Agile Democracy

Globally, we’ve seen an increase in strongman leaders who take a more authoritarian approach to run their countries. They have the mandate from the people, normally accelerated by populist speeches and changes in society that are in danger of disrupting the status quo.

The promise of these strongmen is pretty standard across the board, ” I’m here to cut through the politics and drive the change no matter what it takes.”. As a result, we’ve seen leaders literally find any opportunity to sidestep institutions in their way. Boris Johnson, for example, illegally suspended parliament in order to prevent a no-Brexit vote or Donald Trump sidestepping Congress to build a wall on the Mexican border.

While their tactics are questionable, democratically- elected strong men tapped into something that’s been an issue with democracies but further exacerbated by the present realities of the world. We live in a world of instant. We get information instantly. We communicate instantly. We get packages within hours where it used to take weeks. It seems like everything in our world got faster but our democratic process. Democracy, as an institution, seems super slow in today’s world. As a result, citizens are frustrated and feel like democracy, as it is, is not working for them. They’ve elected leaders who championed alternative methods and came from outside politics to change the way things are done in their respective countries.

I don’t believe more authoritarian leaders are a sustainable solution. We have to look at how to revamp our institutions so that they are more responsive to people’s needs and realities. We need to reshape policies and procedures so they are more inclusive to populations that don’t feel like they’re heard in the current democratic process. We need a form of democracy that is agile at its core but driven by the same steadfast democratic values that have gotten us this far.

Normally, I’d go into a summary of potential solutions but this is a multi-layered problem that could require a whole book to explain. To be brief, people need more active ownership of the democratic process. Democracy needs to be more accessible to citizens. We also need some procedural and structural changes to decentralize power but also centralize power when the system calls for it. Democracy needs a reboot.

#MentalNote · music · Uncategorized

1:48 Part II

When I initially started writing my thoughts around the new Jay-Z album, I was pretty set on what I wanted to say. ” 4:44 is a set of journal entries of a man that’s done a lot, made a lot of mistakes, seen success, but ultimately wonders how his actions, experiences, and family will be remembered.” Seems logical and sound based on the lyrics and explanation of each song. But there’s so much more, especially when you put 4:44 in the context of when it was released and the Jay-z that released it. We can over analyze it till kingdom come but I’m just going to focus on two areas that hit me based on other things I saw/read last week. (This ended being way longer than I thought it was going to be so I split it into two parts… this is part 2 of 2)

Dave McClure and Jay-Z defining masculinity? 

Earlier this week, Dave McClure, Co-Founder of 500 Startups, stepped down as GP due to multiple claims of sexual harassment from women founders and associates. As a huge fan of 500 Startups, their mission and outcomes, I was truly saddened by these allegations but not surprised. As most people know who’ve engaged with the Silicon Valley ecosystem, there’s a bro-ish culture still entrenched in how people do business which creates a sometimes hostile environment for women and minorities. Don’t get it twisted though, its not just Silicon Valley. I’ve heard similar stories from women in other sectors; the higher you go, the more questionable and outright disrespectful behavior you encounter. Why is it that some people in power, who often happen to be men, feel they are beyond moral and ethical parameters in how they engage with others? One of the key explanations I’ve heard in the recent week or so around sexual harassment in the VC space is there’s a “machismo/masculinity” problem that needs to be addressed and I agree. As a society, we have an outdated perspective on what masculinity encapsulates. Most men (and women) still operate on masculinity 1.0. As a result, we have guys chasing outdated ideas of masculinity that disenfranchises women and other men.

Masculinity 1.0 is purely focused on the three p’s; protection, providing, and pro-creation. Any student of history and biology understands the rationale and advantage in  providing the the three p’s to your family and tribe.  Make as many kids as you can, protect your lineage and your group, and provide food and shelter for those you are responsible for. Masculinity 1.0 got us to where we are now; 7 billion + people, weapons of mass destruction, and economic system allows us to trade currency for food and shelter.

Fortunately/ unfortunately (depending at how you look at it), we live in a time where we’ve built institutions to manage the key areas that define masculinity. For most in the developed world, the state takes care of security, you can go to the store and buy food instead of hunting, you don’t have to build your house, and sometimes men aren’t even needed for procreation. (Yes smarty pants, money has become an intermediary but hold off on that thought for now.)  What does masculinity look like now that we have most of the basic external threats covered?

