If we each kill 300 …

14 Aug

I know it may seem like a battle that cannot be won, but I refuse to stand by and do nothing.

It’s the stink bugs I’m talking about and their inevitable invasion come early fall. Last year it took me until well into fall, maybe even early winter, to change my tactics from an approach of bugs-belong-outdoors to you-will-die-if-you-step-inside-my-house. As a matter of fact, once I transitioned from Earth Momma Bugs-Belong-Outdoors to Stink Bug Killer on a Mission, I even began killing the stink bugs on the outside of my home. (I have a tall jar with cotton balls soaked in nail polish remover, and into the jar they go.)

This year, I started early. I started killing juveniles in the summer. And I’m starting to see them on the exterior and — gasp! — interior of my home. So, what’s a sane person to do?

Personally, I think if each man, woman and child (above the age of six) commits to killing 300 stinkbugs each this year then perhaps we can stem the geometric growth of their invasion. Who’s with me? You can count on me to do my part? Can I count on you to do yours?

On un-requiring children to learn cursive … and the Homeland Generation

28 Jul

Haha. If you’ve posted a video on YouTube of late, you know that YouTube let’s you pick the still to use as the graphic for your video. I actually *picked* this one from a set of three options. Makes me laugh, anyway. But on to the content …

Horizontal filing and an uplifting solution

24 Jul

I’m a horizontal filer.

The vertical filers, who assume their way is right because office products are made primarily to support their style, call us pilers, or stackers, or maybe even slobs. Well, they can call me and my kindwhat they want, but I am what I am, I know others who share similar thinking, and I’ve learned to work with my strengths and weaknesses. What I don’t have are products that work well for me.

I’m hoping someone will come across this blog, read the idea here and either point me to where I can buy the item I need, or perhaps they can figure out how to make it and get it to market. So here’s the quick flash idea I just had: The idea is to have a free-standing pole that has (in the right range of what is reachable while sitting or standing) trays accommodating 8.5 x 11+ paper horizontally and say 3/4″ high. The trays would, of course, be perpendicular to the pole and they would rotate around the pole, or at least partially. The intent would be that a tray could have a project label or file label on it that is visible from a sitting or standing position, but the tray could rotate out of the ordered stack so that the contents (the pile) could be accessed and then returned to the neat, tidy storage area.

Sigh. Not sure if that verbal description works. Basically the idea is to allow for piles, create a vertical stack and allow each pile to be pulled out and accessed as needed. It’d probably be useful to have different options for the actual tray height and then some adjustment option  for creating space between stacked trays.

The problem with all the horizontal filing systems currently  on the market is that they assume a person wants to file away a horizontal pile. But I know I just want to PUT a horizontal file somewhere until I need it again. The products for horizontal filing misunderstand the basic and initial need of Our Kind.

I need a product engineer! Herman Miller (and crew), can you hear me now?


Are Millennials less religious than other gens?

12 Jul

This morning I was reading a Boomer’s blog post about religion, churches and his view of generational shifts in “religiosity” (not sure if I made up that word). He wrote, “It is not uncommon to hear that the generation in their 20’s and 30’s are agnostic or atheist.”

My response through the lens of applied generational theory:

Millennials, those in the 7-ish to 29-y.o. range in 2011, are raised in a culture influenced mostly by Boomer values. Boomers orient as a generation toward vision, values and religion. It shouldn’t be too surprising then that if you’re raised by a generation that leans one way, that you lean the OTHER way. It’s not that Millennials are mostly agnostic; it’s that they’re less curious about their internal and spiritual worlds and more curious about the external and physical world. Boomers, who grow up in a structured and well-built world as children, in young adulthood created a cultural change to focus on the meaning and purpose (of everything!).

So as Millennials now define young adulthood, what do we see? Millennials grow up in a values-fixated world, and in young adulthood, bring a focus back to the physical world and the importance of structure.

GenXers, in between both, correct the excesses of a values-fixated world and lead the shift toward a world where systems function better, thus allowing the Millennials a platform upon which they can bring their “Hero Energy” into society and actually use it!
The Silent/Homelanders are another story for another day.

