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A conscious acknowledgement of our common purpose as fulfilment without harm so we may organise ourselves, our justice systems, our economies, our organisations, and our societies to enable our pursuit of it. The organising principle of fulfilment without harm must override the pursuit of money and/or power. Specifically: (more...)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

THE GENIUS OF THE BEAST, Howard Bloom (2010)

A response.

First, this is a great book and I give it five Amazonian stars. However, in the following analysis I highlight and respond to parts where I do not completely agree or where I find fault, as these parts stimulated me the most. Some of the issues I identify are addressed later in the book itself, but usually without enough emphasis or the right emphasis (the books many small chapters deliver the content in a somewhat sporadic fashion).

Before I give the detail, I should say that my overall concern with the picture Bloom paints is the degree to which he gives what amounts to an apology for capitalism, one that glosses over or diminishes the immorality and harm it causes, and in so doing, undermines the need for change to our system. Bloom is strongly protective of the term "capitalism", an attachment which can itself be an obstacle to change. Personally, I have no care what our system is called, providing we make the changes that enable everyone in it to live without harm.

There is much more to what the book gives (capitalism as an 'evolutionary-based, biological-like system' is one concept heavily played). Hopefully what follows will give some more of the substance. The procedure I follow below is to quote the text I find stimulating and then give my response. To begin…

"First new companies, new entrepreneurs, new financiers, new speculators, and new non-profit organisations multiply. … These searchers, these antennae of society, overshoot their target. When the bust comes, some of the new endeavours prove vital. Some do not. Those that do not have three choices:

"1. They can be absorbed by existing organisations, the big ones, …
2. They can scrimp, save, and live off their reserves and new financing.
3. Or the new enterprises can die.

"Meanwhile, crash brings new central forms of organisations, new controlling organisations, and new government organisation to life. Then the cycle goes back from bust to boom, and the next generation of entrepreneurial organisations and speculators sets off to test the power of its dreams.

"You and I are cells in this enterprise. We tend to ride high during the boom. Then crash arrives and we discover that we're expendable. If we lose our jobs and are out of work for a long, long time, it softens us up. For what? For repurposing. For a new role when the next boom arrives." p74-5

But it is commitment, regardless of boom and bust, in which many great things are conceived. And these 'great things' are not conceived by "entrepreneurs", "financiers" or "speculators", but by 'people', individual people, persistent and resourced (poorly or well). It is these people, 'persistent-to-self', that create for as long as they can persist. If our economy (our system) greater enabled this persistence, then we would see more people able to do what they wish to do, more creativity, and more meaningful 'work'.

Crash and boom is a product of not sharing the profit, of not sharing income, so that 'excess' cash is speculated away from enabling our contribution (our productivity) into bloated financial markets more and more removed from production and from people.

Boom and bust in our system is not a biologically-predetermined cycle, but a recurring circumstance arising out of how our system has been formed, a form that we determine and we can change.

"[After] An economic crash … He who has the most is often left standing. Why? Because he who has the most is often he who has the greatest powers of social organisation. It's he or she who manages to pull together the most effective team.

"Evolution is vicious. She tests us with crashes to discover who is the greatest social structure maker. To survive, a society functions as a productivity engine that uses people shamelessly." p127

Or, is it 'he who plays the game the best', even if it is a bad game, that involves hurting people, who is "often left standing"?

And maybe it is that bad game that we should actually seek to change? Maybe it is that bad game, that bad "society" that rewards people for being bad, that bad society which "uses people shamelessly", that we need to change? And we should do this because we can think and because we can shape our society, and our system, so that it enables us all to safely develop and contribute, not just be "used" and spat out by the greatest users (or as termed by Bloom, 'the greatest social structure makers').

"It's a [evolutionary] rule enunciated by Jesus when he made a paradoxical and uncharacteristically harsh statement: "To he who hath it shall be given. From he who hath not, even what he hath shall be taken away." p127-8

This, a portion from The Parable Of The Talents (Mathew 25:22:29), is about investment, about investing whatever talents (ancient Roman monetary units) one has to grow them. Invest and grow or dwindle and die. But who is not going to choose to grow? Perhaps those with little who are scared of losing everything. But if we have a reliable shared income of talents, then we can all invest in ourselves and all grow.

"But human nature is stubborn. We're convinced that each new downturn is the greatest economic catastrophe that has ever been. … But we failed to count our blessings." p136

Or, perhaps, we think it might be the beginning of a worse fall.

