It’s been forty years since I graduated from high school, and I’ve spent most of that forty years in the business world. Now I’m about to retire and I’m thinking back on what I’ve learned that will be useful as I begin my nine intentional practices that I hope will really make a difference in the world.
I think the most important thing I’ve learned is captured in Charles Barsotti’s cartoon above: Nobody knows anything.
Because of our horrific overpopulation and exhaustion of our planet and its resources, we have entered into a period of chronic, massive, global stress, and it’s made us all crazy, like rats in a lab fighting over the last few scraps of food. We’ve stopped listening to ourselves and started looking for saviours — ‘leaders’ and ‘experts’ to show us and tell us what to do.
But it’s all fraud, papered with self-delusion, self-aggrandization and hubris. What gets done in large organizations (corporations, non-profits, governments) is the sum of what everyone in those organizations does. The people at the top generally have no more real impact, and no more useful knowledge with which to make decisions, than the people at the bottom. The ‘leaders’ are responsible neither for the organization’s successes, nor its failures — a few people just don’t make that much difference, except when they make some hugely expensive, incompetent decision or rip the company off so it goes bankrupt.
Almost all mergers and acquisitions actually destroy value — their only real purpose is to eliminate competition. The “competitive advantage” and “economies of scale” that big organizations lay claim to are a fiction. Their success is really mostly due to massive, incessant propaganda aimed at dumbed-down customers, subsidies, discounts and favours bought with political donations, the crushing of competition and innovation through legal intimidation and offshoring, cornering and squandering precious natural resources and treating the natural environment as a free dumping ground.
Economists, financial ‘experts’, psychologists, consultants, pundits, celebrities, policy wonks, advisors, barons of industry, doctors — none of these people really know what they’re doing. They want you to believe they know what they’re doing, so that they can justify what they’re taking out of the system in salaries, bonuses, perks, commissions and fees. But they’re making it up as they go along. They have come to expect bailouts when they fail financially, and indemnity from prosecution when they screw up, or get caught breaking the law. And they get away with it.
It’s all veneer. Beneath each $2000 suit, behind all the swagger, from the boardroom to the office of the commander in chief, there’s an insecure, terrified little boy pretending to be in charge, faking it, and easily swept away by the first pretty young adoring intern who will go down on her knees before him.
We would be much better off looking to the crowds for wisdom. The collective knowledge of employees, customers, community members, while far from perfect knowledge for decision-making, would at least be better than the staggering ignorance of megalomanic ‘leaders’ making decisions in their echo chambers and information vacuums.
No one is in control. Obama isn’t getting anything done, despite being the most powerful person on the planet, because he can’t. The ‘leaders’ aren’t going to deal with climate change or peak oil or pandemic disease or unsustainable debts, because no one has the power or authority to do anything, and because it would be political suicide to admit that the only solutions that might work will be radical, painful, and require a lot of sacrifice from everyone. So all you get is posturing, and it’s just going to get worse.
This is what unsustainable means.
We have destroyed this planet for future generations and for all-life-on-Earth, and the worst culprits are still doing it, while we sit around stupidly watching them, wondering what to do, waiting for someone, anyone, to save us from us.
We need to stop listening to these know-nothing, cowardly ‘leaders’. We need to stop paying them. We need to stop working for them. We need to stop investing in them. We need to stop trusting them, and stop believing the nonsense they are telling us. We need to stop voting for them, and paying taxes to finance their backroom deals. We need to stop buying overpriced crap from their fat, mismanaged organizations. We need to send some of them to jail for criminal fraud and the rest out to pasture, and take back our society, our economy, our Earth from these thieves, these self-deluded con men. No more leaders.
We could start, one community at a time, to know, again, what it means to live responsibly, meaningfully, modestly, sufficiently, sustainably.
But we will not. We have become disconnected from all-life-on-Earth, and forgotten the simple knowledge of how to live as part of it. And we’re too busy to think about what that means for our grim future, as the dark and gathering sameness of the world rolls over us, like an impenetrable fog.
Category: Why Civilization is Unsustainable