Posts Tagged ‘charity’

Self-Imposed Slavery

March 4, 2013 Leave a comment

For some, a task without reward is never worth doing. Why make an effort when no reward is to follow? Only a fool works for free. For others, the unpaid work is all that matters. Creating art or working for a charity is a labor of love whose benefits extend beyond monetary reward. These are the “self-imposed slaves” whose work is not about financial benefits.

A unique breed of worker is now becoming common in contemporary society. Wikipedia’s army of editors and creators work for free. Linux continues to be edited by volunteers and millions around the world dedicate time and energy to goals without immediate fiscal reward.

How might a society recognize and reward this new breed of worker? If one is to spend hours of one’s time working towards a goal is not fiscal reward due? The Huffington Post seemed to feel this was not the case but free labor only goes so far. For many it is the selfish sacrifice that has value but turn these labors into profit for another and the game has changed. “I’ll work on this because I care,” they might say, “but take it for your profit” and some might not be pleased.

In a society where large portions of work go without compensation we must work to recognize some new form of compensation. Perhaps not direct cash reward, but some reprieve or recognition should be awarded. Might we offer tax deductions? This may be too much. One key change that we can quickly change is public recognition. Volunteer work on a resume need not be disregarded. In today’s world this free labor means less that “I couldn’t find a job” and more “I had a passion and dedicate my time and energy to it.” Herein lies the power of this act and delivery of the profit where its needed- right back for those who do the act.

Perceptive Limitations

November 11, 2012 Leave a comment

Despite the actuality of an event, if an individual unable to comprehend his or her actions our society often disregards terms of justice. For those unable to understand what he or she has done there are special terms of justice, alternative rules by which the rest of society reacts and a pseudo-alternative reality in which they exist. Do we “treat them with kid gloves” because they cannot know?

Distinct groups are afforded these alternative rules on the basis of limited comprehension. Children and the elderly are often seen as limited by age. Other groups are perceived to have limited mental capabilities that render comprehension incomplete or impossible. In both forms there is a limitation of comprehension in comparison to what we consider socially normal. In most cases, the limitations perceived in some warrant understanding from those not tasked with limitation; though, this is not always the case.

For some, a select group of actions warrant the disposal of these alternative rules. An individual perceived to be limited becomes equal when his or her behaviors so disgust society that limitations are no longer under consideration. Often the existence of a victim is a key factor in this disposal of additional rights. Was someone hurt? Was damage done? In cases where great loss is created or great pain has been inflicted on an innocent figure our social actions of dispensing patience is adjusted.

Social rules remain liquid. While we may pride ourselves on a just system of punishment, we often discard these rules as emotion increases. Swayed by perceptions of victim hood or stories of suffering our goals for equal treatment become less important. This game of adjusting notions occurs in reverse situations when we seek to explain the actions of those deemed not limited. Irrational behavior is human and just like those who lose their temper or “fly off the handle” so to do social terms of justice and expectation.

The Greatest Cure? I’d Rather Not.

November 5, 2012 Leave a comment

For some, any charity is out of the question. The helping hand or minor gift of cash- perhaps needed, perhaps essential- becomes less help and more stigma and surest sign of inequality. Work towards “fixing” poverty often aim to social programs that involve heightened roles for organizations. Be they government, private or faith-based, these groups are seen as friendly panaceas to correct inequalities in society. While the details differ in politics, both Democrats and Republicans agree there is a problem. I recently read a quote that summarized this well:

“The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.” – Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Yes, the divisions exist and while we may not agree as to the details, we can agree that a problem exists. Working to solve these solutions is essential, but outside assistance can only go so far. What if an individual in need rejects assistance? What if he or she feels offended by charity and would rather suffer than be assisted by an outsider. How helpful is charity if it offends the dignity of its recipients.

This rejection of assistance or discomfort with assistance must be respected. One must consider this as a possible option when working to help someone. Yes, we must strive to solve social problems but also must consider the perspectives of those we seek to help. What do they really need? How can we develop the methods to best provide our means? Whether our resources are limited or overflowing, the only quality assistance is that which is received and utilized. Throwing money at a problem only creates more and eliminates it for those who could best utilize it.

Because the Product Tells Me So

July 4, 2012 Leave a comment

My pack of gum reminds me to “dispose of it properly” and on the back of my bottle of pop is a graphic reminder of the importance of recycling. These products function as proxy for their manufacturers, delivering for Cadbury and Coke an image of environmental concern and notion that as user I need to be reminder. I suppose I am a forgetful customer, one whose lack of interest or attention span may lead to to incorrectly dispose of these products, but do I need to be corrected? At what point do products deliver enough?

