I want to talk about politics and human nature today, not tech.
I read a tweet from Liz Strauss about an article she read. I read the article as well and responded. Here are the tweets,
— LizStrauss (@lizstrauss) April 28, 2012
@lizstrauss When you put all your energy into hanging on to what you’ve got, there’s no energy left for the new thought.
— Virginia DeBolt (@vdebolt) April 28, 2012
The Business Insider article Liz and I read proclaims itself gossipy in the first sentence, attributes the gossip to Jennifer Van Grove at Venture Beat, but goes on to repeat the information. I have no idea if any of the story is true. But the idea of paranoia in the halls of money and power does ring true to many in the 99% in these days of occupy movements.
Is holding on to money and power is the only thing that matters to those who have it? Is that why millionaires and billionaires give themselves huge bonuses while taking away pension benefits from their workers? Is that why companies that start out with intentions to be good and do good in the world turn into soulless machines with only profit in mind? Is there some dollar amount – say $2 million or maybe $10 million – beyond which you cease to care what happens to anyone else and only want to protect yourself?
Does this I only care about protecting my own attitude apply to companies but not to individuals? Why are corporations like CitiBank ruthless but individuals like Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey philanthropic? What about corporations headed by women – do they exhibit the same greedy all the money flows to the top of the organization thinking as companies headed by men? Or are women led companies still making sure their employees have health insurance and paid vacations? (I’d really like to see some studies on this, if there are any.)
To get back to the point I made in my tweet, is there some point in life when holding on to what you have despite everything becomes your only thought? Because if there is, then there is no bandwidth left in your brain to explore new thoughts, new creativity, new directions. You don’t huddle in your bunker and think expansive thoughts.
Maybe it’s all ego. Emily Lewis wrote about how ego can damage progress at The Pastry Box Project. She said,
Egos don’t care about requirements, timelines, budgets, user needs, limited resources or legacy systems. They don’t care about other opinions or ideas. They are roadblocks to everything essential to making a project successful, especially compromise, collaboration and communication. And, worst of all, ego keeps you from growing. Your ego won’t let you learn something new. Or see a different perspective. Or even get inspired.
Is being rich and powerful an ego issue? Delusions of grandeur? God complex holding you in its greedy clutches?
If there is something inevitable in human nature that makes us become less caring about others’ well-being as our own excess reaches a certain point, then nothing can be done to change things. But if the situation is an artifact of our time, of capitalism, of corporate culture, of runaway power, then something can be done to change the situation. I don’t want to sound like a bumper sticker philosopher, but I’ll quote a bumper sticker: “The world changes at the speed of thought.”
Changing the way we think about money, power, governance, human rights, and the rule of law changes everything. Nobody with gazillions of dollars is going to listen to me, but if they did, I would suggest that more time spent thinking about how to do great things in the world would be better for the company and its users in the long run.