So I offer this to the Boomer who looks at Millennials and sees them, along with his generational cohorts, as more agnostic and atheist: generations always see other generations through their own filters. (Right? Makes sense.) Imagine what the Boomers’ values-fixation and generational unwillingness to define as important the care of the physical world, e.g. roads, bridges, public parks, IT systems, looks like to Millennials who are raring to go, raised for their role as Heroes and wanting very much to live in a world that is safe, gleaming and structured. Then let’s talk about which generation is more this and less that. Being more religious or more agnostic is not a good-er or badder (I might have just made up two more words) thing. It’s a cycle and a rhythm that happens naturally to correct excesses, provide what’s needed now and create the path for a future that’s coming. That’s what generations do; they balance each other, allowing for growth, renewal and evolution.

The generational make-up of Columbia, per US Census 2010 data

11 Jul

As one deeply interested in generational dynamics, I’m curious about Columbia, Maryland’s demographics by generation. I find that this kind of information helps with problem-framing and problem-solving. As we frame and solve problems as a community, having a sense of our current generational mix may help us choose better paths to follow. Here’s the Columbia data (plus or minus a percentage point), broken down by blogger Bill Santos.

Columbia’s Generational Make-up in 2010
* Silent (born before 1943), 6,656 people (7%).
* Boom (born 1943-1960), 24,034 people (24%).
* Gen X (born 1961-1981), 29,972 people (30%).
* Millennials (born 1982-2002), 26,076 people (26%).
* Generation-to-be-named-later (born after 2002), 12,877 people (13%).

Black Rock City Farmers Market

6 Jul

Great shot of our More Carrot camp at Burning Man last year. http://bit.ly/oOPbH8

Two months from now, I’ll be in one of the more inhospitable places on the planet: Black Rock Desert in Nevada. And I’ll be there with 50,000 or so others at the nothing-else-like-it-anywhere phenomenon of Burning Man. Last year was my virgin year, and I’m back again for more this year. I’ve been fortunate to be a part of the More Carrot theme camp, offering Black Rock City’s first farmers market. We gift fresh vegetables and fruits in the morning, 8-11, at our farmers’ market stand. This year, we’re expanding our operations, and looking for some fundraising support in that lovely schwag-for-support style that is increasing in popularity and function.

Whether you’ve been to Burning Man, are going to Burning Man, hope to get to Burning Man one day, or know you’ll probably never get there but are fascinated by the whole thing, I hope you’ll help us out with a donation though our IndiGoGo campaign.

If it be your will

20 Jun

In W, of all places, I heard of this singer: Antony and the Johnsons. The photo shown in W and the opening line of the article had me curious instantly. Yeah for YouTube and the interwebs, I was able to find and listen to his music on the spot. (I’m hooked!) Now, while I don’t know the exquisite details of Antony’s biology or chromosonal make-up, my guess is Antony is a hermaphrodite. Talk about taking the gift of life and making it an exquisite prayer of gratitude and development! What an interesting and beautiful voice.

Sing, Antony, sing! Here’s Antony and the Johnsons singing, “If it be your will.”

And Leonard Cohen, singing his version.


A beautiful citizen uprising

12 May

“A beautiful citizen uprising!” Apparently, that’s what I said — and there’s video to prove it.

One of the most excellent regional unconferences (imo) is Transparency Camp, put on by the Sunlight Foundation. This year, I was interviewed as one of the participants, and my few moments of fame open and close the video.

Kate, Zell and a wedding dress

1 May

Wedding gown design, Rosellen Howell, 1946

I know it’s not an exact match, but I see some similarities. In 1946, my aunt, Rosellen Howell (whom, growing up, I called Aunt Zellie), headed to New York City at the ripe age of seventeen, where she then studied fashion design. Here’s a wedding dress design from her collection.

And here is Kate Middleton (the newest princess) and her dress:

Why are Deborah and Janet so successful?

30 Apr

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about the cyclical naming of babies and how generations and Turnings (per Strauss and Howe) impacts popular baby names. A few days ago this earlier post came to mind when I came across an article about the most popular baby girls’ names in 2009. (These would be the Homeland generation: the generation that shares the same archetype as the Silent generation, born 1924-1942.)

Check this out. Notice how the names sound to your ears and the image that you have with the personality that would match such a name.

Design by Rosellen Howell, 1946

  1. Isabella
  2. Emma
  3. Olivia
  4. Ava
  5. Sophia
  6. Madison
  7. Chloe
  8. Abigail
  9. Emily
  10. Addison
  11. Ella
  12. Lilly
  13. Mia
  14. Alexis
  15. Grace

Then look at the most popular female names of 1999, when Millennials were winding down but still Millennials. More Glamour Girl (my child is special) names. Listen to how the names sound and the personality you’d associate — sight unseen — with such a name.

