Taking Great Ideas Forward
The weekly distribution of TGIF has ended.
Over the next week or two, I will be revising this website to include archives of many past TGIF essays. I hope you will check back and see what has been done.
Although the content emphasizes economic development in the Northern Tier - Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan - readers from across the country take away thoughts that stimulate new directions for action. In particular, readers realize that my essays raise questions about our schools, particularly rural schools and the need to look creatively for alternatives and critically at proposals for change. Our emerging future is critically dependent upon the values that our young people bring to their personal engagement with opportunity.
TGIF – This Gig Is Finished
There will be no TGIF next Friday and future Fridays. I know that this will disappoint many but not make much difference to others. My suspicion is that “Lighter Side” may be most attractive; at least that and the quote are quick reads. Mayor Larry MacDonald of Bayfield said years ago that even though he didn't always agree with my essay; he always knew it was Friday.
Over the past two-plus years I have thought occasionally about ending TGIF. Something external or internal kept me going. Your responses with questions and comments were always welcome. Every week something stimulated my thoughts and seemed to demand a few paragraphs. There has been a certain warm feeling when I am satisfied with the writing and, sometime before 8:00 AM on Friday, press enter.
Why, you may ask, quit now? Last week I attempted to use TGIF in a way that was a juggernaut. To begin, the essay was, for the first and only time, conceived differently than all that had gone before. I had responded to a reader's recommendation and wrote an essay that began OK but then tripped and trotted inside and outside my comfort zone. But however conceived, in the end was a decently focused piece on government bureaucracy in general and that of the EPA in particular. I was unhappy with the funding cuts by EPA to the Lake Superior Binational Forum and probably disparaged the agency more than necessary. But, I was satisfied that I had spoken some small truth to power.
Then pressing enter was followed, unfortunately, by a clumsy, neanderthal act. I forwarded TGIF, fortunately to just a few folks, with three covering paragraphs urging action to help redress the funding cuts to the Lake Superior Binational Forum by EPA. Regrettably I did this quickly, and thoughtlessly included information that others wanted to be confidential. After beginning in the wee hours of Friday morning, an effort to finish writing the TGIF essay left me drained. I should have gone back to bed. What followed was an email nightmare undercutting my capacity to work with two key members of the Lake Superior Forum. I have now resigned. That drama and trauma was not how I had hoped to leave the Forum after more than a decade of often pretty intense involvement and a huge spectrum of new relationships and rewards.
Trauma, physical or psychological, is often a good stimulus for reevaluation. It is time to refocus and reinvent. What began as a simple email reminder to an economic development group about upcoming meetings, morphed and evolved and grew. TGIF reached a modestly large distribution list every Friday morning. I've resisted proposals to monetize the effort. A decade has witnessed many changes including social media that rewards brevity. My efforts to raise questions and stimulate thought have been appreciated by many of you. Your thoughts and expressions of support have kept me writing without missing a week for ten years. Thank you for your loyalty.
Yet after ten years, I realize it is time to take my labors in a different direction than is afforded by TGIF. I'll be trying a new approach through websites that provide a blog and/or wiki format. One, for Education Ecology, will focus on education through social stewardship and ask: Why are teaching, testing, textbooks and technology not enough? Another will remain focused on stewardship of ecosystems – the Lake Superior system and others – and explore evolutionary learning conversations, which I learned about from Alexander & Kathia Laszlo and believe are essential for sustainability and building a new consciousness of how our species, together with essential plants, animals and microbes, can thrive going forward. A few TGIF posts are currently displayed on my website www.brucelindgren.com. I will set this site up to archive many, perhaps all, of the TGIF essays from the past decade. I may add a few here and there as time moves me and new ideas forward.
I hope you will all find many new avenues and opportunities for stretching your minds. Keep me posted as you move your own great ideas forward.
December 3rd, 2014
According to an article in Huffington Post, Hong Kong Leader C.Y. Lueng recently declared Democracy gives the poor too much power.
To a progressive, these words are stinging and painful. Yet among many conservatives and libertarians, they ring with clarity as to why manipulation of voting rights to assure “democratic” victory in elections is a nearly sacred trust. If you can't trust the majority to pick leaders, it it imperative to beat back the majority.
This, I fear, leads to the passionate notion that anything that leads to a victory for a progressive is “voter fraud.” Mitt Romney still is baffled that he didn't win in 2012. He and his followers believed with all their hearts and minds that this giant of industry and free-market economic manipulation; this business man, master of mergers and acquisitions, was so clearly and superbly more qualified to be President than the idealist from Illinois; the lawyer, community organizer and Senator who had edited the Harvard Law Review and taught Constitutional Law; And … just happened to get more votes. Yup! Danged democracy.