4:44 surprisingly encompasses this same question but from Jay-z’s perspective. He’s experienced most of his life through the masculinity 1.0 lens. From his experience hustling, building his business empire, promiscuity…etc, he’s done what he’s done to get to what we see today. Will that take him to the next level though?  Kill Jay-Z kind of gets at this struggle between who his was and who he has to be now that he has a family and is focused on building legacy. What does masculinity 2.0 look like from Jay-Z’s perspective?

  1. Legacy – its an important theme throughout 4:44. I think Jay looks at providing from a societal and generational perspective. It’s less about his kids and more about his children’s children and lifting up those around him. Many would argue this is a function of his socioeconomic realities. I’d disagree.  The “7th generation” principle taught by many Native American tribes say that in every decision, be it personal, governmental or corporate, we must consider how it will affect our descendants seven generations into the future. Legacy is something everyone can think about.
  2. Courage- I don’t know if Jay-Z could have made this album earlier in his career. Outside of my feelings about spilling your own tea, it takes a lot of courage to open up about your shortcomings. I guess Beyonce may have given him some. Courage in the face of adversity and tough times is essential to being a modern man.
  3. Self Improvement/Expertise – Jay-Z shows us in 4:44 why he’s one of the G.O.A.Ts of the music industry. 13 albums in, he’s still making quality music. He’s perfected his craft overtime and become one of the best at it. Mastery and self improvement is at the core of masculinity 2.0. What are you doing every day to improve yourself and build mastery?
  4. Morality/ Predictable framework for how you operate – Jay, for better or worse, lays out his sense of of morality and his perception on how he tries to live his life. Living by a code, set of rules, or framework helps de-risk relationships so people know you before they meet you. It also helps to navigate gray area situations.

Transitioning away from masculinity 1.0 to a more modern day appropriate definition of masculinity will provide a new set of traits, actions and characteristics for men to aspire to. I believe a transition will do its part to eradicate some of the toxic behavior and beliefs we see as common place.

Education · Politics · Random · Uncategorized

The Rise of Pseudo Intellectualism

What is pseudo intellectualism?

Pseudo Intellectualism, as defined by dictionary.com is:

  1. Exhibiting intellectual pretensions that have no basis in sound scholarship.
  2. Pretending an interest in intellectual matters for reasons of status.

There’s no other time in the history of the world we have a limitless amount of knowledge at our fingertips. Traditionally, we’ve depended on institution and life experience to dictate who had access to knowledge but as a result of technological advances, we’ve seen a rapid democratization of knowledge in a way which overloads how we identify who and what is intellectual.

Instead of leaning on academic credentials, intellectual pursuits, and/or age, we’ve become a society focused on stance and position. We focus on a person’s ability to create a stance and answer a question instead of the pursuit of the right question. Ultimately, the pursuit of questions or answers is what differentiates an intellectual from a pseudo intellectual. The answer can be 42 but what is the ultimate question?

What are some examples?

Example of pseudo intellectualism is all around us. My favorite example of pseudo intellectualism are some people that consider themselves “woke”. Woke, for those asking what that even means in this context, is the awareness of systems and messages that facilitate social injustice. Some people will recite to you all the reasons said systems exist and how they are impacted but then enforce the same systems on other people. This shows a puedo understanding of what the systems are and how they impact a group’s existence.

Another example is our election process in the US. You are well informed if you identify key platform positions for each candidate. We regurgitate positions, history, topics of contention, but rarely ask why. Why does this position exist? Why are they on this side of the issue? What are the long term implications of this person’s position? We are hand fed talking points by the news and use them in conversation. As a result, they eventually become a force framework for how we think about the election. It becomes this vs that. The forced dichotomy prevents us from asking bigger questions that challenge the election process.

Is it bad for society?

Yes and no. The traditional role of intellectuals was to move the “pursuit of knowledge” forward so others can partake in its fruits. We’ve gotten to a point where there’s so much information and knowledge openly available, we need people who will curate and provide us with a bite sized understanding with the hope an average of bite sized summaries and positions will get us closer to understanding topics of interest.

To counter, pseudo intellectualism lulls people into a surface understanding of life. We outsource intellectual processing to other parties so we just become consumers of knowledge without knowing what went into making it. What’s in that burger?

How can we do better?

There are three simple ways we can combat pseudo intellectualism.

