As our society has moved away from appreciating merit and ability towards appreciating only celebrity and superficial appearance, many of our organisations have mirrored this change and have increasingly appointed people to senior positions based on factors other than proven ability and merit.
This reluctance to select the most able is linked to our society’s dramatic change in attitudes towards meritocracy. Once it was widely accepted that to achieve the best results you needed to select the most able and best performing candidates. Meritocracies tend to be very fashionable during periods when there are great expectations for achievement.
An example would be during the 1960s when selecting people to become astronauts or cosmonauts, it was felt to be correct procedure to selectively pick only the most intelligent and physically outstanding people. Such people achieved amazing results with relatively simple technologies – results that we are unable to equal today with all our more sophisticated technology.
I can recall attending a conference on mathematical modelling a fews years ago and talking to presenters from NASA who were at the time planning a return to the moon with a manned program (before anyone realised that the bankers had misbehaved). I recall them confessing their inability to replicate the achievements of their predecessors from the 1960s, such is the difference between meritocracy and mediocracy.
In contrast now it is felt by many that it is unfair to the less able members of society to give any kind of preference to those who have experience and ability - this is exactly how we create a type of society called a mediocracy - where people are encouraged to perform in a substandard fashion and to tolerate every kind of behaviour from their superiors except leadership.
In education we see increasingly a move from deliberately designing assessment to discriminate based on the ability of students and instead adopt a philosophy that not only does every student have a right to education but every student has a right to pass with a high grade, especially if the students are paying large sums of money.
Increasingly organisations are also selecting based on criteria other than ability and merit.
Such organisations hope that customers, shareholders and society at large will tolerate lesser abilities in exchange for what is often mistakenly thought to be a kinder perspective.
But is it kind?
Certainly it is bad to discriminate against any person.
But does an education system help students by making every one of them think they are geniuses with top marks, when the reality of the bell shape distribution of all human abilities cannot be changed?
What consequences can be expected when everyone thinks they are “A” grade in everything and their ability must be on average a “C” based on a normal distribution?
You end up with mediocrity.
You end up with a society with diminishing expectations in everything and falling performance everywhere.
You end up with generations of young people who have been misled about their own abilities and become frustrated when their “exceptional abilities” prove to be false promises.
Educators become depressed as their vocation has been perverted.and employers hire people who are unsuited for demanding roles.
“Modesty is the color of virtue.”
Diogenes of Sinope
Our modern world has discarded what had been established since the time of Plato (360 BCE) as the prime virtues, namely
Prudence – to judge between all possible actions to select the most appropriate action at a given time to maximise mutual benefit for all
Justice – the perpetual responsibility of respecting the rights, property and achievements of others
Self Restraint – self-control and moderation to enable sustainability for all
Courage – endurance, and ability to confront fear, uncertainty and intimidation
Our education used to be designed to develop these traits, so each of us would strive towards an ideal where we were brave, wise, just and compassionate. When a population achieved such virtues then their nation also become virtuous.
The problem with a population who are brave, wise, just and compassionate is that they are not easily controlled and, more importantly, they do not desire endlessly to shop for new things. Prudent and wise people do not borrow money they do not have to buy things they do not need.
So instead of the traditional virtues we have developed a creed of selfish irresponsibility. Where hard work is no longer associated with reward, everyone is encouraged to develop a sense of self entitlement (because “they are worth it”) and we surround ourselves with images designed to make us want to purchase and consume endlessly.
We developed a whole new art – the art of making people believe that pleasure was associated with consumption. Be it a new car, a new watch, a new washing machine, a new TV, a bigger TV, a TV with 3d, a phone, a phone with different colours.. and so on. The only consistent factor is the person showing their happiness when they purchase the new item.
Where once we were encouraged to be our best through effort and sacrifice now we are told there is a quick fix for everything. And it is always the same fix.. buying something.