  1. Emily
  2. Sarah
  3. Brianna
  4. Samantha
  5. Hailey
  6. Ashley
  7. Kaitlyn
  8. Madison
  9. Hannah
  10. Alexis
  11. Jessica
  12. Alyssa
  13. Abigail
  14. Kayla
  15. Megan


Fast Company has an article based on Linkedin data in which it claims the best names to name your baby and future CEO. In my eyes, this article would be much more valuable were the author and the good people at Linkedin to have given generational theory its due. The article (per Linkedin’s data) concludes the most-likely-to-be-CEO female’s names are –

Design by Rosellen Howell, 1946

  1. Deborah
  2. Sally
  3. Debra
  4. Cynthia
  5. Carolyn
  6. Pamela
  7. Ann
  8. Cheryl
  9. Linda
  10. Janet

Hmmm, let’s see. Most female (not male) CEOs are in their 50s. So what if we go back and find the most popular female baby names in 1959. (These would be the tail-end of Boomers.) There’s some correlation between popular names for baby girls some 50+ years ago and the more-common names of 50-something female CEOs today. Duh.

  1. Mary
  2. Susan
  3. Linda
  4. Karen
  5. Donna
  6. Patricia
  7. Debra
  8. Cynthia
  9. Deborah
  10. Lisa
  11. Barbara
  12. Pamela
  13. Sandra
  14. Nancy
  15. Kathy

And, not to leave the GenXers out of the conversation, I looked at the top female baby names in 1971 (GenXers are born 1961-1981, so this is the mid-point in the generation).

  1. Jennifer
  2. Michelle
  3. Lisa
  4. Kimberly
  5. Amy
  6. Angela
  7. Melissa
  8. Tammy
  9. Mary
  10. Julie
  11. Stephanie
  12. Heather
  13. Tracy
  14. Dawn
  15. Karen

Cyclical time. Cultural turnings. Rising trends and fading fashions. These things are part of the experience here on this lovely planet. Always there is something being born, something rising up, something being solid and powerful and something fading and moving toward death. To my mind, and as I continue to study generational theory, I find the (approximately) 20-year turnings that occur each time a new generation moves into young adulthood, one of the more compelling, informative and insightful bodies of work.

On elephants and anthropomorphism

20 Mar

A tweeted @NPRnews article headline caught my eye the other day. Gotchya! Elephant Caught Cheating. It was meant “to catch” me, and it was successful. As I read the story about a young female elephant who figured out how to get the result (food) that she wanted without having to do the work (the learning and collaborative system designed by the researchers), I found myself bothered by the anthropomorphism of the author.

The young female elephant who figured out how to get the food through a means other than designed by The Humans is called “a cheat.” A cheat? Did she sign an agreement with The Humans to do the experiment as They designed. Perhaps in her “cheating,” she was actually exploring physics and solutions that were different? Perhaps she was applying her intelligence in a new way because the experiment was stupid and low-level. Perhaps she was exerting her dominance with the other elephant and she had Her Reasons.

These things I don’t know. And my attempts to figure it out have me being anthropomorphic also. It’s not my job to know her reasons for going around the parameters of the experiment. I will say that I found rather off-putting The Human Journalist’s application of pejorative adjectives to the elephant.

How I almost sold my soul for a box of labels

3 Mar

It happened like this: I tweeted a simple request. (It seemed innocent enough at the time.) I tweeted that I needed help getting some Avery labels printed for an upcoming hocoblogs party. And that’s when the snowball rolling toward my soul being owned by The Devil started to roll.

Good thing for me, my soul isn’t for sale, so I caught that potentially Hellish problem in the nick of time. “Whoa, Devil,” said I. “No souls for sale here.”

See, when I posted my request to the Twitterverse, a smart gal managing Avery label’s brand online spotted my tweet and responded to me right away. She offered that she could give me some labels if I were to blog about why I liked Avery labels.

I asked for the dollar amount of this “gift” of labels, and she said it was about $90. I explained to her that the blog post I was interested in writing had to do with respecting that a company was monitoring its brand in the social space and that it had empowered an agent (notably, a pr firm) to act on its behalf for community relations with brand ambassadors.

She told me my blog post focus that was a little out of the norm, but that she was game.