"Did catastrophe prove to be opportunity in disguise? Grim and harsh opportunity? Yes. We no longer have to worry about starvation. Crashes no longer came with famines attached." p145

So far, where you live, in the USA.

"You can never be quite sure." p145

But you sound very sure that, for yourself at least, the 2008 crash won't hurt too bad.

"The Truth At Any Price Including The Price Of Your Life" p149

Absolutely. But this is not what we get in modern organisations. What we usually get is silence on truth, and if directly asked, we'll likely get irrelevance or even lies. To change this is a profound change. This doesn't mean that what we get, if we hold to truth, isn't 'capitalism' – who defines capitalism? The term used is irrelevant. What matters is we have a system, whatever it is called, that gives people the freedom to contribute truthfully, as themselves. This we don't yet have, but we need to.

"If you champion the interests of millions of people outside the picket fence of your friends, your co-workers, and your family;

"If you seek truths others don't see, if you find them, if you question them, if you test them, and if, when you sense they are solid, you battle for them;

"If you know that unseen truths are not just logical;

"If you know that tracking truths takes both emotion and reason;

"If you know that truth feeds off of super saturation – off of unconventional study and minute-to-minute immersion in your field;

"If you know that your instruments for divining truth are your gut feeling, plus your intellect, plus continual contact with folks outside your social sphere, plus the sum of all you've learned by following every curiosity that's in you.

"Then you will outdo your competitors. Why?

"Because serving others is the real purpose of the deadened institutions in which so many of us have become like deadened cells. If you serve others with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your intellect, you may be loathed, you may be hated, and you may be mocked, harassed, and hounded, but you will succeed." p177-8

Is this really "service"? Isn't this being human, being yourself? I don't call this service, I call it empowerment, not the power of control, the power of fulfilment, of realising your being and in so doing contributing to the realisation of all beings.

"Why did [Plato] neglect promotion, marketing, and sales …?" p179

Was it sales and marketing he was dead against or the direct pursuit of money and profit that leads to sales and marketing without substance. Was Plato a good salesman and marketer or was he really a good communicator of real substance? And a good communicator of substance because real substance was what was so important to him. We're playing with words here, but I think we all know what 'sales and marketing' can mean when it's simply about promotion. It should be substance first.

"So what profit it a man to lose his life yet speak to you and me?

"The payoff comes in something the Greeks were shooting for even if they wouldn't be around to enjoy it – immortality. That's what being a part of something higher than yourself is all about. We humans are paid not just in money but in recognition and in knowing that we've made a difference. This payoff, in fact, is more satisfying than cash. Permanence is more than just the ultimate coup in marketing. It's the ultimate act of digestion and consolidation. The ultimate act of structure making. It's the ultimate social contribution. p187"

No, fulfilment, realising our potential, is our ultimate contribution and reward. What does dead Plato care for a well-remembered name? Nothing. Recognition, for our contribution, in our lifetime is good, but it isn't necessary to our wellbeing and may not be all that likely. What is necessary is that we can and have made our contribution that truly reflects ourselves. This is what our system must enable – the freedom to allow us to contribute as ourselves. If there is something greater than ourselves that we serve, then it is contributing in whatever way can to make a system that enables us all to make our contribution and fulfil our potential.

"[Plato] said nothing about how he built his career. He didn't explain how he constructed the launch-pad that put his concepts into a lasting orbit." p188

No, but I can guess that he persisted and was able to persist. An advantage many do not have in our system when the only security for many today comes with a 'job' and any insurance is based on the premise that we will find another 'job' as soon as we are out of one.

"He left us thinking that the work of a promoter, the work of a marketer, and the work of a merchant were violations of the purity of the soul." p188

Perhaps he didn't see the need to promote substance or the need to promote himself over his work.

"So the carnage of material progress isn't confined to capitalism, to Marxism, or even to the industrial world." p191

It isn't just about mortal "carnage", it's about freedom from harm, which isn't just freedom from mortal danger, but freedom from control. Capitalism is good (freer than other systems), but it can still be much improved.

"…in our labours, in emotional capitalism, in the capitalism of passion, we need to respect the role of the trivial, the frivolous, and the vain if we're to serve the yearnings of the human soul. In fact, serving needs like these is central to the capitalist mission." [!] p198

I think Bloom is redefining capitalism, even re-tasking capitalism, in ways that it hasn't been suspected of really acting before. Capitalism hasn't given us all, or even most of us, the freedom to be ourselves, but, yes, if we can make it do that, make it give us all that freedom, then let's do that and still call it 'capitalism' if we want to (and as Bloom so clearly and passionately wants us to).

