Satyagraha versus Duragraha

This year’s Symposium on Values, Spirit and Business has the theme “How to Grow Your Business by Integrating the Gandhian Philosophy of Satyagraha”.  The Wikipedia has this to say on Satyagraha—and that “passive resistance” is not descriptive of its tenets—:

Gandhi contrasted satyagraha (holding on to truth) with “duragraha” (holding on by force), as in protest meant more to harass than enlighten opponents. He wrote: “There must be no impatience, no barbarity, no insolence, no undue pressure. If we want to cultivate a true spirit of democracy, we cannot afford to be intolerant. Intolerance betrays want of faith in one’s cause.”

Pratfalls to writing authentically

I go back and forth with my mom—a library media teacher—about information literacy: for me, the future of communications is not about authority, but authenticity. Below is a list of self-deceptions writers put into their writing from Writing to Be Read by Ken Macrorie (also author of Telling Writing) :

No writer knows how often he deceives himself and his reader until he becomes a professional and listens to the complaints of editors and readers. Then he often sees that he has unconsciously

  1. not written what really motivated him to put pen to paper, or
  2. not spoken truly when he thought he was being faithful to the world he experienced, or
  3. told only a small part of the truth, or
  4. forgotten to tell the reader the facts that make convincing what he insists the reader must be overwhelmed by, or
  5. grandly asks questions that everyone knows the answer to, or
  6. apologized for not being an expert on what he writes pages and pages about, or
  7. uses awkward and phony language that does not belong to him, or
  8. used six words where his reader needed only two.

The best writers commit these sins. You cannot rid your writing of them, but you can learn the identifying marks of the snakes and where they are likely to slither into your paragraphs.

Harnessing inequality

The following quote from Here Comes Everybody is interesting in that it exposes dewy-eyed optimism surrounding equal participation (rather than equal access or equal ability) as untenable:

…imbalance drives large social systems rather than damaging them. Fewer that two percent of Wikipedia users ever contribute, yet that is enough to create profound value for millions of users. And among those contributors,  no effort is made to even out their contributions. The spontaneous division of effort driving Wikipedia wouldn’t be possible if there were concern for reducing inequality. On the contrary, most large social experiments are engines for harnessing inequality rather than limiting it. Though the word “ecosystem” is overused as a way to make simple situations seem more complex, it is merited here, because large social systems cannot be understood as a simple aggregation of the behavior of some nonexistent “average” user.

This follows discussion of power-law distributions (in contrast to bell-curves) and the 80-20 rule.

3 Fortunes

Three fortunes I received following pho:

  1. _Encourage me, and I will not forget you.


  1. Commitment is the hinge upon which the door to success hangs.

  2. Everything serves to further.

Cold-Start car advice

A quote from a Slashdot story on a new fast charge/discharge lithium battery:

…in any high current circuit, the power wasted in the circuit as heat can be very high. It’s current squared times resistance. With batteries that have a high internal resistance, that power heats the battery and is also power that’s wasted. With a high current delivery capability, these would have very low internal resistance and under heavy loads, the batteries would run cooler and would be able to deliver more power to the actual load instead of throwing it away as heat.

Just to illustrate battery self heating - if you ever get stranded in extreme cold because your battery doesn’t have the power available to turn the engine over, just turn on the headlights for a while. It’s a medium load but will heat the battery from the inside due to internal resistance and make the battery better able to start the car. This really works.

My dad also has a story of a his school teacher in Alaska keeping a Coleman stove underneath their Volkswagen Bug and rushing out to tend to it between periods

Cell phones and "personal" computing

One morning a month or so ago, I was listening to a really interesting story on how the US and Japanese vise and view cellphones and the internet. The emphasis in the following transcript is mine:

MARK PHILLIPS: This brings up one of the biggest differences between U.S. and Japanese cell phone culture. While most Americans use computers to develop an intimacy with the Internet, the Japanese access the Internet primarily through the cell phone. U.C. Irvine’s Mizuko Ito:

PROFESSOR MIZUKO ITO: Broadband Internet came in relatively late compared to, say, the U.S., and the mobile Internet came in relatively quickly. You saw in the late ’90s that people were really starting to orient towards the mobile phone as their primary portal to the Internet, and this bias still persists today.