Avery labels sent from Red Sky Public Relations.

I told her that I was delighted she was game, because I was going to blog about the experience anyway; now I get to tell a happy, yay-for-Avery-and-good-online-brand-monitoring story rather than a “they tried to get me to sell soul, and they can’t have it” story.

Even better, the gal sent me the Avery product prior to my blog post being written: a statement of trust. (Nice touch.)  And, so folks, I now have a load of Avery labels … and my soul, fully intact.


For companies in need of some good online brand management, props to Leigh Ann Dufurrena of Red Sky Public Relations. (You can use this link in your own personal brand management, Leigh Ann; you get a shiny gold star in my book.)

Reducing board micro-management

27 Feb

For those of you who’ve ever experienced micro-management by a board (on either side of the table), here’s a potentially helpful document I wrote. It’s designed to help nonprofit organizations reduce unnecessary board intrusion, concurrently while helping the ED and staff serve the board and provide them what they need to do their strategic work.


See, I’ve served on two boards of late. And, educational experiences they have both been! I’ve learned through some rather twisted and uncomfortable ways about the roles of the executive committee, the board president, the committees, the executive director (ED) and the staff. I have not always been the easiest of board members to have around. I want information. I find it impossible to do my job of providing, among other things, strategic direction to an organization about which I know little.

In my frustration, I became a whirlwind of data requests. I had culture clashes with the staff and ED about what information I had a right to see. Me? I think Google Analytics are relevant when one is the Communications Committee chair.  And HTML newsletter open rates and clicks on links. Because I wasn’t receiving the information I felt I needed to do my job as a board member, and as my requests for information were often perceived of as stepping on staff and ED toes, the I-want-you-can’t-have push-pull became even more pronounced.

Now, EDs have to protect their staff from excessive board requests and ensure that mission critical operations continue. And usually, producing reports and providing information takes staff time that can impact the staff’s ability to do its work. So, what’s a sane organization to do? Well, I think the first thing is that people have to know is what they’re asking for and why … what purpose does the getting of the information provide? And what’s it worth? Is the information sought a $25 answer (a quick email sent), a $250 answer (perhaps a meeting with a few staff and follow up), or is it a $2,500 answer … perhaps a more extensive report? Board members should be able to ask a reasonable question of staff and get a reasonable answer. Equally, even without a master of science in management, board members need to understand “the cost” of their questions asked.

So, what’s a sane organization to do?

In my consulting work over the years (and in personal relationships), I see that it is my responsibility to ask for what I want and to make sure that I’m clear about what it is that I need as an answer/deliverable/date. My suspicion is that board member requests of staff would half and ED/staff resistance would subside tremendously if there were systems in place that required (forced) board members to be more thoughtful in what it is they need, and why.

So, I created a form, a document, a think-your-way-through-your-thought-process guide. I make no claim of perfection in this regard. I have yet to test and vet this form. I am, however, offering it for nonprofit boards, EDs and staff as a potentially helpful tool for navigating the sometimes-messy territory of board-staff relationships. (And for those of you who’ve got your thinking caps on but don’t serve on nonprofit boards at this moment in time, you’ll be able to see the business applications for such a form.)

She almost sneered at me …

18 Feb

Several years ago, I was at a DC area barcamp. I forget which one. (I am, admittedly, a bit of a barcamp junkie.) While there, a well-connected DC blogger asked if I’d be interested in speaking at her company about generational diversity and social media uptake. “Why, of course, thank you,” was my response (or something along those lines … I’m telling a story, not chronicling history), and I reached for my business card to hand her.

She looked at me, and I swear, she almost sneered at me. She said, “I know how to get in touch with you, Jessie.”

So, rather sheepishly, I put my card away, realizing in that moment, that the act of passing paper is not always considered a convenience to the recipient. Me, I like paper. And business cards serve as physical reminders of people I’ve met. But — and apparently — for many, and I’d assume for those leaning more toward the Millennial generation and younger side of GenXers, my way of seeing the world is not theirs.

Fast forward a few years …

Earlier this week, I hosted, as I do, a somewhat-monthly party for local bloggers. This particular party was co-hosted by three gals who live in a section of my community and, quite understandably, they wanted the party to be held on their home turf at a nearby restaurant/bar. As the party planning was underway, we aimed to invite not just the bloggers, but community leaders. We invited merchants located in the same building as the bar. We invited PTA presidents and business owners, active volunteers and more.