"We feed our need to [be ourselves, our own identity] incessantly. (…) What seems so private and so petty drives an engine far greater than you and me. (…) It fuels the rise of ideas and technology. It adds to the store of human capabilities." p202-3

We should enable this, allow this, tolerate this. This is a problem with our, dare I say it, 'capitalist organisations'? No, well, not just capitalist, it's a problem with most of our large organisations and institutions whatever '–ism' you prefer. They don't tolerate people being themselves without harm.

"So like us, these small-brained animals compare their lot with the fate of other monkeys on the spot. They see an "unequal distribution of wealth." And they insist on putting up a fuss about it." p212

Okay, yes, it is unfair that some receive more than others for the same unit of value, but why does Bloom go on to then to associate this unfairness with "place in the pecking order" as if this justified it? Where is the connection between fairness and pecking order? Surely pecking order is an associate of unfairness and inequality and something to rail against just like income inequality? Pecking order is a poor excuse for income inequality, as it is, likewise, unfair.

What we need is an equal opportunity to realise our potential, to establish our identity and make our contribution without harm. End the "pecking order" – identity does not need to be associated with "rank", we can be ourselves for our own sake. Our identity is not a necessary associate of "attention, admiration and envy" (p215) but it is still our identity and worthwhile just for being that.

This "pecking order" or hierarchy or "social standing", a social construct that mainly men over forty appear to be obsessed with, is one of the constructs that stands so forcibly in the way of a freer and fairer society. It needs to be got rid of. We need to see people, to see ourselves, in a different light, an equal light, all different in that light, but all worthy.

"…I suspect the stone axe owed its existence to a mob of innovators and creators driven by oddball accidents and daydreams:
- the first man or woman insane enough to try to chip one stone with another
- the crazed obsessives who tried stone after stone after stone…
- and the gossipers, promoters, preachers, and teacher who spread the skill…" p225

That's right – not everyone is everything. Plato was a thinker and a writer, but a publicist? I don't know about that. Perhaps he had a publisher and a publicist or perhaps he had enough personal wealth to publish his own work and a position that gave him publicity.

"Capital is stored courage – the courage it takes to turn an off-the-wall vision into a daily reality. And capital is stored persistence. Capital is based on one of the most stressful acts a human can undergo: having a wild-eyed notion, holding onto it despite self-doubts and mockery, infecting others with your vision, then persisting for as many years or decades as it takes to turn what seems like insanity into a new reality." p225

Okay, that's what our system needs to get better and better at enabling, the "wild-eyed notion". That's our individual contribution, the contribution that reflects individual selves and realises our potential. That realisation is our fulfilment, our common purpose. Sure, not all will go 'viral', but that doesn't matter. What matters is that all our contributions are able to be made, for then our greatest potential is realised.

"Like anything good, like anything that can uplift humanity, a new meaning has to be sold, marketed, promoted, communicated, and conveyed in every way at hand and in several ways no one has previously conceived." p252

Sounds good. I wish I was better at it.

"…to get through to us, you have to make it simple, and you have to make it stick. You have to repeat it over and over again until we get it." p255

Fulfilment without harm, fulfilment without harm, fulfilment without harm.

"The message of Moses' and Isaiah's examples was this. If you believe in something, sell it. If you feel you know how to save your neighbour, persuade him of the value of what you're offering. If you fail to get your courage up, if you fail to speak with power, if you fail to promote and sell, you are sinning in a way that's inexcusable. You are letting a good idea, a needed technique, an upgrade in fairness and justice, or a necessary passion die." p261

Strong stuff.

"Meaning can come at the price of blood. Or it can come through the productivity of teams and through individual inspiration and creativity. It can lower other humans. Or it can lift us all.

"…you mission, should you choose to accept it, is this: to find the needs you never know you had. To do it so selfishly that your new dreams take hold of you. And to make your fantasies come true. When you do the insane-but-fantasy-driven thing, like building the first pyramid, you have a shot at making a contribution to more than just yourself. You have a shot at making a contribution to all humanity." p277

Finally, here's the truth. It's not "service" to another individual, it's "selfish" 'fulfilment without harm' which contributes to the good of all.

