A New Tagline for my Blog: The world according to Garth

This blog is an evolution in thought. Originally, my goal was to use the blog for sharing expertise that might lead to business. it was called OrganizationalUnity.com, at the time and my primary focus in writing was to look at ways to change how businesses operate and how they might gain operational efficiencies by improving the way they work, particularly from a human perspective. Having had a lot of business and coaching experience, I knew that businesses experienced a lot of internal turmoil and that competition between leaders of different divisions could be destructive and I was aware of this phenomenon also existing within the public sector. I was convinced that there was a better way and decided to write some articles on how organizations might change their cultures and I put together some program and coaching material to help bring about changes.

Over time, I was becoming more and more aware of the severity of the climate situation and the issues and opportunities related to creating more sustainable businesses which might also contribute to environmental sustainability. At that point the name of the blog changed to SustainabilityCulture.com. I wrote articles about how businesses might benefit from taking more sustainable approaches. But I didn’t just do it off the cuff, I studied, took courses, read about the issues, interviewed people who were deeply involved in creating awareness of the need for sustainability and wrote articles about them as well.

As I wrote, I discovered some of the many challenges to creating a sustainable world and while focusing on business messages, started drifting more towards political, economic and cultural nuances that slow our collective progress towards a more sustainable world. So my articles changed yet again, although I felt the focus was still more business oriented than anything else. As I traveled in different continents, I began to become more aware of the social challenges faced by their people. My travels included Uganda, where I spent 6 months as part of an internship for my MA in Human Security and Peacebuilding, Chile, Vietnam, India, Kuwait, Bahrain and Curacao. My focus continued to shift. Not that I am any less aware of the environmental issues, but rather that creating a sustainable world requires much broader and deeper thinking than focusing on the environment alone. It was during this period that I began to write on other topics, many of which have very little to do with business or the environment, other than the fact that businesses have the financial power to influence political and economic outcomes. So for example, when I look at issues related to peace, it cannot be done without contemplating the relationship of political decisions to the economy, small arms and the military industrial complex. Peace is also impacted by employment, salaries and automation, which are all impacted by business decisions. The continuing growth in the fields of technology, additive manufacturing, communications, nanotech and artificial intelligence among others also contribute a great deal to our future outlook.

After much contemplation, I decided that at very least I could create a better tag-line. I recognize that most of what I am saying is generally relevant and reasonably well researched. But it also contains opinion that is designed to encourage contemplation of different view points. I generally endeavor to see situations from more than one view point but I’m also not afraid to put a different spin on any situation that is current in the world based on my experience and study.

I therefore changed the tag-line to “The world according to Garth”. You may recognize the play on “The world according to Garp” a 1982 movie about T.S. Garp who was an aspiring writer. While I have not shared the experiences of the movie character, I suppose one might say that I’m an aspiring writer. One other thought came to mind as I was coming up with the tagline which brought me back to my high school days. It turns out that I was quite good in math. I didn’t study much, I offered proofs to theorems that my teachers weren’t always expecting and in trigonometry, we learned about the proofs for determining angles, SSS (Side Side Side) SAS (Side Angle Side) etc. One day a friend of mine offered an answer to the teachers question. The teacher asked what theorem he was using to prove his answer, which was correct by the way. He said “GSS”. The teacher said GSS? What’s that? He said “Garth Said So!” We all had a good laugh and, believe me, I have never considered myself as an absolute authority on any subject. Doing so, in my own way of thinking, precludes too many opportunities for learning from other views. Having said that, many people have expressed value in reading my articles and so I offer them in this spirit of service. “The world according to Garth” is still about creating a more sustainable world, but this new tag line frees me of my self-imposed constraints of writing that is focused on business alone. It’s not just about the climate, business, economics, human nature or politics either. It is the presentation of my current views on the interplay of dynamics related to these various aspects of life, views which I hope will change as I continue to learn from others and from the world around me.

Enjoy,

Garth

By the way, I would love to open up the comment line to hear your thoughts but I experienced far too much spam on the web-site. To share your thoughts, comments or questions, e-mail me (garth.schmalenberg@gmail.com). I will always endeavor to answer.

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Creating Sustainable Peace and the Canadian Reaction to ISIL and terror in Canada

A recent article (Ottawa Attacks: Terrorists’ not who we think) in Canadian International Council’s website outlines that we may need to re-think our response to “terror” in Canada.Their article provides excellent insight into the situation at home and alludes to something we must also consider with regard to our overseas response.