All good. And the party was quite different in tone and vibe … and lovely in its own way.

As I was the primary hostess and central point for people coming in to the party, I quickly noticed something quite distinct among the guests. The people who blogged, tweeted and were otherwise what could be called “social media enthusiasts,” “plugged in,” “Web 2.0 savvy,” or whatever term you’d like, showed up with smartphones in hand and the occasional business card to present, as needed.

The non-bloggers showed up with fliers to hand out, stacks of business cards and paper galore. They looked at me, as the host, and asked where they could display their fliers. “Oh, we don’t have any space for that, sorry …” was my answer.

Don’t get me wrong: Paper has it’s place. But the difference that was so clear is that for those who had an online identity (the bloggers), they didn’t need to present themselves … with fliers, cards or collateral material. They were knowable. They had a URL. They had a name (a blog name, an identity as a blog commenter, a Twitter handle.) Those who didn’t, didn’t. And, by the end of the evening, the “digital divide” was quite obvious.

I understand well that not everyone could, should or would blog. And thank goodness. Bloggers need readers. But there is a huge field of opportunity to be engaged and knowable online. In Howard County, where I live, @MacsMom is a great example of this. She doesn’t blog (well, she has a blog, but she had one post in 2008 and another in 2009), but she is an engaged commenter on the local blogs. She tweets and actively retweets others’ content. And she’s active on Facebook and shares local information. She’s knowable … and known.

The personal asset of having an online identity backed up by who you are in the community (a geographic, interest-based and/or professional one) is a place that I would encourage the majority of adults I know to put some attention and energy.

Be known. To the level you’re comfortable for now, but be known nonetheless.

Images via grammardocs and moblogsmoproblems.blogspot.com


Groundhog Day

2 Feb

Groundhog Day is one of my favorite movies ever. For me, it has been one of the greatest messages from God/Mr. Everything/The Absoluteness That Is that I’ve ever received. Let me explain what I mean, in 500 words or less. Here goes –

The story line, most of you know: Bill Murray’s character gets stuck in eternity, in Hell on Earth (a hellish life, a hellish personality, a hellish job, a hellish town, on a hellish day …). And in this eternal hell, he is able to explore without consequence. He can explore his dark side. He can explore his kindness. He can be adventurous and do dangerous things. And he can explore his intellectual and emotional territory, including expressing his yet-to-be-reciprocated love for Andie MacDowall’s character.

In time, he comes to find not just peace with his life in eternity, but passion about his life, love experienced, goodness made manifest and the joy of Heaven on Earth. Now, I don’t know much about the Bible or religious writings, and the spiritual-but-not-religious folk have their own views, too, but in my view and experience, Earth is the mid-point between “Heaven” and “Hell,” where Heaven is union with Mr. Everything and the magic of everyday living, even and especially among the dark and thick world of the physical, and “Hell” is the separation from all of that and the experience of everyday living as hateful, difficult, cumbersome and hard.

Now, when Bill Murray’s character finally does break the bonds of eternity, he chooses to stay where he is. He has come to understand that it’s not the place (the town) that he was in that was Hell, as he had originally believed, but it was his life that was Hell and hellish. In his transformation, he has found that the gates of Heaven are open to him and he can do anything, anywhere … not because he is “immortal” and will wake up once again at 6:00 a.m., unscathed, but because he now has enough experience in his life to be at choice about how to navigate the world and find the Heaven that is here to be had.


Another thing that I have come to understand about my life is that I enjoy the seasons. And while it’s easy to see life through the lens of time moving linearly and in one direction, I believe time moves cyclically and in a spiral. Seasons remind me of this, and crossquarter days are midpoints in our seasons.

Just as Punxsutawney Phil and groundhogs across America are slated to predict a cold second half of winter (staying in Hell) or a quicker arrival of Spring (moving toward Heaven), the movie Groundhog Day, to me, brilliantly represents that choice:

Where am I headed? Heaven or Hell? Or stuck somewhere in between?

Happy Groundhog Day!


Are Hollywood “mega-fauna” going out of fashion?

29 Dec

I didn’t make up this term: mega-fauna. I heard it once and liked it. Mega-fauna was the term used to describe the pop culture fascination and focus on big, camera-friendly animals such as tigers, (polar) bears and pandas, oh my. The Mega-fauna movement — loosely organized as it was — spoke to the importance of the large-in-volume, small-in-number animals and their plight in the face of human choices about land use, pollution, and so on.

