Central Surveillance Gets New Life

When I saw the news that a House Panel Advances Bill on Key Surveillance Measure I realized that surveillance is never going away. Such things did not exist before 2001, but they are forever now. Once capabilities like this are in place, they are near impossible to give up. Watching people is like a drug that never wears off. When the ability to watch does not flow in both directions, the allure is even more potent. As technology improves (not just information technology, but other tools, principles, and discoveries that can be used together more effectively), the ability to view every inch of activity, thought, and disposition of more people will increase in detail and immediacy of recall.

You have seen nothing yet.


Personal Data Privacy is Important

Information about a person in which they either felt compelled to give up or was not informed about as to the full consequences of release should be private. Individuals are vulnerable in life. Digital or analog, physical world or cyberspace, we all have weaknesses that when exploited brings harm. Too much information about an individual is ripe for abuse. More the case when private information, social media, e-commerce, banking, and government all combine into a deadly cocktail for the individual.

Once damage is done, it is fairly too late. Can’t rollback identify theft. Can’t rollback misinterpreted location data that results in undue surveillance. Can’t rollback decisions by insurers, businesses, and employers due to misinterpreted data points that probably should not exist and didn’t exist before the turn of the century.

Some will say you should not expect privacy. What follows is a simple test. Why is privacy important when it comes to the body and the need for clothes; controversial political/religious conversations behind closed doors; and when entering a pin code on a 10-key pad at a corner store, but not in the digital realm?

The answer is people do expect privacy where it is straightforwardly available. The lack of options in the digital realm and the viral momentum that creates a need for people to be part of the crowd doesn’t diminish privacy but shows that the digital realms are immature compared to physical natural life. Few people really expect to be the digital equivalent of a domestic pet, tracked and analyzed in their movements and activities. Although the masses have unknowingly and, at times, passive-coercsively chosen digital tools and venues that undermine privacy doesn’t negate 10s of thousands of years of humanity’s preference for it.

Some, not all, powerful people know they are going to die. Their life will end like everyone else. The difference is some have found this digital enterprise as another gateway to squeeze more out of their fellow humans before they go. The justification is to take from the masses in order to advance a higher agenda and/or to create more wealth and safety for their families. That sounds noble from their point of view but is entirely devoid of empathy for persons who eventually slam hard against the worse consequences of that agenda.

There has got to be a better way.

Silence vs Intellect, In Brief

If ancient scholars are correct and silence is the gateway to a more complete encounter with the Divine through contemplative meditation in the form of prayer, then the intellect can only emanate a micro portion of something inaccessible to the intellect in its full capacity.

Silence immediately converted to action without intervening dialog can be quite powerful. Intellect aided by powerfully cultivated contemplation in silence can be more effectively synchronized with wisdom. Their synthesis then produces a higher quality form that is an effect but not a cause. Properly applied and experienced, real silence becomes the origination of innovation of spirit, through, and action.

Managing Worry of Worldly Loss

Jesus states in Matthew, “Who, by worrying, can add a moment to their years?” When people depart this earth, life does continue on in their absence. A fact that, at times, may be uncomfortable to realize but part of the truth of man’s existence. No one can control life. Sometimes, if we are prepared or suitably experienced, we can control narrow situations but we cannot perfectly master every moment in the time that flows before us. The vast universe around us is highly dynamic, spontaneous, and abrupt changes emerge in the social and physical life of people many times.

Worry, therefore is illogical.

People are not entirely rational and so worrying is inevitable (how two truths can be funny at once). Yet, with Jesus’ statement, he is reminding us of the dynamism of life and that of all things. The external is important, but we can concern ourselves more with the internal nature of our souls. Rather than deal too eagerly and too seriously with the limited external experience we call reality.

Frank Tuoti remarks in his book, “Why Not Be a Mystic”? that even well-adjusted people can have dormant, in-dwelling issues. Deep concerns with the potential to wreck devastation. He cites Carl Jung’s description of this state as a shadow. Frank goes on to state that this pent up energy can be used for the good. Worry can give way to constructive productivity when place before God for transformation.

Earlier, I mentioned death. Death is not just in physical experience. It included the dissolution of things that confirm the transient nature of this existence. Moreover, as we live we can be subject to miniature deaths. The loss of social standing, finances, and the death of prosperity and lifestyle. One day, you discover that you have just lost your job. Along with it goes all kinds of relationships. The car is finished. The residence must be given up. All that is left is your body wrapped in clothing that will soon decay as you wander day-to-day for a meal and place to sit and rest upon. You struggle hard. Physically and emotionally, but you are still alive. In the truth of God’s existence, you still have a chance at eternity. Therefore, why worry?

