Behind the Headlines

The mariner is working hard to avoid the mindless traps of television pundits, mindless presidential candidates, old-fashioned attitudes about major professions and institutions (old-fashioned meaning since 2005), and mindless bickering about cultural icons. One almost must turn off communication with the commercial information world and search the back roads to find reasoned evaluations of the real world today. What follows are a few counterpoints to the common press insights that most of us live by. Certainly, we must always remember that thoughtfulness is washed away by the race to have the most viewers, the most readers, and the most acceptable opinions.

Economy

The mariner has reviewed several respected economic journals and even a few foreign reports to determine how the US is faring economically on the world stage. It turns out the US is not doing too bad. In fact, compared to the Euro zone, the BRIC nations, and the Middle East, even Mexico, Japan, India and other trading allies, the US has grown in economic power around the world. The US has come out of the recession faster and with more growth than any other nation on the planet. This opinion does not dismiss the disparities of oligarchy, wage suppression and blatant pressure to diminish citizen rights nor does it take into account the environmental cost that grows by the year. Still, Donald is wrong. America is already great and beating other countries in the game of economics.

Middle East

All the Middle East nations comprise very much a hodgepodge of foreign policy issues. The Iran nonnuclear agreement appears to be accepted by citizen majorities in both the US and Iran. Those objecting to the deal are the US hawk conservatives and the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran. Reports indicate that the agreement will survive resistance.

The Syria/Kurd/Turkey/Iran/Iraq/Isis/US/Russia/Shiite/Sunni/mass emigration conflict is in free fall, obviously. Russia has come into Syria to support Bashar al_Assad, which suggests Assad is weakening. Russia’s presence puts a new spin on speculation about escalation of war. The mariner suspects that Russia does not want escalation but somehow must sustain influence with Syria and indirectly, demonstrate that Russia can’t be forgotten as an influence in the region. Again, the Obama administration remains publicly silent but US intelligence is active.

The emigration into Europe is an issue all its own, acknowledging that the migrants are fleeing the aforementioned war zone. The United Nations count is 4.1 million refugees. Germany may benefit more because it took a large number that will offset aging population in Germany. Other European countries also have aging populations and aging economies. Perhaps this is the reason Europe is more willing than not to receive large numbers of Syrian immigrants. Perhaps, as well, the US should bump its number significantly since the United States also has an aging population. It should be noted that the US is the largest contributor of funds to the migrant crisis.

Proper Leadership is Lacking in US Culture

The mariner was checking out the book The Silo Effect, The Peril of Expertise and the Promise of Breaking Down Barriers by Jillian Tett (Simon and Shuster). Today on Global Public Square, Fareed Zakaria featured the same Book and Chris Hayes, MSNBC anchor, reviewed the same on his website. Great minds. . . .

The mariner is intrigued because so much of the text reflects his own career experience as a consultant who, by the nature of his assignments, was constantly battling highly territorial departments that did not want to change or share their information. Tett calls these vertical departments ‘silos.’ Tett’s point is that specialization – both of organizations and personal ambition – prevents innovation, creativity, and intelligent interpretation of reality. Historically, these open-minded attributes are the edge that made the United States a premier nation among nations. (Reference mariner’s posts about the demise of liberal arts education.)

Tett cites a number of institutions that deliberately reorganized to improve corporate functionality, customer service, innovation, and efficiency. Tett is a PhD anthropologist; her explanations tend toward behavioral modification rather than the management modification prominent in Deming, Drucker, and others popular in the 60’s and 70’s. An example at the Cleveland Clinic is not only to reorganize medical departments but also to renovate the building so that meeting spaces, casual spaces, and medical processes draw mixed teams and managers into an open space concept. Tett uses SONY as an example of death by specialization; the company was tightly organized and highly specialized at the worker level. SONY lost its top-of-the-heap position selling SONY Walkman music devices – failing to read new market pressures. In the meantime, Steve Jobs stepped in with the IPod. SONY hasn’t been at the top since.

Politics, Religion and Economics

Thinking about Jillian Tett’s book and its emphasis on creative problem solving, and the desire to integrate values to better predict future reality, turns the mariner’s mind to the battles of church and state, conservative right versus progressive left, oligarchy versus democracy, etc. All these issues and many more are bound by their belief systems. One cannot share absolute principles – only defend them. One cannot merge polarized attitudes – only seek to destroy opposites. Today, suffering our dysfunctional governments, our religious institutions that long ago forgot Christian principles, and our descent into greed, we are at a huge intersection in the nation’s history. An open question: How can we introduce innovation into an age of specialization?

Ancient Mariner

Leave a Reply