Civil Language ProjectCulture

Cotton Balls and Megaphones

On every person’s shoulders sits an angel and a demon. We each have a good voice and a bad voice speaking to us all the time. The 2016 U.S. Presidential Election has shoved cotton balls in the ear closest to the angel and handed the demon a megaphone.

The principal of our local middle school shared an email with his staff. It was from a Latino father who held his weeping teenage son on election night. The boy is an honors student but recently has been ridiculed by peers as nothing more than a gardener and told to go back to Mexico.

Many Americans, cannot hear the angel’s good words. They do not hear how much they are loved. How precious they are as human beings. How valuable they are as members of our communities. Instead they hear the demon’s shouts.

Sadly, this is the situation for both those frightened and those emboldened by the election results. Those who feel betrayed and further marginalized by the outcome will have a hard time hearing the angel and will too often hear the demon. But so will those who feel victorious and empowered; they too will hear more of the demon’s words than the angel’s. This is bad for the souls of those betrayed and at least as bad for the souls of those empowered.

We all of us struggle to hear what is true and do what is right. That struggle became harder for most Americans on November 8, 2016. If there is a silver lining in this dark cloud, it is this: shelter is sweeter when the storm is nastier.

For those further marginalized by this election, when the good voice gets heard, it will be precious. “You are beautiful,” will sound truer when it gets through. And for those empowered by this election, when the good voice gets heard, it will be revelatory. “That other person and you are both beautiful,” will sound truer when it gets through.

There is another category of persons with an angel and a demon speaking to them. People like me. Someone who is neither marginalized by the election results nor emboldened. We have a unique role to play in the post-2016 world. In our communities and across our spheres of influence, we must offer solidarity to the betrayed and offer mercy to the empowered.

The angel will have its say. The demon, too. Each of us can be a third voice, even if we cannot be heard. With eyes full of grace, we can stand face to face with any other person and let them know we see them as they are.

BusinessTechnology

Incentivizing Ethical Technologies

How can we incentivize technology innovations that nurture deeper human relationships? Increasingly I wonder if it is possible to do this with marketing technologies. The marketing technologies that scale and make money seem more and more to push the ethical boundaries of privacy and manipulation. For example, ultrasonic tracking.

Ideally, people would resist such infringements by 1) not using unethical technologies and 2) not purchasing from companies that employ unethical technologies and 3) expressing concern to politicians who could seek regulatory action against such technologies and the companies that use them. Of course, this would require A) transparency and B) willingness of people to act on what they feel is unethical and C) willingness of technology companies and their clients, as well as regulators, to respond to the concerns of people. I would not recommend holding your breath for this to happen.

While I am personally doubtful there will be near-term change in unethical marketing technologies, I do suspect there could be a significant backlash in the next 5-10 years. Sooner? Longer? But I do think a backlash will eventually take place. Here’s why. The feedback cycles inevitably will lead to overshoot. That’s when something keeps going on beyond the time when it can sustain itself. I think we are close to overshoot right now when it comes to marketing technologies. Many have already crossed the boundaries of ethical use. The feedback loop (negative reactions) just have not yet caught up. Eventually they will.

Civil Language Projectmiscellanea

Pivot Political Agendas

Like quite a few other people the world over, I am nervous about the upcoming presidential election in the United States. The increasingly incendiary rhetoric coming from Trump and some of his supporters makes me nervous.

It’s tempting to make a Lord Farquaad joke, but we are not living in a satirical fairy tale. This is real life. And some of the anti-politician chatter in America has crescendoed to a revolutionary tone.

By all sensible accounts, the inevitable outcome of the election is that Clinton will win. Yet if she does, there are two significant points of trouble come November 9. The first is that a Clinton victory will afford would be antagonists a spark to ignite their rhetoric into violence. It is hard to imagine violence becoming widespread. Instead, it almost certainly will be localized and directed at vulnerable communities. Don’t expect pitchforks and torches on the National Mall. Do expect racial violence where local policing turns a blind eye and federal intervention would be too risky.

God willing, a Trump loss will not result in such violence. After the puffed up talk, hopefully Trump will do something utterly uncharacteristic and appeal for civility.

But there is another point of potential trouble. Clinton is a disciplined politician. She has been striving for the presidency for a long time now. And as best as can be discerned, she will come to her administration with an agenda that she has been carrying with her over the years. It is inconceivable that the agenda she has been forming over the past many years is the right one for our times. If she wins the presidency, she has a task ahead of her that pretty much is not the task she’s been dreaming about and aspiring to. It is hard to think of her bending the knee to the present situation.

This is the biggest problem with presidential politics in modern times, in my admittedly humble and under informed opinion. Presidents interpret a win as a mandate for the agenda they developed long before the election.

The next president of the United States has pretty clear marching orders. Submit to the times. Change agendas. Prioritize unity and compromise and civility and equity over an ideological agenda formed in ‘60s and fashioned in the ‘80s and ‘90s. I confess that I am not optimistic this will happen.

That should not stop citizens from asking their political leaders for unity, compromise, civility and equity. Peacefully.