Monday, April 18, 2016

Tower of Babel

As I get older, I look back on my life and wonder what's next.  I've learned a few things I'd like to share.

1.  Morality is always key. It doesn't have to come from any particular source, but it should always be the primary consideration in any transaction, whether governmental, commercial, or personal.

The trouble with morality is that it cannot be absolute; otherwise, it wouldn't account for humanity's inherent imperfection.  Thus, the real question is when one must act, on what information, and on what percentage of accuracy.  The only answer I've found so far is that diversity, integrity, and confidentiality are paramount.

Regarding confidentiality, it's the easiest of the three to explain.  Without some measure of privacy, we may be a safer country, but at such a massive cost of reduced innovation and happiness, we would lose our soul.  Henry Ward Beecher was on point when he wrote, "Liberty is the soul's right to breathe and when it cannot take a long breath, laws are girded too tight. Without liberty, man is a syncope."

Integrity, in contrast, is much more difficult to promote because everyone believes they have it, but almost no one actually does.  The best result in an age of advanced, mobile weaponry and technology so innovative it can be both invisible and imaginary is to have fierce, adversarial competition between all players--unions, corporations, small businesses, and even between government agencies, state, federal and local.  One never knows where one will find morality and integrity, so one cannot eliminate any group entirely.  The one exception might be government unions, such as police and teachers' unions.  There must be some way to reward and appreciate good teachers without being forced to hold onto the bad or lazy ones.  The solution, for now, is competition, namely, charter schools, and a greater reliance on the Socratic method.  (Of course this does not mean charter schools are given a pass if they, too, become corrupt or inefficient.)  Also, let me be clear--the best friend you will ever be lucky to know is a good, honest cop.

2.  We need intelligent diversity, not diversity for the sake of diversity.  Right now, we are in the unfortunate position of promoting visible leaders on the basis of race or some other overt trait while leaving behind the vast majority of people in the organization.  Such an approach is the worst of all possible worlds--it fails to promote based on merit, which disserves the public while antagonizing good employees who favor merit, causing them to leave or become demoralized.  There must be a better way.  I personally admire IBM's Ginni Rometty and Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith.

3.  A young man should date older women.  The Prophet Muhammad was nothing but an illiterate peasant when he met Khadija bint Khuwaylid, fifteen years older than him.  With her support and guidance, he became one of the greatest men in the history of civilization.  He outlawed slavery long after Christ was born.  While Muhammad (PBUH) freed Bilal the slave, earning him the enmity of the Arab establishment, Christ had nothing to say on the topic specifically, at least not in print.  Meanwhile, Christ, a bachelor, meandered around, direction-less, eventually felled by his own people, who could not stand a man smarter than they who had no formal training.

Christ's example was in his willingness to speak out against inconsistencies and hypocrisy regardless of the source.  He was able to rise up because he had more information than everyone else--he went to the dark, unvarnished corners because that's where the most honest and dishonest people in his time were.  In a better time, Christ would have lived.  There's a lesson there for all of us--how do we build a society that would not have killed Christ, but would have allowed him to prosper?

4.  Local police partnering with the federal government is one of the worst developments in modern times.  Think about what I said above about diversity of information and confidentiality.  Then think about which government branches and workers need to be the most protected if they are honest.

If you don't get it yet, let me explain.  The federal government will always have more money and technology than local entities.  If local entities partner with the federal government, they will become de facto arms of one agency.  If that large agency is led by a dishonest or incompetent person, it will resemble Sauron.  Such an approach forces the good and competent people to invest in becoming larger as well, creating a limited approach that eliminates diversity and guarantees destruction.  By "limited approach," I mean duality.  With just two large players, one will eventually gain an advantage and eliminate the other, resulting in a singularity.  When people refer to the Judeo-Christian philosophy, I see only a limited duality.  I see a world that currently needs clearer rules and strong people to enforce those rules.  Consequently, I see a world of Shia Islam fused with Rumi's Sufism--compassion, playfulness, and an unequivocal hatred of all kinds of slavery.  Of course I do not say this is the only way to achieve a just world, or that such an approach will be the best one 400 years from now.  I continue to see only two absolute truths: integrity and humility.

4.  Like morality, humility is key.  When I say humility is an absolute truth, I hope you see the contradiction. Being humble means that one can never know whether he or she has discovered the absolute truth.  You just have to keep trying.  Never give up.  Please, if you know you are different, if you know you are smarter than the rest of them, never, ever give up.

5.  "Give me a child until the age of 7, and I will show you the man or woman." (See what I did there?)

And so it goes.