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foxwizard ☾
Recent musing—

🦊🧙🏻‍♂️ // It’s okay to signal virtue

In fact: it’s odd not to.

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What-ho and hello! This is going to be a hell of a pell-mell* of a museletter. The past two months have seen me operate in mostly deranged form. More yako 野狐 than the otherwise zenko 善狐 form I aspire to. I seem to have fallen prey to some of the daemons of the warp. Or rather: the ability for platforms to polarise us, and to only show us the worst of humanity.° Or rather: the worst of Western imperialism in force.

* Don’t expect elegant segues.
° And, also: the best of society. Communities, unions, and peoples of all countries and cultures uniting together against atrocity, and remembering the power we can collectively tap into. Grim as it has all been, this has been hearting.

Questing for better strategy

I had the joy of being asked some incredibly astute questions in a recent webinar appearance with govn365. If you’ve ever wondered where strategy comes from—and what ‘quest leadership’ looks like in action—I think you’ll enjoy this webinar. This is, literally, a rare ‘behind the scenes’ glimpse into how emergent strategy is cultivated in enterprise land. Enjoy!

Addendum

A month or so ago I wrote a post on Moral Courage and said that I stand against the mass killing of children and civilians (no matter who is doing it) and that there is no context in which such actions are ever appropriate. Since making that post I was met by some folks come to educate me that my stance was misinformed, and that my criticism of the Israeli government committing these crimes against humanity was antisemitic. This is—as I shared already—a dangerous conflation.

But I have come to realise that I write fr0m a very lovely part of the world. In Melbourne—particularly my turf, the most politically green and left-leaning part of the country—we say ‘thank you’ to our bus drivers. We have community gardens and picnics in the park. We have street art. We have comedy festivals, literary events, cultural celebrations, and more. And we show up in many tens of thousands to rally against injustices. The gemeinschaft is real.

And so when I heard about the rise of antisemitism in Australia, I mistakenly thought it was an exaggeration generated by the media—and a deflection from the atrocities at hand. As previously declared, I deplore any and all forms of antisemitism. But I now realise that antisemitism is on the rise. And this looks very different from outside my green bubble. I genuinely had no idea how bad things have gotten.

I am very glad to have had a Jewish friend take the time to call me in on this, and I am very sorry if my stance inadvertently reduced what may be a very real and increasingly concerning situation. No one should live in fear—not any one of us. I feel genuinely bad for not having checked in on my Jewish friends earlier.

At the same time, I am grateful for the many people who have shared appreciation for my writing. I still hold that committing genocide* does not makes the world safer for any of us—but I am going to do my best to tread with much more care.

* I am aware that this is a loaded and psychoactive term. I am using the term intentionally—as informed by the Israeli historian and associate professor of holocaust and genocide studies at Stockton University, human rights lawyers, UN high commissioners, and of course the Palestinians themselves. I want for folks to realise what is happening right now, and not be in denial about it (which is where many of us are right now: stage ten of ten of the genocide watch). I do not mean to use this term to evoke trauma—I use the term as means to prevent the perpetuation and generation of further trauma. I hope that readers understand my intent here—I do not seek to divide, but to rally us all together. This is not about religion—it’s about patriarchy, imperialism, white supremacy, neo-liberalism, racism, fascism, and what happens when violent power is concentrated and unilateral violence is increasingly justified and normalised.

Why do I care about genocide?

Because the same forces that drive genocide are the same forces that perpetuate ecocide. And for the first time I am witnessing it, in real time, via on-the-ground journalists (who are being killed in record numbers, whilst many of our Western journalists seem to have forgotten the true calling of journalism).

