised Land of equality and fairness, even when pride is all you have. Being beholden to biases and traditions can destroy the fortunes of merit. 

Technology can help to overcome supposed localizations, physical limitations, as well as outdated ideas that people have built over time. Yet, to claim that people are actively reaching across various barriers is muted if only 10% do the stretching when using the technology. Whether with the LGBT community, local city, school or family, one only has to look at your own connections to see with whom you and your friends interact and the events you participate. We self-select, intentionally or not, to be parts of those communities. 

Now, capable leaders may be able to transcend barriers.  Effective leaders not only transcend deterrents, but they are the workers that get people to think in terms of a community of action and cooperation. Moreover, they help to focus minds and discussions. They simply do.

There are more issues that have global impacts like equal rights, climate change, oil supply, and expansion of technology. Still, we cannot insist to hear solutions only from people like us. Any issue that impacts more than one community requires cooperation. Those issues require more drastic actions than a button click, and leaders to do the work.

Globalization can teach us much about ourselves and our expectations, but we have to go beyond our own perceptions. The technology and capacity is ready if we are willing to expand. Of this I agree with Mr. Friedman, we should do what we think is possible, however improbable, because someone somewhere will do it, and they will be the leaders.