I purchase a package of chewing gum for the product contained within. The small bits of flavored rubber perform a function in my life and warrant my continued use. Change this product and I may look elsewhere. That which I buy performs the function that I select. For gum this function is “item to chew.”

Where do products cross the line of suggested use? When does a product’s imposition of utility become more than I desire? A minor suggestion on my package of gum is too minor to warrant a reaction, but a line exists and can be breached. Products that limit my intake or connect me to greater social causes my lead to look elsewhere. Is my purchase leading to a charitable fund? Can I reasonably expect my purchase to not create harm for someone else? Though my control in these situations is limited, I find that the very act of consumerism is quickly becoming less a simple transaction and more an act of social theater.

Today’s capitalism is one in which transactions exist on multiple plains. Enlivened by the greater knowledge that technology provides, our purchases now can be linked and tracked beyond our simple use. Products and purchases become complicated when we can see where the money goes and, given the variety of sources that can provide us with similar products (for example a cup of coffee) our selection of who or where allows us to endorse or deny causes connected to our purchase. No longer do we simply buy a cup of coffee. For many companies our act of purchasing becomes a complicated link to greater actions. Are we ready for these connections or do we rather prefer the simple “I want this so I buy it” relationship with companies. I only wanted a stick of gum but my purchase of these sticks of rubber has become something more, something far beyond my individual needs. Do I want this relationship to exist? Can I control it? Chew on.

Essential Truths and Mentors

June 8, 2012 Leave a comment

Certain figures play critical roles in our lives. Parents, teachers or authority figures become more than individuals in our world: they become mentors and models for our lives. Why do we seek out these figures? Do we need these models to teach us how to live? How do we remedy the conundrum of our own limitations by seeking out figures cut from the very same “cloth of limitations” from which we spawn?

Humans are linked by limitations. Much of our world exists beyond our perception and as a result we not only miss much of what surrounds us but also interpret what we can know in wildly incorrect ways. Paranoia is a broad example of these errors of perception. Despite our best intentions we cannot know how to function in society and depend on our fellow limited actors to guide us and explain the world in which we exist.

These guiding figures, though also limited by their own faulted perception, become our mentors. The roles by which we find these figures varies, some are family while others are figures who we respect or who simply hold positions of authority. Perhaps we can evaluate the strengths of our social networks by considering where our mentors come from. Those utilizing parents as mentors likely have a closer knit and perhaps broader network of support than one whose support network is cast largely with politicians or figures of authority.

No matter where these mentors come from they play a critical role in our lives. What do we do when these figures fail us? We cannot blame them for errors; after all as humans we should be well aware of their limitations. They are faulted just as we are, but in providing us with perspectives on our world we depend on them for so much but what do we do if a failure stems from something other than human limitation? What if our mentor actively deceives us or, worse yet, purposely hides or distorts details to manipulate us?

Herein an example from popular culture:

In the above clip, Luke is told that Obi Wan lied to him about his father. Yes, he lied. Obi Wan, the man in whom Luke invested his sense of reality denied him these critical details of life. What do we do in these situations where mentors distort reality. Such distortion is inevitable as these figures act in ways to “protect” us as a means to shield us from details they feel may damage us.

Mentors are important figures in our lives but such dependence links us to greater limitation. Ironically, in working to escape our limited perspectives we seek out figures who further limit our perspectives. If we invest trust in someone else to help us understand the world we become more vulnerable to confusion. We are limited but must steer clear of comfortable tools that may seem worthwhile but ultimately function to further limit and distort our sense of life.

Confidence and Awareness

July 14, 2011 Leave a comment

If economic success is dependent on consumer confidence, does constant awareness beneficial or detrimental. I argue that a system that provides constant awareness sways to a pessimistic attitude and leads to a reduction in consumer confidence. Trending in this way, our economic success which, according to so-called experts and scholars is dependent on consumer confidence can never recover.

In a system where confidence is essential we are dependent on a significant level of delusion. A perspective must be crafted that not only allows but encourages risk. Who is to create this environment? Politicians are the experts we look to and our President is essential in this task. The public desires simplicity and the President is less a policy maker and more a taste maker whose perspectives on reality become the zeitgeist for those who pay attention. These figures, whose interest in the culture of constant awareness, become the second-tier of experts who those uninterested in constant awareness look to for guidance.

