Monthly Archives: February 2019

Goal Orientation and the emerging world

earth

I’d like to introduce you to a new way of thinking about the world we live in.

In everything humans do, either together or as individuals, there are a variety of motivations that underpin those activities.  The motivations themselves are highly determinant of the outcome, a concept that is obvious and entirely natural.

The same dynamic exists for higher organizations of human activity to be found in institutions such as the military, government, economy and enterprise.  Aided by ideology, and contained within politics, vast areas of operation and resources have come to bear upon our emerging world through the goals we hold as a society.

In this piece I wish to explore the economy through the lens of our collective motivations.

The emerging world has produced a system that we have so far yet to master, and we owe ourselves deep consideration of this situation.  We find ourselves struggling to deal with the concurrent issues of ecological crisis and socio-economic stagnation.

Indeed, human civilization may be on the precipice once again.

 

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We currently live in what I call a highly ‘Goal Oriented Economy’ (GOE):  in which the economic linkages between people and institutions have been deeply skewed towards one goal above all others.

That goal is the embodiment of capitalism, and the maximum return of profit to the capital owner in everything we do.  This is the world that has emerged over the past 30 years and is the hallmark of post-modernism and the neo-liberal capitalist world order.

It’s not that other goals don’t co-exist with our primary drive in today’s world.  But the reality is that from the very top down, we have a deep organization of our activities to propel the accumulation of wealth through capital returns.

By understanding that this goal orientation has taken place, we can better understand our place in that system, and what to do next.

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It may seem self-determinant that we have chosen to focus so intensely on the accumulation of wealth as a society.  But the reality is that over history we have many examples of societies adopting other goals as the basis of their endeavor.

Consider the ancient Egyptians, and their societal drive to create monumental architecture such as the Pyramids.  Or in medieval Europe when vast resources were spent building cathedrals or fighting the crusades.  These are examples in which the ethos of the time created GOEs that had little to do with wealth creation as we know it today.

Most recently, and perhaps most worthy of our attention, we retooled our entire modern economy towards the fighting of World War 2 in a time span of less than 2 years.

It’s amazing to think of what was accomplished as a society to fight WW2.  We suspended all other goals and achieved a highly skewed GOE almost overnight that is unrivaled in its scope of operation, and its marshaling of resources.

The entire sphere of economy and society was mustered.  Individuals happily submitted to deep rationing of critical resources, and literally paid with their lives to achieve the societal aim of the day.

Additionally, in order to achieve our goal, we created institutions and technology that continue to impact our world.  To name a few: atomic energy, rocketry, aviation, modern warfare, modern medicine, computation, telecommunication.

It’s not a stretch to say that the world we live in today was created by the utterly intense crucible that was WW2, and the Cold War that followed.

 

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Fast forward to the present, and our society that has been so utterly skewed towards capital accumulation, and understand that things can be different.

It’s our goals and ideology that have created this, and those goals remain as malleable as they ever have been.

If we seek to pivot to meet our destiny as a civilization, we can do that so long as we choose it.

By understanding the mechanics by which vast resources come to bear in the creation of Goal Oriented Economies, we will better know our ability to respond to our collective situation.

In the face of the emerging existential ecological crisis we will need to shift our aims to meet the solutions that we know exist.

I believe we can do it.  After all, we’ve done it before.

-Noel Muller

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Why Gerald Butts resignation has nothing to do with SNC-Lavalin.

Butts

“I also need to say this (and I know it’s a non sequitur). Our kids and grandkids will judge us on one issue above all others. That issue is climate change. I hope the response to it becomes the collective, non-partisan, urgent effort that science clearly says is required. I hope that happens soon.” – Gerald Butts, February 2018

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Well, the news is out: the top public servant in Canada has resigned. The man that spear-headed the Trudeau majority government, and furthermore, a lifetime friend to the PM, has simply walked out on the job. In an election year I might add. What the hell is going on here?

The political pundits have been quick to assign this to the ongoing spat over SNC-Lavalin, MP Wilson-Raybold and ethical issues within the PM’s office.

In my mind that’s lazy journalism, and a conclusion that we ought to reject outright.

Why would the top political adviser in the land leave over simple, anonymous allegations? These are allegations that he categorically denies as having no basis in fact. Is it too much of a distraction from the work of his office? Or is it perhaps that the SNC-Lavalin affair is itself a distraction from a much larger issue threatening to rot out the core of the Liberal leadership in the upcoming election year.

Distractions, allegations and misinformation can easily be ironed out by the enormous public relations and legal powerhouse that is the PM’s Office. There’s so much more to this rift than the SNC-Lavalin affair alone could justify.

It’s going to take some time for the full truth to come out, but we have a very tasty clue in the quote at the top of the page.

The quote above by Butts has an uncomfortable place in a letter that has almost nothing of substance in it. A few cordial thanks, a few denials, and nothing much else. That’s why it’s so telling, and it ought to be the focus of our understanding. It’s what he wants us to know about why he’s leaving, despite the candid admission that it doesn’t fit with the overall picture.

This has nothing to do with SNC-Lavalin. This has everything to do with the next election, and a deep split over how it ought to be handled. Furthermore, how the nation will be governed in the aftermath, and how it has been handled so far by this government.

Trudeau has laid his plans clear in the years he has held office. He wants to walk the safe middle road between the NDP and Conservatives and walk easily into a second term. He is prepared to buy pipelines, pander to oil industry, and progressive conservatives, and reject the pressing need of a real climate solution for the globe. It’s easy to do, it doesn’t require real leadership. These are the hallmarks of the Trudeau government now, and will ultimately be his longest legacy.

What started as a very promising progressive new government at the COP21, has evolved into a queasy balance between the old and the new that has never quite fit. Climate change is the issue that this government has failed to juggle in any palatable way, to ANY side of the political spectrum. Perhaps this is the issue that could split the Liberal caucus, and cleft a brilliant long-time adviser and friend from the PM’s side.

From the quote above I get the feeling that Butts just isn’t on board with this.

And you know what, I agree with him….

Noel Muller