MARK PHILLIPS: Many Japanese actually say they prefer the cell phone keypad over the computer keyboard because they can type faster on it. And perhaps, most importantly, they don’t have to share their phones with anyone else. That’s why the pager fad exploded in the ’90s, because it was so personal. DeNA’s Satoshi Tanaka.


SATOSHI TANAKA VIA INTERPRETER: With computers, although there may be one per household, it’s unlikely that it would be your own. With cell phones, on the other hand, it would belong to you exclusively. Thus, you have the freedom to access anything, whenever you want.

MARK PHILLIPS: This has produced two different trajectories for cell phone evolution. In the U.S. we’ve been upgrading our cell phones with the hope of recreating the Internet experience we’ve had for years on the computer. In Japan, since the cell phone has traditionally been the gateway to the Internet, the evolution has instead been in the incremental improvement of the cell phone network and hardware.

This last part is really interesting because I experienced some of the value of personal computing when I volunteered at Boston Tech Day and volunteered for technical support on some middle and high schooler’s laptops. As part of the school program, some had individually received Eee netbooks. The relationship these teens had to these machines that were theirs was quite different from the teens that brought in a family computer to be fixed. Those with their own netbook showed a lot more responsibility for their computer and seemed to be more active and able in their literacy of its operations.

Quotes on Thought and Process

For hundreds of years we have believed that if something is logical in hindsight then logic should have been enough to get the idea in the first place.  This is complete and total rubbish in a patterning system.  Most of our thinking and education is based on this absurdly false belief.

Edward de Bono, in the forward of A Smile in the Mind

Man is not a rational animal; he is a rationalizing animal.

Robert Heinlein, Assignment in Eternity

At heart, the problem isn’t in your actions, it’s in your thinking. So long as you focus only on what you do differently… you will fail to break new ground.

Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss what Matters Most

Double Loop Learning

While reading a snarky review on Amazon of Difficult Conversations, I was pointed to “Action Science a la Argyris”.  Googling around I came upon this:

[Chris] Argyris (1976) proposes double loop learning theory which pertains to learning to change underlying values and assumptions. The focus of the theory is on solving problems that are complex and ill-structured and which change as problem-solving advances.

Which is pretty interesting since that sounds a lot like the type of Capacity Building issues I deal with on a day to day basis. It goes on:

Double loop theory is based upon a “theory of action” perspective outlined by Argyris & Schon (1974). This perspective examines reality from the point of view of human beings as actors. Changes in values, behavior, leadership, and helping others, are all part of, and informed by, the actors’ theory of action. An important aspect of the theory is the distinction between an individual’s espoused theory and their “theory-in-use” (what they actually do); bringing these two into congruence is a primary concern of double loop learning. Typically, interaction with others is necessary to identify the conflict.

There are four basic steps in the action theory learning process: (1) discovery of espoused and theory-in-use, (2) invention of new meanings, (3) production of new actions, and (4) generalization of results. Double loop learning involves applying each of these steps to itself. In double loop learning, assumptions underlying current views are questioned and hypotheses about behavior tested publically. The end result of double loop learning should be increased effectiveness in decision-making and better acceptance of failures and mistakes.

This is actually pretty clear, and considering this was proposed in the mid-70s, I can say with certainty that this type of process is pretty well-established in current management literature—which is maybe why it seems clear to me.  Of course, that quote above doesn’t really talk much about why it’s called Double Loop, so I looked that up and found in a very interesting article:

When the error detected and corrected permits the organization to carry on its present policies or achieve its presents objectives, then that error-and-correction process is single-loop learning. Single-loop learning is like a thermostat that learns when it is too hot or too cold and turns the heat on or off. The thermostat can perform this task because it can receive information (the temperature of the room) and take corrective action. Double-loop learning occurs when error is detected and corrected in ways that involve the modification of an organization’s underlying norms, policies and objectives.