Most of the press coverage of the war against ISIL portrays all of the members of ISIL as killers and rapists, even the coverage provided by ISIL themselves. This is how the “terror” tactic works. It causes instability and fear amongst the populous and creates doubt in any existing government’s ability to provide protection. Undoubtedly, there are some within the ranks of ISIL who are the leaders and showmen, who do whatever is necessary to strike fear into the people they encounter and who effectively duplicate their message to make us believe we should fear all of them. If we were to actually learn about the members of ISIL, we would likely find that the mayhem is led by a few individuals who use the US and Canadian bombing as a justification to prove the righteousness of their actions.

Let us remember that during WWW II, many Germans supported the ideology that was promoted by Hitler, not because they actually agreed with his methods or master goals, but because of some of the ideas that they felt would make their lives better. In addition, they were being fed propaganda about their enemy that justified actions they might not have taken otherwise. As individuals within a populous which they believed to be generally supportive of Hitler, they would not want to be seen as non-supporters for fear of loosing their status or their lives. While supportive of their leaders, certainly not all were as radical as the leadership and given the opportunity many would likely have stopped the fighting much sooner or chosen a different approach if they could see another path to the lesser goal of economic prosperity for the vast majority.

The same is likely true with ISIL. While many of their adherents may support the concept of a “new caliphate” and agree with their right to freely choose their religious and political path, it is also likely that most of the adherents do not rape or kill in the way that it has been portrayed in the media. Very likely the vast majority are the foot soldiers of a rebellion. Many of these foot soldiers, while supporting their rebellion, likely do not participate in the atrocities or in worst case do so to show their devotion to the cause when in the presence of radical leadership or others who they fear may turn them in for not supporting the movement. Such was the case for the Germans as well. The book “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined” by Steven Pinker, outlines many psychological experiments that demonstrate how normal people react more violently when surrounded by others who they suspect support a violent cause.

Remember that it only takes a small army of violent hoodlums who portray themselves as the leaders of the movement to create fear within their own ranks. These same self-proclaimed “leaders” are in the position of leadership precisely because they are feared and they are willing to do anything to claim power. Without a functioning political system and police to protect the individuals they have little choice but to go along with their leaders or leave. Attacks against ISIL only builds their case and others within their ranks see them as the only salvation for their freedom to choose their own path. When there are some acting out of fear and others acting out of not wanting to be seen as defiant, the key is not to bomb them out of existence, rather it is to offer another more peaceful alternative and encourage, through incentives, a less radical leadership and path to their end goal. If their goal is truly religious in nature, i.e. the goal to establish a new caliphate, perhaps the caliphate need not be violent, nor geographically constrained. It is true that the leadership of ISIL may desire the strict implementation of Sharia law and be willing to fight for it, their may be other acceptable scenarios for the majority of their members which have yet to be explored.

Just as WWW II resulted from economic difficulties and inequalities derived from the reparation measures imposed on Germany resulting from WWW I, many of the supporters of ISIL are likely participating because they are struggling from very real economic pressures resulting from prior insurgencies, lack gainful employment, fail to see a future they want for their children, coupled with a perceived oppression by both foreign and regional powers. They see this as the only hope for a better world and more stable economic situation than the one they currently live in. Groups like ISIL grow in size because their adherents begin to view them as a solution to some of their social challenges and defenders of their freedoms. Unfortunately most of their adherents lack the courage to stand up to their own radical leaders. With the picture of victory painted by their leadership and given their inviolable right to protect their own freedom from foreign attackers, ISIL wins the hearts of average people and the outcast criminals alike. The key to deescalation of a struggle is to propose peace talks with any member of the group who is willing to negotiate at a point in the struggle where the fighting ebbs and some sense of exhaustion is perceived. It is as this point that people may see a future in peace rather than continuation of the struggle.