That is not a call necessarily to give up all that you have nor to work to have things that streamline living, but it is a thought to put things in context. Material things and situations can be a gift. Useful tools, but not the reason for existence. Rather, it is not that the rich person cannot enter heaven, but that it is more difficult with the distraction of preserving and expanding wealth. It becomes a choice between the form of social appearances and comforts versus the substance of the soul and that soul’s definition for eternity.

Silence is Needed

I am currently reading Frank Tuoti’s, “Why Not Be A Mystic?” A friend volunteered the book to me and I am learning quite a bit:

Contemplation requires silence

Modernity creates noise

Noise repels silence

Noise includes distractions

Activity opposes silence

Activity includes thinking

Activity includes concentration

Silence therefore retreats from activity

Patient stillness and quietude of mind invites true silence

No mental images, no filters, resolution of myriad micro activities until fertile ground exist that is unformed silence

At the quietest place enters eternity

God, the Spirit, the Soul, your soul meet at the plains of eternity

That is the place of revelation, answers, and momentary fulfillment

That leads to Psalm 46:10

Be still – and know that I am God

After reading Henri Levi’s, The Genius of Judaism, I learned for the first time that part of Judaism is “Knowing God”. I understood what that meant, but also saw there was a gulf between the Christian concept of Faith and the Jewish concept of Knowing. Frank and Thomas Merton unwittingly connects the two as I reflect the following:

Faith is the unconditional trust in God. You seek after God. You, without any requirements, “reach” for God. Faith is where you have decided to move towards God in your heart.

After a time, in your journey, when you complete the circle of Faith, you encounter God in your own way. What is completing the circle all about?

The circle begins with your trust in God. Trusting the ancient wisdom that reveals God’s nature and presence. It continues another part in taking the leap to love. Sharing, giving, helping. Allowing the activities of faith practice to condition the heart. It concludes through letting go of external definitions and obsessions, large and small. When you can consistently pray in silence and truth, faith eventually transforms into knowing.

God does not reveal itself in the forms Hollywood inspires. Movie art, by its definition, is a visual enterprise. Yet, profound revelation, to operate in God’s way emerges in the heart and soul. It is not magic with external special effects and a voice operating through an outdoor subwoofer. Rather, it is a place set aside in silence, without filters. Regular contemplation then provides the path to evolve from faith to the knowledge of concordance with God.

Sex, Work Relationships, and Falling Stars

The near daily revelations about sexual discord in the world of fame brings to mind an all too common situation. I once knew a manage who was undone due to intimate relations with a subordinate. I did not serve under this person and never suspected anything. However, people gossip and the story came out. Most of my career, I have heard third-hand accounts of similar situations. Sometimes the gender roles are reversed and it becomes a comedy in which onlookers are mildly laughing at the recipient of quasi-maternal affection.

More often than not, people encounter an end to their careers when involved in such matters. The exception is often politicians, but beside them, generals, managers, and executives can see a storied career ended. It is as if persons in certain situations lose all sense of discipline and propriety. What is forgotten is that authority is real. Subordinates can sometimes appear as friends and even as a kind of best friend, but that is nearly always an illusion. when you have the ability to fire, promote or otherwise define the workplace conditions for another person, that is not a relationship otherwise known as friendship.

When a person has authority, small or large, and implies, if even unwittingly, that sex is a requirement for good favor, that can be tantamount to psychological if not physical violation. My mother was subjected to that and I have observed others, who I don’t know for sure, who probably was scarred by such things in terms of their expressions. What I intuit is that part of how sexual harassment unfolds is due, in part, to an “empathic imbalance”. that is when an otherwise intelligent individual in authority or high esteem is unaware of the stress they cause when they solicit a conversation or pursue relationships in-congruent with their station.

Accordingly, there are 5 Considerations that can be put to practice to avoid become a fallen star. If embraced, they will lead to a mindset that is generally immune to workplace temptations and errors of judgment that results in the end of careers.