Of course, it turns out that contemporary conservatives share a legacy position of many of the founders and their Constitution. Not everyone was in agreement with the results of the constitutional convention. Benjamin Franklin said, “For when you assemble a number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected? I cannot help expressing a wish that every member of the Convention who may still have objections to (the Constitution), would with me on this occasion doubt a little of his own infallibility, and to make manifest our unanimity put his name to this instrument.”
Class distinctions have marred democracy and attempts to refine and extend democracy and democratic (small “d”) principles. Endorsing democratic principles to include members of a class other than one's own is difficult if not painful. Majority rule can trample on minorities and that is why the framers were both suspicious and supportive of the judicial system.
Republicans and republicans (small “r”) endorse the principles of democracy. The trouble, is, it seems, the principles are in dispute. We love the concept of democracy, we just can't seem to agree on who should be included. It took the United States 80 years and a civil war to work out the matter of slavery. Finding a difficult path toward social equity took another 100 years; and fifty years later we're still working on that. Clearly, but regrettably, we are not even close to being done. Messy stuff, this concept of democracy.
And, the United States was the global pioneer. Just two centuries ago, setting aside the global notion that a monarch was inevitable or a divine right was revolutionary. We're still experimenting with how to get it right. Maybe we should be patient with the social struggles of other geopolitical entities. We Americans haven't yet been able to separate the right to practice religion from the influence of religion on our system of governance. Should we be surprised when ISIL attempts to form a Caliphate? I don't think the Reverend Pat Robertson, J.D. (Yale '55) would have any major heartburn if Christian versions of Biblical law was to dominate democratic law. Where, now, are all the democrats (small “d”) that prevented Robertson from being nominated in 1988 by the Republican Party?
Turn-out in elections shouldn't be an issue. Proponents of democracy should expect 90-100% participation rates. All sides should promote a high turnout and change our way of doing elections and doing democracy to make 90-100 % participation in elections a way of … well, electing. This may also mean that we don't necessarily make being an elector easy but make meaningfully sure that being an elector is possible and that being an elector is an obligation and that being an elector is a dignity worthy of every adult.
Beyond just being an elector, we need to make every effort to assure that a very high percentage of electors are informed and not merely persuaded. That is asking a lot, but isn't it worth it?
When money in politics is merely used to persuade, rather than inform and educate, we will all lose every election. Nobody will be a winner.
October 24th, 2014
Liars Or Leaders
What are we electing?
Both sides accuse the other side of lying – and both are right. What a different world it would be if we could confidently assume that truth was respected – honestly. My brother Steve Lindgren did a brief stint as Senator in the Minnesota legislature. He memorably repeated a quote from a Republican colleague, Representative Mel Frederick from Owatonna, MN, “the first liar out of the chute usually wins.”
Leaders have vision, articulate their vision and then shut up and listen. The result is confidence in a following and a willingness to forge relations that make a difference. When others take responsibility and lead they are supported. Power is not a permanent objective. When power becomes the objective; Katie bar the door – anything goes. Truth is lost.
Political advertising is increasingly diabolical. It is tempting for more and more folks to follow the comedic but serious path of the late George Carlin and just refuse to vote. The cynic would say that when less than 50% will vote, what difference will it make if I do or don't vote?
We know, of course, that elections matter. What if Al Gore had won? What if Russ Feingold had won? What if George Romney had won? What if the sphincter mouth wins? Sphincter mouths, (AKA the perfectly functional distal orifice of the digestive tract – spoiled with a tongue) are increasing as a political species and are overwhelming our political systems.
We all have an obligation to talk about the quality of political advertising. Until enough of us get really sick from the hogwash, there will be no cure.
A new effort is underway that merits attention. Honest Ads is attempting to help the public learn what's really happening during state-wide and national political campaigns. They point out that lying is perfectly legal in political advertising; there is no consequence for a politician to lie such as there would be for a business owner to lie about the benefits of a product. When a candidate says, “I approve this message” it does not mean that the message is true. The Honest Ads organization suggests we all ask candidates who use this phrase, “I approve this message,” if they would also say; “I stand behind the truth of this message,” and let candidates know that “You want my vote? I want the truth.”
Fact checking is minimal. And unfortunately, it takes serious money to display facts that refute claims that are false. Exaggeration and omission are lies. Fragments of audio or clips of visual scenes are used with clever editing to make a message that is fundamentally fiction. Persuasion takes precedence over truth.
Advertising with modern media is basically NOT answerable. I believe it is time to seriously challenge whether political advertising is constitutional speech. Advertising does not promote discussion, dialogue or conversation that is civil, responsible and constructive.
My cynical side leaves me wondering if the notion of truth may be too elusive to be practical or to become practice. Yet, if nothing is done we face a future where we elect liars rather than leaders.
