Give Me A Dose OF Modernity

I just attended a movie that was extremely funny, but my ears are still ringing from all the f-bombs and d-c- jokes. My eyes are also filled with images of men being threatened by women cops who were telling the men that if they didn’t talk they would be shot in a certain part of their anatomy. As my wife and I drove home from the theater I thought about how our society has changed, and it makes me miss modernity.

We live in what is called a postmodern society, that some would even call post-Christian. Postmodernism promotes a philosophical assumption that rejects modernism, especially natural reality, “whose existence and properties are logically independent of human beings,” and that there is objective truth, and that through reason and logic human beings can make their societies better.

To the postmodern “reason and logic are merely conceptual constructs and are therefore valid only within the established intellectual traditions in which they are used.” Postmodernists insist that all human psychology is socially determined, not innate in anyway. And they claim that the meaning of language is self-contained, and can only be understood in relation to other words. There is no static meaning in our language.

What does all this mean? It means epistemological understanding has changed. No longer is truth out there to be found and adhered to, it is now within us as a product of our own choices. Words that used to be dirty, do not contain the same meaning because we have chosen to change their meanings.

Don’t get me wrong, I agree with some of postmodernism. Truth is understood within the human history. However, the reality of this philosophical change can be viewed in our societal interacts, as was captured in an article in this week’s Economist. “The March of Protest” discusses how the history of protest has changed over the years from Europe, to the 60’s, to Russia, and now it is ubiquitous.

The current expression of protest usually includes someone wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, AKA Anonymous, or it could be an Arab spring. But, we now can see that protest is occurring all over the world. “In Brazil people rose up against bus fares, in Turkey a building project, Indonesians have rejected higher fuel prices, Bulgarians the government’s cronyism.” Even here in the U.S. we had our protest against the 1%.  Everyone is angry; everyone is creating their own truth.

Some of this is appropriate. When the middle class of India protested against the brutal gang rape of a young woman on a bus, it was right to tell the government that there are not enough protections for women. But I think there is a more serious question.

Is societal order breaking down? Our political process is dysfunctional; Movies no longer tell a simple story, they include mind-blowing special effects, horrible brutality, explicit sex, or mind-altering profanity. Civility has just about died; and we no longer talk to one another without throwing in a few frickins, sucks, or some other words that are less Nazarene swearwords and more explicit cuss words.

I am not a prude, and I am known to throw a cuss word out on the golf course, but I think we need to be a little more modern in our behavior. I am, and will continue to be an idealist. My ideology is based in scripture, which tells me there are absolutes that I need to understand.

I am convinced more than ever that I need to study the truth, and adapt my way of thinking to it. This truth became a Man and lived here among us. He actually was called the Word, the logos, that became flesh.

I don’t want to say the f-word, I don’t want to force everyone to think like me, but I definitely want to know what the truth is so I can help society get better, not get shot in the groin area and think it is funny.

And that is my thought for the day!



Adam’s Discontent!

My wife and I have an on going discussion about men. She knows several, actually many, women who’s husbands stay at home while the women work, thus buying the bacon and frying it up in a pan. They are woman, and are strong. The question we are discussing involves what is happening with men today? It appears that Helen Smith has written a book exploring this same question by attempting to deal the missing American male.

The title of the book is “Men on Strike.” It is published by Encounter Books. Helen describes two popular views of why men are rejecting the traditional roles experienced in the past. “More and more men are dropping out of American society. They aren’t going to college, they aren’t holding down jobs, they aren’t getting married and they aren’t becoming fathers.” Some say that these men refuse to man up, and others say that this is the result of what is called a “cardboard man,” or someone who is “unwilling to function as househusbands or amanuenses to the female professionals increasingly favored by our deskwork economy.”

After she lays out the two prevalent reasons for this dropping out, she argues that neither is true. She says the men are going John Galt. “Most men are not acting irresponsibly because they are immature or because they want to harm women; they are acting rationally in response to the lack of incentives today’s society offers them to be responsible fathers, husbands and providers.”

To prove this Smith describes statistics that seem to support her point. In 1970, 80% of men of working age participated in the labor force. Today, that number has been reduced to 66%. Women today earn 58% of U.S. Bachelor Degrees, which some attribute to what is called “The War Against Boys.” Within the book by this name, Christina Hoff says the “K-12 education system that feeds into college favors docile, conformist girls over aggressive, competitive boys. Colleges as well are riddled with feminist ideology, decimate their athletic programs in the name of title IX and regard male students as likely rapists in their interactions with their female classmates.”

I have no idea whether this is true or not, but our society does seem to treat men “as bumbling incompetents,” while denigrating their achievements and outright discriminating against them in family court. Smith uses this to make her point that “with no-fault divorce, adultery is on par with slurping soup. So what’s wrong with a cheating wife getting half the marital assets.”

