Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Minutiae trumps thought and action everywhere

From John Ralston Saul's work, The Collapse of Globalism, (Penguin, 2005) p.230
...you can see the destructive effect of managerial dominance in the gradual growth of detail as the mainstay of the employee's life. The effect of new technology has been to draw even senior managers into minutiae. People paid to think and lead now spend much of their time typing and responding to or sending an endless stream of unnecessary messages, simply because communications technology invades every second and every corner of their lives. This bureaucratization of both the leadership and the creative process makes thought seem irresponsible and clear action seem unprofessional. It provides a sensation of activity while creating a broader sense of powerlessness. This is what used to be called "being nibbled to death by ducks."
It is not only that real creative thought and action are being trumped by attention to minutiae, it is also that any thought or creative proposal must be reduced to the tiniest of fragments, in order to "pass muster" as responsible and professional.
Anything smacking of the "big picture" is considered radical, childless, simplistic or 'over-the-top' by conventional approach. Consequently, it is little wonder that the dots are not being connected, as the vernacular goes, in so many situations. No one is paid to connect the dots; in fact, we have made an alter to creating new dots, isolated pieces of information collected and stored in the most highly efficient technology, overwhelming anyone who is attempting to 'keep up' with the flow of events, and now seem to turn a blind eye toward any attempt to "make meaning" of those islands of information.
We are polled on every topic for which a client is prepared to paid...and that seems like most topics.
We are watched by cameras, now so sophisticated that they will be able to sense "aberrant" behaviour prior to a terrorist attack, and thereby create even more potential customers.
We are digitized by every transaction, so much so that we have become a virtual "transaction" and no longer a human being, so great is the appetite for the digits each transaction generates.
Facebook has just received a $500 million infusion of capital and a valuation of some $50 billion as a global source of human data digits, so that marketers can mine this "wealth" (or seen from another perspective, this exposure of our privacy) and the number of users of the technology has grown to 600 million worldwide.
It is not new wealth that we are generating through the financial services sector, merely selling off bad debts to unsuspecting buyers, and creating "faux" money...while we have sacrificed real thought and real action to its digital substitute.
Little wonder then, that world leaders are powerless to take collective action to eliminate poverty, for example, or to create learning opportunities for children, or to generate necessary health care treatments in the face of national budgets directed to the purchase of arms, at a rate of 50% of the budget, as in the Sudan currently.
Little wonder that the people who are examining the work of leaders are confused about the accomplishments, and worried that good money may be going after bad, and worried that they might be losing, or have already lost, the necessary leverage to bring the ship (of state) back on course.
We are drowning in minutiae, of our own generation, and narcissistically, we continue to pour more and more private information into the public media, so that we can be known, and understood and recognized.
Seems a little sad, from this vantage point.
In their book, Fallout: The True Story of the CIA's Secret War on Nuclear Trafficking,
Catherine Collins (Author) and Douglas Frantz (Author), the authors point out that the CIA was, in their view, far more interested in 'more information than in action' with respect top their pursuit of Dr. Khan of Pakistan, the physicist who stole nuclear secrets from the Netherlands, and whom the Netherlands Security forces were embarrassed about, and asked the CIA to enter the picture. Only, instead of acting, back in 1973, when the CIA first learned of Khan's theft and later sale of the secrets and the centrifuges necessary for the production of nuclear fissile material necessary for nuclear weapons, to Libya, Iran and North Korea, the CIA wanted more and more information, and refused to bring Khan down.
If Collins and Frantz are even close to being right in their assessment of the CIA's approach to Khan, then the world owes another debt to the U.S. for the illegal and illicit transmission of nuclear secrets from the Pakistani 'doctor' to the rogue states because of the CIA's 'addiction to information over action' (the author's words not mine, in their interview with NPR's Fresh Air, aired on January 4, 2010).
Just as we all owe another debt  to the U.S. for weapons of mass destruction being conveyed to then ally of the U.S., Saddam Hussein in Iraq, under President Reagan, we see the finger prints, and the footprints of the U.S. on the wrong side of history, once again.
Another example of the failure of information when it was too gross to confront:
(quoting from John Ralston Saul's book, The Collapse of Globalism, p. 135)...
...a genocide took place in Rwanda. Half a million to a million people were killed. The developed world did not move. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian officer sent by the United Nations to command a minute force, has said that he consider this inaction pure racism, in particular the stalling at the Security Council. The vagueness surrounding the number murdered is in itself interesting.
We live in a world of statistics: measuring growth, productivity, height, longevity, money markets from every angle, increases in obesity, frewuency of orgasms, divorces, vegtables eaten. Yet no one seems to know or care whether half a million Rwandans were massacred.
The Rwandan genocide rolled right on into the Congo catastrophe: 4.7 million people died between 1998 and 2003. Or was it 3.4 million? Or 5.6?
Where were all the powerful forces of economic inevitability during these disasters? Where was Western leadership? They were busy speaking with confidence about Globalization while large parts of the world were in an accelerated political meltdown marked by terrifying levels of nationalist violence.

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