Traditional religion has been replaced by this new creed of consumption. Our temples, churches, synagogues and mosques have been replaced by vast shopping malls dedicated to the new God of our age: consumption. Offering not salvation but that happiness that can only be achieved when we purchase something.
Where once we believed in the values such as honesty, and self sufficiency we are now encouraged by every moving image to devote our every effort and resource to acquiring more objects or replacing those we already have with new ones with the latest features.
But, and here is the secret that you already know but is forbidden to be ever expressed, acquiring things does not make one happy.
Happiness is actually the opposite of what our modern world would wish us to think.
Happiness is appreciating what you have already, who you are already and the people who share that appreciation with you, now.
Buying things will not help you appreciate yourself. Only your mental attitude and self awareness can do that.
Ironically the very things the old traditional virtues taught us.
Suggested Reading and Materials
War should be the only study of a prince. He should consider peace only as a breathing-time, which gives him leisure to contrive, and furnishes as ability to execute, military plans. – Niccolo Machiavelli
Our papers and news are filled with images of the numerous murdered victims of horrific chemical weapons.
Leaders of the West are posed for a military intervention in Syria based on the public’s understandable outrage at the use of such hideous weapons of mass destruction.
However the critical question is who used these weapons?
On August 20 2012 President Obama declared:
“We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilised… That would change my equation.”
So It has been a declared statement for at least 12 months by the Western Powers that they would intervene ONLY IF CHEMICAL WEAPONS WERE USED. I do not think anyone doubted this resolution, least of all Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad.
It is, in my opinion, unlikely that with this understanding, the Syrian regime would act in such a way as to lead to Western Intervention which is likely to end in the otherthrow of their own regime. It is, simply not likely that a regime would directly act to cause its own destruction and that of its nation’s infrastructure.
Since the beginning of recorded history nations have justified military action because of some pretext. The Roman’s were masters at creating a pretext that would justify an invasion of a foreign nation so its wealth and lands could be taken.
So the more intelligent among us should be asking ourselves who benefits from the invasion of Syria, the possible involvement of Iran in such a conflict and the ultimate overthrow of both existing regimes in Syria and Iran?
And before you jump to conclusions it may not be the Western Powers at all. Those of you who know the history of the First World War will realise that war between the major powers was manipulated and that the Nations fell for such manipulation because each felt they would gain advantage from it.
“Intuition becomes increasingly valuable in the new information society precisely because there is so much data.” – John Naisbitt
Recent revelations from the world of wikileaks inform us that the Western intelligence community is spending vast sums developing technologies that can
“exploit any telephone, anywhere, any time”
Fantastic stuff. I can quite literally imagine the presentation to intelligence chiefs that sold this pack of nonsense.
For a moment let us forget the ethics of such spying. Yes you CAN gather limitless amounts of data… No you cannot make any sense of it, at all.
And that means it is pointless.
Yes you can have some convincing looking prototype – that only works on a known and controlled data set.
Yes some buffoon with scrambled egg on his hat can be fooled into believing he can soon have a tool to understand the entire population and spot the “bad” people.
But its useless, expensive nonsense.
Just think of the noise to signal ratio of bugging the use and logging the location of EVERY phone. It will be literally useless data that shows mass movements during the start and finish of working hours and utterly boring text conversations that talk about what’s for dinner and if the cat has been fed.
Billions of dollars totally wasted on some idiot’s fetish for “total control over the population”.
Are there no technical feasibility reports conducted any more?
Is there no oversight of how these projects get initiated?
Has no one asked the group selling this amazing concept to run a batch of real world random data into the prototype and see what comes out the other end?
No, of course not.
“It needs more development”.
My advice to the intelligence community is to just take a step back and think of the cold hard reality of modern technology. It’s fantastic for sure but only on highly restricted domains and data sets that have already been tagged into meta data.