"The events of the next three hundred years would show that the most important thing you can leave to others, you most important capital, is often not the attainment of the goal you worked to reach. It's the tale of the achievements you racked up trying to arrive at that goal. And it's the string of how-to-secrets you applied along the way. This is a message Plato didn't understand. Your most important legacy, should you choose to live heroically, just may be the story of your life." p302


"Do the dreams of those whose curiosity is voracious or the fantasies of those motivated by material greed sometimes change the nature of reality? You tell me." p312

For good or bad Bloom? Promote your work. Fulfilment is its own reward. Money is a perverter of your direction. Follow the money and lose yourself.

"Every religion promises to raise the poor and the oppressed. Every religion – including Marxism – promises to feed the hungry and to uplift the downtrodden. No religion that I know of has ever paid off on its promise. But a non-religion, a pluralist system – the Western system – has." p313

Why is it always "Western" - the East traded (and the 'South' and the 'North'). Isn't this being a little bit exclusive, a little bit, 'We're better than you, ha-ha!'? Hardly helpful.

"Columbus opened the Americas to a reign of conquest and disease that, as we said, may have killed as many as 70 million of the new continent's native population. This was an atrocity.

"But Columbus's discovery brought far more than 700 million new lives into being. If fed the poor and the oppressed of lands we think were totally unspoiled by Western civilisation. Facts are facts. Many a "native people", an indigenous tribe in New Guinea or Africa, owe their lives and their full stomachs to Columbus's wild chase of a maniacal dream…" p314

Eventually! And how many more people never came into being, who would of, if their "70 million" parents had not been killed over that same period?

"We humans can't endure pains that remain nameless. Martin Luther revealed his deepest pains and his deepest rage and in the process set free the souls of millions. How? He sold, sold, sold, sold." p322

Or did he 'give, give, give'?

"What did Shakespeare do in the face of his apparent crises of confidence? How did he overcome his moments of hopelessness and humiliation? Shakespeare persisted. (…) In his This Is Your Brain On Music, Daniel Levitin points out two vital facts about persistence. The difference between a virtuoso and a good but ordinary mathematician, musician, baseball player, or writer is not the talent he or she shows as a child. It's ten thousand hours of practice. And the men and women who experience the greatest success are those who have the greatest number of failures. Why? Because they make the greatest number of tries. In the words of Winston Churchill, they "never give up"." p330

I read a whole book on Shakespeare 'The Thinker' and never at any time did it give anything as worthwhile or enlightened as Bloom's short piece.

"We either exercise that hatred harmlessly or we exercise it in blood. We exercise it harmlessly when we loathe a murderous fictional rapist, a bad guy, a fantasy enemy on the stage or on a screen." p333

But there are also lessons learned about "hatred" and "violence". The (Shakespeare) plays (and other shows) can be educational and informative. They may teach the pointlessness of violence if they do not celebrate it. If violence was celebrated in our culture and in our shows then this would give licence to it. I think we do need to take some care and have some awareness of what we encourage in ourselves. A videogame Roman Circus, with the player as a gladiator, maybe that's okay, but a real Roman Circus? Definitely not (not anymore…).

"Napoleon Hill, …says that anything you conceive and you believe, you can achieve." p334-5

Or die trying perhaps.

"Meanwhile, the wave of contact with Istanbul that the Tulip Craze accelerated led to an increased flow of new ideas." p343

"…that was by no means the only fruit of the Turkish connection. It was not the only payoff from what the Tulip Craze had nurtured – the Turkey trade." p343

So Bloom is saying that these speculative booms and busts are a good thing. But do we really need the wild waste of speculation and its fallout to do the positive things that happened? I doubt it.

"Some new way of moving up the totem pole of status?" p346

"Our basic shopping list of cravings includes eleven things we are desperate to achieve: control, status, attention, belonging, identity, love, sex, meaning, structure, uplift, and novelty. If we want to make a living, those are the needs we need to feed." p347

Bloom is obsessed with "status" and "control". Control and status is for fools. These are a danger to our system and our lives. If this is the means for distributing income and wealth then we will all be damaged.

Of Bloom's 'desperate cravings', 'affection' (not included in his list) will do for me; "meaning", "belonging" and "identity" are already mine by right (or should be). "Novelty" I will take and use to reflect me, and this is where I agree with Bloom, as novelty reflects the diversity of our contribution which is what we get when we are all enabled to fulfil our potentials and contribute as ourselves where and when we see a need. This is what we need our system to do, but it will not do this if we all follow Bloom's advice of putting service to a boss above growing ourselves.

