Friday, October 8, 2010

A million miles a minute

Ever feel like you've got too much going on in your head? Last night I watched the Giants and Tiny Tim Lincecum throw darting fastballs and wicked and nasty sliders to the Braves hitters sending them flailing into the ground. Lincecum looks like a cartoon character out there with his long hair and wild moves on the mound. With the orange towels waving in the stands and the ineptitude of the Atlanta hitters, looking more like Wiley Coyotes trying to catch the Roadrunner than Braves trying to hit a pitch, I wasn't sure if I was watching the Cartoon Network or TBS. I was half waiting for Lincecum to pull a Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible and just peel off his disguise revealing a animated version of himself in the 9th inning. I get it. I thought I heard he was dating Jessica Rabbit.

Hypocrisy annoys me. Hence all politicians and politics in general. I grew up a staunch conservative and even listened to my Dad's daily dosage of Rush Limbaugh growing up. I grew up in a middle class household and while my parent's were never the bold in your face type of Republicans we definitely held firm in our beliefs and some of them are still etched inside of me to this day. My frustrations with public services being at an all-time high now I can't imagine the train wreck we are about to encounter with this nation wide health care plan. Long story short though, eight years of life in Seattle as a social outcast for my belief system and I have found more middle ground. I see both sides of issues. I am neither right nor left. I would never define myself to a party so blindly and sitting in the middle now allows me to see how absolutely ridiculous both parties and the entire process is. It is agonizing to listen to each side pick apart the other without discussions on issues. The two party system is a joke. We used to have real choices early in our democracy and somehow we are now stuck with two. The problem is if a third party candidate actually stuns the country and wins they will get nothing done in a Congress and Senate full of the other two. It would just be an antagonizing stale mate until one of the two parties regroups and "redefines" their message and we vote one of them in again.

I am annoyed at how blindly some follow their ideologies. As if they have been brainwashed into believing that Republicans are bad and Democrats are good or vice versa. It's really juvenile. Did we grow up or are we still living in a playground in 3rd grade? Yes there are bad apples in both parties and bad policies but both parties are so alike I don't even understand where all the vitriol comes from. It seems to come from special interest groups that fan the flames with advertisements or stories that support their beliefs and distort the beliefs of their opponent. This has been going on since our political system began but we just see it more with the Internet and 1000 channels of television. In the old days there would just be newspapers spreading their propaganda in support of their candidates. Now if I search for a story online I get sent a thousand links to different pages of propaganda. What is real and what isn't is really irrelevant, it's online. Journalistic integrity and libel aren't even really factors online because they aren't held to those standards. So who know what is real, imagined, or just someone's personal views anymore. When the newspaper became something we burned in our fireplaces instead of what we waited for each morning with our cup of coffee then we lost credibility. Now anyone can, and does, create their own news. As isolated as we are now with online, we've become even more isolated because we can just surf our own beliefs 24 hours a day, never seeing the other side, never deepening our argument. We just rehash the same tired propaganda and talking points.

The art of character assassination should be a class taught in college. It seems that is the number one way to win an argument now. Don't like their policy, dig up dirt and destroy them. Show the world that their word mean nothing because of their alleged actions. Both parties are 100% culpable. We can say who started it and who does it more, that's all irrelevant too. It's simply trying to frame the argument to justify their actions. It's not debating anything of value by saying one guy did it first. No one wins when we do this.

Relationships now are becoming about spin control. With Facebook we are so interconnected between each other's friends that break ups are right out in the open. Essentially Facebook has created a new cycle of break up grief: 1) Frustrated posts of problems...2) Changing of relationship status...3) Deleting couple pics from photos...4) Posting of sadness or happiness (depends on the breaker upper and the dumped party...5) Condolences from friends...6) Positive quote postings..and finally 7) Starting your own blog!

Sports, politics, relationships, no religion today. I guess that is unless you count Facebook as a religion, so then I've covered all the bases. Thanks for playing.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What rules?

Can we separate our business dealings from our personal morals? Are business ethics merely an inconvenience? Are they generational? Do the ethics of our parent's generation, or my generation, even matter to the next one? Or are we all just re-writing the rules as we go along? What's acceptable? What line can be blurred and what line was boldly crossed without even an ounce of regret?

Ethics (also known as moral philosophy) is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality — that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice, etc.

Business ethics (also known as Corporate ethics) is a form of applied ethics or professional ethics that examines ethical principles and moral or ethical problems that arise in a business environment. It applies to all aspects of business conduct and is relevant to the conduct of individuals and business organizations as a whole. Applied ethics is a field of ethics that deals with ethical questions in many fields such as medical, technical, legal and business ethics.

