Saturday, March 31, 2012

醉眠 - Turn the World Inside Out.

The world is outside-in; we have slumbered through its making.
We who knew too little of too much happening,
We left our dreams on the walls of houses that stood,
The world is outside-in; we have made new a skyline void of feelings.

The people have been asleep,
Drunk off their banquets with their shark’s fins;
We have slumbered through much of the country’s happening,
We have been fooled into thinking of nothing.
Beers are brewed, wines have dined, cheese imported, rice are fine,
We have been sleeping in our thoughts;
The world is outside-in.

We like the world this way.
We see less of our repulsed faces.
We hide behind million dollar condos and the poor their freshly painted resettlements.
We see less of each other this way.
The rich drank their imported wines, the poor their home brewed rice shines,
We like the world this way,
We see less of ourselves this way.

We breathe toxic fumes from heavy factories,
Factories that are meant to increase the quality of our lives;
We breathe in and exhale malcontent;
We grumble to no one who would listen.
We work our families to pieces,
All for selling ourselves to the open market place;
We let them know we are to live free,
But we imprison ourselves in these closed transactions.
Our families in fretful discontent.

We are slumbering to an inebriated outside from within.

醉眠 - 杜牧
秋 醪 雨 中 熟, 寒 斋 落 叶 中。
幽 人 本 多 睡, 更 酌 一 樽 空。


Monday, March 26, 2012

Life in the Petri Dish - Modern Internet Culture and the Complete Whole of our Human Experience

(A few weeks ago I saw a good friend of mine defended McDonald's on his facebook page: 
"What the Hell! Quit bashing a great place! I love McDonald's. That place has fed me since I was a little boy. All the toys I got from there-I could have never afforded to buy at a store. I'm sick of people talking crap about the golden arches man- Remember 29 cent hamburger Sunday? huh? that fed me for days! Rock on Ronald!!"
To which I have to agree. McD's have supplied the American Culture, and the world to some extent, with many memorable things. I still recall vividly the first time mom took me to the first ever McDonald's in Beijing; to me, it was a chance at freedom and the brave new world I had only thought about from my father's tales about America. Although these days I am a foodie at heart, defending what you should eat or not at times on this blog, I have to side with my buddy on his sentiment for those who has not the privilege to eat expensive "organic" "healthy" food. Although I've walked away from my daily fast food routines, I cannot help but notice that they are so prevalent in our communities; I cannot help but think maybe one day, they will be the champions of our communities once again, delivering healthy, nutritious, locally grown food, along with the toys.

But you see the obvious contradictions I face. I cannot bring myself to completely agree with everything McD is doing. I still wish we could move away from industrial farming, excessive meat consumptions, and massive waste in the food industry in general. At the same time, I know we need the institution to stand behind us in confronting our problems. I wish McD's could bring us a new constructive eating culture that would solve all of our sustainability problems. But those are big dreams. 

I had spent a few weeks thinking about this problem; from all that immersion, I've found myself lost. What follows is a rant and ramble, once again. Please excuse the philosophical babels.)  


Photomicrograph of neuron cultured in a Petri dish
Biologists would like to have your consciousness in a Petri dish, isolated and controlled, denied of its connection to other neurons, other organs, other people, other societies, other life forms.

The philosophical question is if this particular Petri dish neuron can independently appreciate being “conscious.” Or is it an automaton devoid of “Life”? (See Dennett, Daniel, Allen Lane, ed., Consciousness Explained, 1991).

There are volumes on either side of the fence; some say our consciousness is a necessary by-product of the whole, the complete of being and manifests in something beyond the cell and within the person: in the emotion of things; some would believe everything is reducible to its parts, what we call emotion and consciousness are just mere illusions of chemicals and reactions (notice the free-will problem here?) and “Life” as we would like to think is but a mere presence of the moment of biological and chemical interactions.

But I ask, even so, is there not a complete whole of such chemical and biological process that is more than its parts? Is there not a social identity, at least ideally, more than its individual parts? If we do not believe in those things, what would keep our families together? What would keep our communities together? Our nations? Our religions? Our humanity? And finally, what would keep our planet together? We might as well burn our flags and bibles now, there would be No Exit to the mere presence of things.

This is Zeno’s paradox: that if you were to break down the whole into its parts, you would never arrive at the whole; if you were to travel exactly half the distance between here and the wall, you would continue to be half the distance away from your destination.