While I have no literal data at hand, I’d say that the Mega-fauna movement tied in very much with the Third Turning (Society’s Fall) and the era in which Boomers had primary cultural dominance. Boomers (Prophets) orient as a group toward causes, messages, vision and values. They are masters at messaging that is filled with spiritual importance, moral direction and Big Picture Vision.

Come now, the Fourth Turning and the age of Winter: the era in which GenXers (Nomads) have the primary influence on leadership and the direction of action Society takes. (This role naturally aligns with whatever generation is ascending into mid-life, and that’s GenXers at the moment.) GenXers orient as a “group” (snicker, snicker) to that which is broken, needs fixing now and can be addressed with minimal resources and consensus. GenXers are also the masters of tending to things which are small and seemingly unimportant yet are critical to effective system functioning. 

Is it just me, or have movies, news, advertisements and cultural focus been on bees, ants, bugs, germs and bacteria? I love-love-love this commercial by Kleenex and find it a cultural marker. Take note!

Taking inventory

15 Dec

When I begin working with a new client, one of the things I ask to see is an inventory of online communication tools used. Sometimes this can seem to be an unnecessary task in the client’s eyes, but my experience is that while most companies “know” the information I’m requesting in the network of their team, rarely is the information fully documented in one specific place. Once the list is together, it becomes a most-useful resource to have on hand for new marketing and communication projects, for when new hires (or interns or volunteers) come on board, and when working with consultants who may not know the day-in-and-day-out details of your company’s communications.

The information I request, per tool, is –

  • The tool name,
  • The access URL,
  • The account name,
  • The password (redacted, but in the document for their records),
  • The email to which the account is connected (très importante!),
  • Who at the company manages the account, and
  • And a two- or three-sentence statement for how the communication tool is used and any other important account management points to note.

The result of that query, for one tool, might look like this –


  • Sign in: https://twitter.com
  • Account name: @hocoblogs
  • Password: (redacted)
  • Connects to: jessie (at) hocoblogs.com
  • Account manager: Jessie manages the account daily and Kimberly TP fills in using Hootsuite when Jessie is off the grid.
  • Twitter is used primarily to promote blog posts by Howard County bloggers which is done with short announcements and retweets. It is also used to announce local blogger and social media parties, workshops and events. Hootsuite is often used for posting and ow.ly and bit.ly are used for URL shorteners.

Of course, the quick-to-name tools that come to mind for many organizations nowadays include –

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Linkedin (for your company profile and any groups you might run)
  • Flickr
  • Blogs
  • Slideshare
  • Scribd
  • Eventbrite
  • Email newsletter services such as Blue Sky Factory, Mail Chimp or Constant Contact

Then, of course, there’s the endless list of online tools used inside a business, such as –

  • Google Analytics (or other sources),
  • Web 2.0 tools, such as Highrise, Basecamp, Huddle and DropBox,
  • The company website and/or CMS
  • And on and on and on …

For the nature of the work I typically do, I’m looking for information about who is managing what communication tools, so I don’t need to know too many business processes beyond this realm, unless, of course, they relate to communications, community-building and pr. If you run a communications department, or work closely with one, and don’t yet have this type of inventory together, now is a good time to do so. Oh, and it’s helpful to date the document so that you and your team are able to tell when the list might need to be reviewed and updated.


Four little pigs

23 Nov

Amy, of Buckland Farm, and not one of the younger pigs.

This weekend I had the privilege/joy/opportunity to help transfer four young pigs from the barn at Buckland Farm to their new woodland pen, also on the farm’s property. While the video here shows four happy pigs, I can tell you that the capturing and transport process was not a squeals-of-delight type of event. No sirreee. But, as my fellow pig handler, Ms. Brooke Kidd, said when we were done — and as I now concur, “The moral of handling pigs is you can’t force a pig to do anything … but you sure can bribe ‘em!” They’ll go most anywhere if you’re offering them food.

I’m a believer.

