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Thursday, June 30, 2016



In 1994, Peter Drucker gave a lecture to government employees called “Reinventing Government: The Next Phase.” (The Drucker Lectures, 2010)

In it, he commented on the National Partnership for Reinventing Government, earlier known as the National Performance Review and commonly known as NPR. This was a government-wide management reform initiative spearheaded by Al Gore which led to the founding of the Federal Communicators Network twenty years ago. (I previously served as Chair of the FCN from 2011-2012.)

Drucker praises NPR’s success, crediting the fact that it was “focused on performance.” However, he shares his concern that an “individual, isolated” change effort is “just good intentions unless it becomes permanent, organized, self-generated habit.”

Ultimately NPR had a significant impact, including $137 billion in savings. But Drucker’s concerns were well-placed, as the work of the NPR influenced future administrations, but was not duplicated by them in the same way.

At its height NPR made a tangible positive difference in the way government functioned, not only because it was an interagency entity but also because it was well-funded and well-staffed, with 250 federal employees paid by their home agencies all working together.

Warned Drucker:


“We need ‘reinventing government.’ If we do not make a start on it, then pretty soon we face catastrophe within the next 10 years or so….The danger here is very great that government will be exposed to something very similar to what has happened in a lot of big companies. I call it “amputation without diagnosis.”

If we know what to do and how to do it, is it necessary to reinvent the wheel?

The forthcoming FCN white paper, “Advancing Federal Communications,” makes the argument for integration from a communications standpoint.


But such integration is only doable when there exists an integrated approach toward managing the government enterprise overall.

____________

Photo via Wikipedia. All opinions are my own.

Monday, June 27, 2016




"What do you do?"


"I'm a therapist."


"What kind of therapist?"


"A marriage counselor."


"Who had the room before me, if I can ask?"


"My ex-husband. We're getting a divorce."


Even as a college student I thought, what an odd thing, to be a marriage counselor when you're getting a divorce.


In my youthful idealism I assumed there must be "something the matter" with her.


Little did I realize this:


You can be the best [whatever] in the world. But no matter how hard you try, there will always be some things you just cannot fix.


I was watching the HBO documentary about Gloria Steinem, "In Her Own Words." Steinem noted that one reason she chose "Ms." for her magazine name was that "women's marital status doesn't matter any more than men's does."


But she couldn't fix the fact that she was situated in an overwhelmingly sexist society that would remain so for many years. The documentary cuts to an interview between CBS' Dan Rather and Nixon:


DAN RATHER: Some have taken to not addressing women by Miss or Mrs., but they've gone to the Miss, Ms., why not do that with White House letters?


NIXON: I guess I'm a little old fashioned, but I'd rather prefer the miss or Mrs.


(and then we hear the audio of Nixon reacting, talking to National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger)


NIXON: He asked a silly goddamn question about "Ms.," you know what I mean? Mr. or Miss, how many people really have read Gloria Steinem and give one s--t about that? You know what I mean? That's a silly thing."


For her part, Steinem was in it for the long haul. She knew that real change would take time. In her words:


"The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off."


This is an example of good problem solving - knowing when, how, and to what extent to attack a problem. For example, Toyota worked diligently and the brand overcame its devastating brake crisis.


Part of good problem solving is the basic understanding that there are limits to what you can do. In fact, sometimes giving up is the most rational option available.


But bad problem solvers never give up. This is contrary to what you might think, and contrary to what we commonly see lionized in popular culture. Countless books, articles, and speeches, television shows and movies hold up to us the people who overcame impossible odds to achieve impossible results. And if there is an acknowledgment that they did not do it alone, we are reminded of the assistance they received through the invisible hand of G-d.


The effect however is always the illusion that a single person can (and even should) fix unsolvable problems on their own. Which of course makes heroism tempting - who doesn't want to be the "Rocky" that ultimately wins the fight?


But if you saw the final installation in the series, Creed, Sylvester Stallone (in character as Rocky) warns his son Adonis that nobody is invincible. "Time takes everybody out," he says. "Time's undefeated."


Worse than time, says Rocky, is the egotism that can turn ambition into you being your own worst enemy. In one scene he points to the mirror where his son is looking at his own reflection and says: "That's the toughest opponent you're ever going to have to face."