Do these concepts merge? Do we have a responsibility to deal ethically in our business dealings as we do in our personal lives? If we know something is not truthful but our employer encourages us to press onward do we not share the blame if we are willing or unwilling accomplices? We still complied and lied. It doesn't matter who enforced it. To say that this is just the way the world works seems like a cop out. Have we accepted that this is the only way?

Today I sat in a classroom of business students and was stunned by a general disregard for ethics. The prevailing wisdom of the group was that if a consumer didn't complain or bring up the issue directly then there was no moral responsibility to disclose anything. Even if that anything could be cancerous and cause death. It was as if I sat in the room with future tobacco executives, circa 1950. And yet there is a serious detachment from morals and business that I believe my generation and the one behind me is sorely missing. The Internet has taken our souls. The television has given us the impression that it is ok to lie, cheat, and steal your way to the top as long as it is covert and you are smiling while doing it. Isn't this the premise of the show Survivor and Big Brother? Form alliances, and con your way to the top? It is also the premise to many other shows. The most conniving and convincing wins. It's good television, and what's good for tv must be good for the real world. This is our new business model.

I can't comment much about the new movie The Social Network because I haven't yet seen it, but from reviews it sounds like the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerburg, took someone else's idea and muscled out a co-founder, fellow friend and financier in the process. Yet to many in today's generation that is merely good business. It made him billions right? There is no moral dilemma here when it involves making money, but to what end?

I think the issue for a lot of younger people hearing about morals and ethics is that they believe someone is preaching to them about religion. We live in a day and age where we can research anything we want to ourselves. We don't need someone pushing their ideals upon us. Who are they anyways? The role model becomes the one who is successful not the one who is condemning the one who is successful. They are just envious. They didn't have the drive themselves. In order to be successful we have to bend the rules a little, or a lot, and who's rules were they anyways? They were written ten years ago. We live in a different age and the Internet has changed everything. There are new rules. Oh wait, there aren't. They are the same rules, just shorter attention spans, and less desire to follow them.

I'm guilty of it. I blurred the line in my job before. I tight roped the line of ethical and unethical. I turned the black and white a beautiful shade of gray. There were days when I did things I wasn't proud of. I justified my decisions for doing so by the fact that everyone was doing it and more blatantly. I was "more" ethical and  still completely unethical. Yet in my mind I wasn't doing anything wrong. I justified it by comparing myself to someone that was far worse off. I can't be that bad...I didn't shoot anyone. We can push that boundary further and further out. If we know it's wrong, it's wrong. It doesn't matter how we spin it. But in life we have to do this sometimes right?

If anything this re-shifting of our economy should wake us up to the decisions that led to it. I worked in some industries that are responsible and saw this thing coming like a freight train in 2005. It was inevitable, but I needed a paycheck. I wasn't the culpable party because I was just an order taker. I didn't directly sell to anyone, but I knew it was dirty. It was like driving the car for a drug dealer. You know he's dealing, just because you aren't doesn't mean you aren't guilty too. A lot of smarter men then me should carry more of the guilt but they cashed out already. Maybe they wrote the new rules.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

She stood next to the freeway

The wind blew against my sun soaked face as I absorbed it and the scenery around me driving in a convertible on the south side of the island of Maui. I'm not sure what heaven is, but this was as close to it as I could get. On my left was the Pacific Ocean crashing against the white sand beaches in a rhythmic pattern set almost to the music from my stereo and on my right the lush green mountains and sugar cane fields. All that was missing to this epic ride along the coast was that dream girl sitting next to me. As I pulled from one tiny beach city into the next there she stood. This gorgeous light brunette vision hitch hiking, waiting to hop into my passenger seat, to take this incredible Hawaii vacation to another level, and I drove right by. I didn't stop and it took about five minutes of intense dialogue with myself before I turned the car back around to go get her, but when I pulled back by she was gone.

In life we get many chances, some of them we take, and some we drive right by. Who knows what would have happened if I had stopped and picked her up. Perhaps she would have just told me to drop her off in the next city. Maybe she would have chopped me up like The Hitcher. Or she could have said, keep driving, and we'll just see where the road takes us. That was what I contemplated the rest of that drive. One more opportunity lost. Natural instinct told me not to pull over for hitch hikers, and yet that natural instinct never included beautiful goddess-like women waiting for a ride. No idea why I didn't stop immediately. Fear maybe. Fear of the unknown and fear of rejection. Maybe she would have looked at me and laughed and said "yeah right buddy, have a nice drive I'll wait for the next car." The truth is she would have probably gotten in the car and I would have had an even better memory than driving past her.