Sometimes I wonder if philosophers enjoy being distracted by moot points of contention just so they can live happily with themselves—devoid of emotion. Other times I see it the quintessential aspect of self-perpetuation: self-validation, as it turns out, the sort of at-a-boy, goes along with these intellectual instinctive behaviors—validating one’s thinking forces action, action leads to mistakes, mistakes lead to learning, and learning leads to more self-validation. We simply perpetuate the cycle and the process this way. Six Sigma calls this organic growth, industrial and market forces, and undergoing these transitions; sometimes I worry that our pace is not fast enough to keep up with our problems. But at least even if we are completely devoid of our whole, we can pursue progress in its parts.

But as human beings, we seem to be distracted by the same kind of mootness about humanity just so we can live happily as Buddhists, Christians, Muslims; as Americans, Chinese, Germans, Italians, etc.; we do this to fool ourselves into believing in the perpetuation of something better than another—we live to perpetuate an idol.


What function do these philosophical inquiries serve is beside the point, the real issue is, even if we were to believe there is a complete whole, that we cannot simply isolate consciousness to a Petri dish, what must we do with that information?

How is the complete wholeness related to our everyday problems and challenges? Do we not still take the same process approach taken by the deconstructionists?

We identify the problems, measure against known constants and variables, analyze our observations, and finally control for improvement in the wholeness that is more than its parts. Only here we are mindful of the completeness—the whole of these parts. Here, we revisit the problem of free-will: alongside of the view that Petri dish neurons maintain the same bio-chemical reactionary “consciousness” as the whole of a person fails to address what would prompt the single cell to act in self-preservation? A person would defend him or herself, would a neuron?

Or would the Petri dish neuron choose to lose itself to meaninglessness? Does it even have such a choice? Would a person? Would a Civilization? Do WE have such a choice?

That is the existential question we ought to ask isn’t it?

Does a single individual have the emotional attachment to the whole of the human experience and the freedom to act in pursuit of its preservation? Or do we as individuals simply owe a duty of the automaton, devoid of our obligations of preservation absent of direct threat to our way of life?

We seem to make the right choice on individual, or less complete, levels. As people, we can easily agree to come together, to build meaningful societies, to live peacefully, to learn religions. As divisions of the ideal, where we have reached the pinnacle of our self-assured completeness—either in religion, in nationhood, or in cultural heritages—we seem unable to make the choice of preservation for the larger completeness, for the whole of society, of civilization, of our common human experience. We fought wars, we killed, we burned, we pillaged and sacked our sanity away.

Why is this?

Why can we build intricate and complex mechanical clocks that work as art and in complete harmony, yet we cannot build societies that work the same harmony? Why can we compose symphonies yet we cannot sing along together the same song of struggle?

The rise of ideological divides, by religious, political or other means, is maintained in control not just through violence and political and economic coercion, but also ideologically, through a hegemonic culture in which the values of those in power become the accepted views of all. (We come to see this in art, that what the rich says is Art must be Art. Peter Max must be the greatest artist of our living time.)

But at the dawn of the Internet age, we saw a shift from the old to a new generation of powerhouses; with the advent of constructive capitalism, we saw a new hope. So far, however, the Internet culture albeit with the potential but does not address the complete whole of our human experience. Our new kind of consensus culture developed in post World Wide Web age, in which people with access to information identified their own good with the good of the powerful, have only helped maintained the status quo by adopting consumption habits rather than revolting against oppression. Today, the Internet is more cluttered with buys and sells rather than progressive recognition of the artful soul of the human experience itself.

Today, majority of the people on our planet still lives in poverty, most still without access to fundamental human rights; today, the rich are growing richer and poor poorer; we the privileged few are still stilling sitting in the middle blinded by the glow of our gadgets and the promise of better tomorrow for the selected few. Today, people in developing countries do not aspire to be free, but they wish to be rich; today, we face an increasingly ironic world of capital deconstruction that is result of our previous industrial revolutions.

The Internet culture needs to develop a culture of its own, the disenfranchised people ought to take up against the 'natural' or 'normal' values of societies. Murders such as one committed against Emmett Till or Trayvon Martin must not be allowed to repeat themselves. Nor should the murders of village children from hunger, disease, and other manifestations of human greed and corruption.