While their is no doubt that Canadians should stand in solidarity with their soldiers as the defenders of our nation, and mourn the loss of these brave souls, we should also encourage our government not to paint all supporters of ISIL with the same brush or fall into the trap of demonizing every member, just as we remember that not all Germans were Hitler or part of the SS. Far too often, Governments or groups paint another group all with the same brush, they dehumanize them as killers and animals and encourage their own citizens to take up arms against them. This is precisely what happens before all genocides. Let us not imagine that all members of ISIL share the goal of raping and killing neighbors who may not support their movement. There are undoubtedly criminals within this group who need to be punished for leading the atrocities, but in countries where wars have taken place, one of the most effective tools in establishing peace is offering amnesty to those who wish to defect and offering a means for them to build a more stable situation for themselves and their families. Such was the case in Uganda when members of Kony’s rebellion were encouraged to come home and abandon the struggle.

If the countries of the region were to step up to lead in the fight against ISIL, there may be some justification in supporting the effort. Unfortunately, the countries in the region, at very best seem to be fading into the background and in the case of Turkey seem to be taking advantage of the situation to fight against their own enemies (i.e. PKD), rather than supporting the fight against ISIL. This lack of support suggests that countries in the region have a different perspective of what is going on. As such, it appears to be more of a foreign operation which is led by predominantly Christian nations, even though there continues to be efforts to maintain a “coalition” of sorts with the regional powers.

Canada should always take a role to end violence against any group of people, however, I believe that, in supporting the US bombing raids, we have taken the wrong approach. Canada should offer humanitarian assistance, negotiating teams, observers and in places where peace still exists, offer peace keeping if it is requested. Send a clear message that Canada does not encourage or support violence on either side. Let us all re-think this situation and decide what peaceful roles  Canada can play to most effectively bring sustainable peace to the region and then to have the courage to stand up to the US and suggest that neither country wins by escalating this war.

Garth Schmalenberg, MA Human Security and Peacebuilding

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A new vision of Prosperity and Business for our future.

In this post, I’ll cover:

  • What makes us prosperous?
  • What makes us happy?
  • How our vision and worldview influences our happiness, our prosperity and our businesses

What makes us prosperous?

On the surface, personal prosperity comes in the form of income, money, investment equity and personal assets. But when you really think about it, prosperity isn’t a physical thing. It’s a feeling of gratitude. When we feel thankful, we also feel richer.

So for example, if I have a Lexus and I’m thankful for it, I might feel prosperous. But if I lack gratitude when I realize that it’s a 20 year old car, that feeling of prosperity rapidly dissipates. Or supposing that my colleague has a more expensive BMW that I’d rather have or that someone has the same car but a bigger fancier house that I am envious of. Without gratitude, at very best, this kind of prosperity is relative to your surroundings.

» Continue reading “A new vision of Prosperity and Business for our future.”

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The Case of the Missing Development: Chapter 3 : “Where has all the money gone? Long time passing”

I had left off in the last chapter (“North to Gulu”) having described some of the challenges leading to the missing development in Uganda. But to be fair, development is not really missing, there’s just not enough going on to offset all of the challenges. Many NGOs are working towards solutions and, as mentioned earlier, most are staffed with local people who know the culture and who have the capability to help solve the problems. In addition, most of the credit has to go to the people themselves, who struggle day to day to fix their problems, to get back to living a normal life, to rebuild their homes, re-establish their farms, re-start their education, find jobs and make their lives a little easier. These are, for the most part, hard working people who are open to being assisted, not people who are addicted to being assisted.  The challenge for them is that without the tools and facilities that we take for granted, life is naturally difficult. But to find solutions, it was necessary to dig deeper into the challenges.

In this chapter, I’ll look at a few of these challenges in depth.

  • Impact of Disease
  • Education Systems
  • Where has all the money gone? 
  • Who are the perpetrators in this case?

The answers may surprise you…

  » Continue reading “The Case of the Missing Development: Chapter 3 : “Where has all the money gone? Long time passing””

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North to Gulu: The Mystery Deepens

This is the second in my series about my trip to Uganda. As in my first post in The Case of the Missing Development, I had many questions to answer about factors that were contributing to a lack of development. Many of my answers would come during my journey to Gulu. (if you haven’t read that post, go there first for context).

First, for any first time travelers to Gulu, if you don’t have your own vehicle or private transportation, your best bet is to take the postal bus north from Kampala. The postal bus is well maintained and safety is considered. If you have trouble mixing with the local people or if you are shy, you may find this your best bet since more ex-patriots travel on the postal bus. As for me, I enjoyed the trip north, but quickly learned to love being with the Ugandan friends and after my first trip on the postal bus, I began venturing out to the other bus lines on which I generally found myself alone as the only foreigner. It was great.

The Ugandan people are extremely friendly. One smile, a friendly hello and I always found myself in deep conversations. It was on the way up to Gulu for the first time that I met Joyce, a woman who worked for the church in Gulu and who later introduced me to Patrick, a young man who had extra room in his (rented) house and with whom I found not only a place to stay, but who became like a younger brother to me. Patrick, I later learned was one of the many children who was abducted by the LRA and ended up spending 8 years serving, first as a soldier at the age of 13 and then after being shot in the leg, he served in the LRA medical camp. I still keep in touch with him on skype and facebook. This was an opportunity to learn first hand about the war and about child soldiers.

Topics for today? First, reconciliation after the war, second, some of my thoughts on the economy and corruption… Read More » Continue reading “North to Gulu: The Mystery Deepens”

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The Mystery of Africa: The Case of the Missing Development

As a follow up to my internship for an MA in Human Security and Peacebuilding, I contemplated writing my final report, not as a thesis, but in the form of a mystery story, looking at how development had been stolen from the people of Uganda (and indeed other parts of the world) and examining the issue of Development and Aid Effectiveness.

Background to the Case

Billions have been poured into development and aid over the past 50 or more years since colonial Africa gained its independence. Despite the vast amounts of effort, the thousands of organizations and the maturing culture of development work as reflected most recently in the OECD’s Paris Declaration of 2005, the Open Forum’s Istanbul Principles on CSO Development Effectiveness, and the more recent joint meeting in Busan 2011 during which the OECD recognized the Open Forum’s efforts, the gap between rich and poor persists and the health, education and well being in many parts of the continent remain in a dismal state. Development, for many, has gone missing! People are suffering and dying as a result.

Who are the victims of the crime, who are the suspects and who are the perpetrators?

First, can we say it is a crime? Here I can only pose another question: If it is true that many people live on precious little, that children sometimes go malnourished, that many die from curable diseases, that government sponsored health care in many villages is almost imperceptible, that most children go without adequate education, that girls are mutilated (FGM) for “cultural” reasons, that HIV is rampant, that women are beaten or abandoned by their husbands without recourse to justice or compensation, that roads are near impassible and rarely fixed, that huge amounts of government and donor money end up in the hands of the certain elected officials who act with impunity, that police fail to act in many cases unless they get paid by the victims (or in some cases perpetrators), that government representatives become the prime examples of corruption, would you say there’s a crime going on? And can I be fair in making all these statements? I’ll examine most of these issues in future chapters. You be the judge.

In more practical terms, it is a question: Why are so many Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), government agencies, intergovernmental agencies and other organizations focused on Development and Aid Effectiveness and yet making relatively little lasting progress. Or is that really true at all? Why do the challenges of development seem so intractable? Are they?

What will it take to create sustainable solutions which reflect the needs of all the people of the world?

Not satisfied with just learning about the case, I wanted to live it, indeed, as a good detective, to solve it! Really?

Can a white guy from North America who had never been to Africa, in the space of a 6 month internship, find the solution(s) to a problem that millions, many of whom are much more clever, have failed to solve in 50 or more years? Doubtful.

So what can be realistically achieved? In my role as a participant, amateur detective, researcher and activist, I could at least learn some of what other people have learned through experience and research and then do my own research, add my own experiences and come up with my own theories. Add to that I could propose a few new concepts, share of a few ideas and, perhaps, take a few substantive actions. What is also clear is that this story is not the basis of my Academic report because it is far to broad in its scope.

My Journey Begins

In my attempts to investigate “The Case of the Missing Development”, I spent 6 months in Uganda from May to November 2012. Recently having returned to Ontario, I’m experiencing a little culture shock and a little temperature shock. But my enthusiasm for untangling the case hasn’t waned.

While I have found many answers, it can also be said that, each answer comes with a new question. While unraveling some aspects of the case, others become more perplexing.

Read on to investigate with me and share your comments ….

» Continue reading “The Mystery of Africa: The Case of the Missing Development”

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Debt relief of Africa and Impoverished Nations

After studying more about the issues of debt in many impoverished nations, the question that kept coming to mind was,

Where is all the wealth?

A healthy world would undoubtedly have sufficient resources to feed every person, to provide health care and to give each individual a decent living. But success continues to elude the global community.

