The Blame Game: A Nation Stripped of Humanity

Guest post by Francisco Dao. Follow him on Twitter @TheMan.

My rich friends are good people. They work hard, give generously to charity and invest their money in the ideas of entrepreneurs. They are in the 1% and their work creates jobs and fuels innovation. Surely they are not to blame for the problems that we face.

My friends who are less than financially secure are also good people. They work hard to provide for their families and make a better life for their children. They are in the 99% and their work forms the backbone of America. Surely they are not to blame for the problems that we face.

And yet here we stand – a nation at the brink – each accusing the other for the ills that befall us. How did we get here? Could one group be right and the other is simply evil? If so, then which group? For I know many in both circles and I see malice in none. Perhaps I am blind. Or perhaps we have become so disconnected from one another that the absence of malice in our hearts is surpassed by the absence of empathy.

Most of us believe that people can be categorized as good or evil but the truth is we are an amalgam of both. Our founding fathers created a land of freedom while they owned slaves. Our enemies plot our downfall while they care for their mothers and children. There is neither absolute good nor absolute evil. We are both and neither. And while it may be difficult to admit it to ourselves, who we are and what we do are largely a matter of circumstance.

As the right and left have pulled us apart, Tea Party vs. Occupy Wall Street, weʼve been conditioned to view the other side as less. It starts as less industrious or less moral, but soon it becomes less worthy, less valuable and finally less human. When this happens it becomes far too easy to subjugate each other as a matter of “right.” Like the pigs in Animal Farm we become indistinguishable from the oppressors that we despise.

I am no Pollyanna and the Bernie Madoffʼs and Octomomʼs who take advantage of the system on both ends of the spectrum deserve no favor. But itʼs time to end this categorization that now strips us of our empathy. No more blaming the rich. No more blaming the poor. No more blaming anyone by any other label. For when all of these labels are washed away we are just people. People who share dreams and values that are far more similar than weʼve been led to believe. Itʼs time to look at the faces of those weʼve blamed for Americaʼs woes and see them for who they are: mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and children. We are they and they are us. I fear we have already lost our empathy and if we donʼt find a way, we may find ourselves a nation stripped of our humanity.

Please share your thoughts. Where are we and where are we going?

Francisco Dao is the founder of 50Kings, a private community for technology and media innovators. He is a former leadership columnist for Inc.com, a lifelong entrepreneur, author and former stand-up comic.

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  • http://bit.ly/bceuf ericschwartzman

    Thanks for the goodwill, Francisco. I appreciate it. But unfortunately, I fear we are a rubber neck species. If it bleeds, it leads. Not just the news cast mind you, but page rank and edge rank as well.  Polarity is a function of commerce. I applaud you and Brian for having the will, patience and tolerance to put forth this message.

    • Lindsay Southwick

      Nice point and one that I hadn’t considered after reading the piece. It’s difficult to have a Kumbaya moment when people make gazillions of dollars teaching us to hate the Other.

      I agree with Francisco’s post overall and especially about individual voters. In terms of their representation, well, I think that’s a different matter.

  • http://twitter.com/TCoughlin Terence Coughlin

    I think most would agree with your premise, but have given up on the likelihood of the execution.  Likely going to get (much) worse before it bets better, especially in an election year.

    • Francisco Dao

      Unfortunately, I agree with you…it will get worse.  I actually wonder if it will ever get better.

  • http://twitter.com/gregstergmo Greg Moore

    You are right to bring to light the humanity – a commonality overlooked in most conflicts centered around wealth. A broad diversity of perspective is often a significant component to ending the conflict. Bravo.

  • Debra

    Too often we follow the lead of another out of fear, anger, jeolousy, resentment, or some other negative emotion. Sometimes we follow because someone else told us too and we didn’t give it much thought. E didn’t weigh both sides of the coin and delve into the details. Or, perhaps we were just grateful that someone else was doing the work and we didn’t have too.