The Internet culture needs to establish a new cultural objective to shape an increasingly global political arena with increasingly more compassionate domestic and international laws and norms. The distributed differences ought to be reconciled in the completeness of the presence of a new Consciousness—of the Human Experience.

The Modern Internet Culture has to move beyond its own narrow economic, corporate, and political interests; it must exert intellectual and moral leadership to dictators and autocrats, to corporate leaders and heavy investors, to political and economic coercion, to oppression in general.

A Modern Internet Culture ought to make alliances with a variety of forces building a historic bloc of voices creating a nexus of new institutions, social relations and ideas, to promote the health, welfare, and safety of all women, men, child, and all living things.

This new Modern Internet Culture must meet the people's spiritual needs and to do so people would have to think of it as an expression of their own experience. The new Modern Internet Culture must be free and uninhibited, fully disclosed, completely responsible for the course of our time shared on this planet. This means the Culture itself must move beyond the parts of different religions, cultures, nations, and institutions, and come to the complete whole of the similarities of all in ideals such as compassion, love, peace and tolerance.

Italian writer and philosopher Antonio Gramsci once said that when oppression is firmly entrenched, those in power are able to define the frame of reference and the terms of debate of every social problem. The oppressed thus find it difficult to understand the methods by which they are oppressed or the means to be employed for ending their oppressions. Add to that, those in power, often a small minority, can easily arrive at an agreement on how to maintain oppression; the public, the large number of oppressed people, find themselves unable to reach a consensus on what is to be done under tactics of fear, coercion, and delusion.

Without considering the whole of the human experience, we would have No Exit. Without seeing its worth, we would either love McDonald's to our cancerous and diabetic death or we label it as our doom and bash it in the face of others.

Someone take me to the gift shop please, I'd sooner leave this contradictory place.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

乐观 (Lè-Guān), On the Brighter Side of Things - by Lauren Campbell Kong

(with contribution from Jin Kong)

(In honor of International Woman's Day) 

The Middle East and Central Asia are regions of diverse human culture. Having such diversity is important from an evolutionary perspective; but from an ontological one, this diversity has wreaked havoc. The vast diversities in ideologies, behaviors, and lifestyles between the Orient and Occident have led to in-depth scholarly work but have also brought harsh judgments, misinterpretations, and cultural imperialism to the human experience of these regions.

Anthropology came from our desires to memorialize cultures; it comes from a good place—wanting to understand what others do not.

Edward Said’s view on Orientalism and his criticism of anthropology was, in my opinion, accurate. Yet I take an optimistic view on the idea of intent. I believe that the anthropologists around the world would not consciously attempt to aid in the Orientalist discourse Said had described.

Anthropology as a discipline, has tried to explain the varying cultures of these regions; but through the ‘scientizing’ of human and social variations, Anthropology—the discipline—has categorized and perpetuated to a growing stigma surrounding these areas, as have other social and political sciences. But it is only natural for humans to categorize; it is ingrained in our cognitive neural network. I believe we also have the capacity to stop perpetuating those categories. Anthropology, to me, is categorically imperative to the understanding of humanity in that capacity.

“Understanding” of other cultures is thus possible. True knowledge of a completely different set of ontology is revealed when one is complete immersion into the target culture. That requires a certain level of un-comfortableness, "uncategorizing" if you will. This is where we have an advantage seeing the world through the eyes of an anthropologist.

Anthropologists are generally observant and accepting. This is because anthropolgists often put themselves outside their comfort zone—in another culture. This offers them the ability to accept and be accepted by others; it offers the opportunity to really learn about other people and really hear their stories. These are the keys to understanding humanity and the encompassing, holistic, human experience.

Take for example: our understanding of kinship and family structure that has evolved in the field of anthropology. Segmented Linage Theory, which thought that kinship was a political explanation for territory and lineage, has undergone substantial reform. Over periods of time studying the Middle East and its cultures, anthropologists realized that kinship was a very complex system that varied from culture to culture; it is affected by location, cultural norms, marriage practices, politics, environment, etc. This caused a profound change in understanding the Middle East and Central Asia: kinship is not always built around blood relations. Eickelman discusses this in detail, describing someone who claims to be related to his neighbor because of a common ancestor from seven generations ago. When told that there is no proof of that, he claims that they are related and that at some point they shared a common ancestor; but more importantly, he knows they are related because they visit each other weekly.