With this illuminating graphic:

Double Loop

This is very applicable to a lot of the work I do with Capacity Building because it demonstrates a very clear difference between what I would call Technical Assistance (Single-Loop) and true Capacity Building (Double-Loop).  Sometimes all you need is Technical Assistance (like a snazzy new CMS), but often times once you have it, you realize that it’s not being used because your governing culture and values don’t align with the needs of the project (no one in your organization cares about non-targeted external communications); so you have a larger problem.

Excerpt: Sectors of the US Right---Active in the Year 2001

With the political talk about Rush Limbaugh being in charge of the Republican party I—serendipously while cleaning out my office—came across a list of definitions for the US Right from Defending Democracry: An activist resource kit. In reading over the list, the question for me that comes to mind is: if that’s the Right, what is the Left?

There is much overlap and sectors are not mutually exclusive. Populist, apocalyptic, and conspiracist styles can be found in several sectors. Methodologies range from cautious moderation, to activism, to insurgency, to violence. Forms of oppression—racism, sexism, homophobia, antisemitism—vary in each sector.


Secular Right

Corporate Internationalists—Nations should control the flow of people across borders, but not the flow of goods, capital, and profit. Sometimes called the “Rockefeller Republicans.” Globalists.

Business Nationalists—Multinational corporations erode national sovereignty; nations should enforce borders for people, but also for goods, capital, and profit through trade restrictions. Enlists grassroots allies among Regressive Populists. Anti-Globalists.

Economic Libertarians—The state disrupts the perfect harmony of the free market system. Modern democracy is essentially congruent with capitalism.

National Security Militarists—Support U.S. military supremacy and unilateral use of force to protect U.S. national security interests around the world. A major component of Cold War anticommunism.

Neoconservatives-–The egalitarian social liberation movements of the 1960s and 1970s undermined the national consensus. Intellectual oligarchies and political institutions preserve democracy from mob rule.

Christian Right

Christian Nationalists—Biblically-defined immorality and sin breed chaos and anarchy. America’s greatness as Godʼs chosen land has been undermined by liberal  secular humanists, feminists, and homosexuals. Purists want litmus tests for issues of abortion, tolerance of gays and lesbians, and prayer in school. Includes some non-Christian cultural conservatives. Overlaps somewhat with Christian theocracy.


Christian Theocrats—Christian men are ordained by God to run society. Eurocentric version of Christianity based on early Calvinism. Intrinsically Christian ethnocentric, treating non-Christians as second-class citizens. Implicitly antisemitic. Includes soft dominionists and hardline Reconstructionists.


Paleoconservatives—Ultraconservatives and reactionaries. Natural financial oligarchies preserve the republic against democratic mob rule. Usually nativist (White Racial Nationalist), sometimes antisemitic or Christian nationalist. Elitist emphasis is similar to the intellectual conservative revolutionary wing of the European New Right. Often libertarian.

Regressive Popular Patriots—Secret elites control the government and banks. The government plans repression to enforce elite rule or global collectivism. The patriot and armed militia movements are one response from this sector. Americanist. Often supports Business Nationalism due to its isolationist emphasis. Anti-Globalists, yet support noninterventionist national security militarism. Repressive towards scape-goated targets below them on socio-economic ladder.

White Nationalists—Alien cultures make democracy impossible. Cultural Supremacists argue different races can adopt the dominant (White) culture; Biological Racists argue the immutable integrity of culture, race, and nation. Segregationists want distinct enclaves, Separatists want distinct nations. Americanist. Tribalist emphasis is similar to the race-is-nation wing of the European New Right.

Far Right or Ultra Right—Militant forms of insurgent or revolutionary right ideology. Separatist or genocidalist ethnocentric nationalism. Reject pluralist democracy for an organic oligarchy that unites the idealized homogeneic nation. Conspiracist views of power that are overwhelmingly antisemitic. Home to overt fascists, neo-nazis, Christian Identity, Church of the Creator.

There was also in the book an interesting graphic explaining the “Producerist Narrative used in Repressive Right Wing Populism” from Right Wing Populism in American: Too Close for Comfort.  I think it’s an interesting use of design to explain a dynamic narrative (click the image to view a larger version):

Producerist Narrative

And as a chaser, it would be could to review The 7 Things Everyone Wants—specifically #4.