Also: how could any of us not care? It’s not fun to write about, nor read about. And yet here we are. The overlapping genocidal and ecocidal forces include:

  • Dehumanisation and detachment. When a group of people is ‘othered’ and deemed less worthy of moral consideration, it makes it easier to justify violence against them. Likewise, our (illusionary) detachment from the ecological systems we are of and live within (and depend upon) enables us to reduce complex living systems into ‘resources that can be extracted’. In this way a forest is only valuable for the wood that can be harvested; an ocean for its fish, and so on. Until nothing is left.
  • Systemic exploitation and oppression. Genocide is often involves a situation where asymmetrical power dynamics are abused to marginalise and eliminate a group of people. Similarly, our legal system offers little protection against those incentivised to exploit.
  • Ideological justification. In the case of genocide, ideologies of racial, ethnic, or cultural superiority can be used to ‘justify’ the extermination of an ‘othered’ group. For ecocide, economic and developmental ideologies often provide a rationale for environmental destruction, positing it as a necessary sacrifice for ‘progress’ or growth.*
  • Failure of governance and international law. Weak enforcement of laws, lack of accountability, and international indifference or complicity can allow both types of atrocities to occur and persist. These are only as strong as our collective will to enforce it—look not to the United Nations as the culprit, but rather the member-countries themselves.
  • Denial and moral apathy. Denial of the atrocities (or rationalisation of the actions) is the final stage of genocide, according to the genocide watch. In cases of ecocide, the exponential nature of global heating combined with economic blindness means the impacts of ecological collapse are hard to ‘see’ and thus care for.
  • Psychological mechanisms: Conformity, obedience to authority, desensitisation and complacency enable both genocide and ecocide. Couple this with the perverse incentives that keep us focused on profits at the expense of people and planet and lo! we productively (and profitably) hasten our way to collapse. We become numb to the horror—and then numb to the horror of being numb to the horror.

* This is also why many staunch capitalists fear ‘the woke mind virus’—any realisation of systematic inequality and harm (and how we are all connected) threatens the ideology of capitalism itself, which is why such notions are smeared of quashed wherever they arise. It’s also why it serves capitalism to keep us isolated and divided rather than united as a collective. Capitalism also benefits when we feel a sense of lack—because we can then be sold to. A genuine sense of belonging, purpose and fulfilment is a threat to this, too. (I might add that “being woke” is not sustainable in and of itself—I’ll write of my own journey to post-woke at some stage.)

The pathway out of this takes us away from much of the above. Let yourself feel the feelings. Let this deepen your humanity—not to numb or distract or diminish or deny. Then, ideally, we expand our sense of compassion to include all-of-life (not just human life)—orientating to a world of richer complexity and abundance.

But that may be a tale for another musing. (And an extension of my musing from what seems a long while ago now: Are we beyond hope?)

But, hey, within any crisis there is hope. Hope that our system may sublimate into something better—rather than collapse into dystopia. People are waking up, speaking out, and working together. My hope is that we can collectively co-create a world more curious and kind—which means a world not just tolerant of diversity and difference, but in love with it. A world where no one is made to feel unsafe. I’d also like to think that we might collectively recoil from what extreme right-wing governments bring, and listen more to voices that seek not just the ‘peace’ of imposed order—but genuine liberation for all.*

* Alon Lee is a great example of an Israeli voice speaking our their own government, and striving to course-correct the State towards a better future. Here’s an example.

I’d like to see so much more of this, and to do better to exemplify such.

If you’ve been on the sidelines, this next piece is for you.

It’s okay to signal virtue

In fact: it’s odd not to.

We wave at people to announce our friendly intentions. We shake hands—originally as means to demonstrate we have no concealed weapons up our sleeves. We smile and nod when in conversation, as a means of signalling encouragement. We should not be so worried about virtue signalling—it’s entirely natural for social creatures.

But the internet has made us rather suspicious of the topic.* And so when pro-Palestine protests are dismissed as “just young people virtue signalling”—the implication is that virtue signalling is bad; or that it is merely performative.

* Michelle MiJung Kim writes of this phenomenon, and why this time is different.

I can only speak for myself, but I genuinely hold the virtue that all humans deserve human rights, and that this is not something we can be selective about based on our own politics or prejudice. I thus hold that killing thousands of children in some of the most horrible ways possible is also bad and never acceptable, in any context.

But there is no escaping the performative nature of signalling this. To take any action is to perform it.

But right now, many people are still signalling indifference to genocide through their silence. It’s painful to watch.