Our current economic issues ultimately rest on the issue of consumer confidence. If we fail to create an environment that encourages risk we do not spend money and the economic wheels freeze. If the wheels are freezing or, as some say, frozen already we risk only greater damage in failing to recognize the environment in which we exist. When the zeitgeist is one in which constant awareness is at play we need leaders who function to encourage risk and buttress consumer confidence via delusion and disregard. Its dangerous but essential in complex systems such as the American economy.

Subjective Time, or The Value of My Minutes

July 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Are all minutes equal? If one is to utilize the sixty seconds of a minute for entertainment, they are certainly lot. Though the time is objective, the pursuit of filling these sixty seconds varies greatly. Do you aim to fill those sixty seconds with music? A movie or a television program? One can purchase a song for a dollar, rent a DVD for three dollars or skip the charge for both and just download them. What we pay to fill our seconds is wildly unset, but as consumers of media we need not worry about these variations. Our payment for media should be the concern of those who produce this media: consumers exist in a world where paying for content is optional.

In an economic situation where payment is optional, the only power acting against thoughtless consumption is ethics. We all know we should pay, but do we have to pay? If we skip the payment and just download the file, will anyone know? Swaying our decision further is the gross inequality of these opposing views: Yes, we can pay for one movie or one song or we can download an entire season, or, if so inclined the entire professional portfolio of a creator on a whim. We face the decision of paying for a single bite or freely collecting a slew of meals we may never even consider consuming. Such a situation holds only the thin sheet of ethical obligation as protection for those who create content.

Content creators need to recognize this situation and act accordingly. A creator needs to consider the value of an opposing forms. To make this comparison more balanced we must begin by considering the form of stimulation a consumer wants. Where is the predominant stimulation? Is it visual, such as a film or television program? Is it auditory in the form of a song or is it tactile in the form of a baseball game or meal? Considering a single piece of content in these categories helps content creators create logical price points. If a song writer creates a song, he or she must consider the cost or another form of auditory stimulation when setting the cost. Similarly, a creator of a film needs to consider the cost a consumer faces if he or she is interested in visual stimulation. A content creator who makes a visual piece of content is making a gross error if charging five dollars when a different visual item costs three dollars.

Costs of production will weigh into the issue, but consumers recognize the value of high production and will award creators accordingly. Such awards are based on merit and if one finds high cost content failing to garner a return there is an error in thinking- the value of high cost content does not necessarily mean impressive special effects. Interestingly, many of the high-cost features of high-cost productions are of little interest to consumers who desires for entertainment are often more simple than many producers believe. Ironically, a focus on these high-cost item often leads to a failure in creating interesting content or, even worse, an unsatisfactory use of these high-cost items may botch the entire creation. Consider the high-budget action movie so chock full of bad CGI that, while far-reaching and expensive, becomes more parody than valuable entertainment. Creators need to recognize the audience as intelligent creatures, not fools easily mesmerized by loud sounds and bright colors.

Time is not equal. Creators of content need to consider the competing sources of entertainment when creating and marketing content. Failure to do so risks destroying an industry and fails to provide a hungry public with quality content. Consumers exist in an economy where free content is easily accessible on a cost-free basis.

Sub-Systems and Sub-Societies

April 14, 2011 Leave a comment

All systems possess multiple layers which function both independently and dependently on the system as a whole. The motor vehicle is an excellent example of this organization: the wiper blades wiping rain from the windshield wash away water to complete their pre-assigned, independent task. Driving these blades is a system of electricity and hardware that allows the process to take place. These components function on an independent basis but are dependent on the vehicle’s main power source to provide them with the needed power to function. The blades are a minor component, we know this by considering what would occur if the blades failed. When the blades die but the car continues to run we have identified a minor component in relation to a major one. The vehicle is the major component in the system and is the generalized item from which all minor component parts are gathered and set in motion.

Does the car even exist? Is the motor vehicle something we can identify or are we referring to the collected minor components that make up the car? At what point does semantics come into play?

Human components complicate the system further. Consider the banking system where risk assessors risked tasked with providing loans but a a level that does not risk the bank’s security can easily be distorted by misguided incentives. Promise any human being with an additional benefit and one rests all security on the strength of someone else’s ethics. As we saw in the housing crisis, these dependence on ethics, or better phrased as “we can make it work,” often leads to complete and near-total disaster.