People who try to fix the unfixable on their own are motivated by many things - personal tragedy, desperate circumstances, that quiet inner voice that pushes them to move forward. But there is a fine line between genius and madness.


One of my favorite TV shows of all time is Homeland, in which the character Carrie Mathison inevitably solves the case but often while suffering a breakdown along the way. Her tendency to persist beyond normal rational limits is so strong, in fact, that it is portrayed as a piece of her mental illness, because she stops taking her meds in order to sharpen her mental faculties.





Of course, most of us do not see ourselves in Carrie.


But do we have enough sense to stop when passion has turned into pushing?


Because that kind of pace, and that mentality, is not sustainable. Steve Jobs is revered as the genius who built Apple, but he made many significant mistakes from a business point of view and was abusive on countless occasions as well. Additionally Jobs did not leave behind a pipeline of talent or even a methodology with which to develop it. Not surprisingly, today his once-transformative company struggles with an innovation problem.


The word "hero" sounds great to the ear and looks wonderful on the screen. But in reality, people who dance on the edge of a cliff are normally punished by the very organizations they try to help. Rebels at Work (for which I was interviewed) offers tips for those who want to be effective at driving change from within, without ending their careers.


There is another, larger problem as well. From an organizational dynamics point of view, relying on heroes means that the institution can paper over bad leadership, broken processes and outdated technology, relying instead on "heroes" who "somehow make things work." Street-Level Bureaucracy is a classic study of the ways in which individual public servants try to circumvent red tape and do their jobs - the hidden side of what should be a straightforward set of duties.


But there is a better, healthier, and more realistic way forward. To solve a stubborn and intractable problem, you need a network of motivated people. Art Kleiner's Core Group Theory explains how such a group is formed, and eventually coopts the dominant group into the service of its goals.


The bottom line is, it is noble but foolish to try and put out a forest fire with a garden hose.


But you can convince others to work with you to end future forest fires altogether.


_____________


Photo by Jan Truter via Flickr (Creative Commons). Screenshot via Fragments. All opinions my own.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

There is such a thing as karmic debt in this world. It carries from past lives into this one. It operates at the group level and at the individual level. You can owe it even if you didn't do anything wrong - meaning that someone got hurt as the result of your actions, even if they were justified.

My personal belief is that the current rampage of radical Islamism connects with a karmic debt owed by our forefather Abraham to Ishmael and his mother, Hagar. 

If you remember the story in the Bible, Abraham slept with Hagar, Sarsh's servant, to conceive Ishmael. He did this because Sarah was thought to be too old to bear children. 

If Sarah had not conceived Yitzchak, Ishmael would have gone unchallenged as Abraham's only heir. But of course G-d had other plans.

Let's think about this for a moment, about the pain and karmic debt incurred by Abraham and Sarah toward Hagar and Ishmael. 

Hagar had no right to self determination. Her body belonged to both Sarah and Abraham. Like every woman for most of history, she was part of a system of legitimized institutionalized lifelong rape.

Ishmael could have brought her respect and status, but with Yitzchak's birth it was just the opposite.

They tell us in school that it is not for us to question G-d or the greatness of our forefathers and foremothers. But it is possible to ask questions. That is the whole point of recording the stories. There is a way to ask but still retain faith.

Bottom line. What happened to Hagar and Ishmael is indescribable. They went from being part of Abraham's camp to being cast off and abandoned. 

For this, we the Jews owe the Muslims a karmic debt. For all the shame and humiliation they faced, we owe them extra respect to compensate. For being forced out of the encampment, we owe them to stay off of their land and show respect for its integrity - meaning don't infiltrate, set up bases, attack their culture, etc. 

When we live in truth from a spiritual point of view the bloody differences we see on Earth will dissolve and we will usher in a golden era of world peace and prosperity with no more need for fighting.

_____

All opinions my own.


Wednesday, June 22, 2016


Well I just lost an entire post about this, which is probably not an accident. I will share the following but keep it brief.

