Thursday, July 7, 2011


Context. A lot of meaning comes from context. Take something out of context and some or all of its meaning is lost. Taking things out of context seems to be the nature of contemporary American society. We don’t have time for the whole story or the big picture; it won’t fit in a 140 character tweet, or a 30 second sound bite. And besides, in our ignorance and limited perspective, we think we know already and don’t need facts, background, history or context.

After all, we already have our opinions – pre-digested, chewed up, and spit out for us in neat, tidy, cute buzz words and phrases like “Drill baby, drill!” by our families, religions, political parties and media. Who needs facts, background, history and context? All that’s so old, so time consuming!

Unfortunately, without facts, history, context and the ability to think independently, we’re simply consumers, governed by whims and emotions, fear and instant gratification, and lose some of our humanity, becoming like cattle, easily stampeded and misled.

So for example, work place bullying. Cindy Goodman wrote her Miami Herald column about it last week. The context and facts about workplace bullying are “costly to a company, but employers don’t understand those costs. Good people leave and there’s a cost to losing good people.” Workplace bullying may sometimes seem to work in the short run, but taken out of the context of over-all company survival and profitability, it doesn’t work. Few managers and supervisors however, see their day-to-day, minute-to-minute responsibilities in the context of over-all company survival and profitability. They know only that they’re short staffed with increased demands for better performance and don’t have the time to deal with it. Without the context of over-all company survival and profitability, employers don’t seem to realize the terrible toll bullies take on their organizations.

This lack of context is the same lack of context that plagues our ability to improve other areas of contemporary American society, such as unemployment, clean, sustainable energy, immigration and health care. There are too many narrow, special interests competing with out of context, pre-digested, instant gratification solutions to partial problems.

The reality is that like the four ‘realms’ of the Energy Continuum, the facts, background, history and context show that we live in an inter-dependent, web-like environment, and all our solutions are connected. We can’t solve one problem out of context, without thinking through the impact of the solution on the other opportunities that need seizing. Yes, we have to take one step at a time and we can’t seize our opportunities all at once. But the facts, background, history and context needs to be clear and supported - whatever we do must be done in the context of a world that works for everyone and everything, no trade offs, no serious harm, no more reducing things to 140 character tweet or a 30 second sound bit.

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