  1. Call out people who exhibit pseudo intellectual habits.
  2. Always ask why
  3. Be wary of those who point to an absolute truth…. One of my favorite sayings, “Nothing is true, everything is permitted.” is from Assassin’s Creed. “To say ‘Nothing is True’, is to realise that the foundations of society are fragile, and that we must be the shepherds of our own civilisation. To say that ‘Everything is Permitted’, is to understand that we must live with the consequences of our actions whether good or bad.”
Politics · Uncategorized

The Western Fall

We analyzed the Arab Spring…Now let’s talk about the next revolution we all have courtside seats for…. The Western Fall.

Here in the US, we’ve had an unprecedented presidential primary season. We’ve had two anti- establishment candidates, one from each of the major political parties, rise to national acclaim. One of them is the presumptive republican nominee

Political pundits, historians, statisticians, failed in their predictions. Most are blaming miscalculations on changes in the media technology and how celebrities push forecasters further from accuracy.

They’ve brought out segments of the US population that feel disenfranchised, slighted, and that traditional political allegiances have not served their needs. Anti-establishment voter sentiment is not just exclusive to the United States.

Meet Norbert Hofer, former presidential candidate, of the far-right Freedom Party of Austria. The party wanted to provide more referendums, directly elect the federal president, significantly reduce the number of ministries, and devolve power to the federal states and local councils. While Hofer eventually ended up losing, he managed to get 49% of votes during the election.

The far left also has its share of rising political figures. In Greece, for example, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ left-wing Syriza party is leading an unlikely coalition government with the right-wing populist Independent Greek party.

Across the West, we see a rise in conversations around immigration, economic integration, austerity measures , size of government, and a move away from “centrist” candidates and platforms. Why now and most importantly, what are the implications of a more populist West? Are we in a new normal?

Why Now?

There are a couple of major trends play a key role in the Western Fall. I believe the social liberalization is a major driver.

The World Values Survey shows that Western societies have been getting gradually more liberal on many social issues, especially among the younger generation and well-educated middle class. That includes egalitarian attitudes toward sex roles, tolerance of fluid gender identities and LGBT rights, support for same-sex marriage, tolerance of diversity, and more secular values, as well as what political scientists call emancipative values, engagement in directly assertive forms of democratic participation, and cosmopolitan support for agencies of global governance.

This long-term generational shift threatens many traditionalists’ cultural values. Less educated and older citizens fear becoming marginalized and left behind within their own countries.

Another key driver is the rise in income inequality. Western countries, who were greatly impacted by the global financial crisis, have rebounded for the most part, but inequality between the wealthy and the poor has continued to increase. While income inequality has increased amongst populations, there is also a larger discrepancy between richer and poorer countries in the EU.

Globalization and the advent of technology replacing low wage jobs creates some context as well. From retail to finance to healthcare and education, the jobs available particularly for low-skilled workers, are diminishing. One study from the Oxford Martin School published in 2014, estimates the 49% of all jobs are in jeopardy of technological disruption over the next 20 years. Low wage workers are feeling the bern already and it’s translating to isolationist rhetoric.

What are the implications?

What we’ve already started to see is a large shift toward isolationism. #Brexit is a great example of what is to come. Citizens who feel immigration is the cause of their country’s woes will close their borders and make it more difficult for immigrants to visit and and gain residency. They’ll want to block themselves off from their neighbors and go it alone. This is especially worrisome for the European Union as we’ll start to see more right and left leaning parties bring similar referendums to the people.

I also believe we’ll see the demise of the two party System in the United States. At this time, the Democratic and GOP platforms are too centrist for the ultra conservatives and the left liberals. It may not happen this election cycle, but we’ll see a fragmentation of the major parties in the next 5 years.

* I’d be interested in hearing more implications in the comments section. I’m just going to wrap up because I have to start making dinner.

To conclude, I do believe we are in a new normal. We’ve seen this coming for a long time. On the US side, the Tea Party was the predecessor of what we see now. The big question is how political systems will operate as a result of the new norm. I have a feeling that the process will sort itself out but it will take some deliberate steering. We are in an era where we have to deal with global problems collectively. Isolationism will serve as a hinderance to major challenges like climate change, water and food shortages to come. I haven’t even asked what this means for China on the worlds stage. What about emerging countries? Is this a chance for others to step up where other countries will attempt to focus more on internal development?