19 Oct

Just donated to Wikimedia Foundation, I did, for the continuation and support of Wikipedia. And I got a badge of my choice. I like this one:
Support Wikipedia

If you support/use/write to/read/believe in Wikipedia, please consider doing the same and donating. And, remember, all y’all who think GenXers don’t “volunteer” or have a spirit of citizenship, Wikipedia is a GenX-founded entity. (Jimmy Wales was born in 1966 … and he’s geeky hot!)  Our generation fixes what needs to be fixed without asking for permission or committee approval. That’s how we roll. :-)

The Role of (generations and) Civility in Democracy

4 Oct

My local library is hosting a symposium this week; it’s titled, “The Role of Civility in Democracy.” With mid-term elections, the prevalence of nasty political campaign ads, and the library’s Choose Civility initiative, all these factors add up to a well-timed event. I also believe there is another reason this  event is well-timed, and it has to do with generational dynamics and cultural change. Now, I’m not a historian, but I am well-versed in the generational theory, so come with me on this path, if you’d like to see “the role of civility in democracy” through a generation-theory lens. Here goes –

There are four generational archetypes that appear in a fixed, repeating cycle. They are affected by and affect other generations. They each have their strengths, their value, their weaknesses and their paths. Each generation is approximately 20 years in length, or the equivalent of a phase of life (childhood, young adulthood, midlife, elderhood). Right now, the constellation of generations in America is this:

The Silent Gen are moving into elder-elderhood. Born 1924 – 1942, they are 68-86 years old in 2010, and their numbers, per the U.S. Census, are about 30 million. Their archetype’s principal endowments are in the realm of pluralism, expertise and due process. This is the true Civil Rights generation that fought for rights from a perspective of sensitivity to the weaker among the community.

The Boomer Gen is moving into elderhood. Born 1943-1960, they are 50 -67 years old in 2010, and their numbers are about 62 million.Their archetype’s principal endowments are in the realm of vision, values and religion. They are the “principled moralists, summoners of human sacrifice and wagers of righteous wars.”

The GenX Gen is moving into midlife. Born 1961-1981, they are 29-49 years old in 2010, and their numbers are about 81 million. Their archetype’s principal endowments are in the realm of liberty, survival and honor. They are the get-it-done generation and are “cunning, hard-to-fool realists—taciturn warriors who prefer to meet problems and adversaries one-on-one.”

The Millennial Gen is moving into young adulthood. Born 1982-2004(ish), they are 6-28 years old in 2010, and their numbers are about 80 million. Their archetype’s principal endowments are in the realm of community, affluence and technology. They are a bright, upbeat, team-working generation.

The Homeland Gen is being born now and just entering the K-8 system. They will, assuming the generational cycles repeat, have a life course that is similar to the Silent Gen.

All the quoted text in this post, by the way, is from Strauss and Howe’s work, e.g. Lifecourse Associates.

So, let’s look at “civility and democracy” through this lens … not just that there are generations, but in which phase of life each generation has been, and how it will impact the phase of life it is now moving into and the surrounding generations.

In the past 25 years, Boomers were the primary gen in mid-life. Mid-life is about power. Think about it: it’s the 42-62-years-old people. Families are mostly started and kids, if they are still young, are typically in elementary school or beyond. School is done. Professional capacity and community leadership are realms of directed energy for many in mid-life. Boomers in midlife, per @lifecourse, “preach a downbeat, values-fixated ethic of moral conviction.” In other words, they are argumentative, passionate, focused on their values (one does not negotiate “values”) and more interested in their convictions than they are in solutions. To have even talked of civility in democracy while Boomers were in midlife would have been an argument, in and of itself, about whose values were more civil.

In the past 25 years, GenXers were the primary gen in young adulthood. Young adulthood is about vitality, about serving institutions with energy and the excitement of a life to be experienced. GenXers in young adulthood are “brazen free agents, lending their pragmatism and independence to an era of growing social turmoil.” To have asked GenXers in young adulthood to speak of civility in democracy would have been seen as a joke. GenXers are not trusting of institutions, by and large, to do right by them as individuals or as a generation and, therefore, do not put a lot of faith in democracy and governments to solve problems. Nor would GenXers compete in Boomer turf to gain voice at that phase of life. Boomers were simply too culturally dominant then, both by phase of life and certainty that their values were more relevant and needing to be heard.

In the past 25 years, Millennials were the primary gen in childhood and have been “nurtured with increasing protection by pessimistic adults in an insecure environment.” Millennials in childhood have grown up believing that government is good. All they have to do is turn on the news to hear campaigning politicians proclaim that they are a more child-friendly candidate than their opponent. In their childhood years they experienced a stream of increasing child-focused programs and initiatives being funded. They have no memory of Civil Rights tensions, nor of the contentiousness around the Viet Nam war-skirmish-geopoltical maneuver. They have watched their next-elder GenXers scramble and tumble through McJobs, unreliable contract work and extreme sports-behaviors-attitudes that are a bit too edgy for their tastes.