Other theories have also changed dramatically over time. In early days, the prevailing thought was that humans were cultural robots and its population did whatever the culture expected of them; this is the structural viewpoint. Then agency came into theory. The idea that people can reflect on their decisions and chose how to act in the future became relevant. With regard to gender issues, this has changed considerably. In the book, the Guests of the Sheik, it was obvious that the women choose to wear their veils and that they do not mind being out of sights of men. This concept is something that westerners do not understand: that the women choose to live this way, that they choose to cover themselves. This idea of practicing agency was crucial to the understanding of these women and their human experience.

Through time more changes haveoccurred: the concept that people and culture do not fit into neat, little categories were accepted; we now know human beings are more complex than that. Yet I do not believe these new models have offered any answers to Said’s critiques of Orientalism. I think that in order to answer Said’s points, there must be a focus on the human experience in its similarity and not differences. We must begin to think of ourselves as a single species and not focus on how we eat, look, and talk differently; it is through that discourse the Orient and the Occident will not be so different. This requires systemic change and it requires us to put less emphysis on skin colors and cultural differences and pay more attention to how we think differently and how we can contribute to our common goals. Jin always tells me conversations can change the world. It is through the discourse of our differences that we have created a ‘great other’ and it is through discourse of our similarities that we can smother the ‘great other.”

A warning: Anthropology, too, is susceptible to being too systematic. One is not immune to become institutionalized, continues to perpetuate the ‘scientization.’ The intent in any institution these days is one-sided driven by only the need to survive as a "publish-or-perish" institution. The pursuit of knowledge is no longer for its own sake, economic incentives takes hold and destroys the means to a honorable end. At times, it is sad to think that cultural differences are exploited and commercialized for the sake of perpetuating profits making such as in the media, in corporate life, and in academia. There has to be a system of check-and-balances in these institutions, one that Americans have come to deeply appreciate since its political founding. Edward Said was correct when he said that western disciplins exaggerate the difference of differences—put fear before progress. Anthropology and ethnography is not entirely to blame, the exploitation of these disciplines is systemic.

But I hope Anthropology is evolving. Fundamentally, there has been a paradigm shift from looking at one overall theory to breaking theories down into smaller parts; this has occurred in many social sciences and anthropology in the modern years. But the balance must now demand the pendulum swing the other way. Now the parts must come together and Anthropology ought to be part of the overall reincorporation of knowledge into wisdom--so we can experience the "aesthetic emotion of well being."

Green roof at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore

Architecture is a art when one consciously or unconsciously creates aesthetic emotion in the atmosphere and when this environment produces well being.

Luis Barragan

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Oh No! Not Another Product Review . . .

Going Green Today recently asked if I would write up a review of their site on the green elephant. I don’t typically write product reviews, but Going Green isn’t just a product; it’s a process. And I’m a process junky, I just couldn’t resist. I asked Lauren to participate as well; her added perspective is always better than my lonely opinion. And if there should be a process where we can both participate to transition our lives into the "green," why not have a jointly issued opinion? 

First thing first, the Going Green Today site self-prescribes as your "personal green coach." To start the process, they ask for some basic user information. Data solicitation is standard practice these days and it should not serve as a warning to their legitimacy, but I should caution you against giving away your information so freely. It’s your calculated risk: it comes down to how bad do you want their services?

A better question to ask: does Going Green site add any real value to your daily "green" lives?

That's the question we set out to answer: is Going Green Today just another "perceived value" site? or does it actually have some positive impact on our sustainable aspirations? 

In their introduction, Going Green had promised to help me save $2000, learn how to make effective choices, and set goals to accomplish living green on my own pace. The best part: I don’t have to move “to a cave” for my sustainable ambitions.I can do all of it in the comfort of my home.

Most of the things we had to disclose are about our living habits (how many pets, how many “plug-in” electronics, how often do we volunteer, how much resources we use daily, etc). I tried to follow the break downs of their categories, but I find their market incentive segmentation is very habitat centric. I happen to like it; it drills down to the details of my day-to-day routines, but their systemic thinking revolves around a single concept--the core habits we know to have impacts on the environment and people's lives. It counts the beads for us where it should; both Lauren and I agreed that we needed a "green" accountant.