How often in life do we make like that drive in Maui? Do we drive past something and look back in regret and pull around only to find it is too late? Maybe we try to replicate something we lost only to find it is nowhere near what we were missing in the first place? There are many things we hold onto for nostalgia. Maybe it is an old love letter, pictures of an ex-flame, or old baseball cards from our youth. Something we hide or hold dear but if replicated actually diminish the value of our memories. It's never the same when we reconnect with an ex-flame. Life changes us and also changes them. Our perceptions are altered and maybe we held them to higher acclaim in our memories than they could even possibly live up to. We link them to a time in our life that is long gone and can never be reclaimed. This person won't give us time back. They will only reflect ourselves in how much time has passed.

This works in sports too. I know that my favorite baseball team the S.F. Giants just won the National League West and are in the playoffs. I was ecstatic that they won, but not as much as when I was younger. I remember that in 1989 when the Giants made it all the way to the World Series I was enamored with them. I would listen to every ball game that season on the radio. Hank Greenburg was the announcer and I would listen to the games sitting in my bedroom with all my baseball cards laying on the floor. Each Giants batter that would come to the plate and I'd hold their baseball card as if they were playing on the field in front of me. I would live and die with each game. When Will Clark or Kevin Mitchell came to the plate it would take the Jaws of Life to pry me away from the radio. In fact I can still see Clark's majestic swing in the NLCS series against the Chicago Cubs smashing a grand slam over Wrigley Field. He was electric that series, and yet I know my youth played a huge role in how I remember things. When the games ended on KNBR 680 I would listen to Ralph Barbieri's show afterwards and his final words after each broadcast: "Remember Angels fly because they take themselves lightly." To me at 12 it was the coolest sign off ever, yet in hindsight it wasn't that cool at all. In fact it was taken from someone else and why is he talking about the Angels?

Will "the Thrill" Clark
 I would remember how great a player was in my mind and yet looking back at their actual stats for those same years would see that they were merely mediocre players at best. They weren't dominant. They were good. As a child we believe our favorite athletes can do no wrong, but as adults we are seasoned enough to know they are merely human and full of flaws themselves, including terrible performances. Before the awfulness of Barry Zito the Giants had another awful left handed pitcher in Atlee Hammacker. Sports still bring out our childish whims though. While the Giants struggled to finally win their division I resorted to that 12 year old boy pouting and ready to rip up all my baseball cards. I texted my good friend and fellow Giants fan and moaned how I didn't care about the Giants anyways. I said that they never put food on my table. They are just over priced athletes who don't care about us, but of course I jumped right back on the wagon once they finally won.

It makes me wonder how many of us are aspiring to unrealistic goals. Perhaps it is a goal we set as a child that in hindsight has no way of being accomplished or appreciated by our adult selves. Perhaps it is a life we are now living that we thought would bring us fulfillment but is not. We do most of our dreaming in our childhoods. Most of our goals and dreams are formed long before we go through a school system and maturity process which seems to diminish what we once longed for. I guess we all can't be astronauts or movie stars. We are not all going to be the next Hemingway or Mozart. There can only be one Bruce Lee right? I know that my goal was never to be a banker or to sell products and services that I didn't make or create myself. I guess I don't have to worry about that one anymore, their goal now seems to not have me doing that! But, even in school a business degree feels to me that I am doing this for back up purposes. I am not an accountant nor the next corporate raider that is going to make a killing on Wall Street. I don't have Mark Zuckerburg's brain and will not revolutionize the Internet. I would love to have the talent of Charlie Kaufman or the talent and drive of Stephen King. I'm always amazed at how many novels these writers can churn out and what it even takes to write one. Yet here these guys get a new one to print every two years if not sooner.

Life is the road we travel. It can be on a highway along the coast in Maui or some dirt road in the middle of Modesto. It doesn't matter where it is as long as we know where it is going. Are our dreams realistic or not? Do we have the capability to accomplish them or are we just holding on to a far ago memory? Do we even want it anymore? What kind of life are you living and what can you do to improve it or maintain it? I can't go back and pick up that woman who was hitch hiking on that amazing day 6 years ago. That moment is long gone, but I don't have to drive through life blindly anymore. I can stop and start over. I can change directions and appreciate the scenery while doing so. I just need to get my head out of the clouds, out of yesterday, and into October 2010 and beyond. It's good to hold the past to remind us but we need the present and the future to drive us. Where is it taking you?