    And then once in a rare while we follow someone who truly inspires us from within. We feel good, empowered, and know in our hearts we are making the world a better place. We act out of love, the desire to help those around us without taking from another. If you have to take to gain, your heart is in the wrong place. It assumes love and abundance is in limited supply. While in reality, there is a solution where we all gain. You just haven’t found it yet.

  • http://www.plansphere.com Tim Bonnemann

    I’m not quite sure the post accurately captures the essence of the Occupy movement. It’s not about blindly “blaming the rich”. It’s not about whether any one rich individual is a good person or not (the 1% label isn’t to be taken that literal, in my view). I’ve had a chance to talk with many people — protesters and passers-by — at Occupy San José, and that is not the direction of their argument, neither is it the argument I’m hearing from other cities.
    Instead, one of the issues is that over the past thirty or so years the system (economic policy, financial regulations etc.) has favored the few people at the very top while leaving the many at the bottom behind. That is the core of the injustice argument that’s being made. Closely related to this is the issue of undue influence of big money in politics.The vast majority of people I’ve talked to don’t seem to have an issue with a market economy, though many certainly wonder whether there isn’t a better kind of capitalism out there and whether how we’re doing things as a society now is sustainable. They don’t have a problem with people getting rich and living the good life. All they are asking for is a fair deal. To them, that basic sense of fairness has been betrayed and must be restored.

    • Francisco Dao

      Tim, I see both sides suffering from “Mission creep.”  Nobody (except the cronies) are in favor of crony capitalism, but the mission of the left starts to creep into things like free tuition, while the mission on the right becomes pure social Darwinism. My intention wasn’t an in-depth argument, just a hope to bring back a little moderation.

    • http://jetsetcitizen.com John Bardos

      I agree Tim. I don’t think the Occupy movement is against working hard and getting rich. The problem is more about those breaking the rules to stay rich. Citigroup, JP Morgan, Enron etc. committed fraud. Breaking the law to make money is not only wrong, it is ilegal. However, the punishment rarely fits the crime if you have enough money.

      We are supposed to live in a democratic society, where everyone’s vote counts. However, lobbying has distorted the political process to the point where pizza in now classified as a vegetable in the US. It wasn’t long ago that doctors were recommending cigarrettes. That to me is the 1% profiteering from the suffering of others. 

      Corporations have financial incentives to sell socially destructive products and influence politicians for their own benefit. Government needs to be  impartial and represent the best interests of society. Ordinary citizens didn’t have a voice before because they didn’t have the money. Fortunately, technology is giving the 99% a voice for the first time in industry. 

      It is bringing down governments in the Middle East and it is sure to wreck havoc on the old ways of politics and big business as well. I agree that  labels and stereotypes can be dangerous, but the Occupy movement stands for something much more basic and fundamental than you suggest. I don’t think it is too much to ask everyone in society to play by the same rules.

  • Matthew

    Maybe you should offer this advice to our Polarizer in Chief and his 535 accomplices in Washington.

    • http://essaychampions.com/ essay help

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  • http://twitter.com/iodyssee Odyssée Ndayisaba

    Amazing read. Nailed down as it should remain – hanged high up sign. As a reminder to who we should always aspire to remain – human – practicing values that propel humanity to greater heights, not sink it.

  • Bernie

    (as published on Google Plus)