Meandering thoughts on creativity, change and consciousness

“The most effective way to manage change is to create it.” —Peter Drucker

I have been collecting quotes for my Leadership class, and this one in particular made me think about my own creative process—or really any process that I can’t do on autopilot.  The above quotation is actually in respect to organizations (yawn), but I think it closely related to my earlier advice for youngish people.

When I wrote about the difference between becoming and being was characterizing them mostly in regards to external cues: as you get older, you are very seldom asked “what do you want to be when you grow up”, nor are the resources to help you decide so readily available.  On an internal level though, you can be constantly re-imagining who you are no matter your age.

In re-launching this blog a month ago, I rewrote my personal statement (that thing on the right-hand side with the hang-loose dude) to include “artist”. I did that because I feel like a lot of the projects I envision (and involve myself in) involve a personal reflection of my identity and values.  And with many of those projects, they languish, frustrate and never get started—despite the grief the cause me before I even begin.  To be clear,  a project can be as simple as writing an introductory email to an interesting stranger or an all night jaunt of coding.

In thinking about the life-flow of these creative projects, I often visualize it as a precipice, a chasm and a path. Beginning at the precipice, I am faced with choices, doubts and fears.  Should I  step off, I’m forced to enter someplace new and unfamiliar—someplace that will challenge me and require me to change: thinking, learning and acting differently than I have done before (I have heard this referred to as  the “messy middle”).  Somewhere in that chasm there is a path that will lead me back out again; it may not lead to “success” as I envision it now, but it will lead to somewhere beyond the pit. The problem is, I can’t see the path from where I am on the precipice.

For myself, the reluctance to step over the precipice of fear and doubt comes from the uncertainty of finding the path back out: I fear I will become stuck in the chasm—unable to recover my identity or right my place.

The following quote captures the danger of remaining upon the precipice and never venturing forth. It is from Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces (which is entirely about the heroic path) quoting Charles Francis Atkinson’s Art and Artist (reformatted for easier reading):

If we compare the neurotic with the productive type, it is evident that the former suffers from an excessive check on his impulsive life. Both are distinguished fundamentally from the average type, who accepts himself as he is, by their tendency to exercise their volition in reshaping themselves. There is, however, this difference:

That the neurotic, in this voluntary remaking of his ego, does not get beyond the destructive preliminary work and is therefore unable to detach the whole creative process from his own person and transfer it to an ideological abstraction.

The productive artist also begins with that re-creation of himself which results in an ideologically constructed ego; [but then in his case] this ego is then in a position to shift the creative will-power from his own person to ideological representations of that person and thus render it objective.

It is admitted that this process is in a measure limited to within the individual himself, and that not only in its constructive, but also in its destructive aspects. This explains why hardly any productive work gets through without morbid crises of a ‘neurotic’ nature.

At 26, I would say the most amazing thing I have realized about myself is that I am still myself. As a younger person, I was always expecting some conscious-breaking event between youth and adulthood. A clear cusp in which I would know “I’ve made it”, stripping away the old for something new. And as I now believe, there was no chrysalis (at least not in my agnostic, protective, modern upbringing). Change did not come as a distinct event, instead it was gradual and iterative—I am still the same person I was at 8 years old, just with more experiences (and body hair).

I have heard many people say different activities cause profound socio-psychological changes—having a child, the passing of a close loved one, extreme violence or abuse—but I’m dubious that such activities will produce distinct break with the before (not that they would not profoundly affect me). Without sinking too far into solipsism, if I wanted to make a phrase for this, I would call it conservation of consciousness. (On googling this, people mostly seem to refer to this on a non-personal level; ie, when you die, your consciousness hangs around; this is not what I mean.) In other words, I will remain myself no matter what happens or who I become. (I hope this doesn’t sound arrogant.)

To briskly wrap things up change is a given and will happen regardless of if you’re ready for it or not.  The way to most effectively deal with change is create it. And the way to create change is to step off into the unknown (prepare as best you can) with the confidence that you will find the path back out.