In their survey, they've also included some elements of LEED standards. It forced me to go back to my outlines and look up a few numbers. I’d have to say it’s a good learning tool and I wish they had a follow-up “reminders” to facilitate that learning process.  But for someone who is not familiar with LEED, this process makes it simple for the user to at least gain some perspective of what LEED is trying to do.

For example: Going Green asked for the water flow rate (Gallons Per Minute – “GPM”) of my shower-head. We have hard water and our previous shower-head had been calcified to the point of no return. Lauren had put in our new shower-head recently and I will have to look on the box to see if our new one is a WaterSense certified. What I do know is that LEED considers standard shower-heads to have 2.5GPM at 80psi. EPA’s WaterSense shower-heads must meet a standard below 2.0GPM while the low-flow products on the market achieves 1.8GPM or lower. A 0.7 Gallons Per Minute difference does not seem much water to be saving, but at a 20-minute hot shower, it’s 14 gallons water circulating down the drain daily that we could’ve saved. 14 gallons is a lot of water that could be used in better ways.

At the end of a long and soul-searching survey, I learned that I have 24 lifestyle actions to take and I can save $2914 per year and 5790 pounds of carbon emission. I can change my daily habits by another 19 actionable items to save an additional $522 per year and 5155 pounds of carbon emission. I can perform another 17 tasks in my transportation choices to save another $3329 per year and 19100 pounds of carbon emission. (I wonder if they adjust for gas prices going up ad down?)

Amongst other things, I can also change 29 things about my house and save $3007 per year and save another 44484 pounds of carbon. At the end of my shameful report, reminding me of my first world bad habits, Going Green asked me to start with one task today.

My first task was checking for drafts by using a burning incense to seek out places where energy is escaping. If there is a draft, the smoke will tell you where it is. I performed accordingly, but couldn’t find any particular spots I felt sure the smoke had been leading me to the right direction. Or else I may have been seeing things.

Aside from my user error, I presume Going Green is doing some sort of best management and best technology-available assessments in the background. With all the data you have provided in the initial survey, I venture to guess they are able to perform some reasonable analysis about how you can engage in the best management or technology possible. But I can’t be sure how in-depth is their data collection and how accurate is their analysis. Both my wife and I saw a few questions that did not apply to us and a few questions where the options were limited. We were also given certain tasks (reusing our utensils during lunch or reusing lunch bags for example) we already perform.

But the 30 minutes I had spent answering their survey did provide me with a reasonable starting point. For that, I am thankful.

One complaint I have is that the whole process is not as customized as I’d like them to be. Either as my "green coach" or my "green accountant" I felt Going Green fell short of giving me a customized experience. My preference would be to have someone actually assigned to help motivate me, but I know that may be very cost prohibitive for their operations. But an easy solution may be someone close by—my wife for example. If I had the opportunity to engage my wife on this whole process from the beginning, it would put some privacy in the experience, help motivate me, and customize it to a degree without sacrificing too much total man-hours invested from the company’s operational expenses. This could also potentially double their user population, a win-win for the service provider and the user. But that comes with a delicate balance for user’s trust, protecting their privacy, with the need to use public social web services to facilitate the process itself. Going Green will have to put some serious thoughts into that co-venture process if they want it to succeed. 

Another complaint: they do deliver daily emails to my inbox. Sometimes I read them, sometimes I don’t. My inbox is clogged already. . . like the shower drain we just cleaned out to help with water efficiency. It’s usually not much of an annoyance. Again, if my wife had been the one sending me the message, it would be more effective—it would account for the contours of our busy lives. Otherwise, the daily emails are at minimum a bit intrusive.

So the final question I had to ask is if their site, to which I provided some very detailed information about my life, is worth my time?

Does it really add value to the whole sustainability transition of my personal life?

Here are my thoughts:

They have focused on using a process improvement method. I’m partial to that, as always. But I should caution: using too much automated services might kill the process before we even began. This is not the company’s fault; it’s our inherent problem, our short attention span. This is one systemic issue I have yet to think of a solution to.

If you are worried about giving away private information, you can be rest assured. With the detailed information you will give to Going Green, you receive a somewhat equally detailed report on how you can improve your life. This is a task I would’ve spent month in researching and organization. Time is valuable; I’d rather waste my time on other frivolous things of suffering. I’m glad someone offered a FREE way for me to do this in less than an hour, so I’d say the transaction Going Green is offering is very fair.