    The 100%This is not quite one of those late night rants, but it is late, and it is rantish. I’m just saying.It’s about the 1% and the 99%, which is why I gave it the title I did. Because I was thinking that the whole 99%/1% thing is cute and catchy and everything, but not, really, the heart of the debate we’ve been so intense about of late.There’s a game called Star Power I wanted to tell you about. It was designed by a wonderful friend of mine, who has recently passed away. Another painful loss. But his game, Star Power, is a deep and lasting legacy. It is a learning game. A serious learning game, about a bona fide-ly serious thing, like, for example, the very thing that has been pre-occupying the Occupy Movement, as a matter of exceptionally serious fact.Oh, Star Power starts out fun, all right, like a game – at least at the start. A trading game. Kind of like trading baseball cards, only you trade chips. Between rounds, you get in groups, according to the value of your chips. And talk about whatever. Or plan. Unless you’re the group with the highest score. Then you get to talk about how you’re going to change the rules for the next round of trading.Hmmm. Only one group, the group with the highest score, gets to change the rules. Still like a game, I guess. A lot like football/soccer, where only officials get to change the rules. Except in sports the officials don’t play. Meanwhile, there’s Star Power. Which is what you’re playing. Even though you know it’s not really a game. And you just happen to be in the group with the highest score. And guess what kinds of rules you make? Guess who your rules are designed to benefit the most? And talk about drama! Guess what happens when you tell the people in the lower groups the new rules for the next trading round. Go ahead. Guess.Now guess what happens the next round. Now that everyone has learned so vividly what it means to be in a high- or low-scoring group.Scary how accurate the simulation turns out to be. A simulation with a theme as old as the species, where those who have more power, when given the opportunity to change the rules, make rules to further disempower the less powerful. Where the disempowered find themselves playing a game that, for them, for sure, isn’t fun any more, at all.A simulation game whose truths have recently become publicly, painfully more self-evident, on a pretty much global scale.If we take the 100% perspective, if we see the whole that this game so accurately describes, we maybe might see that it’s not any particular percent of our population that is the problem. It’s the game itself, what we used to call the system. If we separate the 1% from the rest of us, and make them our enemies, we forget that given the circumstances, given the rules of the game, given the chance, we’d be just like they are. We let ourselves get played by a game in which we are all players, all 100% of us. Like I said, I’m just saying.

  • Mgodfrey

    This post is as helpful as it is important. I’ve also had the opportunity to talk with Occupy protesters representing both sides (D.C., MN & NY.) In conversations with others not directly involved with the protests, I’ve found that people are quick to label and pit their stance against the good or evil found in the 1% or 99% camps, depending solely on personal point of view. It seems the policy issues leading the citizen-driven battle between the “haves” and “have nots” don’t get adequate billing in all the blame being thrown around. As Francisco so eloquently put it, “who we are and what we do is highly a matter of circumstance.” I would add that along with our growing disconnection from each other, we have also largely become disconnected with our democracy. I think its safe to assume most Americans, political or not, seek and work to build stable lives for ourselves and those we support. However, the difficulty found in pursuing our personal security goals, may be robbing our attention away from from the pursuit of the reform needed to secure our national future. While these tough economic times have presented a financial threat to many Americans, they have also presented clear opportunities to become more connected with each other, and to the policies that govern us (rich or poor) via technology that has provided a much smaller communication landscape. Using our voices to organize a large focus on issues like corruption and accountability, rather than using them to bring focus on the individuals most affected by corruption may not only change our personal circumstances, but may also change circumstances for the future of our nation. Examining and discussing broken policies that exist in our own backyards, and sharing with the world the corrupt practices theses policies enable might be a good place for each of us to start working WITH our government toward the reform needed to unite us.

    Michelle Powers Godfrey
    Public Radio International,
    State Integrity Investigation
    @StateIntegrity

  • http://www.LinkedMediaGroup.com Linked Media Group, Inc.

    I disagree vehemently! The power elite are destroying our country!

    The country is run by corporate behemoths, lobbyists and the power elite. The lower and middle classes are getting their oxygen shut off every day: medical insurance is non-existent or so over priced many can’t afford it, social mobility is at the lowest in our nation’s history, Wall Street runs Washington, whether it’s a Republican or Democratic administration, banks have and are making billions by leveraging lobbyists and political connections.

    Our political system is a joke. Our elected leaders spend 50% of their time raising money so they can stay plugged in to the corporate feeding trough. Money drives our politics as never before. The system is broken…….