"We all know what horrors of slavery led to. Death, rape, torture, and chains. … The capture of between eight and fifteen million human beings and the death of up to two million of them in the passage across the Atlantic. In short, atrocities. Capitalism can be creative and uplifting, or it can be criminal and degrading. In this case it was both. And the negatives were appalling. But mass-produced sugar fuelled the poor and the oppressed of Europe. It gave the sweetness of "snacks" to folks who formerly couldn't afford anything tastier than gruel. It sweetened the lives – and the coffee and tea – of the upper and middle classes." p353

That's too flippant. Is Bloom an apologist for capitalism?

"The deeds of Christopher Columbus the explorer and of the mono-croppers – some of them good, and some of them morally repulsive – gunned the evolutionary search engine and upped the torque of the secular genesis machine. For hundreds of millions of humans, exploration and consolidation literally made life sweet." p354

Even a secular morality doesn't seem to be of very great importance to Bloom.

"Four hundred and fifty years down the line, the plantation system's legacy of industrial crop production would do something ironic. It would put the cloth of kings – cotton t-shirts – on the back (and fronts) of even the poorest Africans, the very people who'd been left behind when their neighbours had been kidnapped as slaves." p355

Ah, that makes it all better then.

"In a system driven by emotion, money isn't the biggest motivator. Ego is." p363

No. Well, fulfilment is, is that "ego"? Maybe, but it's not vanity (as it's sometimes conveyed), and it's not about "status" and "control", if we pursue it without harm. This isn't to say that Bloom isn't wedded to status and control (and vanity), but perhaps he himself operates with less harm than he indicates is appropriate by his words, and perhaps he doesn't particularly see the harm that control and subservience results in, so doesn't emphasis it.

"Is giving ego-stakes away a form of manipulation? Yes. Every time you try to influence another human being, you're trying to change his mind. I'm trying to influence yours right now. (…) That's manipulation. When is manipulation good and when is it bad? (…) If you're trying to scam and steal, changing someone else's mind can be despicable. But if you're trying to advance something you know is right and true, then ego-stakes are vital. Even if you're wrong – which you will be a good slice of the time – you have to give it a try. Mistakes are a risk of courage. But work as hard as you can to avoid leading others astray." p366

Is influence manipulation? If it's for false ends, if it's not for the good of the person being influenced. Even if you mean well, if it's not to their good (in their eyes, to their mind), then it is manipulation (and wrong).

"Every dollar that you bring in comes courtesy of another human being. Every dollar represents an obligation to a person whom you serve. If you want to bring in millions, then commit your passions to uplifting, upgrading, consoling, delighting, and caring for the bodies and the souls of millions. …

"If you fail to care for those who sustain you, if you fail to benefit and nurture not just bosses and shareholders but the masses who actually pay you, then the capitalist system may get its revenge. …

"Go to your workplace every day carrying those you serve within you. Feel their needs and champion them in every meeting you attend. Why? Because the feel of working for something larger than yourself will sustain you." p367

Bloom's is a world of service and hierarchy. But if you want to contribute meaningfully you need to be able to be yourself. This is not often possible when the forms of contribution are controlled and curtailed by resource owners and the jobs they require people for.

Serving owners and bosses who harm others and our environment in order to control the supply of products that people desire does no-one any real good. An emphasis on service above freedom from harm freezes harm into the system. This is not right. Freedom from harm, the freedom to contribute as ourselves, realising our potential, is of greater import than serving under the command of others whose main desire is to protect their ownership and their income.

Bloom has a skewed idea of what "service" actually entails in organisations, and how this is usually far removed from the realising of our potential and of doing things that are good and productive.

Bloom does not seem to get (or chooses to ignore) that organisations, if they are large, have already built their revenue streams, and that their incentive is not to take risks, not to fulfil the potential of employees, but to preserve and grow their revenue streams. And the way to do this reliably, in at least the short term, is to control entry to the market and increasingly exploit the resources and labour that serves to produce the product and its revenue, whether or not this exploitation harms the people and resources required to produce the product, as 'people can be replaced' and resources are really of the 'commons' to which the 'tragedy of the commons' applies (particularly when ownership is by a corporation).

The internet has opened up the market for a while (out of the clutches of many organisations that once controlled the markets affected by it), but this can still be reversed, depending on where internet regulation and control goes from here. If controls are tightened then the freedom to share and contribute may narrow again.