If the British National Health Service (NHS) cannot implement a computer system to monitor its patients (and the NHS has control over the input and verification of its highly structured data) and enormous budgets (bigger than the UK intelligence budget) what chance does a secret monitoring system stand of being successfully implemented?
True nobility is exempt from fear.-
Marcus Tullius Cicero
When the coroner (Sir Robert Owen) investigating the death of Alexander Litvinenko requested an inquiry replace his inquest he was following the long established principles of the British Justice system.
Only a public enquiry could consider evidence that was otherwise restricted under the official secrets act. This “secret” evidence alone could determine if agencies of foreign powers had been responsible for the death of Mr Litvinenko and further if his death was unlawful (Murder).
Since the death occurred on British Soil this would be the proper legal process to determine the cause of death and if a criminal prosecution was necessary for Justice to be served.
There was a time, not so long ago, when British justice was respected as a model for all others to follow. Those tasked with holding the scales of justice and it’s sword were known to be “without fear or favour”. It would not matter if you were rich or poor, powerful or destitute – you could be sure Justice would serve your cause, if it was Just.
However we now live in much sadder times. The British Government was so clearly frightened that they intervened and prevented a public enquiry.
When pressed on the reasons the British Government openly acknowledged that they were influencing due legal process so they could show favour to a foreign power, Russia.
So due process and justice are openly acknowledged to be subject to both Fear and Favour by the very people who are elected to protect the people, their rights and their expectation to fair legal process for all.
Shame on the British Government for their weakness.
Do the British Government think that the Russians hold them in greater respect now they have openly shown they are pawns to the will of a foreign power and further will allow that foreign power to execute people on British soil without trial or legal representation?
Strong leaders do what is RIGHT not what is CONVENIENT. I have written extensively on Right Behaviour so I will not repeat it here.
It is part of being a leader of worth that you put aside your fear and your favour to serve the society or organisation that you lead. It is so sad that we have no leaders of worth.
“More things in politics happen by accident or exhaustion than happen by conspiracy.” –
With all the recent talk of the intelligence services around the world having copies of everything that is done on the internet many people are becoming convinced that there is a worldwide conspiracy to divert democracy towards, what many are calling, a “New World Order”.
Such an idea is appealing and to be very honest, our leaders do little to stop such speculation when they run to secret meetings with the rich and they make complete idiots of themselves trying to persecute individuals who reveal misdeeds. Besides, If anyone did not know that internet traffic was being collected then they must have been on a desert island for the last 30 years.
However these activities do not make a global conspiracy.
This just means our leaders are greedy for a free lunch with the rich and famous (they secretly want to be celebrities), that they are jumping to emotional responses to leaks that do not really make any difference to national security, that the intelligence services have an irrational need to compensate for their lack of useful human intelligence with masses of useless data and that our government is too weak to have the will to control them.
Which, to be frank, is the same problem we face with every other element of modern life that is now over stepping its legal and moral boundaries. A total lack of principled leadership from our leaders who prefer to sell out the moral obligations of their office for short term gain instead of acting as agents of advancement.
The reality is that in order to have an effective conspiracy the members of the conspiracy must trust each other, work in a coordinated manner and be competent enough to implement long term plans in total secrecy.
Think about it.
Each Minister, Senior Banker, Bureaucrat and Intelligence Mandarin is surrounded by younger people just like younger versions of themselves. Because they selected them. And they must know that these younger clones are not working with them, instead they are guiding “mistakes” to their leaders so they fall from power to be replaced by them.
Such a back stabbing zoo of individuals fails all the requirements for effective membership of a conspiracy.
As for the intelligence services, they have been tricked into thinking that they can take short cuts from the hard work of human intelligence gathering into having an “app” that can understand the entire data set of human internet use. They have been fooled into confusing the “spin” of IT marketing with the reality.
There are no short cuts and as the intelligence community will find out, if they have not already, having a trillions of messages of trivial nonsense is no substitute for real quality human intelligence.