    We are mired in two wars that our military industrial complex keeps telling us are necessary and winnable (shades of Viet Nam) while our schools shut down programs left and right and 20% of our children live in poverty.

    This is class warfare and our systems are corrupt and driven by money and corporations. We need a revolution and recognition the power elite are taking over our country. Fingers need to be pointed, a hue and cry needs to be made and someone needs to speak for the disenfranchised. Wrapping injustice in civility does nothing but serve those in power.

    We need another Thomas Paine……….

  • http://ChristineHueber.com Christine Hueber

    What if each of us accepted responsibility for our lives?  

    • Anonymous

      Tell that to a 5-year-old kid with no parents or extended family. Or an 80-year-old that physically or mentally unable to work. Or a severely disabled war vet. Or a single mom a chronic illness, etc. and so forth.

      Or a newborn whose parents can’t afford private healthcare.

    • Mike

      Christine, I agree with hugoguzman. It just isn’t that simple anymore. That’s the argument of the Occupy movement and I feel like it’s the core problem with the conservative constituency in this country. They think it still is just all about responsibility. That just isn’t right. Things have become very unbalanced in many social areas. Why does a state provided undergraduate degree cost $60,000 +. How does one take personal responsibility to deal with massive debt at age 22 because they wanted to get educated?  This is just one example.

  • Kpar

    Are you really asking why can’t we all just get along?

    Where are we going?
    The Income Gap Between Rich And Poor Is Growing At A Record Rate
    30 second read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/the-income-gap-between-rich-and-poor-is-growing-at-a-record-rate-2011-12#ixzz1fff90F6F

    Global Crony Capitalism is Global Narcissism and has just about won the day. So not a whole lot of empathy is coming our way.

    the joke goes … What’s the difference between a psychotic and a neurotic?
    Neurotics build castles in the sky and psychotics move in.

    The 1% my friend – have moved in.

    Jus saying

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  • Toddspare

    I am certain that most Americans would agree that we need to work together to make things better, but most Americans don’t have any say in how things get done in our government any more. Decisions about how things get done is in the hands of a small minority of folks elected to serve their constituents, but forgetting their role. Big money rules politics today and when big money decided to take control of the political process it was game over.
    Again, I say that most Americans would like to fix this country, not for themselves, but for their children and grandchildren, but we are powerless, especially since many of us lost much of our savings in the great recession. We have no money, so therefore we have no power.
    And let’s not be naive enough to believe we can simply change things at the ballot box any longer.

    So… where is our host on this issue. Do you have ny thoughts Brian on “the end of America as usual”

  • http://twitter.com/LynneBoschee Lynne Boschee

    I feel you Brian! We need the extremes to expose the issues, but the answers lie somewhere in the middle. My fear is that the extremes have taken over our political system and I wonder, are we too polarized to problem solve?

  • Joanne Steele

    Interesting to find this discussion here on PR2.0. To some extent I see the 1%/99% divide as well as the general divisiveness in politics and the country to be a consequence of our ability through social media and the internet to interact and get feedback from only people who think like we do.

    Before social media and the internet, we ran up against opposing views all the time, and they impacted our thinking. Now, we don’t have to consider anything but our own opinion. AND because we can find others who think like we do online, no matter how ‘fringe” our beliefs and ideas are, we may begin to believe we are right/good/mainstream/the holder of “truth.”

    Reading the responses, I see some of that occurring. Interestingly, my experience with the Occupy movement is that it’s hard to pin down… purposely. It seems to be an expression of the discontent we all feel right now. More power to them! I’m too old to be camping on the street anymore, and glad to see students taking up the standard.

  • Eric Wilinski

    Francisco, your framing of the issues here is off base. I hear very few people saying “rich people are evil.” I hear a lot of people saying “the rich are getting richer, the rest of us are going backwards, rich people are not being prosecuted for their crimes while the rest of us are, and that’s neither fair nor sustainable.”

    • Francisco Dao

      Hi Eric,

      At no point do I absolve anyone of their crimes but a simple blanket label like 1% (or 99%) lumps all rich people together as a group with implied guilt. 