I found the review of this book very interesting. However, I still fault men for going Galt. In my classes I encourage the males to focus and accomplish, while limiting video game participation. Nobody is forcing men to check out, men are choosing to reject responsibility. I for one am very concerned with this phenomenon. Men have a role to play in society and if we move away from it because of some perceived discrimination, or inequity, then we are letting they, whoever they is, to control us and make us something we aren’t.

I am not going to become a victim. I am not going to act like someone who “got burned in the divorce” and “indulge in a level of victimological self-pity.” I am going to take responsibility for my life and my actions and not let this so-called worldview make me into someone who becomes a shell of a man.

Men it is time to man up, turn off the video game, and become productive. Your self-worth is on the line!

And that is my thought for the day!

Lessons From Chicago and China: Management/Labor Relations

The Chinese know how to deal with managerial actions that are either inappropriate or unpopular. In 1989 there was a supposed WSJ article discussing managers of a refrigerator manufacturing company. According to the article these managers were executed for the crime of poor quality. It turns out the article was a parody written in the United States and not published by the WSJ. However, just like in this country, managers that sell unsafe product in China will be prosecuted. In 2009 a Chinese company sold melamine-tainted milk that killed at least six children. Tian Wenhuah, the former general manager and chairwoman of Sanlu Group, was given a life sentence for this tragedy.

The above events, one a hyperbola and the other truth, express how the Chinese government handles corporate or small business issues. Now it appears the people are stepping up their game in dealing with managerial decisions they don’t like.

“The co-founder of Specialty Medical Supplies has been held since Friday in the executive quarters of his factory on the outskirts of Beijing.” It appears he has decided to move a part of his business to India, but 80 of the 110 current employees believed the rumor that he intended to close the factory in China and move it to India. Thus these 80 employees are “blocking doors, locking gates, refusing to let the 42-year-old entrepreneur go until they severance packages.” This seems very similar to an event in the United States reported in Michael Moore’s movie “Capitalism: A Love Story.”

In 2008 Republic Windows and Door was shutting down. There were questions whether the employees were going to get paid. Therefore, the employees “rather than resigning themselves to their fate. . . decided to do something bold: occupy the plant until the company agreed to pay them their severance.”

The city of Chicago rallied behind these workers, and they won the battle and got what they wanted. It really was an interesting story; one that seems to have an entrepreneurial, happy ending. The employees raised the necessary capital to buy the company and reopen it as a cooperative. Its new name is New Era Window Cooperative. May 9th of this year it reopened resulting from “an amazing struggle to found a worker-run cooperative and save good manufacturing jobs in Chicago.”

The Chinese workers appear to be learning from their American counterparts. However, these events reinforce something I learned a long time ago. There was a company in Orange County named Ford Aeroneutronics. It was a non-union company that paid its employees a living wage, gave to good benefits, and provided a creative working environment. The reason they did this: it was the right thing to do and it kept the union from entering its facility. Some of my readers may not agree with this, but to me this is good leadership.

I read a blog yesterday that pointed me to another wonderful book. The title of the book is “Thriving in Leadership: Strategies for Making a Difference in Christian Higher Education.” I read the introduction and it reminded me of something. Something that I think would have helped in both the Beijing and Chicago events. “Transformational leadership typically is based on influence rather than hierarchy, with the leader appealing to higher needs or causes for the well-being of the organization.”

There are thousands of books discussing leadership.  I have taught classes on leadership, discussing the evolution of how we should view the subject. Theory has evolved from the great man understanding of leadership, to what we now see as relational and authentic leadership. In both examples discussed above, transformational leadership focusing on positive relationships would not have changed the decision, but it would have given more opportunities for dialog and possible more of a win-win result.

In so many cases managers continue to act like it is the 1950’s. However, in the modern age a competitive company is a company that has an engaged workforce. This means positive and authentic relationships, leadership not dictatorship.

And that is my thought for the day!

Promoting From Within Or Hiring From Outside

One of the most difficult decisions that leadership must make is whether to promote an employee from within, or hire someone new from an external candidate pool. I have been on both the winning side and losing side of this dilemma. In other words, I have been an internal candidate who got the promotion, and I have lost a promotion to an external candidate. The lesson that I learned was “my perspective about the situation was critical.” I could have allowed the rejection decision to hurt me, and I did get my knickers in a bunch initially, however I eventually ended up on the better path, which was keeping focused on what I was supposed to do where I was working.

Leadership in the organization needs to be concerned with what is called reject/accept errors. So often when leadership hires from outside of the company they choose a candidate that paints themselves in a very good light, but often the promises do not pan out. This is what HR specialists call accept error. Somehow the wrong person got the job, which led to organization failure.

