Men play at tragedy because they do not believe in the reality of the tragedy which is actually being staged in the civilized world. — Jose Ortega y Gasset
The most powerful element of a counter-insurgency strategy is simple and elegant. Those being targeted seldom, if ever, know what is happening to them. Even after it is too late. This is by design.
For many months, through the dead of winter, an exceptional community of disparate groups came together in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock. They didn’t stand a chance.
And of course, they failed to…
The sensible are never free — N. Mailer
We are engaged today in a war on two fronts. One front is well known: Trump, the Koch brothers, giant global corporations, lobbyists, the super rich and the Deep State are singularly committed to a highly coordinated strategy in service to the domination of natural resources, data and all means of production and distribution. They demonstrate little concern for the planet, for local communities and appear poised to create a full-fledged global monoculture.
Their job is to take everything that you cherish and destroy it. We call them the Extractors.
(In 2014 I was asked to give a TED X talk in Sacramento California. I have never been a fan of TED, and was hesitant to say the least. But nonetheless, after much wrangling, I agreed to bring something that “challenged the TED audience.” I had four weeks to prepare and deliver a talk, and the following is the talk that was rejected. The talk I gave will be linked to at the end of this piece).
In today’s world, as it was yesterday and as it will be tomorrow, those that define reality with their language, narratives and symbols are the masters. In my more than two decades of work with leaders and innovators in spaces as diverse as maximum security prisons, billion-dollar corporate c-suites, non-profits, NGO organizations and startups very few understood this truth. Over time, if our work together was successful, they would learn to see the world through this axiom and everything would then change.
Behind this axiom is a riddle, a riddle I hope to unlock in the course of my writing…
In nature, the poison and its antidote are always in very close proximity to each other.
In certain clans and tribes of the Americas, a high-level rite of passage for a healer was what was called a Snake Dance Ceremony. At the heart of the experience was a supreme test; a highly poisonous snake would bite the practitioner. From then on, either the practitioner would transmute the poison or succumb.
The powerful, alarming part of the experience was that death in fact was not a possibility. Failure did not result in death. Worse, the practitioner would embody a certain kind…
When I was midway through my training period, at a time when I had developed a deep love and affection for the women that were training me, my teacher gave me this. She said,
I reflect upon this teaching often, particularly these days. There is confusion everywhere. Of course, it is fully understandable that folks will try and remedy this confusion with life hacks, spiritual uprightness, inspirational urgings on and heroic narratives. As such remedies fail, as they must, the opposite rises in their stead: pragmatic musings, railings against sugary sweet narratives and progressive comings back to earth.
With the almost infinite amount of material out there in the world talking about leadership it would seem that some of it, even a very small percentage, would actually be useful. Alas, this is not really the case.
If we boil down to the fundamental error undermining almost everyone that talks about leadership we always end up at the same place; a complete misunderstanding about power. And along with the deepest of confusions about power — what it is and what it is not — we find an even deeper confusion about authority.
We are living through an astonishing transitional phase. History is moving away from a 5000 year era of empire that viewed efficiency, extraction and the consolidation of wealth as the way to power.
On one level this shift is obvious: it is becoming harder and harder to extract natural resources out of the earth and labor out of human beings for the cheapest price possible. On another level, however, this shift is invisible.
Because of technology and the almost perfect mastery of the empire business model by venture capitalists and top executives in most of the biggest companies on earth…
As I read the current claims and counterclaims, defenses and attacks circling Amazon and pointing towards their working conditions, I can’t help but notice that a line of reasoning as obvious as it is decisive is missing; decisive in the sense that if we were to focus upon it all the other conversations would be destined to disappear.
Let’s start by getting one small matter out of the way. It is inescapable — whether you like it or not — that no matter what goes on at Amazon the folks working there are choosing to…
There was a Native young man who went to serve in the Second World War. Towards the end of the war he was captured, and then somehow ended up in a Russian prisoner of war camp. When he was finally released, nobody could tell who he was and where he was from because he could no longer speak English. He could only speak a weird form of Russian.
After some time it was determined that he was from the United States, and once he got stateside, authorities figured out his tribe and sent him home. When he arrived, his level…