June 21, 2016

The Bungled & Botched: Rethinking our Humanity.

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I looked through the origami device-guide that comes with all Apple products, and can’t find a notification for it.

Evidently, the only thing the Apple Watch doesn’t do is remind us that when we forget something more important than an email or text.

There is no quirky chime to alert us to the fact that we have forgotten to actually look at our neighbor because we are already head-down for the day. No tiny pulse to tell you that ignored your truest feelings when you walked right by the same homeless person in front of your office. And there is no “ping” to alert us to the fact that the continual giant data dump we are immersed in hasn’t downloaded fully and never will.

But yes, hurray, by all means, let’s all run out and buy another gadget to distract us from anything actually meaningful or real.

We do not, as a business people, prioritize our basic shared humanity.

Let’s be honest, the vast majority of us are not jetting off to Monaco for the Formula 1 or buying 65 million dollar townhouses. Most of us suffered a lot of the bungled and botched (to borrow a few words from Nietzsche or Terry Gilliam, depending on your age and predilection), and the rest of our understandably limited humanity tends to get rationed out to family, a few friends and the occasional random act of kindness. I don’t think many of you will disagree. You can be confident that we tend to be more focused on the wrong things than we are perhaps prepared to accept. It’s part of “modern life,” we tell one another as we stare at yet another screen texting the details of our distraction. “Texting it in” is not connecting, friends.

We train ourselves to negotiate moments of authenticity for disconnectedness. We agree to forget about humanity in exchange for commodity-fixation and device envy.

Certainly the ever increasing busy-ness (business) of our lives doesn’t exactly provide lots of room for contemplative reflection on one’s own. Writers extol the virtues of ignorance on a regular basis. I have read more than one piece of advice that the modern business person ought to “suck it up” and “get on with it.” In the age of “touchy-feely,” we still have a crude iteration of the “chin-up, stiff-upper-lip” bullsh*t that your hockey coach or uptight parents laid on you — particularly if you grew up in the Anglo-Celtic world like I did. Just this morning I read about another famous tech-fashion-entrepreneur who told “Lunch with FT” that he didn’t need love, he needed results. Charming braggadocio from another “global business leader.”

I don’t know about you, but it’s becoming more apparent to me that most of us vacillate between a relentless focus on talking instead of doing, and then in turn, doing too much instead of just being.

We needn’t look for excuses — they are produced and foisted upon us to ignore the reality of human suffering, and the absolute degradation of the planet. A population that settles for Fast and Furious 7 while bankers suck 30 trillion out of the global economy cannot be called “awake,” never mind conscious. We don’t need to find ways to become oblivious to our own feelings. Just about everything we do is in one way or another connected to business life.

All one needs to do is search on the internet, and someone will be telling us that more is better and that in the future — we will all be connected all the time. Hence, the nifty watch I mentioned. Again, hurray for progress.

My partner asks me why I am always analyzing and comparing things. It is as if I have a mental register going — and on a regular basis, I have a handful or headful of one thing, compared to another. Seeing that this is my partner we are talking about , I can understand why this might is irritating to her. On the other hand, the weight of humanity is depicted in contrasts, and the stark difference between things like massive wealth and incredible, mind-numbing poverty is overwhelmingly apparent even though it appears most of us are content to abide it.

Contrasts are there to remind us that we can, in fact, choose what we pay our attention to. We can do this without a gadget. All we need to do is actually choose.

I encountered one such contrast in my daily reading. Yesterday, I read the story of a banker in London who’d taken the audacious risk of exposing himself as a survivor of childhood sexual trauma, and then today, I read another audacious story — that of Chase CEO Jamie Dimon’s complaining about a seven million dollar exit bonus. Mind you, Mr. Dimon is already a billionaire. The first banker, whose name is David Tait, appealed to his colleagues to donate money to a child-welfare project and basically outed himself at the bottom of his fundraising appeal on behalf of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), where he added a line that just read: “because I was one of these kids.” Doesn’t take a whole lot to be human, folks. The second banker outed himself as well—though I don’t think anyone needs to be told as what.

The starkness between these two men is remarkable, isn’t it?

David Tait’s stark admission is shocking, not because we are unaware of the horrendous legacy of child abuse that plagues the planet, but because we have come to rely heavily on global business leaders to ensure that we are distracted by their asinine exploits. Rarely do we depend on them for cues on how to be better human beings. While greed persists ,  and healthfully, attention to our shared humanity wanes in greater deficit. We tolerate adulation for self-serving wealth and power, and it continues as an unspoken virtue and veritable plague. Like the neatly folded 20-dollar pay-off to the back-alley child who delivers the paper whom we secretly admire for stealing expensive watches — the weight of humanity tips the scales back and forth with us. We are all queued up, waiting for a ration of compassion — and when we get it or give it, it’s often colored by the sad, criminal and wonderful.

That’s life, isn’t it?

I’m writing about this, because I too was one of those kids. One of the things one eventually learns as a survivor—when one becomes a “thriver,” as a friend likes to say—is that we get to break from the queue and end the rationing of our humanity to the wrong things and the wrong people.

The larger connection for the reader should be evident—that we ought to be demanding more of our shared humanity in the workplace and from the global elite themselves.

If we are willing to settle for beanbag chairs, ping-pong tables and extensive catering, then surely we have made our price obvious to our betters. We can be bought for comfort and convenience— and as such, all they need do is overload us with it.


Author: Louis D. Lo Praeste

Image: YouTube still

Editors: Emily Bartran; Yoli Ramazzina

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