- saw an incredible number of 613s in a single hour just before the Orlando massacre 

- previously felt such sightings were a warning 

- news headline on 6.13.16 on USA Today said "MASSACRE"

- Shavuot connections -

-- We count 49 days of Omer in the days leading up to Shavuot; 49 people murdered

-- Killer first name was Omar (Omer, Omar) - Hebrew word is "to speak" - G-d spoke the Torah and he spoke words of death 

-- Killer last name was Mateen - Shavuot is holiday of Matan Torah - the word means "giving" - again he perverted giving into taking lives

What does this mean to me?

- The 613 sightings, which predated the attack and have continued (including this morning), are a warning 

- It conveys different kinds of warnings, with varying meanings, at different times, but the unity is 613 - basically faith that HaShem keeps His word and will save us, but only if we keep faithful to the Torah 

- The Torah here is understood broadly as basic principles for Jews  and includes the 7 Noahide laws for all humankind. It's not about fundamentalism or fanaticism but an attitude of faith and submission to the Creator, and serving only Him. Doing the best you can.

- We read the Book of Ruth on Shavuot. Ruth was not Jewish but adopted Judaism as her own. We don't proselytize other nations but we do recognize the greatness of people who serve G-d truly.

- The threat from ISIS is deadly real and represents a total contravention of G-d. The embodiment of evil. We cannot use a strategy of offering love to terrorists.

- More trouble is coming. We need to prepare ourselves spiritually by uniting with one another and refusing to fall into the trap of evil, which is hate. We must avoid all leaders who preach hate. They are the devil.

- My own personal opinion is that the attack occurring at a gay club is G-d's way of telling us once and for all to stop the violence, discrimination and hatred against gay people. The love of one human being for another is not the abomination described in Leviticus. (I do believe promiscuity is an abomination however no matter who practices it with who.)

- It is time to look beyond the narrow confines of our material loves and what we can see with our senses. The world is spiritual in nature and physical things, including our bodies, are a temporary illusion.

May G-d have mercy on me that I should speak the right words at the right time in the right way for the right benefit.

____

By Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. Public domain. All opinions my own. Photo by andrefeo via Pixabay (Creative Commons CC0).

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A note to myself -

Problem - local cultures of hate seeking global domination through acts that instill fear.

Solution - a global culture of peace, respecting local cultures of peace, accomplished through a war against war itself. Including attitudes of tolerance and courage.

Peace is not passivity.

(Opinions are always my own.)

Sunday, June 19, 2016

President Obama just gave a press conference explaining why he won’t use the term “radical Islamic terror.”
Here was a great opportunity to finally answer the question on everyone’s mind. Which is whether he has so much sympathy toward Islam that he cannot consider America’s interests objectively in this case.
His response: Using the term “radical Islamic terror” is actually dangerous, he said: “It won’t make us more safe, it will make us less safe,” because our enemies will use it as a propaganda tool. They will say such a label acts to “validate” the idea of a religious war.
Coming from the most image-conscious, message-aware and brand-savvy American leader of all time, this argument was specious at best. Nobody knows better than the President that radical Islamic terrorists turn everything we do into a propaganda victory.
The President also knows that naming the enemy is the only way to defeat them. After all he frequently names Republicans as the cause of the roadblocks he experiences in Washington.
There is no way to manage a problem effectively until you name it. The President knows this. After all, we name sex offenders, even though the overwhelming majority of sex offenders are male. Does this naming turn men into victims of discrimination?
Of course not. Because once you name the problem, you automatically create two categories: those who are part of it, and those who are not. Americans are an incredibly fair, even generous people and we know that a hateful subculture is not at all equivalent to the culture as a whole.
The President has no problem naming "radical right-wing extremists." We all know what type of people he means when he says that. Of course — a type of Republicans!
So his refusal to do so is disingenuous at best.
The President took the focus off the victims of terror. He avoided the rightful anger Americans feel, their sense of vulnerability and lack of protection. Instead he said, ISIL is getting weaker — believe me because I say so. So stop attacking me.
He delegitimized those who oppose his refusal to name radical Islamic terrorists, by questioning their motives. He said that those on “the other side of the aisle,” e.g. Republicans, and in particular a certain Tweeting Presidential candidate, seek to win points by politicizing the issue.
He played the military card, insinuating that anyone who questions the President is actually devaluing the way in which they risk their lives for the rest of us.
President Obama did everything to avoid the fundamental issue, which people on all sides of the aisle can see. And that is that radical Islamic culture, which has complex historical roots and is not easily divorce-able from religion, frequently praises those who use military force to do religious work.
If radical Islamic culture did not marry religion and killing, guns would not be so appealing. And yet the President scales down the issue to one of excessive gun rights.
The President implies that naming the enemy is un-American. He says that such an approach “doesn’t match our democratic ideals.”
Really? I thought one of our most democratic ideals was to speak the truth freely!
While it is true that hate is wrong and we should avoid it, the President avoids the fact that others hate us and that some have turned a particular religion into their calling card.
He says that naming the enemy would create a religious war that doesn’t currently exist. But in fact his refusal to name the enemy is making matters worse, because people perceive that he cannot be trusted to handle the problem objectively.
Instead of directing his outrage against those who act as dictators, the President says that if we do so we will tarnish the honor of Islam.
But the terrorists are the ones tarnishing it!
Mr. President, with all due respect, it is crucially important that you stop spinning narratives and start telling it like it is.
Radical Islamic terror.
It is a cancer on humankind.
Time to name it and obliterate it completely.
___
All opinions my own.
No matter what you do for a living, if you run a company you will at some point have to answer questions from the public. Might be an investor, a partner, an employee, a journalist, a customer, or even a member of Congress.

