Duck! and Gather

Archive for the ‘people vs. corporations’ Category

In my previous post, I declared that Linsanity and OWS are related, but did a poor job of explaining the relationship.

Sports radio, and media generally, are asking the following question: “Why all the intense interest in Linsanity?”

My answer is that in one week, Linsanity has melted three firmly entrenched assumptions in the NBA:

  1. Asian-Americans can’t play
  2. Your 15th guy is useless (or at best, is a glue guy)
  3. You can’t win with less than two All Stars

#1 means that you should expect a flood of Asian-American players in the NBA within the year. Linsanity is the unplugging of that bottleneck.

#2 means that NBA GMs and coaches will be looking much closer at their 15th players (and D-Leaguers) and undrafted players to see what they have to offer. Is there a diamond in the bunch? (I seem to remember a short, white, talented American point guard who went undrafted. Bet he gets a fresh look.)

On #3, I would suspect that most basketball fans would disagree. But I watched this week as Linsanity emerged (starting with the Utah game), and saw all the elements needed for a team to make a deep run in the playoffs. And I mean without Melo or Stat.

Doesn’t mean they’d win it all. But they could. Just like Detroit in 2004, and Dallas in 2011.

But I don’t want to use this post to belabor sports analysis. Instead, let me just say that if Linsanity really did blow up the above 3 assumptions, then the NBA is about to be revolutionized — turned on its head.

The lockout didn’t do that. But Jeremy will.

What would be amazing about such a revolution is that all it entails is a change in our collective state of mind. Pre-Linsanity, that collective mind was over there. Post-, it’s over here. And now everything is changed.

I think OWS will have a similarly profound mind-altering and seismic affect on American culture.

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I’m loving the Jeremy Lin story. Been following it closely for the past week.

I’m a bit of sports junkie, and had actually heard of Lin before this week. So no surprise I was in on this story from the beginning.

Since Wednesday, I’ve been asking my wife: “Heard of Jeremy Lin, yet?” I’m interested to hear when the Linsanity story crosses the threshold of the sports ghetto, and goes mainstream. My wife hearing about it will represent when that theshold has been crossed.

And trust me, Linsanity goes well beyond basketball. Well beyond sports, generally. Well beyond the place of Asians in our American culture.

No, the Linsanity story is the universal story of human redemption. This morning, I finally told my wife about the Linsanity story that has unfolded over this past week (she had gotten tired of my daily question), and, in response, she said: “That’s the Cinderella story.”

Exactly. But it’s more than just about the triumph of the underdog. No, the Linsanity story is about the incredible and sudden melting of monolithic hierarchies, in real time, right before our very eyes. “And a child shall lead them,” somebody once wrote.

Which brings me to OWS. I’ve blogged about how OWS is a reaction of the People to the monolithic hierarchies that dominate our nation, and puts lie to the notion that our nation is an efficient meritocracy.

Among the 3 major American professional sports, basketball is the one that most resembles our current culture. A culture in which Mitt Romney can offer a $10,000 bet and have no clue what that means for the rest of us.

What does this have to do with basketball?

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I was hiking with a colleague the other day when it hit me: Mitt Romney isn’t just the pro-Corporate candidate for President. Mitt Romney is a Corporation.

The singularity has arrived. Just not in the way that folks like Kurzweil and de Grey have been blathering about.

Instead of humans merging with technology, humans have now merged with Corporations. And Mitt Romney is Exhibit A of this unholy merger.

To understand this, consider former president George W. Bush. IMHO, that guy was the crown prince of the royal family of the military industrial complex (“MIC”) about which Eisenhower warned us in 1961.

George’s grandfather, Prescott Bush was a founder of the MIC during WWII. His son, George H.W., became King of the MIC. His first son, George W., was the crown prince.

These people were and are pro-Corporate. Particularly, pro oil-, military hardware-, finance-, and intelligence-Corporate (the key industries that make up the MIC).

But the key point here is that these are people. They’re unmistakably human. George was a former drunkard, C-student, moron. How many Corporations behave like that? No successful ones, that’s for sure.

But look at Romney.

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My last post might have seemed like quite a downer. Basic point of it is an observation that, broadly speaking, corporate jobs seem to deaden us over time, reducing our natural capacity for curiosity, learning, growth, and transformation.

Assuming that this observation is sound, the obvious next question is: What can we employees of large corporations do about it?

The first thing we can do is work for a humanizing multi-national corporation. If this sounds like an oxymoron to you, check this out: I am aware of a least one huge multi-national corporation that provides a “sabbatical” program for “tenured” employees. That is, the longer a person is employed by the company, the longer the sabbatical the employee gets.