"Speculators and entrepreneurs are not criminals. They are like sperm. They are packets of capital with propulsive tails. They transport money and energy to niches they hope will pay off big. But only one in a billion sperm succeeds in hitting pay dirt – the egg. Speculators and entrepreneurs are society's gambles. And it takes many a failing bet to win a game. Some fantasies that the speculators and entrepreneurs chase succeed in touching a nerve. Some fantasies fail to connect, or even fail to materialise." p369

Bloom is an excusist for capitalism. We just don't need this waste. We don't need million dollar tulips, or rice and fuel out of the affordability range of millions because speculators artificially stimulate demand for profit that has nothing to do with production or contribution, but everything to do with greed and money, money made by temporarily removing resources (via these flawed markets) from the actual producers and consumers (the plebs like you and me).

Speculators follow the money, they buy not to consume the product, but to inflate its price and profit from that. This does not help producer or consumer, indeed it damages both in the end.

"Some in the capitalist system have been encouraged to believe that bleeding a company to build personal wealth is a part of the capitalist creed." p386

Some? What incentive do you receive when organisations control your work, give rewards according to the performance targets you meet (which they set you), and pay you according to your rank in the management hierarchy (which is best maintained by not arguing with your boss)?

"Four years later, the twenty-four-your-old J.D. Rockefeller and his meat-hay-fruit-and-vegetable partners took a chance and bought a toehold in the risky new endeavour – they purchased the first oil refinery." p415

That's not speculation, that's investment. There's a big difference between buying an oil refinery to produce and add value, and buying oil to hold and on-sell without adding any real value.

"Rockefeller set out to "standardise" the oil business – to give the public a steady supply at a low price with a consistent high quality you could rely on. To do it, he bullied, twisted arms, and cajoled others to sell him their companies." p416

"…Rockefeller connived and colluded with the railroads to get his cans of kerosene shipped at special rates…" p416

"Rockefeller ruthlessly drove down costs. When a firm refused to cave in to him, he squeezed it out of business, often sickening his victim with stress in the process." p416

"The result for the average consumer? [Cheaper kerosene]" p416

"For all his evils – his ruthless treatment of his competitors, his monopolistic practices, and the allegation by his critics that he "never played fair" – J. D. Rockefeller was a messianic capitalist." p416-7

"What the moral of the [Rockefeller] story? All of us dream of being part of something greater than ourselves. All of us want to make a contribution. The greatest contribution you make isn't in the money you give to charities. It isn't in the non-profit foundations you establish. And it isn't in the work you do as a volunteer. Your greatest contribution to something greater, to the lives of others, comes in what you do from nine to five." p417

How on Earth does Bloom get a moral like this from the JD Rockefeller story he's just depicted? So being an asshole to everyone and driving all your fellows out of business though bullying and intimidation is okay if it gets the result you want?

It's not just what you do, it's the way you do it.

Bloom doesn't really get this enough. For him, morality and ethics, right and wrong, matter little, providing, in the end, and eventually, something good comes out of the damage done (no matter how indirectly).

I don't think this is good enough for most people anymore. I hope not.

I think the naked capitalism of avarice and greed needs to change, and whether we still call it 'capitalism' after this, I don't know. The name really doesn't matter so much as actually making the changes required to improve our system (whatever we call it).

"Remember, we, your audience, lust for more than novelty. We lust for the grasp of things that comes from insight. We lust for the facts and the independent thinking that you hide. We lust for truth. And we lust not for complaint, but for meaning." p324

I hope so.

"Morgan, like Rockefeller, had bullied and blustered. And he's sometimes been underhanded. But…" p426

But it didn't need to be done this way, or, at the very least, it doesn't need to be done this way now.

"Envy and schadenfreude come from our nature as pecking order beasts. What's schadenfreude? A German word for our joy in the pain of others, especially our joy in the pain of those above us, others we no longer feel we need.

"The self-correcting system of the protest industry is based on this primal motivation. But there's another fact we have to look squarely in the face. We, the people, want the inexpensive goods that come from the Rockefellers of the planet." p427

We want fairness and sharing, this is not incompatible with organising for inexpensive goods. We know this, that's why we're angry, not with the cheap goods, but the way they've been developed and delivered – a way that has not been fair, and with an income, generated from our resources, that has not be shared.

"Let's not throw out the price-lowering and consistency-raising consolidators. Let's not toss out the good with the bad simply because we can't stand it when someone else gets rich." p427

Who's suggesting that? Let's keep the good, throw out the bad, and all get "rich" together. For Bloom's hierarchical society of 'status' and 'service to bosses' this is impossible, but for a society where we are living to share and grow together, it is eminently possible.