All systems and societies have independent functioning components. We are best served by recognizing these complications and, when considering human systems, understanding that the independent components will often act for personal gain before system gain. While we can invest a reasonable amount of confidence in our wiper blades, a significant risk lies in investing equal or more confidence in our human counterparts. If the mechanics of our wiper blades are working we’ll have a clear view of the road, but if our human worker has been misdirected he or she may lose connection with the system’s goals and pose a threat to others involved. Rest assured in your wiper blade’s employment, but take heart in your employee’s hands with the blade.

Suggestions for Funding Requests

March 15, 2011 Leave a comment

Organizations seeking money are best served by framing their request as a means for advancement, not maintenance. When you ask for money, do not remind me how great you are. Rather, let me know about what you plan to do. I prefer to give money to causes aiming at greater challenges; I am less interested in helping you maintain how great you already are.

If success comes to an organization in the form of accolades it is best to use other items as sources of pride in the face of funding cuts. When your organization is being threatened with a reduction in cuts, please avoid bragging about the numerous awards you have won. Afterall, if you’re doing well maybe your success could increase with a small reduction in cuts. If the rest of the community is struggling to live more leanly than certainly your organization can struggle along with us.

Do not request funding when a major global disaster has occurred. When an earthquake and tsunami strike Japan my priorities will shift and so should your’s (especially as a news organization). I know you need money, but holding on to radio programming I like is less important when people are dying. Know where you stand in public priority and do not forget your role to the public.

Fund drives are ugly, unfortunate things. Any time an organization has to beg for funding is a time for an unseen reaming of shame. It’s a tough world, but frame your request correctly. Yes, its critical, yes you are under threat but so are we and we’d rather have you down in our hole than charged with the request to play ladder.

The Beauty of the Dawn

January 23, 2011 Leave a comment

There is a certain amount of gleaming optimism when one reflects and sees a dawning technological age. Of the previous generations, only a selection have been fortunate enough to participate in an era where new technology was gaining popular traction. As extensive use expands a series of evolutions occur wherein the relationship between tech and user mesh to improve the functions of both. In a sense, as we expand our use of a device it is tweaked to meet our needs just as we adjust how we use the device to take advantage of what it provides.

This process of “shared evolution” between user and device is short lived. Gradually the device is replaced by a new device that better meets user needs. Typically a designer has considered the old device and created a new device in response to needed features. When a designer travels back to the drawing board a ticking clock of death initiates for the old design: new designs beget new tech and a major adjustment of public use. The public has no need for legacy with technology, in a system of pure utility a device’s use begins and ends on the basis of public interest.

We see this process of evolution in the devices of the past. Consider the telegraph and the telephone whose initial appearance instigated a revolution in communication. With popularity comes the beautiful cycle of symbiosis where increased capital allows a manufacturer to improve a product and draw in even more users. Greater use provides additional capital and the opportunity to reinvest for the benefit of both creator and user.

This state gradually breaks down as new technology is developed. Eventually a new device will pull away an increasing number of users and lead to a reduction in capital. Eventually the costs of improvement outweigh profits and technology becomes stagnant. The period of evolution ceases and technology enters a state of endless stagnation where evolution comes only in the areas of use within the previously established form. We see this with the telephone where the actual hardware of the phone has not lead to major improvements and the only real changes to the technology come in the form of new uses or improved services already in existence.

As the internet begins to blossom we see a sense of optimism I can only assume was present in the previous technological developments. Suddenly a new set of activities emerges that drastically alters the way we function in society. Yes there are pitfalls, categorically constant concerns of privacy loss and social breakdown being common forms in all developments, but in general terms new tech gains public traction only when it benefits society. Here again we see primary evidence of quality developments: if it’s popular than society has found a use for it.

New tech isn’t always good tech but in terms of social development these developments help to broaden our perspectives on who we are. New tech often assists us in communication by helping us communicate more efficiently and establish bonds that would be impossible if the technology didn’t exist. As we gradually work down the cost of communication via technological innovation we are expanding human connectedness on multiple fronts and formats. Even if a technological device poses great danger to a naive user there exists a swarm of social benefits that outweigh these dangers. More importantly, technological development’s improvement of social networking demands not only expanded use but expanded education to all citizens so that inherent risks can be avoided.

We exist in a new community of users with technology. As the dawning era of the internet takes shape we need to recognize the great potential that our new medium possesses. Unlike the telephone or television, whose primary eras of development have waned, the internet provides us with great opportunities to shape future use. We should focus on crafting the network that best suits society and prepare all citizens for extensive use. We are a community of users who as a society of technological users face great challenges and possibilities in the years ahead.

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