Month: November 2016

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.


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.