The situation of poverty in many countries is deplorable. Expecting impoverished countries to get themselves out of poverty is unreasonable because the impoverished are trapped in a causal loop. Poverty removes the possiblity of adequate education, health care and proper nutrition for billions. Each of these factors reduces the probability that children of the next generation will have incomes sufficient to allow them to pay taxes. WIthout taxes, the governments are unable to pay back billions in loans that have accumulated over the years. While they strive to provide security and a minimal form of governance, they are saddled with crippling  interest payments on loans of prior generations.

How should wealth be re-distributed?

» Continue reading “Debt relief of Africa and Impoverished Nations”

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Trickle Down Economics doesn’t work. Let’s shake it up with the Salad Dressing Theory of Economics (Take 4)

After even more thinking about how to address issues of social in-equality, I updated the original article.  So here is the updated version (Take 4, 6 Feb 2013).

Trickle Down Economics isn’t working the way it was intended and never did.

What’s really happening is more like the separation of Oil and Vinegar. The more you let an economy stagnate, the more the wealth floats to the top like Oil and ends up in the hand of the rich with less in the hands of the poor. But having all the oil on top makes terrible salad dressing. Separation continues until someone creatively does something about it.

There are two scenarios that we are seeing playing out (and a third scenario that could make a difference):
1) The poor can shake up the economy or,
2) The rich can shake up the economy or,
3) (The government can shake the economy)

» Continue reading “Trickle Down Economics doesn’t work. Let’s shake it up with the Salad Dressing Theory of Economics (Take 4)”

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Articulating the issues of Occupy Wall Street and possible solutions

The Problems with Occupy Wall Street

Whenever I see the news about the demonstrations on Wall Street, commentators ask questions about demands and conclude with statements like ”the demonstrators have no clear demands” but frequently point out that they share common frustrations.

The challenge lies in the complexity of the situation which has several underlying and intertwined causes. Although they perceive an injustice somewhere in the economic structure, they don’t know exactly where to place the blame, and they don’t appear to know what to do about it other than voicing their anger. I have yet to hear any suggestion on what they want done or who they expect should do it.

In this article, my attempt is to articulate what I believe are some of the underlying issues and a few potential solutions along with who should take action.

» Continue reading “Articulating the issues of Occupy Wall Street and possible solutions”

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Economic Policy, Gold Standard, Global Currency and Sustainability

The massive move to unbridled consumption began in the developed countries before 1971 and resulted in the decoupling of the US dollar from the gold standard. According to Mike Sheldock (MISH) in his article Hugo Salinas Price and Michael Pettis on the Trade Imbalance Dilemma; Gold’s Honest Discipline Revisited and Hugo Salinas Price’s article The gold standard: generator and protector of jobs, the Bretton Woods Agreements of 1944 held that the US currency was the standard currency based on the concept that, at any time, if any country had an excess of US currency, they could demand an exchange of Gold from the US Reserves. Accordingly, every country would at least make the attempt to maintain a trade balance. In 1971, Nixon declared that the US would abandon this agreement and no longer pay back demands for gold at any price because they had already accumulated substantial debt through the printing of US currency to pay for their growing needs, essentially giving themselves credit that was backed up, until then, by their gold reserves.

Prior to 1971, as a result of US money being backed by gold, all other countries followed the US dollar. The US had an obligation to try not to allow themselves to get too far out of alignment. However, as the US continued to allow their trade deficit to grow, being the only country with the right to print US currency, they eventually found themselves with a substantial trade deficit. So much US currency was in the hands of other countries that they could not be able to pay it back in Gold without bankrupting or substantially depleting their gold reserves. As a result the US dollar was sharply devalued against gold and the price of gold has continued to rise ever since.

By abandoning the gold standard, the US opened the doors to printing as much money as they wanted giving themselves unlimited credit and an unlimited trade deficit. Now that severe trade imbalances are showing up everywhere, it is becoming more and more difficult to reconcile accounts without extreme devaluation of certain currencies and getting hold of trade imbalances.

What Mike Sheldock and others are advocating is a return to the gold standard. The problem with the gold standard is that it would still be essentially controlled by one country and the temptation for that country to print money would still be more than it could bare. Would he advocate that standard if Chinese currency was the central currency? Probably not. » Continue reading “Economic Policy, Gold Standard, Global Currency and Sustainability”

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