      FD

  • http://www.san-diego-marketing.com/ San Diego Marketing

    I don’t know a lot about the workings of the Occupy Wallstreet and the it’s whole slogan, but I think it’s better to think of the protests in fragments rather than an accusatory finger to everyone that is in the upperclass. But let’s all hope that we can find a middle ground and find a solution that would satisfy all parties.

  • Francisco Dao

    Hi MGodfrey,

    Yes, absolutely it’s okay to republish – and thank you.
    FD

  • http://womeninbusinessradio.com Michele Price

    WOW you actually opened this conversation here.

    What has saddened me and amazed me is what I have learned about others from reading their views on this very subject.  It brings out the true essence of people and what you can expect if and when anarchy ensues.

    What I am wondering is how bad does it have to get before “the people” revolt in mass?  We are living a bit if history here that reminds me of  some of our earlier forefathers days.  They were willing to face death for their freedom, is our society today that committed? I doubt it.

  • http://twitter.com/MomsofAmerica debra cincioni

    A very pithy article….i have always felt that a house divided against itself is at peril of falling…Im glad to see others feel the same way… 

  • Thjameson

    Brian, there is a class to blame for this sad state of affairs – it is those who promulgate this class warfare mentality.

  • Idgat

    Um, I think you should stick to blogging about Social Media. Why are you uncomfortable that “both sides are blaming one another?” This has never been about blaming, although when human beings get into a ruck, it sure as hell looks like it. Look. Get over it. I’ts just namecalling while everybody wants to have their point said. In some other environment, you’ve been no doubt told to “suck it up” probably over something a lot worse. So “suck it up”, Brian.

    The bigger point is that Occupy has finally reintroduced a real, meaningful, non-violent way about getting serious about finding an answer to global capitalist problems that governments and elites seem simply incapable of handling, yet alone preventing, across not one but TWO recessions just years apart.

    Let’s look at it from the viewpoint of a PR practitioner Brian. If you screwed up your client’s account not once, but twice, in the space of two to three years, by making the SAME mistakes over and over – your client would sack you, wouldn’t they? And yet, here we are in the 21st century, we have NO MEANS to sack the people who are screwing up the world.

    Ironically, we live in a time with perhaps the best access to one another let alone people in positions of power – and the VERY BEST we can do about it, is carp about “why can’t we all get along?” and stop “blaming” on the Web???

     I don’t know about you, but it is possibly time to GET RID OF GOVERNMENTS, BANKS AND FINANCIAL SYSTEMS and try something new, in one big, crowdsourced experiment. EVERYTHING thats wrong with the world – the charade that is the Durban agreements – can be traced back to money. I hear no country that talks more about genuine environmental change and yet YOUR OWN U.S. government does not want to get with the programme because it is afraid of losing money and power.

     As it stands, the 1% of good people ARE going to have to give up a lot that makes their life comfortable in order to solve the problems you feel are valid – whether they argue or not. And no, Brian, please don’t tell me your 1% friends give to charity or social enterprise or so on and so forth to foster change. Glad they do, but that’s not the click-tivism/incremental change movements such as the Arab spring and OWS are talking about. Genuine change has to be big and systemic, and dismantle the current way money is handled, and THAT, my friend, is precisely why your buddies in the 1% will never want to ever face up to it because it is going to be more of a buttload of pain that anyone in ANY damn percentile is going to want to deal with.

    Brian, from someone who does not have this luxury, be glad you live in a country where you can EVEN TALK and/or BLOG about these things openly and freely disagree with one another and “blame one another”. COME LIVE IN A COUNTRY where you cant even do that without the risk of being locked up….

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      As you can see this guest post was written by Francisco Dao. So, we’ll let him respond as if it were directed at him…

ABOUT ME

Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. He is an avid keynote speaker and award-winning author who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation.

His most recent book, What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. In 2009, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

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