Finally some of you are asking why do our leaders over react to “leaks” if they do not have some awful secret to hide from us? The sad truth is that our leaders are so weak and have such a poor control over the agencies that should serve them that they do not know what has been done in their name.
Not a global conspiracy. More a sad pantomime where imposters pretend to be people of principle and true principled leadership is absent.
“Debt, n. An ingenious substitute for the chain and whip of the slavedriver.” Ambrose Bierce
Over the past few weeks I have been looking at the world debt figures, the performance of the major economies and the stock markets. Looking at the underlying debt ratios it is amazing how the major nations are continuing to function. It is a bit like watching a man dancing while his vital signs say he should be dead. And you have to start to ask yourself how is this possible?
The answer I think lies with the extraordinarily low interest rates and enormous Quantitiave Easing (QE).
Interest rates are so unnaturally low that they can support debt levels several times the national GDP. Governments, Banks and families alike are maximizing these abnormal rates by sustaining levels of debt that are, under normal rates of interest, impossible. None of them has taken the opportunity to adjust their spending to their income, even after the wake up call of 2008.
Government bonds are enjoying rates that are irrationally low. In some situations people are willing to pay in order to lend to supposed “safe” places such as Government Bonds.
Why should we care? Well looking at the history of interest rates you can see the current state is abnormal. Which begs the question what will happen when interest rates return to more normal levels of say 5%?
Pretty much every entity within the financial system is beyond its limits with debt. Which means they will not be able to make the repayments on the loans they have when interest rates rise.
This will start with Banks. As they are living from day to day on rate changes. They will apply pressure to be bailed out again, but the nations have already reached their limits of debt and so that will not happen. In fact shortly after the banks start to buckle the nations will follow. They will be unable to pay their bond repayments.
My guess is emergency taxes and massive quantitative easing will follow before the inevitable sovereign defaults. Large numbers of people are already unemployed and existing on welfare payments. We are likely to see some horrible breakdowns in law and order.
I do not think what happens will be pretty. But I would advise that you take some time to examine your own debt exposure and think about how a return to more normal interest rates would directly impact you. And act accordingly to safeguard your own responsibilities.
The debt levels of Governments are now so far out of control that I do not seriously think there is any point in trying to pressure the government to balance their liabilities to their income. No government in history has ever been able to solve such debt levels without sovereign default and while I am sure the current leaders are all super smart, these problems have defeated people much cleverer and with much greater power.
Sadly there is no suggested reading for this scenario.
Bilderberg Agenda, 2013 meeting:
• Can the US and Europe grow faster?
• Jobs, entitlement and debt
• How big data is changing almost everything
• Nationalism and populism
• US foreign policy
• Africa’s challenges
• Cyber warfare
• Major trends in medical research
• Online education: promise and impacts
• Politics of the European Union
• Developments in the Middle East (Syria and Iran)
• Current affairs
Bilderberg Group Meeting 2013 full attendees:
Chairman: Henri de Castries, Chairman and CEO, AXA Group
Paul M. Achleitner, Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Deutsche Bank AG
Josef Ackermann, Chairman of the Board, Zurich Insurance Group Ltd
Marcus Agius, Former Chairman, Barclays plc
Helen Alexander, Chairman, UBM plc
Roger C. Altman, Executive Chairman, Evercore Partners
Matti Apunen, Director, Finnish Business and Policy Forum EVA
Susan Athey, Professor of Economics, Stanford Graduate School of Business
Aslı Aydıntaşbaş, Columnist, Milliyet Newspaper
Ali Babacan, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister for Economic and Financial Affairs
Ed Balls, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
Francisco Pinto Balsemão, Chairman and CEO, IMPRESA
Nicolas Barré, Managing Editor, Les Echos
José Manuel Barroso, President, European Commission
Nicolas Baverez, Partner, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP
Olivier de Bavinchove, Commander, Eurocorps
John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine, University of Oxford
Franco Bernabè, Chairman and CEO, Telecom Italia S.p.A.
Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO, Amazon.com
Carl Bildt, Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs
Anders Borg, Swedish Minister for Finance
Jean François van Boxmeer, CEO, Heineken
Svein Richard Brandtzæg, President and CEO, Norsk Hydro ASA
Oscar Bronner, Publisher, Der Standard Medienwelt
Peter Carrington, Former Honorary Chairman, Bilderberg Meetings
Juan Luis Cebrián, Executive Chairman, Grupo PRISA
Edmund Clark, President and CEO, TD Bank Group
Kenneth Clarke, Cabinet Minister
Bjarne Corydon, Danish Minister of Finance
Sherard Cowper-Coles, Business Development Director, International, BAE Systems plc
Enrico Cucchiani, CEO, Intesa Sanpaolo SpA
Etienne Davignon, Belgian Minister of State; Former Chairman, Bilderberg Meetings
Ian Davis, Senior Partner Emeritus, McKinsey & Company
Robbert H. Dijkgraaf, Director and Leon Levy Professor, Institute for Advanced Study
Haluk Dinçer, President, Retail and Insurance Group, Sabancı Holding A.S.
Robert Dudley, Group Chief Executive, BP plc
Nicholas N. Eberstadt, Henry Wendt Chair in Political Economy, American Enterprise Institute
Espen Barth Eide, Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs
Börje Ekholm, President and CEO, Investor AB
Thomas Enders, CEO, EADS
J. Michael Evans, Vice Chairman, Goldman Sachs & Co.
Ulrik Federspiel, Executive Vice President, Haldor Topsøe A/S
Martin S.Feldstein, Professor of Economics, Harvard University; President Emeritus, NBER
François Fillon, Former French Prime Minister
Mark C. Fishman, President, Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research
Douglas J. Flint, Group Chairman, HSBC Holdings plc
Paul Gallagher, Senior Counsel
Timothy F Geithner, Former Secretary of the Treasury
Michael Gfoeller, US Political Consultant
Donald E. Graham, Chairman and CEO, The Washington Post Company
Ulrich Grillo, CEO, Grillo-Werke AG
Lilli Gruber, Journalist – Anchorwoman, La 7 TV
Luis de Guindos, Spanish Minister of Economy and Competitiveness
Stuart Gulliver, Group Chief Executive, HSBC Holdings plc
Felix Gutzwiller, Member of the Swiss Council of States
Victor Halberstadt, Professor of Economics, Leiden University; Former Honorary Secretary General of Bilderberg Meetings
Olli Heinonen, Senior Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School of Government
Simon Henry, CFO, Royal Dutch Shell plc
Paul Hermelin, Chairman and CEO, Capgemini Group
Pablo Isla, Chairman and CEO, Inditex Group
Kenneth M. Jacobs, Chairman and CEO, Lazard
James A. Johnson, Chairman, Johnson Capital Partners
Thomas J. Jordan, Chairman of the Governing Board, Swiss National Bank
Vernon E. Jordan, Jr., Managing Director, Lazard Freres & Co. LLC
Robert D. Kaplan, Chief Geopolitical Analyst, Stratfor
Alex Karp, Founder and CEO, Palantir Technologies
John Kerr, Independent Member, House of Lords
Henry A. Kissinger, Chairman, Kissinger Associates, Inc.
Klaus Kleinfeld, Chairman and CEO, Alcoa
Klaas H.W. Knot, President, De Nederlandsche Bank
Mustafa V Koç,. Chairman, Koç Holding A.S.
Roland Koch, CEO, Bilfinger SE
Henry R. Kravis, Co-Chairman and Co-CEO, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.
Marie-Josée Kravis, Senior Fellow and Vice Chair, Hudson Institute
André Kudelski, Chairman and CEO, Kudelski Group
Ulysses Kyriacopoulos, Chairman, S&B Industrial Minerals S.A.
Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund
J. Kurt Lauk, Chairman of the Economic Council to the CDU, Berlin
Lawrence Lessig, Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership, Harvard Law School
Thomas Leysen, Chairman of the Board of Directors, KBC Group
Christian Lindner, Party Leader, Free Democratic Party (FDP NRW)
Stefan Löfven, Party Leader, Social Democratic Party (SAP)
Peter Löscher, President and CEO, Siemens AG
Peter Mandelson, Chairman, Global Counsel; Chairman, Lazard International
Jessica T. Mathews, President, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Frank McKenna, Chair, Brookfield Asset Management
John Micklethwait, Editor-in-Chief, The Economist
Thierry de Montbrial, President, French Institute for International Relations
Mario Monti, Former Italian Prime Minister
Craig J. Mundie, Senior Advisor to the CEO, Microsoft Corporation
Alberto Nagel, CEO, Mediobanca
H.R.H. Princess Beatrix of The Netherlands
Andrew Y.Ng, Co-Founder, Coursera
Jorma Ollila, Chairman, Royal Dutch Shell, plc
David Omand, Visiting Professor, King’s College London
George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer
Emanuele Ottolenghi, Senior Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Soli Özel, Senior Lecturer, Kadir Has University; Columnist, Habertürk Newspaper
Alexis Papahelas, Executive Editor, Kathimerini Newspaper
Şafak Pavey, Turkish MP
Valérie Pécresse, French MP
Richard N. Perle, Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute
David H. Petraeus, General, U.S. Army (Retired)
Paulo Portas, Portugal Minister of State and Foreign Affairs
J. Robert S Prichard, Chair, Torys LLP
Viviane Reding, Vice President and Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, European Commission
Heather M. Reisman, CEO, Indigo Books & Music Inc.
Hélène Rey, Professor of Economics, London Business School
Simon Robertson, Partner, Robertson Robey Associates LLP; Deputy Chairman, HSBC Holdings
Gianfelice Rocca, Chairman,Techint Group
Jacek Rostowski, Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister
Robert E. Rubin, Co-Chairman, Council on Foreign Relations; Former Secretary of the Treasury
Mark Rutte, Dutch Prime Minister
Andreas Schieder, Austrian State Secretary of Finance
Eric E. Schmidt, Executive Chairman, Google Inc.
Rudolf Scholten, Member of the Board of Executive Directors, Oesterreichische Kontrollbank AG
António José Seguro, Secretary General, Portuguese Socialist Party
Jean-Dominique Senard, CEO, Michelin Group
Kristin Skogen Lund, Director General, Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise
Anne-Marie Slaughter, Bert G. Kerstetter ’66 University Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University
Peter D. Sutherland, Chairman, Goldman Sachs International
Martin Taylor, Former Chairman, Syngenta AG
Tidjane Thiam, Group CEO, Prudential plc
Peter A. Thiel, President, Thiel Capital
Baroness Williams (Clara Molden)
Craig B. Thompson, President and CEO, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
Jakob Haldor Topsøe, Partner, AMBROX Capital A/S
Jutta Urpilainen, Finnish Minister of Finance
Daniel L. Vasella, Honorary Chairman, Novartis AG
Peter R. Voser, CEO, Royal Dutch Shell plc
Brad Wall, Premier of Saskatchewan Province, Canada
Jacob Wallenberg, Chairman, Investor AB
Kevin Warsh, Distinguished Visiting Fellow, The Hoover Institution, Stanford University
Galen G.Weston, Executive Chairman, Loblaw Companies Limited
Baroness Williams of Crosby, Member, House of Lords
Martin H. Wolf, Chief Economics Commentator, The Financial Times
James D. Wolfensohn, Chairman and CEO, Wolfensohn and Company
David Wright, Vice Chairman, Barclays plc
Robert B. Zoellick, Distinguished Visiting Fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics