Thursday, June 18, 2020

Freedom and Civilization

Freedom and Civilization by Bronsilaw Malinowski
Bloomington:  Indiana University Press, 1944

(11)  We shall see that all action is in itself a temporary surrender of freedom.

(21)  One thing can be demonstrated scientifically: this is the essential dependence of all freedoms and every freedom and freedom in general upon the elimination of collective violence.

(25-26)  The individual's freedom consists in his ability to choose the goal, to find the road, and to reap the rewards of his efforts and endeavors. Those men are free who are able to decide what to do, where to go, what to build. All claims for freedom remain idle and irrelevant unless planning and aiming can be translated into an effective execution through well-implemented and well-organized behavior. The determining conditions of freedom are therefore to be found in the manner in which a society is organized; the way in which the instrumentalities are made accessible; and in the guarantees which safeguard all the rewards of planned and purposeful action and insure their equitable distribution

(33)  Neither ontogenetically nor phylogenetically is “man born free.”
NB:  Free applies only to man's law 

(36)  The ability to foresee and to plan ahead, that is, the ability to use past experience in order to establish future conditions corresponding to the needs, desires and the aspirations of man, is the first essential prerequisite of freedom.

(37)  Thus the maintenance, the management, and the development of the psychological mainsprings in inspiration, invention, and contribution are the first and foremost conditions of freedom. The formation of social loyalty, on which every institution is built, is the second condition. The way in which the cultural values, that is, the enjoyment of economic, social, political, moral, and spiritual benefits, are distributed – in other words, freedom in the pursuit of happiness – is the last and perhaps the main condition of liberty.

(39)  Freedom is neither more nor less but full success in action. It is activity spontaneously planned, efficiently executed, and enjoyed in its results by all those who have contributed.

(43)  “The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one.”  Thus spoke Abraham Lincoln in his Baltimore address on April 18, 1864.

(45)  The intuitive emotional and subjective meaning of freedom, as felt rather than formulated by the man in the street, conceives of freedom as the ability to do what one likes or to do nothing. The claim that liberty is the absence of restraint, trammels, and of hindrances is persistent.

(46)  When we are told by Cicero that "we are all the law's slaves, that we may be free", the implication is clear: freedom can only be achieved through restraint.

(47)  Free action must imply some control of circumstances and other people.

(54-56)  We find there [chart page 55] that intangible of freedom felt intuitively, rather than capable of clear definition:  the feeling of absolute absence of all restraint.  This is flanked by the libertarian postion that freedom flourishes outside the trammels of rule and law;  and by the postion that discipline is essential to freedom.
NB:  Freedom requires responsibility and brings consequences whether we like it or not

(59)  Real freedom is neither absolute nor omnipresent and it certainly is not negative. It is always an increase in control, in efficiency, and in the power to dominate one's own organism and the environment, as well as artifacts in the supply of natural resources. Hence freedom as a quality of human action, freedom as increase of efficiency and control, means the breaking down of certain obstacles and a compensation for certain deficiencies; it also implies the acceptance of rules of nature, that is scientific laws of knowledge, and of those norms and laws of human behavior which are indispensable to efficient co-operation.
NB:  Not dominate but dance with, aiki, geotheraphy not geoengineering
(71)  The best education makes work into play.  Yet play contains always an element of make-believe, an element of"freedom" to do what the child wishes at the moment. The trick of successful education consists in the use of such freedom by turning it into the chains of spontaneously accepted desire to follow up a determined course of activity.

(75)  adventitious - happening or carried on according to chance rather than design or inherent nature; coming from outside; not native.  BIOLOGY formed accidentally or in an unusual anatomical position

(81)  Once more we see that the most important scientific task is to be quite clear as to the context of our argument.  We have to scrutinize whether such a context is real;  whether it is relevant;  and whether it represents a legitimate isolate of human behavior.  In all cases we rejected freedom as an independent, substantial and spontaneous absolute.  Such an absolute, holding the cornucopia of unlimited choices, does not exist in reality.  It exists only in the metaphor of speech.

(83)  Perhaps a good deal of the success of that most recent form of magical mysticism which we find in the doctrines of Nazism, communism and fascism, is due to the combination of real mechanical power on the executive side with the feeling of indefinite possibilities in sentiment, and lust for political and economic self realization.
NB:  Myth, fairy tale, magic, freedom

(90)  War most certainly was not the chronic state of primitive evolution.  Real warfare makes an appearance late in human evolution.

(92)  Let us once more examine the three phases [purpose, execution, results] of freedom in human action. The purpose, as we saw, is nothing else but the planning of an activity for the achievement of definite results.

…  In short, examine whichever type of freedom you like – of framing purposes, individual or social – and you will find that the claim to freedom of action is implicit.

…  Thus freedom of action implies free access to material wealth as well as the scope for organization and cooperation.

(93)  Here freedom consists in the scope given to individuals and groups to organize and to implement all such purposes as they may choose. It resides in what is usually called "freedom of combination", a freedom enjoyed in democracies but denied in societies either where the state takes over all initiative or else where slavery, serfdom, or the caste system debar certain groups from any initiative and supply others with an excess of power.

Finally, the freedom of achievements and results refers to the standard of cultural enjoyment for the members of the community. Here problems of freedom hinge on such tangible and concrete facts as the distribution of wealth, the freedom of vertical mobility or the freedom of movement across certain territorial boundaries. Here also enter the problems of how far the finer gifts of culture, such as recreations, intellectual and artistic enjoyments, and all the religious and spiritual benefits, are distributed within the community.

(94)  As regards action, liberty means personal choice and a full scope for group organization, with adequate access to all the necessary implements and legal privileges for organized activity.

…  As regards the liberty of enjoyment, that is, the liberty of one's fair share in the communal standard of living, we see that this is curtailed by the existence of parasitic privilege given to few at the expense of the many who are exploited.

…  True democracy must always aim at the curtailment of all the current increments in power and wealth, and of the ability of consuming goods, material and spiritual, which have been produced by others.

(95)  The denial of freedom is always embodied in political, legal, or economic restrictions or in adequacies which prevent human beings from maturing their purpose, realizing it, and achieving the results in the form of an adequate standard of living.

(99)  First, we assume that we are interested in existence, that is, in action. The freedom of the spirit must be left over and understood as a by-product of our definition of freedom and action. Secondly, we assume that any definition of freedom in terms of one individual and his exclusive interests is not viable, since one man's power is or may become the slavery of another, indeed of many others.  We thus affirm that freedom must be predicated with reference to groups in cooperation.  Thirdly, we also assume that the element of instrumentality, that is, of material goods, whether implements or consumers' wealth, has to be included in our definition.  Man never acts under conditions of culture without the equipment of his material mechanisms, and in this he has to submit to certain rules inherent in the mechanism, the laws of ownership or of usufruct determine the rights of use and the limitations of abuse, as well as the distribution of benefits.

(101-102)  Thus freedom here means once more the smooth and effective run of a process which can again be analyzed into three phases.  We have the initial drive which starts an activity;  we have conditions for an effective course of this activity;  and we have the reward of satisfactory results in the satisfaction of the drive.
NB:  animal freedom 

(103)  It is well to remember that the moments of freedom to be free are very rare in human life.

(105)  The freedom of survival thus consists of two fundamental installments:  the freedom of security, that is, the freedom from fear;  and the freedom of prosperity, that is, the freedom from want.
NB:  less fear, less want;  less want, less fear
Four Freedoms - Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Freedom from want. Freedom from fear.

calefaction - the act of warming or heating; the production of heat in a body by the action of fire, or by communication of heat from other bodies.

(111)  We are thus led again to the leitmotif of our argument:  the distinction between the rules and constraints which effectively establish freedom and those which abrogate it.  Rules which are intrinsically determined by the requirements of purposeful and concertedly executed action in which the results are equitably distributed, are rules and freedom.  On the other hand, rules and principles of organization in which, through the monopoly of physical force, wealth, and supernatural influence, an individual or a group can compel others to act without giving the workers any share in planning or in the enjoyment of the results, are rules which deny freedom in its sociological sense.

…  Freedom in primitive communities is very definitely associated with a conservative  attitude towards well-established rules and values.  Even at a high level of development it is dangerous, theoretically and in practice, to associate freedom with subversive, disruptive, and revolutionary movements.
NB:  freedom as conservative

(121)  It became clear that at the primitive level there is a very little scope for real oppression.  For in every institution we have the same limiting factors: such groups consist of kinsmen, hence of people related by blood and the sentiment of blood, since kinship runs right through the structure of the tribe.  In all the groups people depend very much on each other, hence the sanction of reciprocity or retaliation is always present. The high degree of mutual dependence between the leader and his followers is another factor which under primitive conditions prevent the abuse of personal authority. Primitive conditions also do not lend themselves easily to the accumulation of power either through physical force or wealth, or the use of spiritual intimidation.

(127)  Every phase of such a process, every rule of co-operation and ownership, every object necessary as a consumer commodity or as an implement, become appreciated or acquired value and are surrounded with the rules of appreciation and respect. Education consists in the transmission of such rules and in the teaching of language, which is the main instrumentality for the framing of rules, precepts, and imperatives.  Our thesis is that freedom is found in obedience to such laws.

(137)  The relation therefore of value to freedom is clear.  Value is the driving force which determines purpose, and in choice of purpose, its translation into an effective action in the full enjoyment of the results.  We find thus that value is the prime mover in human existence.  It pervades all forms of activity and is the driving force throughout culture. Man is moved to effort, not under an immediate physiological drive, but instructed by traditional rules, moved by learned motive and controlled by value.  Man works to obtain the things that he values, whether this be an object, a way of life or a belief. The way by which he values – freedom of conscience, of dogma, of devotion to ideals – are established as one of the main installments in freedom or bondage.

(141-142)  We shall see that human beings can either be trained to be free, or trained to be rulers, tyrants, or dictators, or else they can be trained to be slaves.  Thus the understanding I've educational mechanisms and conditions is essential to our appreciation of the reality of freedom as it occurs differentially in human societies.

(142)  With reference to our concept of freedom we see that a man has to learn how to form his purposes.  From the wide and chaotic range of ever-changing whim, impulse, or drive which leads to random behavior, the individual learns to select a limited range of fixed and determined values.  Motives and purpose are always the acceptance of cultural values or its reinterpretation and at times revolt against it.

(146)  In primitive communities at the low level of development we find no caste or rank hierarchy to any tangible degree. Such distinctions as are implied in age-grades, secret societies, and sex-linked distinctions are the only equivalent of class or rank. Yet except for differentiation by sex which as a rule is functional rather than oppressive, we find that freedom of choice and of access to training is equally distributed.

It is only when through the development of monopoly and power, wealth and spiritual constraint the discriminative institutions of caste and rank, as well as of wealth and power, that freedom as regards birthright and the full development of personality become seriously curtailed.

(147)  Unemployment is in some ways one of the most acute and istressing forms in which the freedom of exercising one’s abilities and skills is denied.

(148)  The individual is never free of bond except through his relation to socially organized groups.  His birthright is defined by his parentage.

(153)  Freedom is primarily related neither to the isolated individual, nor even to society, nor yet perhaps to the potentialities of freedom and slavery given to man by machine. The real instrument both of freedom and oppression is always the organized partial constituent of a community:  the institution.

(153-154)  The significance of this discovery is due to two facts, first, that in institution always presents the same structure, and second, that institutions are of universal occurrence;  thus the institution is the real isolate of culture.
NB:  institution as culture

(155)  main types of institutional organization
1.  Family and derived kinship organizations (extended family;  kindred groups;  clan)
2.  Municipality  (local group; horde;  village; township; city)
3.  Tribe as the political organization based on territorial principle (primitive tribe; polis; tribe-state; state; nation-state; empire)
4.  Tribe as the culturally integrated unit (primitive homogeneous tribe; tribe-nation; nation)
5.  Age-group (age-grades; age hierarchies; professional age distinctions)
6.  Voluntary associations  (primitive: secret societies and clubs; advanced: benevolent, political, and ideological societies)
7.  Occupational groups  (primitive: magical organizations; economic teams; artisan guilds; professional associations; religious congregations)
8.  Status groups based on the principle of rank, caste, and economic class.

…  Our sequence: the formation of purpose, its implementation into activities, and the distribution of benefits resulting from the activity, is in a sense applicable to the individual.

(157)  The institution as the organizing means of realizing the values, the techniques, or the contributions to human welfare embodied in its charter, is the very cultural instrument of freedom, if freedom be the realization of purpose and reaping the benefits thereof.  Because, as we have been insisting throughout, no man ever achieves anything, new or old, fundamental or peripheral, sound or fantastic, through his own unaided efforts.  It is clear that the freedom of his personal purpose and its pragmatic success is always a by-product of the freedom of institutionalized activities.

(160)  The Folklore of Capitalism by Thurman Arnold

(167)  The partial surrender of freedom in the fragmentary phases of human behavior is an ineluctable quality of the cultural process.

(170)  When the purpose is chosen by the group as a whole; when the action is taken by autonomous responsibility; and when the results are shared among all the members of the group, we find freedom within that institution. When the purpose is accepted by command or instilled by indoctrination; when the action is controlled by coercive authority; and when the results of the activity are doled out for the advantages of those in authority, we find a denial of freedom.

…  The denial of freedom within an institution occurs therefore through an abuse of the authority held by those who organize and control the institution.

…  In every case, the middle factor of our sequence, implemented action, is the one where freedom grows and where it receives its restrictions. Freedom is born there and freedom is killed there.

(171)  The real abuse of authority, however, begins when discipline has to be made chronic, permanent, and pervasive.

(177-178)  We see also throughout our arguments that all of the messages from nature to man are embodied in human tradition.  The realization of natural determinism is thus received by each generation from culture. We see here are the foundations of the confusion from which even now as users of words we are suffering – the confusion between law as a phase of natural determinism and law as a human precept. This comes from the fact that although Law(1) is embodied in the outer reality, it comes into the hands of man invariably as Law(2). The commands of nature or of the supernatural are, therefore, easily confused with commands of man.

(179)  The main ethical principle of all primitive tribes is that conformity to tradition is good and deviation bad.

(180)  In primitive cultures, as we know already and will perceive even more fully, oppression and exploitation do not occur except in minor matters and on rare occasions.

(184)  The general importance of equity, that is, freedom, is embodied in the fact that no virtue is rated higher in primitive communities than generosity.

(188-189)  The real difference between free cultures and cultures pervaded by serfdom and bondage, lies in whether they are constituted for the avoidance of crises in their reduction to a minimum; or else whether they are constituted on preparing crises, thriving through crises, and using the creation of crises is the main means to the end of establishing more slavery.  There is only one type of crisis which has beset humanity, which, starting at a late stage of evolution, has lasted throughout recorded historical times, and which has survived as the fountainhead of all present evils. This is the crisis of war.
NB:  living in crisis as a symptom of addiction

(189)  Civilization also has worked continually so as to prevent epidemics, reduce infection, and build up the resistance of the human organism against its main enemies, disease, disability, and accident.
NB:  Trmp

(197)  Once more we come to recognize that freedom is a quality of more or less simple or complex systems of organized activity, in which a degree of discipline is necessary for effective action.

(199)  Discipline  reaches its highest level when any such complicated, high-powered, and fully organized type of activity is faced by a crisis.  A ship's company when storm breaks out, when shipwreck threatens, or when a U-boat is sighted, cannot enjoy any freedom of thought, deliberation, or discussion. One and all have to obey the orders of the ship's master. Each has to carry out his differential task with supreme submission to the rules of skill, of division of functions, as well as of conscience and morale.  They have to fall back on discipline, unquestioning and mechanical. The same is true when a factory or a house is on fire and this has to be extinguished or localized by a fire brigade, volunteer or professional. Once more, strict discipline is the condition indispensable for any successful effort.

(201)  It is a great tribute to the intellectual qualities of the Italian nation that Fascism was not able to make the Italian armies invincible.

(202)  Here we have the systematic and scientifically thought out preparation of artificial disaster for humanity as a whole, so that a small section shall retain a permanent control over mankind through scientifically organized violence.  In this lies the real, the gigantic crime of totalitarianism. It means the denial of freedom even to the average member of the master nation. It is the negation of all economic freedom so as to create national autarchy.  It is the negation of political freedom for the creation of full national discipline. It is the denial of spiritual independence so as to produce a community with a single purpose. The system thus aims at enslaving the world and also its “master-nation", so as to establish the exclusive privilege of a party, its centralized executive and finally one leader. Let us remember always that the destruction of real and integral liberty is not conceived here as a temporary measure during the crisis, but as a permanent establishment of human civilization.

(203)  The fundamental difference between discipline in a democracy at war on the one hand, and totalitarian discipline on the other, is to be found in the fact that for us discipline is a means to an end, while to the Nazis it is an end in itself.
NB:  means and ends

(209)  All religions are essentially pragmatic.
NB:  Anything that isn’t pragmatic, useful, practical drops out.  Anything that is practical can become a practice.

(212)  Another reason why we have to distinguish active magic from mere daydreaming is because all magic is traditionally standardized.

…  Psychologically magic represents the efficiency of standardized optimism.

(213)  Those who have studied the techniques of real propaganda, as this has been developed in the totalitarian countries, will realize that the thrilling promises, the affirmations of power and efficiency, as well as the canalizing of hatreds and passions, are built up essentially on the technique of a magic spell.

(214)  All the arguments of the present essay hinge round the simple proposition: freedom is the essence of civilization because freedom is neither more nor less than obedience to the rules of science, of social justice, and of ethics. These rules are not arbitrary. They are founded in the order of material process, of organic reality, and of cultural structure.

(219)  Propaganda starts with monoply in the dissemination of truth, a monopoly based on force.

(222)  It is hardly necessary to prove here by a detailed analysis of facts that growing Fascism in Italy and Nazism in Germany were not merely movements of opinion, but also organizations of violence. A state which under the charter of sovereignty ought to have the monopoly of all armed force, and which at the same time allows a determined minority to preach its own gospel and to constitute itself an army for the overthrow of the state, obviously signs its own death warrant.

…  Hence Hitlers and Mussolinis may be allowed to speak. They must not be allowed to organize armed private police forces.

(223)  It is the relation between opinion and the possible acts of a criminal nature to which it may lead that has to be considered every time we grant full freedom of conscience, thought and speech.

(228)  Democracy as a cultural system is the constitution of the community which is composed of collaborating groups. Each such group is an institution, which is itself built on democratic principles, and in which initiatives, purposes and constraints are well distributed. The democracy of the whole group lies in the relations of institutions to one another, and in the relations of 
individuals within each institution.

…  A wider and more elastic, more fundamental definition of the concept of democracy implies the maximum of discipline with the least amount of coercion. It implies obedience to law without the need of physical enforcement. Discipline must not occur except where concerted action demands it.

(229)  The most important cultural aspect of democracy, the autonomy of institutions, is seldom, if ever, considered in theoretical argument for practical application. This autonomy of institutions really contains and embodies all the other principles of democracy.

(231)  Thus democracy can be defined as a cultural system devised so as to allow the fullest opportunities to the individual and to the group to determine its purposes, to organize and implement them, and to carry out the activities upon which they are intent. A modern democracy has also the duty to guarantee to its members an equitable distribution of rewards, the full enjoyment of recreation, the privileges of knowledge and of the arts, and of all that constitutes the spiritual prerogatives of contemporary man.

…  We can sum up the main aspects of democracy as follows: 
(1)  No centralized power which dictates all aspects of life
(2)  Distribution of influence to those who do the work
(3)  No accumulated monopolies
(4)  No secrets or open centers of oppression by violence, blatantly illegal or camouflage, from which there is no redress and no appeal
(5)  Access by one and all to most avenues of influence and self-expression.

(242-243) Freedom in its essence is the acceptance of the chains which suit you and for which you are suited, and of the harness in which you pull towards an end chosen and valued by your self, and not imposed. It is not, and never can be, the absence of restrictions, obligations of law and of duty….

Freedom is the possibility of "self-realization" based on personal choice, on free contact and spontaneous endeavor, or individual initiative…  The greater the opportunities of self-realization there are for more people, the more freedom there is.  However free a political constitution, and however diversified a culture, the individual is obliged, stage to stage and step by step, to renounce certain freedoms;  in choosing his vocation; in choosing his mate; in the acceptance of certain decisions and commands.

(248)  The only monopoly which occurs is in objects of a magical or religious character.

(251)  It is therefore always round the distribution and organization of authority, violence, and wealth that the problem of freedom hinges.

(253)  Those outside the tribe are not regarded as full human beings.
NB:  Tribal politics can become eliminationist

(257-258)  We see therefore that the tribe-nation or nation is the very instrument of freedom, constituted as it is for the peaceful exercise of culture.  This point is of great importance to us in our analysis of freedom.  Throughout the development of humanity, there have always existed two principles of integration or unification:  the principle of unification by national culture, embodied in the tribe-nation or nation; and that of unification by political force, embodied in the tribe-state or state.

(265)  In reality, the state and government are one among many institutions. The fundamental difference, however, which contributes to all the mystic attitudes towards the state is that it is the only historic institution which has the monopoly of force. This is the main source of all our present-day troubles.

…  The birth of the tribe-state is the danger signal in the history of humanity, for with it occurred the birth of militarism.  The tribe-nation as we have already seen is the unit of cultural cooperation, and must not be confused with the tribe-state, which is the political unit, based on centralized authoritative power and the organization of armed force.

(270)  The real origins of political organization are to be found in the fact that power is inevitably a part of any organized life, and that the sources of power are to be found in violence.

(280)  War however is not a permanent state of affairs in any type of tribal culture….  

The earliest intertribal fighting – and we must remember that this starts only at the end of the paleolithic or the beginnings of the neolithic stage – is only an occasional affair and occurs on a relatively small scale.

(283)  The primitive always considers that only he, himself, and his tribesmen are men. The others fall outside the scope of legitimate humanity.

(284)  The charter of war and the charter of slavery are essentially cognate in principle. They are also related in actual occurrence. Slavery without war hardly ever occurs in human cultures.

…  The common charter of both institutions is the doctrine that a relationship between two human beings or groups can be based on the abrogation of all human rights of one for the benefit of the other.  This principle changes the foe into a non-human object fit for killing and destruction during the fight. After victory it changes him into an object to be used as the means for the master's ends.

(286)  I mean the institution of slavery.  Human material was, perhaps, the first type of wealth to be effectively looted.

(296) To the slave a doctrine that he has no right to act as he chooses is not so agreeable or acceptable. It implies also, however, that he has no right to think or to feel. Thoughts and feelings, as we know, are worthless unless they can be translated into action.

(297)  War is the direct denial of the freedom of survival since its essence is killing. Slavery is the denial of all biological freedom except in the self-interest, not of the organism, but of its master. The slave also is deprived of all those satisfactions which culture guarantees to man as the price paid for the trammels which it imposes. The slave does not enjoy the protection of the law. His economic behavior is not determined by profits and advantages. He cannot mate according to his own choice. He remains outside the law of parentage and of kinship. Even his conscience is not his own.

(300)  Vigilance is not only the price of freedom, it is also the price of slavery.

(305)  To live, totalitarianism has to create crises where these do not exist.

(306)  In Nazi Germany, this supremely effective machinery of  force is combined with a doctrine of the crudest mysticism.

(307)  Totalitarianism is thus primarily a cultural revolution.  It is intimately associated with the integral subordination of all cultural acitivities for the emergency of war, revolution or counter-revolution.

(324)  in times of war, human beings are integrated on the political principle, that is, the legalized use of violence. The political state is intimately associated with war, and the use of violence as the main argument and drive to action is essential to war. Before violence can become effective as a political principle, it must first be used within institutions. War again, in the military preparedness which it implies, in its main activity of fighting, and and it's aftermath of victory and subjugation, is the permanent source of all the curtailments of freedom.]

(325)  The relation between man and machine at the point where a monopoly of control can be established is probably the essential problem of freedom in human evolution.

…  The main thesis of this analysis hinges on the concept of violence as the greatest enemy of freedom. All freedoms are dependent on the elimination of collective violence.

Friday, May 29, 2020

The Living Company

I remember when the original article came out in the Harvard Business Review and how much I enjoyed and learned from it.  Years later, I took the book out of the library and did my usual notes.  Just this past week, I thought of it again and went back over it.

Arie de Geus was head of Shell's Strategic Planning Group, where he made important advancements to the ideas of portfolio analysis (i.e. Directional Policy Matrix) and scenario planning.  He was a very forward thinking businessperson and has a lot to teach us.  Thinking about businesses which have survived for a century or more is certainly one way to understand what sustainability must mean within, at least, an economic context.

The Living Company:  Habits for survival in a turbulent business environment by Arie de Geus
Boston, MA:  Harvard Business School Press, 1997
ISBN 0-87584-782-X

Introduction by Peter Senge
(viii)  At the heart of this book is a simple question with sweeping implications:  What if we thought about a company as a living being?

This raises the obvious question:  What is the alternative view of a company if we do _not_ see it as a living being?  The alternative view is to see a company as a machine for making money.

(2)  A recent study by Ellen de Rooij of the Stratix Group in Amsterdam indicates that the average life expectancy of all firms, regardless of size, measured in Japan and much of Europe, is only 12.5 years.  I know of no reason to believe that the situation in the United States is materially better.

(3)  Companies die because their managers focus on the economic activity of producing goods and services, and they forget that their organizations' true nature is that of a community of humans.  The legal establishment, business educators, and the financial community all join them in this mistake.

(6-7)  Four key factors of long-lived companies
1.  sensitive to their environments
2.  cohesive, with a strong sense of identity
3.  tolerant of activities on the margin:  outliers, experiments, and eccentricities within the boundaries of the cohesive firm, which kept stretching their understanding of possibilities
4.  conservative in financing, frugal and do not risk capital gratuitously

(9)  1.  Sensitivity to the environment represents a company's ability to learn and adapt.
2.  Cohesion and identity, it is now clear, are aspects of a company's innate ability to build a community and a persona for itself.
3.  Tolerance and its corollary, decentralization, are both symptoms of a company's awareness of ecology:  its ability to build constructive relationships with other entities, within and outside itself.
4.  And I now think of conservative financing as one element in a very critical corporate attribute:  the ability to govern its own growth and evolution effectively.

(20)  As we will see in this book, the essence of learning is the ability to manage change by changing yourself - as much for people when they grow up as for companies when they live through turmoil.  The pioneering learning theorist Jean Piaget called this form of change "learning through accommodation."  Its essence, he said, was to change one's internal structure to remain in harmony with a changed environment.

This gives us an entirely different imperative for corporate success.  A successful company is one that can _learn_ effectively.
NB:  The narrowness of corporate learning:  only investment bankers

(22)  But managers who perceive change early should spend more time on a far more useful question:  What will we _do_ if such-and-such happens?

(23)  To our relief, we found that no company we studied, in all of our literature research, had ever failed because its key natural resource was depleted.  Yet many companies had switched away from their original natural resource base of their original business.

(24)  What gave the companies the ability to accomplish this [react and change]?  We will return to that question throughout this book, for it depended on all four distinctions of a living company:  its adaptiveness to the outside world (learning), its character and identity (persona), its relationships with people and institutions inside and around itself (ecology), and the way it developed over time (evolution).  We could see that the most accessible of these capabilities, and the one which often came first, was learning.  The long-lived companies were _sensitive_ to their community and their environment.  This sensitivity was not soft or driven by social responsibility.  It was driven by the living company's self-interest.

(30)  These crises tend to follow the same generic pattern.
At some point, as prospects worsen, the damage or danger becomes evident, and a consensus, grudgingly or not, develops about the inevitability of change.  When that happens, there is little time left. Because there is little time, few options remain open.  They are not necessarily the best options;  they are limited to those that require little _time_ to implement.  Almost by definition, these tend to be the tough options, devastating to morale and difficult to pull off with corporate identity intact:  improve cash flow drastically, cut costs, cut capital expenditures, cut staff.  The crisis is a self-reinforcing cycle.  The more deeply you become enmeshed, the more options you must forgo, and the more you run out of time - which cuts your possibilities further and enmeshes you more deeply in the crisis.  To act by foresight would surely be superior….

_In short, to act with foresight, the company must act on signals, rather than on pain._

(34-35)  Important:  David Ingvar, neurobiologist at University of Lund, Sweden, discovered that the brain creates time paths into an anticipated future and accumulates a "memory of the future:  "We perceive something as meaningful if it fits meaningfully with a memory that we have made of an anticipated future."  Normally, we anticipate favorable future 60% of the time and only 40% of the time are our futures "dire."  Ingvar suggests this is a filter on information overload.

(36)  The message from this research [on stored time paths] is clear.  We will not perceive a signal from the outside world unless it is relevant to an option for the future that we have already worked out in our imaginations.  The more "memories of the future" we develop, the more open and receptive we will be to signals from the outside world.
NB:  We need to imagine a variety of different futures to be open to the one that we should be building NOW, which is where the only possible future starts.

(44)  Unfortunately for a conventional manager, the scenario approach presupposes that the future is plural.  Scenario planning requires managers to abandon the one-line approach, the assumption that there is only one predicted future to concern oneself with.  In scenario planning, there is always more than one scenario.

(48)  An uneven number gives the manager an unfortunate escape route;  it's too easy to bypass the scenarios' implications by picking "the one in the middle," the compromise future that is seen as an alternative to the extremes.  Two is probably a good number for scenario exercises;  it forces the manager to make a choice between them and thus to think through the ramifications of both of them.

(56)  Leadership has as little to do with learning as decision making does.  Indeed, when a leader says, "I learned something I didn't know before," it detracts from his or her ability to appear certain and thus to inspire confidence.  A leader who learns is a leader who is unsure.

(59)  As it happens, these four elements - perceiving, embedding, concluding, and acting - are seen by various psychologists as the defining elements of learning.  Whether they are managed effectively or not doesn't matter.  _Every act of decision making is a learning process._

…  _Learning by assimilation_ means taking in information for which the learner already has structure in place to recognize and give meaning to the signal.

(60)  When we learn by assimilation, says Piaget, the lectures and books of conventional school learning are sufficient.  But learning by accommodation requires much more.  It is an experiential process by which you adapt to a changing world through in-depth trials in which you participate fully, with all your intellect and heart, not knowing what the final result will be, but knowing that you will be different when you come out the other end.  This interrelationship with the environment actually makes you grow, survive, and develop your potential.

(64)  All three writers [Winnicott, Holt, and Papert] had essentially the same theme:  the essence of learning is discovery through play.  A decision-making process that accelerated learning could do so only by making skillful use of playing…

D. W. Winnicott first published his book _Playing and Reality_ in 1971.  In it, he coined the idea of a "transitional object."  Play, he reasoned, is always conducted with a thing in hand:  a toy.  Girls play with dolls, boys with Lego sets, and toddlers of both sexes with Fisher-Price toys.

Playing with toys is very different from playing a game or playing in a sport.  There is no way to win.  The player is simply experimenting with an object that in some way represent reality.

(73)  I believe that the solution to this problem [modeling scenaria] ultimately lies in designing a computer language similar to Seymour Papert's LOGO.  If a computer language can be created simple enough to allow six-year-olds to design their own micro worlds, it ought to be possible to create a language for managers.
NB:  Michell Resnick?  Neil Gershenfeld?

(83)  In this journey, my attention was caught, time and time again, by references to a school of thought called Personalismus, founded by William Stern.  Stern became, with his wife Clara, one of the pioneers of child psychology.  Together they operated a clinic and published a classic work on the language of children….

His last book, _General Psychology on a Personalistic Basis_, was republished in 1950 in the German language in The Hague.

(93)  The safest place of all in Amsterdam was its Wisselbank, founded in 1609… Its overriding concern was not to generate funds for enterprise, but, on the contrary, to control the conditions under which they could be exchanged… Its very existence testified to a determination to neutralize the worst evils associated with the unconfined world of money:  usury, default, counterfeit and other kinds of fraud.  Its working motto was "probity, not profit."

(102)  A company, by initiating rules for continuity and motion of its _people_, can emulate the longevity and power of the river.

In such a "river company," return on investment remains important.  But managers regard the optimization of capital as a complement to the optimization of people.  The company itself is _primarily_ a community.  It purposes are longevity and the development of its own potential.
 NB:  economic company and community company;  puddle and river companies

(107)  Governance is a matter of assuring that the goals of the subsidiary companies and of each employee are harmonious with the goals of the larger whole - and vice versa.

(108)  Founders and managers of long-lived companies, a hundred years or more in the past, did not link their values to a particular product, service, or line of work.  They knew or sensed, that the life mission of a work community was _not_ to produce a particular product or service, but to _survive_:  to perpetuate itself as a work community.
NB:  Daniel Pink in _Drive_ quotes research that shows people are motivated by a certain amount of autonomy on the job, a chance for mastery of the tasks involved, and a clear, common purpose

(109)  Takatoshi Mitsui's rules and guideline from 1694:
organizational principles
Those in authority should be kind to subordinates, who in return should respect those in authority.
The essential role of managers is to guard the business of the House.  They should give appropriate advice if their masters' conduct is not good and correct blunders that may be made.

personnel management
Considerable amounts of silver shall be set aside as a reserve fund for the benefit of elderly employees of the House who have lost their property and also for the relief of those suffering from fire and other calamities.
In order to select for managers, keep an eye on the young men and train promising candidates for that position.

ethics of conducting business
Farsightedness is essential to the career of a merchant.  In pursuing small interests close at hand, one may lose huge profits in the long run.
All kinds of speculation and new and unfamiliar business ventures shall be strictly forbidden.
Persons in public office are not, as a rule, prosperous.  This is because they concentrate on discharging their public duties and neglect their own family affairs.  Do not forget you are a merchant.  You must regard dealing with the government always as a sideline of your business.

(114)  It is the sign of a river company's maturity when managers begin to look for people who are _not_ like themselves - who may come from a different ethnic or national background, for example, and will thus bring a new set of attitudes and talents to the corporate body.

(117)  I required all my managers to spend at least 25 percent of their time on these types of issues related to the development and placement of the people who reported to them [transferring mid-career managers to new and challenging posts].  General Electric CEO Jack Welch claims to require managers to spend 50 percent of their time on these sorts of development issues.  Whatever the percentage of time you spend on it, this could be the most critical component of an executive's work.

This emphasis on developing people also means that there must be reliable ways to evaluate the potential and performance of people - not to discipline them (for fear inhibits learning), but to better appreciate how to develop them.
NB:  Curiosity short-circuits fear, according to MIT scientist Andreas Mershin

(118)  Often unwritten, it is nevertheless universally understood:  the individual will deliver a skill in exchange for remuneration…

Money is not considered a positive motivator in a river company.  It is, as psychologist Abraham Maslov put it, a "negative hygiene factor."  If money is insufficient, then people will grow dissatisfied, but _adding more money_ (above the threshold of sufficient pay) will not motivate people to give more to the company.  To give more, the individuals need to know that the community is interested in them as individuals, and they need to be interested themselves in the fate of the larger entity.  To give more, both the entity and the individual need to care about each other.

Karl Weick, author of _The Social Psychology of Organizing_, has written that what people really want from the workplace is the "removal of equifinality," by which he meant that people want to see that they have brought order, design, and quality to the incoherent, ambiguous raw material of their work.  They want to see that their decisions and efforts have had a positive impact.

(119)  The implicit contract of a river company guarantees (not in words, but in actions) that they ail have the opportunity to improve the world….

I would go even further, to argue that a living company cannot abide coercive discipline.

(124)  Strict exit rules require the incumbent management to recognize that they are there for only a limited time.  Leadership becomes stewardship.  Just as you took over from somebody, you will hand your leadership over to somebody else.  Your legacy at the company will depend on whether you kept the shop as healthy as you found it or made it just a bit healthier.  Strict exit rules are thus good for his humility.
NB:  Stewardship may be a close equivalent to trusteeship in Gandhian economics (  See _We Are Market Basket_ for a recent American example where a steward or trustee CEO was replaced by the board of directors and how the managers, the workers, the suppliers, and the customers undertook job actions in order to bring that CEO back (

(136)  I have found it very important for teams of disparate people to undergo intensive training together at regular intervals.  Apart from knowledge transfer, such an intensive training program brings together many groups of people, learners and trainers, all from the same corporation, but coming from very different cultural backgrounds and many different professional and academic disciplines.  The flocking is intensive;  course attendees nearly always tell you afterwards, "It was not so much what I learned in the official sessions, but what I picked up from my colleagues during the breaks that was important."

(138)  Most innovative companies are run by teams.  This is because teams have a higher capacity to learn than individuals.  In fact, in most companies with a certain degree of complexity, most decisions are made by teams.

(143)  Tolerance of internal weakness, ironically enough, allows the rose to be stronger in the long run…

To tolerate a variety of life forms within oneself gives a company the resilience to withstand stress and even disaster.

(144)  Companies that had managed to survive for a long time, we wrote, had done so by letting things happen in the margin:  allowing activities outside the core business to be set up by not coming down like a ton of bricks on every diversion in which local people seem to believe fervently…

[The [long-lived] companies] have made full use of decentralized structures and delegated authorities.  The companies have not insisted upon a relevance to the original business as a criterion for selecting new business possibilities nor upon a central control over moves to diversity.

(146)  The difference between the operating companies [Deutsche Shell and Shell Brazil] has forced strength into the global parent;  it must be a strong enough container to hold all of those differences without cracking.
NB:  diversity builds strength, resilience

(147)  Under "normal" conditions, to judge by the record of long-lived companies, the senior manager of a company should make fewer decisions about the business itself and spend that time instead focused on creating conditions in which other people within the company can make good decisions about the business.

(150)  Successful companies tended to perceive other [internal] resources as being capable of development _in addition_ to the existing resource rather than _instead of_…  Many successful moves were made when companies did not see themselves locked into a particular business, but _in business_, with talents and resources that could be used profitably to meet a variety of consumer needs.  Successful moves were relatively free of immediate pressure.

(151)  There is a great deal of "learning by assimilation" - Piaget's term for taking in new information without changing one's fundamental way of thinking or acting.  The managers' structures and knowledge base get honed over time to deal with a familiar world, but there is little learning by accommodation (making internal changes to fit a changing world).

(154)  The fact is that the word _strategy_ tends to be misused.  It should not be a noun;  you should not "have" a strategy, in the sense of a document the organization follows.  Rather, _strategy_ should be a verb:  strategy is something you _do_, rather than something you _have_.

(155)  A living company, by contrast, is a living being.  It moves from birth to death, seeking to extend its own potential.  _There is no one steering_.  Instead, the living company takes one step at a time.  Each decision is followed by an action, and then new observations about the effect of that action, and then another step tomorrow.  Before taking each new step, the company looks up and decides where to put its foot in the light of the conditions of the moment.  There are no admiralty charts and no final destination, except death…

If you are a manager, the poet Machado has a quote for you which you might find relevant:
Life is a path that you beat while you walk it.

To me, this line embodies the most profound lesson on planning and strategy that I have ever learned.  When you look back, you see a clear path that brought you here.  But you created that path yourself.  Ahead, there is only uncharted wilderness.

(156)  But the real decision making occurs in a diffused, tolerant, "planning-as-learning" environment.

(157)  The cycle of seeing, concluding, deciding, and acting is, of course the cycle of continuous learning…
NB:  John Boyle’s OODA loop - observation, orientation, decision, action

(158)  So, if strategy is something you _do_, I have little doubt in my mind that this doing actually constitutes learning, not steering.

(166)  If a company begins to perform seemingly self-destructive acts, you should not ask, "Why is this activity in the interest of the corporations?"  You should ask, "Whose interest is served by this self-destructive act?"  Is it the small group that has misused its power to define the company as only the five or six top people?  Is it the large intestinal snail called a partner company, a division, or a trade union?

(174)  The picture was very different in the ten successful companies, all of which eventually became significant international businesses.  Eight out of the ten had never held a loan. They were entirely debt free and always had been.  The two companies that had borrowed money had done so to meet specific short-term needs.  They had since repaid the debts in full.

Conservatism in financing, in short, is not merely a conceit of a former, less credit-happy age.  It seems to be an essential condition for companies that hope to survive to a ripe old age.  When companies know how to "listen" to their financing, they are ready to follow the path of a natural, long-lived evolution.

At Shell, we had found something similar in our report on long-lived corporations.  Nearly every company over the average age had a conservative approach to its financing.  If not debt free, then they were rigidly careful about their borrowing and investment capital.  In short, they knew the value of having money in the kitty…

But growth through borrowing money, or through mergers and acquisitions, is dangerous precisely _because_ it is not constrained.  At some point, the pendulum will shift.  Having to service your debt, you lose the options that come from having "spare cash in the kitty."  You can no longer choose your moment.

Long-lived companies know that having money in hand means that they have flexibility and independence of action, when competitors do not.

(176-177)  William Stern had written, 70 years earlier, that the basic driving force of every living system is the development of its inherent potential.  The long-lived companies we studied at Shell seemed to realize this force and to live up to its demands.

Everything _about_ the company - its physical business, its assets, its polices and practices - was a means for living.  None of these constituted the purpose of the company.  Success for the company meant evolving into the best possible thing it could be and, in the process, to be good at what it happens to be doing in order to survive.

(188)  As Karl Popper has argued convincingly, it is the ability to oust its leaders without a crisis, more than the right to vote the leaders in, that is key in a democracy.  Yet we did not always have that capability at the level below the nation-state.  To be sure, we had many institutions with this safeguard:  trade unions, political parties, local governments, clubs, and school committees.  But in companies, where the employees could not rid themselves of their managers, we did not bother with the pretense of democracy.

(191)  [Shell Group Committee of Managing Directors decision-making] From the top of the Shell Group down there is no traditional mechanism to resolve conflict.  The group has no CEO.  The chairman of the managing directors is only _primes inter pares_, first among peers.  One way or another, the members of the Committee of Managing Directors (CMD) and the two boards of directors have to agree among themselves on solutions that are acceptable to all.  In practice, there will not always be real unanimity, but there is no good way to force through a decision to which one or more of the members are actively opposed.  The minimum that is required is a _quasi-unanimity_;  otherwise the decision has to be referred back to the next lower level.  Quasi-unanimty does not mean that everybody agrees with the proposal. It means that no one is so violently opposed that he will show a veto card.  The chairman has no other power than his persuasion;  he has no casting vote or final decision.

(192)  After the second world war, this quality [of including people in decision-making] was further reinforced by the introduction of a matrix organization.  As the popular definition puts it, a matrix is "an organization in which nobody can make any decision on his or her own, but anybody on his own can stop a decision being made."

…The buck stops at thousands of desks, each at its appropriate level.  This idea has been expressed as a generic principle:  the essential thing about power is that no one have too much of it.

(195)  Some employees will be happy to make decisions.  Some are eager to make decisions that are not theirs to make.  But a top manager cannot count on decisions being made consistently at the lowest level where they should be made, unless impediments are created against upward delegation of difficulties and conflicts.

In other words, make it difficult to move conflict up the hierarchy.  Set in motion policies implicitly or explicitly stating that people can ask the next-higher levels for advice but cannot ask them to make decisions.

(198)  More than ever, success in this undertaking is dependent on the extent to which these companies will be able to create knowledge, not in the head of the individual, but knowledge on which the company as a whole can act.  This is blindingly clear in the brain-rich, asset-poor institutions that have shown such spectacular growth over the last 20 to 30 years:  the law firms, auditor partnerships, software companies, and organizations like VISA.  But even the old types of asset-rich company, such as oil and steel firms, nowadays need much more knowledge embedded in their actions than was the case some 20 years ago.
NB:  Dee Hock, Peter Drucker

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Notes on Camus' The Plague

_The Plague_ by Albert Camus, translated by Stuart Gilbert
NY:  The Modern Library, 1947, 1948

(33)  The local press so lavish of news about the rats, now had nothing to say.  For rats died in the street;  men in their homes.  And newspapers are concerned only with the street.

(34)  There have been as many plagues as wars in history;  yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.

…Stupidity has a knack of getting its way;  as we should see if we were not always so much wrapped up in ourselves.

(38)  "L'essentiel était de bien faire son métier."
"The thing was to do your job as it should be done.”

(43)  He [Joseph Grand, government clerk and amateur novelist] was one of those rare people, rare in our town as elsewhere, who have the courage of their good feelings.

(66)  Thus, too, they came to know the incorrigible sorrow of all prisoners and exiles, which is to live in company with a memory that serves no purpose.

(81)  Yes, an element of abstraction, a divorce from reality, entered into such calamities.  Still when abstraction sets to killing you, you’ve got to get busy with it.

(83)  One grows out of pity when it’s useless.
NB:  Beware of Pity by Stefan Zweig

(85)  Alarmed, but far from desperate, they hadn’t yet reached the phase when plague would seem to them the very tissues of their existence; when they forgot the lives that until now it had been given them to lead.

(108)  According to religion, the first half of a man’s life is an upgrade;  the second goes downhill.  On the descending days he has no claim, they may be snatched from him at any moment;  thus he can do nothing with them.  He [old asthmatic retired to count peas from one plate to another in his bed] obviously had no compunction about contradicting himself, for a few minutes later he told Tarrou that God did not exisst, since otherwise there would be no need for priests.

(120-121)  The evil that is in the world always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence, if they lack understanding.  On the whole, men are more good than bad;  that, however, isn’t the real point.  But they are more or less ignorant, and it is this that we call vice or virtue;  the most incorrigible vice being that of an ignorance that fancies it knows everything and therefore claims for itself the right to kill.  The soul of the murderer is blind;  and there can be no true goodness nor true love without the utmost clear-sightedness.

(149-150)  “...But you’re capable  of dying for an idea;  one can see that right away.  Well, personally, I’ve seen enough of people who die for an idea.  I don’t believe in heroism;  I know it’s eay and I’ve learned it can be murderous.  What interests me is living and dying for what one loves.”

Rieux had been watching the journalist attentively.  With his eyes still on him he said quietly:

“Man isn’t an idea, Rambert.”

Rambert sprang off the bed, his face ablaze with passion.

“Man _is_ an idea, and a precious small idea, once he turns his back on love.  And that’s my point;  we - mankind - have lost the capacity for love.  We must face that fact, doctor.  Let’s wait to acquire that capacity or, if really it’s beyond us, wait for the deliverance that will come to each of us anyway, without his playing the hero.  Personally, I look no farther.”

Rieux rose.  He suddenly appeared very tired.

“You’re right, Rambert, quite right, and for nothing in the world would I try to dissuade you from what you’re going to do [break quarantine to be with his wife];  it seems to me absolutely right and proper.  However, there’s one thing I must tell you:  there’s no question of heroism in all this.  It’s a matter of common decency.  That’s an idea which may make some people smile, but the only means of fighting a plague is - common decency.”

“What do you mean by ‘common decency’?” Rambert’s tone was grave.

“I don’t know what it means for other people but in my case I know that it consists in doing my job."


Il ne s’agit pas d’héroïsme dans tout cela.  Il s’agit d’honnêteté.  C’est une idée qui peut faire rire, mais la seule façon de lutter contre la peste, c’est l’honnêteté.
"There's not about heroism in all this. It's a matter of honesty. That's an idea which can make people smile, but the only means of fighting against a plague is honesty.”

l’honnêteté - honesty, integrity

(162-163)  The truth is that nothing is less sensational than pestilence, and by reason of their very duration great misfortunes are monotonous. In the memories of those who lived through them, the grim days of plague do not stand out like vivid flames, ravenous and inextingusihable, becoming a troubled sky, but rather like the slow, deliverate progress of some monstrous thing crushing out all upon its path.

(164)  Naturally they retained the attitudes of sadness and suffering, but they had ceased to feel their sting.  Indeed, to some, Dr Rieux among them, this precisely was the most disheartening thing;  that the habit of despair is worse than despair itself.

(188)  Showing more animation, Rieux told him was sheer nonsense;  there was nothing shameful in preferring happiness.  

“Certainly,” Rambert replied.  “But it may be shameful to be happy by oneself."

(196-197)  “No, Father.  I’ve a very different idea of love.  And until my dying day I shall refuse to love a scheme of things in which children are put to torture.”

(217) "In fact, it comes to this:  nobody is capable of really thinking about anyone, even in the worst calamity.  For really to think about someone means thinking about that person every minute of the day, without letting one’s thought be diverted by anything - by meals, by a fly that settles on one’s cheek, by household duties, or by a sudden itch somewhere.  But there are always flies and itches.  That’s why life is difficult to live.  And these people know it only too well.”

(227)  [Tarrou] Do you know that the firing-squad stands only a yard and half from the condemned man?  Do you know that if the victim took two steps forward his chest would touch the rifles?  Do you know that, at this short rainge, the soldiers concentrate their fire on the region of the heart and their big bullets make a hole into which you could thrust your fist?  No, you didn’t know all that;  those are things that are never spoken of.  For the plague-stricken their peace of mind is more important than a human life.

(229)  [Tarrou, whose father was a judge, against the death penalty]  “That, too, is why this epidemic has taught me nothing new, except that I must fight it at your side.  I know positively - yes, Rieux, I can say I know the world inside out, as you may see - that each of us has the plague within him, no one, no one on earth is free from it.  And I know, too, that we must keep endless watch on ourselves lest in a careless moment we breathe in somebody’s face and fasten the infection on him.  What’s natural is the microbe.  All the rest - health, integrity, purity (if you like) is a product of the human will, of a vigilance that must never falter.  The good man, the man who infects hardly anyone, is the man who has the fewest lapses of attention.  And it needs tremendous will-power, a never ending tension of the mind, to avoid such lapses.  Yes, Rieux, it’s a wearying business, being plague-stricken.  But it’s still more wearying to refuse to be it.  That’s why everybody in the world today looks so tired;  everyone is more or less sick of plague.  But that is also why some of us, those who want to get the plague out of their systems, feel such desperate weariness, a weariness from which nothing remains to set us free except death.
NB:  appamada

“Pending that release, I know I have no place in the world of today;  once I’d definitely refused to kill, I doomed myself to an exile that can never end.  I leave it others to make history.  I know, too, that I’m not qualified to pass judgment on those others.  There’s something lacking in my mental make-up, and its lack prevents me from being a rational murderer.  So it’s a deficiency, not a superiority.  But as things are, Im willing to be as I am;  I’ve learned modesty.  All I maintain is that on this earth there are pestilences and there are victims, and it’s up to us, so far as possible, not to join forces with pestilences.  That may sound simple to the point of childishness;  I can’t judge if it’s simple, but I know it’s true. You see, I’d heard such quantities of arguments, which very nearly turned my head, and turned other people’s heads enough to make them approve of murder;  and I’d come to realize that all our troubles spring from our failure to use plain, clean-cut language.  So I resolved always to speak - and to act - quite clearly, as this was the only way of setting myself on the right track.  That’s why I say there are pestilences and there are victims;  no more than that.  If, by making that statement, I, too, become a carrier of the plague-germ, at least I don’t do it willfully.  I try, in short, to be an innocent murderer.  You see, I’ve no great ambitions.

“I grant we should add a third category:  that of the true healers.  But it’s a fact one doesn’t come across many of them, and anyhow it must be a hard vocation.  That’s why I decided to take, in every predicament, the victims’ side, so as to reduce the dmage done.  Among them I can at least try to discover how one attains to the third category;  in other words, to peace."

(261)  But the silence now enveloping his dead friend, so dense, so much akin to the nocturnal silence of the streets and of the town set free at last, made Rieux cruelly aware that this defeat was final, the last disastrous battle that ends a war and makes peace itself an ill beyond alll remedy.  The doctor could not tell if Tarrou had found peace, now that all was over, but for himself he had a feeling that no peace was possible to him henceforth, any more than there can be an armistice for a mother bereaved of her son or for a man who buries his friend.

(272)  Whenever tempted to add his personal note to the myriad voices of the plague-stricken, he  [Dr Rieux] was deterred by the thought that not one of his sufferings but was common to all the others and that in a world where sorrow is so often lonely, this was an advantage.  Thus, decidedly, it was up to him to speak for all.

(278)  And it was in the midst of shouts rolling against the terrace wall in massive waves that waxed in volume and duration, while cataracts of colored fire fell thicker through the darkness, that Dr Rieux resolved to compile this chronicle, so that he should not be one of those who hold their peace but should bear witness in favor of those plague-stricken people;  so that some memorial of the injustice and outrage done them might endure;  and to state quite simply what we learn in a time of pestilence:  that there are more things to admire in men than to despise.

Notes on The First Man by Albert Camus

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Robert Heinlein on Ecology: Farmer in the Sky

from Farmer in the Sky by Robert Heinlein (NY:  Dell Publishing, 1950) 

ppgs 120-121:  Ecology is the most involved subject I ever tackled.  I told George so and he said possibly politics was worse - and on second thought maybe politics was just one aspect of ecology.  The dictionary says ecology is “the science of the interrelations of living organisms and their environment.”  That doesn’t get you much does it?  It’s like defining a hurricane as a movement of air.

The trouble with ecology is that you never know where to start because everything affects everything else.  An unseasonal freeze in Texas can affect the price of breakfast in Alaska and that can affect the salmon catch and that can affect something else.  Or take the old history book case:  the English colonies took England’s young bachelors and that meant old maids at home and old maids keep cats and the cats catch field mice and the field mice destroy the bumble bee nests and bumble bees are necessary to clover and cattle eat clover and cattle furnish the roast beef of old England to feed the soldiers who protect the colonies that the bachelors emigrated to, which caused the old maids.

Not very scientific, is it?  I mean you have too many variables and you can’t put figures to them.  George says that if you can’t take a measurment and write it down in figures you don’t know enough about a thing to call what you are doing with it “science” and, as for him he’ll stick to straight engineering, thank you.  But there were some clear cut things about applied ecology on Ganymede which you could get your teeth into.  Insects, for instance - on Ganymede, under no circumstances do you step on an insect.  There were no insects on Ganymede when men first landed there.  Any insects there now are there because the bionomics board planned it that way and the chief ecologist okayed the invasion.  He wants that insect to stay right where it is, doing whatever it is that insects do;  he wants it to wax and grow fat and raise lots of little insects. 

Of course a Scout doesn’t go out of his way to step on anything but black widow spiders and the like, anyhow - but it really brings it up to the top of your mind to know that stepping on an insect carries with it a stiff fine if you are caught, as well as a very pointed lecture telling you that the colony can get along very nicely without _you_ but the insects are necessary.

Or take earthworms.  I _know_ they are worth their weight in uranium because I was buying them before I was through.  A farmer can’t get along without earthworms.

Introducing insects to a planet isn’t as easy as it sounds.  Noah had less trouble with his animals, two by two, because when the waters went away he still had a planet that was suited to his load.  Ganymede isn’t Earth.  Take bees - we brought bees in the _Mayflower_ but we didn’t turn them loose;  they were all in the shed called “Oahu” and likely to stay there for a smart spell.  Bees need clover, or a reasonable facsimile.  Clover would grow on Ganymede but our real use for clover was to fix nitrogen in the soil and thereby refresh a worn out field.  We weren’t planting clover yet because there wasn’t any nitrogen in the air to fix - or not much.

But I am ahead of my story.