People I network with often express concern about ‘how complex it all is’,* and (privately) how they don’t want to say the wrong thing or cause offence.° And, look, I get it. It takes some moral courage to speak out. And, even when you do, you may not please everyone. You will, in fact, likely fūck it up—as I so often do. But that’s okay: we stumble and learn.

* Here are some thoughts on how to act amidst complexity.
° Remember: nice people make the best nazis.

My friend Pat Allan wrote a friendly and encouraging post on how silence is how injustice takes root. It contains some practical things you can do, and has inspired me to write to some of the concerns I suspect some might have.

“But I don’t want to choose sides”, you might say. I know. It is complex, despite what I say. And also: it’s not. One side is a nuclear power backed by a military superpower that is committing genocide (whilst also killing journalists trying to report on the matter). The other is mostly women, children and civilians (with no military) under apartheid—a people now denied electricity, clean water, and the most basic human rights. The choice seems clear to me. To choose to not choose is to side with the oppressor. The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.

“But I’d rather stay apolitical”, you might say. Sure, that’s a privilege some of us have. But the apolitical stance is a political stance (as I explain somewhere amidst this previous musing). It’s an endorsement for the status quo, where nothing changes. Thus the apolitical stance is only ever encouraged by those who benefit from it. Be careful where your comfort leads you.

“I’m worried I will lose income or work”, you might say. I understand; there’s an element of precariousness to these times. This is also how capitalism operates—keep the workers busy, tired and divided. This is also why I look mostly to those who are already privileged, to encourage them to not waste their privilege—use it to help others. Because, otherwise: what is the point? And also: putting ‘profit’ before people or planet is what accelerates our metacrisis. Something has got to change. (At the same time: be careful. I try to be, as they say, soft on people, hard on systems).

“But it’s really not my style or brand”, you might say. Ha, none of this is ‘on brand’ for me either. And: the term ‘brand’ derives from the Old Norse word brandr or ‘to burn’. Its what slavers would do to their ‘stock’—using a hot iron to burn their brand-mark onto the living flesh of their ‘property’. This, in turn, made ownership easier to recognise in the market. Is this what you want—to be a brand? A commodity for ‘the market’? Heck no. You are a complex human being, and you care! Be the opposite of a brand and you may just well find yourself again.

“But I worry I will offend people”, you might decry. To which I say: you probably are already offending people. Or at least: disappointing them. Your silence on the matter has already been noted by many. But it’s not too late—you giving voice makes it safer for others to do so, too.*

* I should point out: Israel is not going anywhere. Thus we must strive for better relations; to do and be better. I don’t want WWIII. I don’t want any more violence. This is not about opposing individuals, and it is not about opposing religions. It’s about opposing systems of oppression, genocide and the perpetuation of atrocity. I should also add: I know that many are having these conversations offline. Many find themselves caught in the middle between strong perspectives—and I can imagine this would sometimes feel very unsafe. I only want to offer encouragment to you.

“So what, you want me to perform outrage?” you might ask. No, friend. I only want for you to know that it is not too late to speak out against genocide. You will not be shamed; you will be welcomed. We will be relieved; because we have been worried for you. And so many of us are exhausted. The longer you say nothing, the more concerning it becomes. This doesn’t have to occur on social media (but it is welcomed).

I write the above from the bias of someone whose profession it is to research, teach and facilitate that which pertains to ‘the future of leadership’. It is no secret that I believe the current patriarchal approach to leadership that dominates much of Enterprise Land is not the mode we should aspire to.

Artists and poets—the ones who so often lead our cultures—are rallying together in creative ways to dismantle the war machine. Union workers are blocking shipments of weapons. Lawyers are working to prosecute those complicit with Israel in the “crime of crimes” of aiding and abetting genocide (source). Doctors Without Borders continue to do whatever they can (at great risk to their own lives). People are volunteering their time, working together, and finding contribution, meaning and community. Amidst all the travesty, it is a beautiful thing.

If you care: do what you can, wherever you are. Even the subtlest acts can have a profound impact.

Breaking: Australia has finally shifted its position to vote in favour of a UN resolution calling for Gaza ceasefire. Of course, there’s more to be done. Children are dying of dehydration and disease; it remains a political and humanitarian disaster. I do not know what our future quite holds but I take solace from folks like Cole Arthur Riley and her Black Liturgies.
Don’t let empathy and grief devolve into mere pity. Recall your agency.

There is a distinction to be made between feeling sorry for a person’s circumstances, and advocating for and protecting their personhood and dignity. Pity requires nothing.
Black Liturgies

Quick glimmers

  • “We're in the final hours of COP28 and it's on the precipice of failure,” writes climate activist Clover H. “This, after 2,456 fossil fuel representatives infiltrated (a 286% increase on COP27), and the President of the process was exposed for brokering new oil and gas deals—before publicly denying climate science.”
  • Related, my wizardly friend Merlin Bola writes of the pervasive forces that blind us to reality, keeping us distracted, divided and detached. Specifically, the links he shares are very compelling. Specifically, this TEDx talk from eight years ago where “veteran investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson shows how astroturf, or fake grassroots movements funded by political, corporate, or other special interests very effectively manipulate and distort media messages”. Pertinent.
  • Russell Clark—someone with twenty years experience in markets and hedge funds—writes an essay: “Why I am filled with existential dread”. This is from an economic perspective. What struck me from this is that I had never thought to consider wages through the lens of being rebased to food inflation. “Why does this fill me with dread? When the political system is captured by one group, it can only be resolved through revolution, and the destruction of the system. You can already see the outlines of this collapse.”
  • And now here is what blogger Nicolas Magand says is “One of the worst pieces of content I’ve read all year”. I’m inclined to agree.
  • I haven’t watched this yet, but my Rekindling co-conspirator and friend Paul Kearney recommended this relatively fresh keynote presentation to me: “Becoming Resilient In A World Exposed To Unprecedented Systemic Risk”. I’ll be watching it this week; already the introduction speaks to what’s on my mind—and the mind of many complexity practitioners and genuine futurists.
  • Finally: The Green New Deal Is the Opiate of the Masses, an article by Kohei Saito (associate professor of philosophy at the University of Tokyo and the author of Slow Down: The Degrowth Manifesto). “It might sound counterintuitive, but the goal of any Green New Deal should not be economic growth but rather the slowing down of the economy. Measures to stop climate change cannot double as ways to further economic growth. Indeed, the less such measures aim to grow the economy, the higher the possibility they’ll work.” Few.

“Whyfor all these gloomy links, foxwizard?” you ask. Because, dear reader, the world needs to become a little more disillusioned and disenchanted—so that we can break free the hoodwinking that has befallen us—so that we might then fall back in love with our living reality once more. Once your eyes adjust to the dark, new glimmers betwinkle. I shall write more on these in the new year. ✨


Rejoice! The 2024 dangerlam wall calendar is now available 🌝

Our gratitude slash ‘did you earn a dot?’ wall calendar by dangerlam

My darling and co-conspirator—Dr. Kim Lam, the dangerlam—has released the next iteration of her wall calendar. It’s available for purchase now as a digital download (which is easily printed locally).

We have been using such calendars for over a decade. In my first book—The Game Changer—I talked of the importance of ensuring we make progress visible. For Kim and I, we give ourselves a dot (sticker) whenever we’ve had a day of deliberate physical activity (like yoga, gym, a run, etc).

In The Game Changer I also talk of the notion of ‘constructive discontent’. This is very useful for projects and goals, but on its own, is a recipe for perpetual grumpiness. Gratitudes ameliorate this. The photo above is a snapshot of the previous calendar, and here you can see how we use it to track the things we are grateful for.

At the end of each year we reflect on the patterns that inspire gratitude and joy—I shall write of this more in the next museletter. But, as a quick example, it was by looking back through these calendars over several years that we surfaced one particular pattern: we love walking in the rain! Thus now, whenever it’s raining, we are tempted to take a long stroll by the river. ⛆

Long story short: these calendars are a cornerstone of our days. We love it, and benefit from them greatly. And I suspect that you—or a friend you know—might also love this whimsically minimalist wall planner too.

This can be ordered from Kim’s website: dangerlam.com/shoppe/2024-calendar


Thank you, as ever, for reading. It really means the world to me.
—fw

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