In the past 25 years, the Silent gen were the primary gen in elderhood. They have lived life by the rules, keeping their heads down in young adulthood, and hitting phases of life at relatively uneventful times to be the age they were. So, in their elderhood, while midlife Boomers slashed society with their moralistic rants, and GenXers rapidly transformed the culture with their take-what-you-can-and-cash-out-quickly approach, the Silent Gen helped “quicken the pace of social change, shunning the old order in favor of complexity and sensitivity.”

OK, “so what,” you might be saying. Well, generations move through time, which is why unless someone is pinging to the archetypes, years and definitions of Strauss and Howe, they are really talking about “demographics” and not “generations.” But I digress. OK, so time has moved along. We are not 25 years back, but 25 years forward. Let’s look at each of these generations and their impact on “civility in democracy.”

Today, Boomers are moving into elderhood where they “push to resolve ever-deepening moral choices, setting the stage for the secular goals of the young.” In other words, Boomers (will) finally have a moment of realizing as a generation that they are the elders and that their legacy as generation is perilously close to being abysmal. And Boomers are about their moral legacy, so this dawning sense that their moralistic rants and red-state-blue-state politics are putting in peril not just the nation, not just the rising generation of young adulthoods (their beloved Millennials), but their l-e-g-a-c-y, as well … this is the wake-up call for Boomers to self-correct and align in a more civil, go-forward direction that is — while not-less-moral — less polarizing. Or perhaps I should say, the Boomers who wish to have their voices included in the coming dialogue about where our nation is going will do so. Those who continue to polarize will be marginalized, which will be a system-shocker for those Boomers who’ve come to believe that polarizing is how to get attention/focus/dollars.

Today, GenXers are moving into midlife with the first POTUS of this generation currently in power. GenXers in midlife “apply toughness and resolution to defend society while safeguarding the interests of the young.” The challenge for GenXers in midlife — long at the edge, the extremes, the fringes — is to come  in to power structures, bring their capacities to solve problems without all the bantering around moral direction and vision that Boomers have done, and to force change toward fixing broken systems, businesses, governments and more. GenXers in young adulthood have been a cranky generation, a grunge-y generation, a leave-me-alone generation. To be included in the public conversation about what needs to be changed and how it will be done, GenXers need to release much of their crankiness and instead lead and make things happen.

Today, Millennials are moving into young adulthood with a trust of government, institutions and corporations do not only do right by them, but do right by their generation, and — by their thinking and the cycle of generations — do right by the nation. Millennials in young adulthood “challenge the political failure of elder-led crusades, fueling a society-wide secular crisis.” Millennials don’t understand (don’t have any personal experience with) moralistic, values-based battles to which many Boomers still cling. Millennials don’t understand GenXers’ crankiness, as they have received the opposite treatment as GenXers got in childhood; they were precious to adults, while GenXers were forgotten. They are being exalted and talked about and supported while they are moving into young adulthood and new careers, while GenXers were met with temp jobs, contract work and a “no vacancy” job market in their young adulthood. More to the point, Millennials like team work. They are bright-eyed and upbeat. They believe their generation to be very capable of solving large-scale problems and don’t need experience to prove this: they already know it to be true about themselves and their generation. Heck, they’ve been getting awards, gold stars and adulation since they’ve been in kindergarten! In other words, Millennials don’t understand Boomers’ nastiness and GenXers’ crankiness. (Was I just cranky in my explanation here?)

Now, are generations the only influence making “civility and democracy” a timely issue? No, of course not. But generational theory does provide some clues as to why “civility” is becoming a more a desired and important value at this point and time. It is time to be civil once again in democracy and politics. Or at least for civility to start to have a stronger toehold in the conversations. Nobody except Boomers cares about Boomer values wars anymore, and, I’d add, some Boomers are growing tired of the same-ol-same-ol from their generation. Nobody cares about GenX crankiness anymore, except equally cranky GenXers. And Millennials are showing up in jobs, in politics, in communities and in organizations, believing that life and work and community and governance can all be balanced and good. It won’t change overnight, for sure, but — and perhaps — a bit more civility will get us there faster.

Rock on.


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