I’m told that some long-term employees of this company have taken six months to hike Tibet. Others have taken a year to set up a bio-dynamic organic farm. The examples of what people do with their extended breaks is as varied as our individual dreams.  The common thread is the re-humanization of the employee base.

Another thing this company does is to provide a first class day care for preschoolers, complete with play-based active learning. In addition, the corporate campus is essentially a state park complete with jogging trails and the like.

But I suspect that this particular large corporation is the exception, rather than the rule in corporate America. So then the question becomes: What can we do as employees to stay supple and flexible and youthful in our deadening jobs?

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This is a long post. To save you reading all the gory details, let me first deliver these ideas in the form of a tweet:

Corporations are zombies. The longer we work for them, the more we become like them, and less like the children we once were.

Now tweets are not exactly the best medium for conveying complex, subtle notions. Case in point: the phrase “corporations are zombies”.

I realize that this phrase sounds pejorative. But it’s not. It’s a legal definition.

Zombies are the undead — the living dead. So the above phrase can be restated as “corporations are the living dead”.

How are corporations living beings? Well, the U.S. Supreme Court seems to treat corporations as people, under the Constitution.

But if corporations are living people, then how are they also dead things? The answer comes down to money. The lifeblood of a corporation is money. Money is a dead thing. Doesn’t mean it’s bad. Just means it’s dead.

If you or I slice our own jugular veins, we’ll bleed to death. That’s called suicide. How does a corporation bleed to death? It runs out of money. That’s called bankruptcy.

Now since money is dead, Corporations are dead too. Well, at least they are legal fictions.

It’s amazing to me that dead, legal fictions have such incredible power in our present culture. This power is such that pizza is now a vegetable. Got that one from a client of mine.

But the incredible power that I am discussing in this post is the amazing deadening effect that corporations seem to have on their employees. It doesn’t mean that every corporation has this effect on every one of their employees. Just that it seems to be a pervasive effect.

To define this corporate deadening effect, it helps to look at our children. What characterizes children?

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In my last post, I introduced the notion of “rigid, monolithic hierarchy” as a way of defining OWS (i.e. what that movement opposes). I figured I ought to spend a few words drilling down on that concept.

Accordingly, I start by pruning the term “rigid”. The phrase “rigid monolith” is redundant. All monoliths are rigid. Check out the definition of “monolithic”:

1. a : of, relating to, or resembling a monolith : hugemassive(1) : formed from a single crystal <a monolithic silicon chip> (2) : produced in or on a monolithic chip <amonolithic circuit>
2. a : cast as a single piece <a monolithic concrete wall>b : formed or composed of material without joints or seams<a monolithic floor covering>c : consisting of or constituting a single unit
3. a: constituting a massive undifferentiated and often rigid whole <a monolithic society>b: exhibiting or characterized by often rigidly fixed uniformity <monolithic party unity>

Consider three key attributes from the above definition: (1) huge; (2) uniform; and (3) rigid.

Do these describe large corporations?

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Perhaps the most stark distinction between the OWS movement and the forces that they oppose (Corporations and Government) is found in the notion of hierarchy. Whereas OWS has no hierarchy, their opponents are all about hierarchy.

What does it mean to say that OWS has no hierarchy? To find out, watch the following video (highlighted at

Since 2003, I have predicted that the coming “war” in America, will be in the form of People vs. Corporations.

But I was never comfortable with that pithy description. I mean, for example, in my consulting practice, I run my own little corporation, Jack Polymath LLC.

Now if I identify myself as a member of the “People” in the coming People vs. Corporation war, and yet I run my own little corporation, it would seem that I have some ‘splainin’ to do. That’s what this post is about.

This post is about the kind of hierarchies that OWS opposes. They don’t oppose any and all hierarchy. What they oppose are large, monolithic, and rigid hierarchies. These are hierarchies of people in which the lives of the “leaves” of the hierarchy tree are many orders removed from the life of the person at the “root” of the tree.

What kind of hierarchies are these? Org charts of multinational Corporations. Org charts of the U.S Government.

The older a Corporation is, the larger it grows, and the more rigid and extensive its hierarchy becomes. At some point, people in the company don’t even know each other. Everyone is just blindly serving the Corporate interest, with no feeling of human responsibility in anyone for the actions of the Corporation.

The U.S. Government is similar. The incumbency advantage of sitting Senators, and even of most of the Congressmen, is such that these people treat these positions as if they were lifetime appointments.

Due to this monolithic, rigid quality, Corporations and Government lose their touch with basic human decency.

If this discussion seems too esoteric for you, consider the hierarchy at Penn State University as of a week ago. Joe Paterno was the shadow head of that monolithic hierarchy, for over 40 years. From the outside, until this week, the monolithic Penn State hierarchy looked like a paragon of human virtue. At least that was the persuasive PR of the monolith.

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for the money has gone too far

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