October 17th, 2014
Art of the Possible
The Getty Museum in Los Angeles is testimony to the commitment of its benefactor to provide a public place for the exhibition of an extensive collection of art and antiquities, but also a place designed for relaxation, reflection and research. After my one-day visit several years ago, I said that a week spent at “The Getty” would be a week well spent. It is a place of discovery like first hearing powerful poetic lyrics in a new song.
J. Paul Getty was a very rich man, frequently cited in the 1950s & 1960s as the richest man in America. I wonder if he thought his oil money should privilege the purchase of governments. Art in politics is the representation of the values inherent in change and may find its ultimate expression in the evolution of consciousness. The clash of cultures in 1968 certainly awakened our collective consciousness to embrace protest when the established civil governance is failing. Flower Children, SNCC, Woodstock, Black Panthers, My Lai and The Draft jarred our common consciousness. Political assassinations were riveting reminders of the fragility of life and the ephemeral qualities of personal success.
Presidential candidate in 1968, Senator and Vice President Hubert Humphrey was expansive and expressive as a politician; frequently reminding audiences that politics is the art of the possible. Linking up with Lyndon Johnson in the Senate and the White House was probably essential and inevitable but it also was tragic for Humphrey and for the United States. The pair brought the USA to the beginning of the endlessness of war and the national hubris that Barack Obama expressed a few days ago that it is the USA that the world turns to when a big problem needs a solution. The atrocious ISIL ravages in the middle east and the Ebola outbreak in Africa will come to our shores. That is already true in the case of Ebola and seems inevitable for the ISIL terrorists. Neither challenge has a perfect solution.
Artists are creative or copycats. The really good artists practice their craft so well that they are able to meet a challenge formulated in their mind to creatively render form to an idea. Form is not just structure on stretched canvas, silvered paper, cast brass or Carrara marble. The perfect form is an idealized form. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it is also an ideal or an idea of perfection.
Commercial artists render the idea of a committee. The structure of the committee reflects the demands of a business and the contemporary commercial artist emblazons on paper, film or cyberspace the vision and mission of the corporation in a way that advances an objective. Objectives satisfy a market and an investor. Political advertising takes its shape from the objectives of investors and political action committees. Political ideas are rendered with power through modern media to suggest perfection – or in the case of negative political advertising – imperfection.
The next four weeks will fill email boxes and flat screens with political messages crafted to persuade. The art form is patronized by contributions of those with money to influence the masses. The resemblance to any utopian democracy is very elusive.
Utopia is an idealized form or idea for society or a community – stretching the mind in the direction of perfection. Utopias can be created in the minds of a literary artist with pen on paper. The beginning was a 16th Century book, Utopia, by Sir Thomas More. Utopias have since been created across ecology, economics and education; with political, historical, religious over tones, and with scientific extensions into technology. Imagination is easier in fiction than in the real life of communities. Islands of perfection are ultimately dependent on their surroundings. Plato saw a Republic searching and finding the best ideas to satisfy human needs across all levels and dependent on the education of oligarchs – philosopher kings – to get it just right. The ideas in Athens were humble by comparison. America embraced the Athenian ideals but perfection versus possibility continue to challenge our real political progress.
Otto Von Bismarck said in 1867; “Politics is the art of the possible”, the attainable – the art of the next best. Over a century later Alexandra Stoddard wrote; “Politics is a path from perfectionism to balance and freedom.” There is no single “best answer” to the challenges and paradoxes that confront our contemporary situation. Poet and educator Maya Angelou said it so beautifully; A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.
October 10th, 2014
Lake Superior Binational Forum. I have recently resigned. As a member for over ten years, I recently completed 8 years serving as the United States Co-Chair.
This is a citizen stakeholder group that has been in existence since 1991. The Charter for LSBF calls for 24 members equally divided between the US and Canada. The membership is self-appointing and includes provision for broad representation of sectors important to the protection and restoration of the Lake Superior ecosystem. These sectors include: forestry, economic development, recreation, power generation, academics, conservation practice, faith-based organizations, First Nation and Native American governments, media and communication. The Forum is currently re-examining its practices, operations and franchise with the federal governments of Canada and the United States.
I am also involved with the following organizations:
Wisconsin Innovation Network, Lake Superior Chapter. WIN LS
Northwest Wisconsin Workforce Investment Board.
Wisconsin Rustic Roads Board
Bill Gates appeared as a speaker at TED in February. His Talk emphasized the urgency of getting to ZERO CO2 emissions. TED is a conference that invites participants to explore ideas about Technology, Entertainment and Design.
Climate Change skeptics are answered in this outstanding lecture by Naomi Oreskes. Dr. Oreskes is a professor of the history of science at the University of California - San Diego. The lecture is about 60 minutes. The development of evidence for global warming is outlined and the strategy for denial of global warming by industry is explained.