To conclude, I would recommend they put a bit more emphasis on people, not automation; I would include human rights causes they can support (potential petitions and letter campaigns) as suggested activities. These could be a much broader than just writing letter and signing petitions; it could be a “creative” reminder: reminding the user to exercise their creativity and capture a moment in art to reflect on the things they can change about their lives towards sustainability. This would make the whole process more meaningful. This engages the users and creates more value. The users are more likely to return on loyalty basis.

I do enjoy their simplistic design choices. The whole experience is very aesthetic; less cluttered by the nuances of what we see in other social media sites. As I suggested before, perhaps some carefully chosen art work would add to their overall appeal? Art that would inspire my systemic changes towards a sustainable personal live?Art that comes from their users and would inspire a community?

"Some of us will do our jobs well and some will not, but we will be judged by only one thing-the result" -Vince Lombardi

Thursday, March 1, 2012

New Rules for the New Human Ecology

“Constructive Capitalists don’t just outperform—they redraw the boundaries of disruptive outperformance.”

I quit my job a while ago thinking that I was going to be a social entrepreneur. I had an idea about building a mobile application collecting local “green” food services and offering them up on an interactive map. A lot of people thought it was a good idea.

Through the venture, however, I became a cynic. I realized most of the “green” food and products around me didn’t address problems I saw: hunger, obesity, waste, income inequality—all of the systemic problems I came to despise.

To avoid building just another get rich quick scheme, simply perpetuating a way for the affluent consumers to alleviate guilt at consuming designer and luxury items, I held off my ambitions until I can figure out a way to really solve our sustainability problems and not at the expense of those less fortunate. I amended my company’s goal and limited myself to only writing and publishing what I am learning about sustainability. Being true to my process improvement training, I felt I had to first adequately understand the problems I set out to fix and properly define the scope of my ambitions before I can really set out to design a product.

That was a year ago. Two days ago, a friend in London introduced me to the idea of “Constructive Capitalism.” I did a bit more searching online and found Umair Haque’s passionate appeal for “Constructive Capitalism.”

Umair Haque argues that the viability of future of business rests in the ideals of institutional changes; ideals such as democracy, human rights, equity. Umair links socially responsible market with the freedom of consumer choice and deeper meaning of human existence to create asymmetrical opportunities for both companies and consumers in the potentially sustainable ecosystem.

One convincing evident Umair put forth was the market place itself: if you had put $1000 into the markets in 2000, due to the market crashes caused by the systemic problems of our old capitalism, you would’ve lost roughly 20-30% in value. You would’ve had only $700-800 at the end of the decade. Many would tell you, the reason they had to push back their long awaited retirement was due to this blind trust they had put forth into the system—the same system that had perpetuated an “infallible?” sense of capitalism. But, Umair observes, if you had invested in the Constructive Capitalist portfolio—a regiment of radical institutional innovators focused on constructive advantages and smart growth—you would have more than tripled your returns and achieved an “alpha” of over 300%. At that rate, these folks would’ve been happy retirees kicking it back on a beach with their grand-kids enjoying their old age. Instead, they went back to their meaningless jobs, pushing the same envelopes, perpetuating the same schemes that had caused them so much pain and suffering.

In my research and learning, I gradually became aware of the context that surrounds the issue of sustainability. I also became aware of the general international consensus towards change. In 2009, by a 121-54-5 vote, the U.N Third Committee (one responsible for social, cultural, and humanitarian affairs), adopted a resolution titled "Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order." The primary sponsors of the Resolution included Angola, Bangladesh, Belarus, Benin, Bolivia, Burundi, Cameroon, China, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Eritrea, Honduras, Iran, Libya, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Sudan, Venezuela, Viet Nam, and Zimbabwe. Those voting against the Resolution included the United States of America, the EU member states, Australia, and most other developed nations.

This intrigued me. Why is it that most developing countries had advocated for the adoption of this resolution while the “advanced” economies, the ones with the most robust sense of civil and political rights for individuals, were against it?

At first I thought there is a fundamental, metaphysical and ontological, differences between these two camps. I worked day and night trying to understand the distinct separations. I began a working paper building on the foundations of process philosophy. Drawing on my process improvement background, I made observations on how the old model of capitalism had created vast problems in developing countries. At the same time, I cannot deny that nations like China, is very much on a path to becoming more and more capitalist; all the while denying the fundamental rights of individuals afforded to citizens of more developed capitalist structures.