Reject error is when the person who should have gotten the job goes on to another company and is successful. They were rejected but did the same job well somewhere else. Hopefully the organization’s HR practices will limit this phenomenon, but it happens all to often. The wrong person gets the job.

Personally I think accept error is the worst outcome of the two. Getting the wrong person in a job can often devastate an organization, usually, because it is hard to get rid of the employee.

But what should leadership do? Should they hire only from within? Probably not, but it really depends on where the organization is going. There are certain companies that only promote from within. They are strong companies that do good in our society. There is precedence for hiring from within. You have a known entity. However, often the external candidate is chosen because there is an organizational culture that leadership is trying to change. To do that they believe they must bring in a new perspective. This is risky, but leadership sees it as necessary.

It is tough for the internal candidate, who was very capable at doing the job, yet does not get the position. But I have also learned that when this happens there is usually another door that opens. One that is much better than what they were trying to get. At least that is what happened to me.

To those internal candidates who did not get the promotion, don’t worry, something even better is coming along! To those external candidates who got the job, do the best you can, because you were hired to bring about change, and change is tough.

And that is my thought for the day!

Its Business And Personal

I have been writing this blog for over a year now. Several thousand people have read it, and several hundred have commented about it. It began out of a desire to demonstrate that there is no such thing as just a business decision. All managerial decisions impact people. Therefore, it is business and personal. I understand that change is inevitable, and I get it that managers need to make decisions that will keep the organization solvent, but how these decisions are implemented is critical.

Two individuals apply for a job, and a lesser-qualified individual gets the job, how the decision is communicated is important. Cryptic words will not assuage the sense of injustice; only personal messages dealing with the strategic importance of the decision will limit damage. Often there is a reason for choosing one candidate over another, and it may not have anything to do with qualifications. It is usually something that is related to changing need, or strategic direction. It is a business decision that impacts a person. After the announcement then the individual who did not get the job has a decision to make. Stay and support, or move on to another organization where they can expand their skills. It just may be time to move on and further develop skills.

The reality of a changing environment and impact to people is currently being displayed at the Oregonian. The Portland newspaper has announced that it is cutting home delivery to four days per week. Corporate leaders also announced they will be laying off many of its employees. Gordon Oliver discussed this in his article “Industry Changes Hit Close to Home.” Gordon worked for the Oregonian for many years, and knew many of the people who are getting their pinks slips, which make this event even more tragic. This event demonstrates to me the horrible assumption that something like this is just a business decision.

When the Oregonian management announced the changes it was sudden, “kept secret even from top newsroom managers.” I am sure the corporate managers wanted to limit the impact on morale and productivity. This only demonstrates how stupid management can be at times. I am positive that people saw this coming, and any attempt to hide this event only created more cynicism within the workforce. Now, 35 people who work at the paper have been given pink slips, including some of its best journalists. Do you managers think this is going to improve the human side of your organization?

This so-called business decision was a result of changing times. How we get our news has shifted to online sources, subsequently subscriptions to the printed paper have diminished. Oliver demonstrates in his article how this is personal. “I am told of newsroom horrors: Some reporters bursting into tears upon learning their careers are over, others doing their best to remain stoic.”

Change is inevitable, and difficult decisions have and will occur. But management has the fiduciary responsibility to implement these difficult decisions in the most humane manner possible. When does a manager stop being human? When does a manager become so economic in their thinking that they forget about relationships? I remember an upper level manager telling me one time that we can’t focus on names when discussing layoffs. I can only assume that it became too personal for him. But how can it not be personal. Our decisions impact people.  There is no such thing as a business decision, so why pretend there is.

And that is my thought for the day!


Gettsburg – 150 Years Later

I hope the way I perceive myself is not too different than what others see in me. I see myself as a pretty unassuming guy, but others may see me as arrogant, etc. I can’t say I wake up every night thinking about it though.

What got me thinking about this during my morning coffee and reading ritual was an article by Bob Green describing the Forgotten Gettysburg Addresser, Edward Everett. He was the keynote speaker at the dedication of the battlefield in 1863. July 1st will be the 150th anniversary of the battle, thus the reflection on the event.

Everett had been the President of Harvard, member of the House of Representatives, U.S. Senator, Governor of Massachusetts, U.S. Secretary of State, and the minister to Great Britain; quite a resume, one that even today would ensure that a dynamic keynote speech would probably result.

Everett did not disappoint. As Greene notes, “He nailed it. He had prepared meticulously. He had researched and recreated in lovely yet searing language the facts and meanings of the Battle of Gettysburg. He spoke for two hours, and used all of his considerable skills to mesmerize the audience. He would have been justly confident in believing that the first words of his address would go down in history.”