Now this may sound obvious, but most of the time people have better things to do than sit down and contact a company with their concerns. So if they're exercised enough to write to you, there is probably something significant on their minds.

And while you may think it's easy to simply respond, here are a few tips that may help you build your reputation for integrity and customer service by handling public inquiries effectively.

1.Mechanics: Acknowledge the inquiry. Give the question a ticket number. Answer within a reasonable period of time. Make it clear to your customer when they should expect to hear from you.

2.Basic Content: When you answer the question, get to the point immediately. Make sure you answer all the questions or comments the person raised. Keep responses short and provide links to further information. Don't answer more than was originally asked.

3.Scope: Be thorough.Go the extra mile to offer alternatives, options and resources. However, don't speculate about things you don't know or can't back up.

4.Attitude: Talk like a grownup talking to a grownup - not condescending and not robotic. Be respectful. Be compassionate. Explain your reasoning or the basis for what you're saying. Take responsibility as appropriate - some complaints simply have nothing to do with you.

5.No-Nos: Do not ask your technical experts to write. Check for spelling errors. Even a minor error makes you look unprofessional, careless and untrustworthy.

Here's the most important thing to remember: Be present. Focus on this person, this inquiry, this moment in time.

Think about how they will feel when they read your response. Imagine that you botch it and your customer is completely furious - vowing never to do business with you again.

Or, the opposite - they are surprised and delighted by the personalized, professional, comprehensive answer they got from you. At your humanity, your intelligence, and most of all your accountability to the brand promise.

People have such a short attention span these days; they demand instant gratification; it's hard to keep their business.

Focus your answers on keeping the customers you have.

_________

All opinions my own.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

1. "Peace is an absolute priority" and a prerequisite for normality for all of us."

2. "Militarism, extremism, and violence...signify the failure of wasatiyyah (moderation)."

3. "Waging a campaign against criminality and aggression may call for strong measures to protect society against lawlessness."

4. "Good governance is a potent instrument and facilitator of moderation and balance in public affairs."

5. "In the sphere of government, national constitutions are the principal tools of establishing a system of checks and balances in the exercise of power."

6. "A constitution that is cognizant of the essentials of Islam, and enacted through consultative methods and promulgated by the lawfully designated leader in a Muslim majority country, may well qualify as the command of the ulu'l-amr that inspires obedience."

7. "Education and the media play crucial roles in the realization of a state of socio-political equilibrium."

8. "Misinformation on Islam and Islamophobia can only be addressed by parallel efforts to call attention to the often neglected peace-like, humanitarian and compassionate teachings of Islam."

9. "There is a need also to develop the discourse of wasatiyyah among Muslims themselves."

10. "Pluralism is a powerful moderator that ensures accommodation of differential interests from within. The essence of a positive approach to pluralism is in the openness of its various component parties."

11. "Islamic scripture accepts the validity in principle of monotheist religions and Muslims have through history lived amicably, engaged, and interacted with other faith communities in their midst."