While I believe the jury is still out on the effectiveness of any type of political ideologies, whether it be a democratic republic or a socialist autocracy, I think the consensus is that capitalism is a necessary thing and no one has gotten the right kind of formula on a new kind of capitalism that may work in any political governance.

I was disheartened. Just as much as I pushed against being labeled as either a democrat (liberal) or a republican (conservative), I resisted wanting to advocate for the Chinese socialist free-market or an American laissez faire style democratic free-market (regulated only by the will power of interest groups). I felt the context dictates the choice: in China, a jurisprudence of solidarity in a communitarian framework makes more sense just as much as in the U.S., a jurisprudence of republic of democracy is workable in our context. Neither is the right kind of answer to the other. Everything boils down to a process, the fundamentals of process improvement, I have learned, is intrinsically the same.

Through process thinking, I came to believe there is a common solution to our outdated capitalism; there has to be a universal framework in an increasingly flat world with increasingly demanding international norms and standards.

The U.N. Resolution affirms that everyone is entitled to a democratic and equitable international order that, among other things, requires:

• the realization of the right of every human person and all peoples to development;

• the right to an international economic order based on equal participation in the decision-making process, interdependence, mutual interest, solidarity and cooperation among all States;

• the right to equitable participation of all, without any discrimination, in domestic and global decision-making; the promotion of a free, just, effective and balanced international information and communications order;

• the promotion of equitable access to benefits from the international distribution of wealth through enhanced international cooperation, in particular in economic, commercial and financial international relations; and

• the shared responsibility of nations for managing worldwide economic and social development

To all of these I sincerely agree. However, I do not see this as a form of global socialism. In a socialist country, China, this is socialism; but in American, I call this our utmost aspirations. I also sincerely believe that we, the ever creative force of a free people, have the capacity to achieve these goals voluntarily, in a capitalist ideal form. To deny ourselves of these social qualities is intrinsically ironic and if democracy does not allow these aspirations then I don't want anything to do with this kind of democracy. I rather take my chances with a autocracy. 

I believe that we can still maintain our democratic ideals while continue to work for the establishment of an international economic order based on equity, sovereign equality, interdependence, common interest and cooperation among all States, irrespective of their economic and social systems.

Umair’s ideas seem to offer just such opportunity for us to correct inequalities and redress existing injustices, make possible to eliminate the widening gap between the developed and the developing countries, and ensure steadily accelerating economic and social development and peace and justice for present and future generations, all without compromising our need to become less a socialist country.

To do that, we will have to undergo changes from an out of date capitalist market that has brought us to the brink of crisis and near extinction.

We will have to change our attitudes and be willing to operate businesses in a manner that satisfies not only minimum legal requirements but also established basic human rights and environmental responsiveness within a reasonable sphere of corporate influence; we will have to gain a basic understanding of those human rights issues and environmental problems; we must conduct human rights and environmental impacts assessments, especially in corporate actions developing nations, to gauge how business practices are impacting established basic human rights and environmental impacts in those budding democracies; we must make proper adjustments to business practices that will facilitate those basic human rights and environmental protections for which we are legally and ethically responsible. Above all else, we must advocate for the advancement of human rights and environmental protection to resist efforts by political ideologies that seem to retard them.

Umair’s passion rests in what he calls “institutional innovations.” His point is poignantly on point: tomorrow is today; we must focus on people, not products; we have to wage peace, not wars; we must make connections, not conduct transactions; we must create new markets for the industry to grow, or else the market will stagnate and fail; we must foster creativity, not productivity (we must grow out of our current education system and foster a new sense of the Human Ecology); we must leverage our creative forces to create new industries, new segments, new markets; we must reassign value to meaning, not just GDPs but a sense of wealth that encompasses our quality of life; we must stand against perceived value and create real value in the market place; we ought to focus on outcome, not income, and create anti-marketing, not just another marketing scheme.

The next revolution is institutional; it’s informational and interactional. Picasso once said that we are all born artists—it’s time we make the world we live a masterpiece, not nihilistic aphorism of short attention spans.

I encourage you to watch this video. It's more than an hour long, but it's well worth the time.