"All of us – from venture capitalists, VPs, mailroom clerks, students, college professors, and scientific researchers, to oil painters, website designers, computer programmers, and poets – are in business." p72

Mums, dads, photographers, dishwashers, sports players, book readers, … The artificial separation of 'work' and 'jobs' is for work that, often, doesn't reflect us.

"You have to ask yourself, "If I could have anything in the world I wanted, anything at all, what would it be?" p433

"To use your motor neurons, to use your instruments of empathy, you have to find the emotions within you that are tuned to the frequency of the people you want to serve. You have to break out of the boundaries of your normal group of friends and immerse yourself in the world of those you want to win over, those whom you want as your audience, your customers. You have to saturate yourself with their daily grind, their daily feelings, and their daily flights of fancy. In doing so you will achieve something paradoxical – you will expand yourself. You will come to feel your audience – your customers – in your chest and gut. You may even learn to care about them deeply. This is what I call "tuned empathy". p433

Delve into your 'work'. It must be what you want to do. It is your life. Every part of what you do and are resonates with how you contribute when you have got it right for you (which is not the "9 to 5"). It will be you 24 hours a day, every day.

"A vice president who fails to represent us, who fails to feel your needs and mine, is going to betray us. (…) When you are in that conference room you cannot desert us. There is a capitalist imperative." p448

What a different thing capitalism becomes under Bloom.

"…a sense of humour that overrode all obstacles…" p449

This and faith (in the future) are very important.

"How many potential 'REO Speedwagons' [a rockband] were destroyed by the contempt of the people hired to nurture their careers [the "establishment"], and to bring them to a hungry public? From my fifteen years in the music industry, I'd guess hundreds." p451

Exactly. So change is needed to the capitalism that puts the wrong things first or, at least, to our usual understanding of capitalism that puts money (and power) first before fulfilment – ours and everyones.

"It was not enough to come up with a theory of relativity. To be a genius, Einstein wrote, you had to be able to write that theory so simply and deliciously that anyone could understand it. To be a genius you had to be a good, clear writer." p460

Which also shows you are a clear thinker.

"But, you may well say, my company already does that. We do marketing surveys. We run focus groups. When you say "we" do marketing, who do you mean by "we", kemo sabe? Do you go out and do them? If you don't, you're likely to miss the boat." p463

Exactly. And if the surveys use closed questions to monitor against production targets you've already set, then you've already messed it up big time.

"For the next two years I was a teenager at heart, fighting against the elitists of the rock-critic establishment, a self-appointed aristocracy that postured for its peers and despised its audience. (…) Its members deliberately shoved oddball, snooty, groupthink choices down the audience's throat, determined to "educate" their readers, determined to "teach" and lead the masses." p465

The establishment, the same type of establishment which forms everywhere where people aren't enabled to choose where they work or what they buy. The establishment, secure in their ownership of the resource base, directing where others work through their control of the purse strings, and what others buy through their control of resources. Only if profit and incomes are shared will we become truly free to breakdown the control of the establishment and contribute in our own ways, in fair ways, in freedom and without the control of others. The internet has given us a feeling of what this freedom feels like. It will very easily be lost if we don't put in place the systems for sharing.

"After a year of fourteen-hour days, seven days a week, I came to my publisher with a plan." p466

Bloom didn't work 14-hour days, he worked 24-hour days. Our minds don't stop 'working' on what we do everyday just because we're not awake. In fact, intuition, knowledge and understanding become more ordered and ingrained in our minds during sleep.

And it isn't just Bloom, it's all of us, we all 'do' 24 hours a day. Bloom calls 14 hours of his day "work", but that's an artificial construct, to illustrate: 'hanging out with teenagers', which Bloom did, many (especially teenagers) would not consider work; while 'bringing them up' would be considered as work by many, even if it 'officially' isn't. The term 'work', as Bloom uses it, is too restrictive and artificial to contain what we contribute. We 'do' 24-hours, not 9 to 5, whether it's called work or not.

Bloom bent his mind towards a fairly singular task, and that was, from the sounds of it, all the time. If we don't see our contribution as something separate from our lives, but live it, then we 'work' 24 hours. If we grow ourselves and all we do, and contribute in a way that realises ourselves then we too are working (and living) 24 hours, whether we're paid anything or not.

