Winning as a Team
My 40th birthday is in five weeks. I am truly excited about this one.
Partially because, for Kelly’s latest milestone birthday (lets say 30th or whatever sounds the most like I’m being coy about her age), she demanded we go on an Alaskan cruise. I begrudgingly obliged, of course. Despite having no idea or plan of how to pay for said trip, it seemed a no-brainer that we would pay off the card eventually, but you could never pay back missing a milestone cruisestravaganza. Nevertheless, a standard was set.
And I am a man of some standard.
The main reason I’m excited is that I am having a birthday. I survived the global pandemic, and the Bill Gates microchip implantation or whatever… The CDC just ham-fistedly opened the world back up to those who are fully vaccinated.
Which means I can probably have a birthday party!
I’m still not sure what it will look like, or how many people we can comfortably handle at a time (Rayfield home guidelines > CDC Guidelines), or if we’ll have to phase it out over the day, but it’s looking super promising we’re going to have quite a shindig.
I’m glad we survived. And realistically, we were always probably ok. I hated that word. Probably. I’ve already talked in this blog about statistics and probability. In relation to gambling, to my health behaviors surrounding covid, to networking and taking risks. I hated feeling like we were shooting the dice with our health every time we ran to a grocery store or had our furnace serviced.
And now, at least for now, that anxiety has eased (Looking at you SUPER COVID)
I trust the science. I trust the guidance. We’ve been dipping our toes back into visiting people. Embracing people. It was everything I remember.
Of course everything has changed. The pandemic is still spreading and devastating, ravaging India as we speak and far from quelled at home. Industries and supply chains are still sputtering and spurting, if they’re not completely dead still. Some economies are fundamentally, and permanently, altered.
Change is fine. “There is a season” and all, but it’s important at inflection points like this to also understand what is happening.
The challenge moving forward isn’t going to be “how do we make things the way they were?” Orthodoxy will always serve as a liability to sustainable development. We will have to find modern solutions to modern challenges (and maybe vote out some of these septa-/octogenarian politicians). We must accept that these changes have happened and will continue happening indefinitely.
Evolution (for those of you that believe in those sorts of ‘theories’ lololol) shows that the better you can adapt to your environment, the more likely you are to propagate your genetics.
The environment is basically an abstraction to humans. We are simultaneously horribly suited for our environments, yet intelligent enough to create environments to suit our objectively finicky comfort standard. Very few of us could survive outdoors year-round where we currently boast permanent residence, and it’s not even realistically a concern to most people, or in some cases even a subconscious awareness (until the power goes out and you realize that some people don’t know they shouldn’t light grills indoors or use their trucks for power/warmth in closed garages….)
Humanity has, for all intents and purposes, conquered nature.
But, as they (probably) say in the streets, “nature ain’t no punk”.
California is an amazing place to live now, but what happens when drought and wildfires drive out populations? What happens when Miami, New Orleans, Boston, Venice, are all claimed by the ocean? These seem like far-out, insane shifts in environment, but considering humanity is currently seeing climate-based migrations out of the land formerly known as the “fertile crescent”, it’s not so far-fetched it could happen in the next century if not sooner. Especially after the last four year the EPA has had….
OK OK, I’ll jump off the catastrophe wagon.
Things won’t look the same as we all begin returning to our normal lives. A solid percentage of people won’t return to offices, which will ripple through real estate markets as well as the service, logistics and maintenance industries. Minimum-wage employees were (somewhat accidentally) shown a better life, and they're now reluctant to return to the lives they once led (this is remarkably fewer people than the GOP would like you to believe)
Transfers of wealth will continue, although ideally we’ll be able to somehow mediate/mitigate the consolidation of wealth to the hundred or so people that own 20% of the US economy.
Some businesses will boom. Some will bust. Things will keep ticking forward.
In a lot of ways, capitalism is one of the purest translations of evolutionary selection into economic ideology.
We play in a system that selects winners and losers, and rewards winners with advantages that ensure their ‘genetics’ (aka wealth) can propagate. Legacies are secured on the backs of this pile of ‘losers’, so it incentivizes a “win at all costs” attitude. The fact that socialism is blindly bandied about as a four-letter word, a word that literally boils down to “share, you guys”, shows how scared we are to lose anything we feel we’ve earned.
(Never mind that no one gets anywhere on their own. Successful people often mythologize their success into a series of stories and inevitabilities when almost 100% of the stories include an under-emphasized part where they cop to “then I received some incredible help/advice/business/support that pushed me over the top!” It would be like an F1 racer never attributing credit to the pit crew, or his driving team, or the folks who constructed the racetrack.)
I am grateful our government overcame its basest “every man for themselves” instincts in recent months. I firmly believe to “win” as a country, we all have to win.
We’re trained to believe that success comes from hard work. So failure is actually not some inevitable step on the path, it’s proof that you are what failed. That your efforts were somehow insufficient. You didn’t want it bad enough, you didn’t work hard enough. Nevermind any physical or systemic barriers, those are just excuses.
Those ideas are all garbage.
Sure, in the wild world of nature, failure is a death sentence.
But again, we aren’t in nature.
Just like our stress responses, our negativity biases are often overclocked. Some people hermited away the past year (and they have the aging-rocker hairstyles to show for it).
Some people’s survival instincts are basically switched off… The fact that Pokemon GO was at any point a dangerous activity is abundant proof of this point.
People’s choices during the pandemic visibly exposed how differently humans approach situations.
I saw a tweet the other day that used the analogy of a pizza party, and said America basically has two people:
The person that sees there isn’t enough pizza for everyone so takes three slices
The person that sees there isn’t enough pizza for everyone so takes only one slice.
Of course this is a wild oversimplification of the “individualist v. collectivist” dichotomy, but it resonates, and it prompts a few follow-up questions. And not “how do we force everyone to only take one slice?” or “How do we politely or otherwise ask people to leave the pizza party?” Could we maybe make more pizza?
Can we pool together and buy more pizza?
Or maybe the pizzas can be sliced more and divided equitably so less hungry folks take smaller slices?
OK, the analogy isn’t perfect. But focusing on the behavior (how many slices we take) ignores the systemic issue (not enough slices) and whether there’s a solution to that challenge.
Growing the pie is the fundamental takeaway of value-building negotiation. It’s time to stop looking at each interaction as a function of giving and taking. Americans may never fully align on a shared value system, but we certainly won’t ever align on a value system if we can’t sit down and have honest, vulnerable, and articulate conversations with each other. We will very probably find out that we have more in common that we don’t. Probably.
If the only way we are going to “win” moving forward, is as a we, then we still have a shit-ton of re-connecting to do.
It was super easy to make us all think we were divided and hated each other from the safe confines of our 2020 covid bubbles. As we venture back out into the world I look forward to acknowledging and embracing not only people, but the humanity that we all share.
It’s gonna be a lot of hugging.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to see my best friend! Thanks as always for reading!
All the best,
Jon “Doc Wattson” Rayfield
Native Stranger Productions