- Professor Mohammad Hashim Kamali, 11 conclusions & recommendations from his book, "The Middle Path of Moderation Islam" (pp. 236-237)

Friday, June 17, 2016

Did this crazy thing the other day. It was so out of character.


I went to the library.


They had a shelf called "great reads."


Went over to it and ran my hand along the modest beat-up walnut.


One book stood out. It was old but I'd always wanted to read it.


"New notifications" said my cellphone and then it started beeping. Texts.


Annoyed, I put it away.


As a kid, time seemed to crawl.


Now, many years later, I realize the value of slowing down.


This month's Harvard Business Review has a cover story called "The High-Intensity Workplace." It's about the strategies people use to deal with an unreasonably demanding environment, which is to say most workplaces these days.


Briefly, they either


- Go along and lose their personal lives;


- Pretend to go along and burn out along the way, ultimately burning out from the stress; or


- Admit that they're not automatons and get punished. 


Boy have things changed in just a few decades. And there isn't even a reward for it.


Why exactly are we in school day and night, chasing degrees that yield debt but not a job?


Why are we ignoring our families to work on...name it. Why don't we make marriages and kids in the
first place? (No time.) Why are so many people divorced and then in unhappy relationships?


Why are so many people loudly unhappy at work, toxic to themselves and their colleagues?


Why are so many quietly unhappy, constantly answering this email and that email and doing this project and that and coordinating her meeting and his meeting and that initiative and this? Without any thank-you or appreciation. No reward other than "you keep your job?"


It's a sunny day today and I enjoyed feeling the sun on my face, the wind blowing soft and fresh across my body.


If we could just slow down a little bit and leave ourselves alone. We'd be happier and more productive, too.


Here, I give you permission.


________________


All opinions my own.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

We were talking about the Stanford rape case and the question of drinking came up.

I said that although I felt terrible for the rape victim, she shouldn't have gotten drunk.

Because a college campus, for girls, is a threat environment and it's stupid to put yourself in a position where someone can rape you.

Last night we took a walk and passed the high school. There in the grass sat two teenage girls and three teenage guys. They were laughing in that way people laugh when things are getting rowdy.

I turned to my husband and said, "That looks like trouble about to happen."

When you're dealing with a threat environment, political correctness doesn't matter. It doesn't matter that you should be able to wear whatever you want; that you should be able to drink as much as you want, and get drunk; or that you should be safe with people you think are your friends.

The only thing that matters is the amount of threat, and what you do to minimize it.

I got a call from my daughter the other day. "I'm sitting in Starbucks," she said.

"It's 10:00 at night," I answered back. "What are you doing out so late?"

"Oh mom," she said to me.

"Please get a cab home and don't take the bus," I shot back. "Don't look for trouble."

It's curious to me that people have trouble distinguishing the features of a threat environment, from their feelings about why the threat environment exists in the first place, or their passionate conviction that the threat itself is wrong.

When it comes to a threat, we cannot worry about being "nice."

It is not the time to accomplish "social justice."

You simply eliminate the threat.

This sounds so very basic and self-evident but if you look around the world, in particular at the mishandling of the refugee situation in Europe, you see that common sense does not always play out in real life.

If a proper threat assessment had been done beforehand, it seems unlikely that we would be witnessing the outcome we are seeing right now. Floods of desperate people committing crime after crime after crime, and the authorities paper over what's happening.

Unfortunately, when your policies are based on "narrative" and "spin" instead of an objective risk assessment, you leave it to hate groups to assert the obvious. And when hate groups become a primary news source, that's a whole other level of threat that compounds the original problem.

When you look at the world from a threat-based perspective, it doesn't really matter what the issue is, what your politics are, or what your morality claims to be. It only matters that the people who populate any given area are safe.

So...let's review the types of things one should avoid from a threat-based perspective.
  • Women - don't get drunk and go to a college party. Don't hang out with immature people and expect that they will behave like responsible grownups. Don't stay out late at night, and then walk home alone.
  • Nations - don't try to help a flood of desperate people escape a war-torn country unless you have a lot of money and a plan to ensure the safety of all parties involved. Food, shelter, healthcare, education and very good security.
  • Message-makers - Don't try to recreate reality using "spin." Don't let hate groups tell the story.
  • Everybody - don't confuse feelings with facts. Don't go off on a social justice mission when someone is openly threatening to kill you and your loved ones, and to destroy everything that you hold dear.
Denial is a normal psychological reaction when we're threatened.