Bloom hasn't understood the inseparability of 'real' work from living and contributing, although he has lived it. He still uses the artificial construct of work in the hours of nine-to-five (or whatever set period) as opposed to whole lives. It's true, we do, most of us, need to find our ways of contributing freely so that we can live our lives doing it, and our system works against this (not giving us the freedom to do it), but once we have made for us that freedom, in our lives and our system, then our whole lives become fulfilment and contribution. Retirement is irrelevant. There's no sharp 'point' of change from work to non-work. It is all one.

"Circus magazines circulation rose steadily each month after we applied the new research. Distributors vied to handle our publication. They offered ever larger amounts of money. Our publisher, Gerald Rothberg, went from renting an apartment overlooking Second Avenue on Manhattan's Upper East Side to owning a posh apartment the size of an aircraft hanger with a many-windowed, corner view of New York's East River." p466

Bloom isn't doing this for the income, others are getting a far greater financial 'reward' than him for his contribution.

"Be true to yourself and you'll serve others." p476

"Others" as a whole, "yourself" as an individual (never another individual as a servant). In our individual fulfilment we contribute to the fulfilment of everyone, we add to the ability of all to find fulfilment, but we don't directly serve the fulfilment of any one individual other than ourselves. There has to be a realisation of the difference between the individual and the whole.

"We buy commodities, practical things that fill our basic needs. And we buy emotion: we buy passion, uplift, consolation, validation, new powers, and identity. We hunger to buy meaning, but that is in short supply." p477

Do we buy it? Or do we get it (identity) from giving, from contributing? Our contribution, what we do, forms our identity, and so we need to be able to choose how we contribute, when and where we see the need. This means the income from resources and commodities needs to be shared so we can all contribute according to ourselves and where-and-when we are at, at the time.

"[M]inds of the strongest and most active powers … fall below mediocrity, and labour without effect, if confined to uncongenial pursuits. [But] when … each individual can find his proper element … [he] can call into activity the whole vigour of his nature." Alexander Hamilton, "Manufactures", 1791.

Absolutely. We need our system to enable people to choose ways of contributing that fulfil them, at any age.

"Do your business dishonestly, steal from your customer instead of serving and uplifting her or him, and you may well be brought down either by the market, by the media, or by the protest industry." p479

No. If it's not illegal, you won't be "brought down". The company might be, but by that stage you'll probably have left with a tidy sum. If we want exploitation to stop, then we need to empower people so they cannot be exploited.

"…the nightmare of too much choice…" p480

Bloom never explains his extreme fear of "too much choice". To me it seems as we have almost limitless choice of reading material at the moment, so we filter and sort these to find what we want. I don't see "choice" as a problem. We don't want to be given a choice when we haven't the time or tools to make the choice, but when we have, we most definitely do want it.

"Help others grow selfish on behalf of others too." p480

Yes – "selfish on behalf of others", meaning not subservient to one other, and also not serving ourselves (and our families) at the cost of others. It is fulfilment without harm.

"You are here to give eight hours of meaning to those you work for, to those who work for you, …" p481

To see your work as defined by another (in hours and substance), is to lose your identification with it. Choose what you want to do. Treat other individuals as whole beings who need to contribute as they are in ways that reflect and grow themselves. For this we all have to be free to decide how, when and where we contribute together.

"Give us:
- ways to show that we belong and yet stand out
- metaphors with which to puzzle out our mysteries
- pride and higher aspirations
- goals and meaning
- power over our moods
- tools with which we can connect in global productivity teams
- tools to win others to our ideas
- rituals to make sense of our day
- frivolities and openings to the formerly strange
- levels of reality and plateaus of possibility
- your soul and your emotions
- tools of understanding
- an ego-stake in your plans

"Stretch the:
- range of human powers
- range of fantasy
- reach of comfort and security
- breadth of our horizons

- our trash into treasure
- luxuries into everyday commodities" p481-3

"Satisfy our lust for novelty and choice. (…) Validate us in our moments of confusion. (…) Upgrade the convenience of the everyday. (…) Warn us of our failings. (…) Help us serve a purpose higher than ourselves." p482-3

"May you do your job with passion, reason, empathy, and astonishment. May you do your job in ways exuberant and new." p483

"Do your job". No. Live your life. And make a contribution that reflects who you are, without harming others. Make a contribution that helps others also contribute. Support the changes to our system that allow this to happen for everyone.


[The Genius of the Beast, Howard Bloom (2010)]

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