  1. No workplace dating. Never date or court anyone you work with. Many years ago, a coworker of mine talked of a relationship they had that went sour. She met the guy at work. She imparted these words of wisdom, “don’t crap where you eat.” Okay, so I cleaned that up a little, but the wisdom is still relevant. You can be a nice person, not a jerk, but still act prudently in workplace situations. That means kindness in the form of pleasant conversation that never turns into a dating invitation. Best to have a unbreakable boundary between work and private affiliations in general and especially between genders. In fact, if you follow this rule, it does not matter if you are in authority or not.
  2. Do not seek workplace popularity. Being accepted is okay and expected, but do not work too hard at being well liked. More the case when working with persons of the opposite gender. The reason is your supplication can be misinterpreted. If interpreted the wrong way, that could pull you into a speech pattern that can be construed as sexually suggestive. Besides that, excessive pursuit of popularity can create an unspoken social obligation at odds with your professional responsibilities. At root is a failed identification of priorities. Are you there to help yourself or to help others? The warning and pitfalls of going too far in this direction is covered in David D’ Alessandro’s book, “Career Warfare”, where he discusses at length people who failed this principle too far in either direction.
  3. Be committed to your theology. It is implied in many theological traditions that fornication is unwise. Therefore, do not start down a path at odds with your theological background. Recognizing this, you would be more apt to avoid speech and conduct ruinous to your spiritual path, witness, and that of others. This rule can actually dominate all others.
  4. Remain aware of social devastation. Failure to observe the preceding 3 rules can result in outcomes that are usually not survivable. God will forgive you but man will not. A moment of true weakness can lead to a lifetime of unyielding, regrettable, preventable pain. You do not need life experience to know this. Today’s technology makes up for a lack of life experience in this area. Just take time to search the major news websites for sexual harassment. Among the chronicles of journalistic endeavor are tales of woe. Articles surveying the underlying sadness of careers lost, innocence shattered, and potential futures squandered. With enough insight, you will realize you do not want to be involved in anything resembling such situations. Turmoil can be avoided by simply deciding not to be that one person that helped mess up another person.
  5. Know the Truth of Relationships. A manager I worked under for many, many years one day shared some wisdom with me. There was a brilliant person I wanted to bring on the team for a project. He asked my reasons. Some of my reasons were substantive, but one of them wasn’t. I said that this individual and I are friends. I don’t remember him laughing, but he made a point that stuck with me all these years. He said, “Do you think anyone here will talk to you once you leave?” I was too young and lacking any real life experience to give a reply. I don’t remember saying anything in reply, but the years have proven him correct on every account. Often people have fun working with each other in a workplace, but over time you see that people who work together are not friends in the truest sense of the word. Another example is a manager I once observed got their friend hired only to assist in their firing months later. A true friend is a friend in the truest sense of the word. No conditions. The workplace is a transactional environment. Your involvement is one of providing value and remaining relevant and financially resourced on that basis. This 5th Consideration added to the others is the one that determines if your decision-making is clear or confused regarding bonds that could form in a work environment. Can you trust, 100%, the workplace gestures of friendliness? In that light, two people who meet each other in a workplace should be aware of the following common realities in pondering a closer relationship outside of work:
    1. Is the relationship merely one of convenience induced by proximity?
    2. Are there indirect work related benefits for one of the individuals by having such a relationship?
    3. Are you willing to quit the job, right this very instant, for the sake of the relationship? If you will not quit right now for the relationship, that is a clear sign your thinking is messed up.
    4. Is the relationship based in love or simply admiration for authority if you are a manager or leading person in the organization?
    5. Is the relationship based in love or simply physicality and personality dynamics? Refer back to Consideration #3.

The 5 Considerations are solid thoughts to self regulate and govern behavior. When you fail to observe them and you start getting beat up in the court of public opinion (the inevitable office chatter that makes its way to upper management and HR) you never finish paying your dues in the form of lost promotions, projects, or the job itself. Will the other person still be there when the dust has settled? Will they be there through thick and thin? Can you trust that will be the case? Are you willing to risk all to find out?

Again, the 5 Considerations provide insight into human affairs and why you should be politically correct, measure words, thoughts, and deeds most carefully. Poetry or a poetic life sounds romantic and noble until it is your life. Poetry can lose its luster once you’ve either lived a few refrains of verse or seen other crash and burn on the hard reality that follows. Best when your reflection follows from an observation of the latter. Often, the worse outcomes follow from inadequate contemplation and reflection.

The philosophical statement comes to mind, “It is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all,” and that is entirely a lie when you consider the love spoken of is not the unselfish kind. Doubly so when speaking of the workplace. Never let media whether televised, staged, or written lead you astray. Some will disagree, but I think Eros Love, which is often misidentified in romance novels as unselfish love, has to be managed. Unfortunately, many feel they are operating in the kind of love defined as the unconditional, charitable type. The kind you have when you are listening, not judging, but giving from the heart. Instead, the love many speak about resembles more an advanced form of lust. Everyone feels this Eros Love at some point in their lives but in workplace situations especially, and live more generally, it has to be managed to bring about greater safety, productivity, and experiences that are less marred by dramatic intrigue.

Bigger Than Blood and Soil

You ain’t seen nothing on the recent topic of blood and soil until you’ve seen the 11/11 protests in Poland. A preview of things to come in some parts of society. Hopefully, it ultimately resolves to a positive conclusion. The situation isn’t as straightforward as polarized sides would indicate. A third story or sense of things exist. The protests are the symptom of a larger imbalance but maybe the factors are less obvious than conventional punditry would indicate.