But we can't afford to give in to it. We cannot let it substitute for common sense.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Over the past few days I’ve done my fair share of browsing unfamiliar retail environments.

I cannot find a goddamn thing.

In Publix (grocery store) I needed a protein bar. Well who would think that the protein bars would be in the same aisle as the…Snapple and shampoo.

Perhaps you’re thinking Macy’s, a national brand, would be better.

No.

Here is what we confronted in our quest to buy a bathing suit for my husband.




It was a dizzying array of merchandise, but everything was piled on top of everything, placed adjacent to every other thing, and the store was almost impossible to navigate.

Plus the customer service staff was scarce.

One guy with a mountain beard stood there trying to look preoccupied with folding things.

Another lady was sweeping the men’s dressing room (???).

And then of course there was a person at the cash register, dealing with customers.

For goodness sake, carry less stuff and use white space. Have better signs. And require staff to interact with customers in a way that is genuinely kind and helpful.

Don’t you want to sell stuff?

_____

All opinions my own.



All opinions my own. Photos by me.
I travel to a certain Hilton hotel fairly frequently. Between my most recent visit and the previous one – less than 6 months – the improvement in customer service is so noticeable that I would call it drastic. This was evidenced by the following behaviors:
  • Quick response to customer service requests
  • Followup phone calls to make sure we got what we needed
  • Pre-arrival text to make sure we had a contact number
  • Actually stating “we are here to serve you, that’s what we’re here for”
  • Smiling, courteous, but non-intrusive attitude
  • Generous provision of incidentals like newspaper, toothpaste, etc.
  • General welcoming atmosphere, very quiet and relaxing
This was a case study in customer service improvement!


I wanted to know more on a practical level: How did they do it?


So I asked one of the employees – letting the person know that I was writing a blog post, and that their name would not be used. In a sign of being well-trained and brand-conscious, the person agreed and then introduced me to the operations manager, who thanked me for the kind online review and shared some additional thoughts. They are included in the below.
  • Extensive Training With Role-Playing: Employees receive extensive training, including face-to-face role playing to help them handle potentially unpleasant scenarios.
  • Positively Oriented Employee Rewards Program: When employees do a good job of providing customer service, guests are encouraged to let Hilton know through its “Catch Me At My Best” program. Of course guests can also complain, but the idea is to focus on what people are doing well rather than badly.
  • Relevant Rewards: When employees are happy and productive, the brand shines. In this case, the rewards program is relevant to employees in two ways. First, they are recognized among their peers, which provides social status and self-esteem. Second, rewards are tangible and financial, translating into gift certificates usable at local grocery stores and tourist attractions.
  • “Practice What You Preach” Management Style: Management clearly models the behaviors it asks of its employees. Working at the hotel is a dignified profession and serving guests is a privilege and an honor. It is a classy environment to be in, and the way people carry themselves reflects this. I personally found this to be true, whether dealing with people at an executive level or people who were serving coffee.
  • Empowerment: Management gives employees the discretion to handle situations (to a certain extent, I’m sure, not infinitely) according to their best judgment.
______


This post represents my own opinion and was not sponsored by Hilton Hotels. It is not official communication on their part or mine. The employee I spoke with introduced me to the operations manager at the hotel, who graciously thanked me for getting the word out online.

A few times in my career I’ve had to review resumes. Most of the resumes I see are terrible. This is because the candidate:
  • Throws every possible qualification into the document – regardless of whether it matches the type of job they’re applying to.
  • Jams words on top of words, making it impossible to read them without Herculean effort.
  • Tries to obfuscate their true level of experience.
Oddly, in messing up their resumes people ignore the most basic rule of branding: make yourself uniquely appealing to the customer. But people do it anyway.
 
The underlying psychological reason? Ego.


There is a resistance to “changing” yourself “just to satisfy someone else.”


Even if it’s for the sake of a job.
 
Think about how much that costs you.
_____


All opinions my own.

Monday, June 13, 2016

He was repulsed, says his father, by the sight of two men kissing. He was upset that his son should see this.