What were those words? All we hear about today are the words that President Lincoln spoke. Everett said, “Standing beneath this serene sky, overlooking these broad fields now reposing from the labors od the waning year, the mighty Alleghenies dimly towering before us, the graves of our brethren beneath our feet, it is with hesitation that I raise my poor voice to break the silence of God and nature.” Great words, but they are not the words we remember today. In fact, this is the first time I have ever read Everett’s words.

In modern times, would we give a speaker two hours to entertain us? We’d give in to a visual event for two hours, but not someone who is just speaking to us, so kudos to him for being able to keep an audience’s attention for two hours. But, what Lincoln did in three minutes is what we remember.

Lincoln begins with “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Powerful and succinct; it grabs our attention. I want to listen.

Then there is a sense of humility. “But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate –we cannot consecrate – we can only hallow this ground.” Men gave their lives for what they believed in. “The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but can never forget what they did here.” And what they did motivated a resolve “that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Wow, how powerful are these words?

Lincoln was a man developed by a life of hard work and humility. He was born in a log cabin, he experienced several losing campaigns, but he eventually became President of the United States. He is a success story, but one laced with humility. I am not saying that Everett was arrogant, I have no idea what type of man he was, but the speech that emerged from the mind of Lincoln was a speech that came from the heart of a man who had learned many lessons in life. Lessons I hope I have learned and still want to learn even as an older man.

150 years ago, the young men of our country met on a battlefield determining the destiny of our country. Each generation adds to this illustrious rebirth by fighting for what it believes in. I love this country, even with all of its faults.

And that is my thought for the day!



The Growing Regulated States Of America

I am beginning to really like this guy Niall Ferguson. I have been enjoying his book, “The Great Degeneration,” and now I had the opportunity to enjoy his thought provoking style in this morning’s Wall Street Journal. In his article “The Regulated States of America” he poignantly reflects on the 4,062 new regulations created by government, of which “224 are deemed economically significant, i.e., their economic impact will exceed $100 million.” Since 1993 81,883 new regulations have been issued. Niall didn’t start his discussion criticizing the government; he started his article discussing the changing culture of our country.

“Democracy in America,” written by a visiting Frenchman in 1833, described what de Tocqueville observed as American life. He wrote, “The inhabitants of the United States has only a defiant and restive regard for social authority and he appeals to it. . . only when he cannot do without it.” In modern vernacular de Tocqueville is describing how Americans had preferred to rely on their own efforts and associations, rather than relying on government regulation to supply their needs. The key term here is association.

Associations such as fraternal organizations, churches, and other clubs would come together to meet human need. De Tocqueville was amazed at “the sheer range of nongovernmental organizations Americans formed.” It appeared to de Tocqueville that “Americans use associations to give fetes, to found seminaries, to build inns, o raise churches, to distribute books, to send missionaries to the antipodes; in this manner they create hospitals, prisons and schools.” That is how it was.

After using the Frenchman’s writings to describe our culture of time gone by, Ferguson then demonstrates how this has changed. He uses some ideas from Robert Puttnam’s excellent 1995 essay entitled “Bowling Alone,” to demonstrate what specifically has changed. Memberships in Fraternal clubs have declined demonstrating how American associational life has declined, church attendance has dwindled, and cultural associations have been reduced. Church attendance has dropped from almost 50% to 37%, active members of cultural associations has dropped from 24% to 14%, and professional memberships have reduced from 1/5 of our society to 12%. We are becoming an isolated group of people, no longer depending on each other, who depend on the government to provide needed aid.

“As the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Clyde Wayne Crews shows in his invaluable annual survey of the federal regulatory state, we have become the regulation nation almost imperceptibly.” The Federal Register – the official directory of regulation – has 78,961 pages. In 1986 it was 44,812 pages, and in 1936 it was 2,620 pages. I think, based on the number of pages in the Federal Registry, that we can safely assume government has expanded exponentially. Instead of accomplishing goals with human associations we have delegated these actions to our government. I for one am very concerned about this, and the large expression of government that has emerged. I’ll let de Tocqueville tell you why this is dangerous.

First he warns of government becoming “an immense tutelary power. . .absolute, detailed, regular. . . covering society’s surface with a network of small, complicated, painstaking, uniform rules through which the most original minds and the most vigorous souls cannot clear away.” Then de Tocqueville prophesized how large government would stifle free enterprise, “It rarely forces one to act, but it constantly opposes itself to one’s acting; it does not destroy, it prevents things from being born; it does not tyrannize, it hinders, compromises, enervates, extinguishes, dazes, and finally reduces the nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the shepherd.”

All of us should be concerned with the growing number of regulations, especially when what we need to generate economic advancement is innovative entrepreneurism. Big government is the opposite of the Entrepreneurial spirit with which this great country started. I for one think it is time to recapture the energy we once had, and not become like France.

And that is my thought for the day!