His ex-wife says that he hit her. One time, because she hadn’t finished the laundry.

And then he committed the worst mass shooting in American history, killing 50 people or more at a gay nightclub.

It is hard for normal people to make sense of the killer’s mindset. So we tell ourselves he is a “cowardly hater,” not one of us. 

But maybe we are letting ourselves off too easily. We have a fair share of hatred in ourselves - often for ourselves - and it is only too easy to put that hatred on others.

There is this word “intersectionality” now. It basically means that people suffer from multiple forms of hatred at once, because all baseless hatred is related. If you hate on gay people and lesbians, you’re going to hate on people of other cultures, other colors, and classes you perceive as lesser than yourself. And guess what? You are more prone to be a terrorist.

Oddly, brands are a kind of self-preservation measure, a way of protecting oneself against this type of bullying. And clearly, Omar Mateen spent his share of time posing for the camera. 

An obsession with image, an obsession with being better than everybody else, an obsession with hating on anyone whose difference threatens you personally.

It occurs to me that Mr. Mateen may have been gay, and shot all of those people because he just couldn’t deal with it.

I think that he got involved with radical Islam as a way of bolstering his self-image. You and I don’t have to understand that - but for many recruits the group fulfills their fantasies of greatness.

We really need to get smart about terrorism. It’s not the enemy “out there.” It’s the enemy “in here,” the impoverishment of the self.

So at the end of the day, it isn’t “them” who poses the most danger. 
It is “us.”

Time to wage a jihad against the evil part of ourselves. 
___

All opinions my own.


Saturday, June 4, 2016

She gestured toward an empty spot on her desk with the open palm of her hand. 
"I'm gonna put a big glass bowl of Valium here," she said. 
At that, I burst out laughing.
"Oh, it's no joke," she said, her voice lowering to a near-whisper. "I really need it."
We'd met at the gym and I didn't work with her. So she started to unload: "They" (it wasn't clear to me whether this was employees, colleagues, bosses or some combination of the three) were constantly bringing her their problems. Family stuff. Work fights. Projects that made no sense. Bothersome people. Everything.
"Shut the door," she said, putting her head down into a kind of nest made of her own elbows. "I need a break."
When she picked up her head, I learned about a meeting she'd attended that morning - the latest round of fighting over some issue or another.
Apparently someone had singled her out, blaming a decision she'd made five years ago for all the problems "it had caused us downstream."
She clenched her fist, hard, pressing it against the mahogany desktop.
"What an ignorant ass!" she said loudly. "Do you know, I don't even know him?"
I shook my head at the story, thinking, I hate office politics so much.
"Thank goodness I've learned to save every email in an Outlook folder," she said. Her voice had turned cold and steely. "Believe me I left that meeting and sent the proof of my innocence to everyone. Believe me I copied everybody!"
She glanced at her charcoal-rimmed computer monitor.
"I am praying we never have to switch to Google."
It felt like I'd been in there for a bit too long, and heard a bit too much, so I tried to lighten things up a bit so that I could make my way the hell out of there.
"Hopefully you had a good weekend," I said. "Mondays are always hard."
With that, I stood up and went for the door handle. Almost out, I thought to myself. A bit of fresh air would be good.
But she had one last thing to tell me.
"By the way, X just had a heart attack," she said. "They took him out on a stretcher."
"You're kidding," I said, surprised. This executive was literally the life of the Christmas party. 
"He has a pretty stressful job," she mused. "I wonder if he'll be coming back."
Too quickly, I replied, "He didn't really seem like the heart attack type."
My gym friend went quiet. Now I could see a tissue in her still-tightly-clenched fist, a messy wrinkle amid her beautifully manicured red nails.
"What's the heart attack type?" she asked. And with that I saw her looking around her beautifully appointed office, at all the awards on the walls. 
Suddenly it felt like I was standing with her in a cage.
Her eyes fell upon the empty spot on her desk. The spot where she had fantasized putting Valium.
"I guess I don't know," she finally said. "But I can't stop thinking about that stretcher."
Her gaze fixed on my worried eyes.
"I just hope it isn't coming for me."
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Copyright 2016 by Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the views of her employer or any other organization or entity, including the United States as a whole. Photo credit: Jim Sher / Flickr (Creative Commons)