the purchase of a ladder

it was a rush purchase, lacking the lust of ritual, Saturday morning, after unsuccessfully having tried for one hour to drill a damn hole through steel reinforced concrete in the ceiling above my dinner table, standing atop a stool and a chair, my back hurting. It was an aluminum ladder wrapped in transparent plastic and with a user’s handbook larger than my computer’s. The right working height: 2,65 m taking in consideration my height as detailed in the appendix table of the users’ handbook.

Coming from Spain and at a time when you could affordably find somebody who would hang a ceiling lamp in your house, to Germany where I wonder if you can actually find someone who would come to your place to drill a hole, not to mention how much that would cost me, I still sometimes can feel the sting of customs.

It was in the end of the nineties when I bought a small apartment in Barcelona that had one wall too much and employed a “carpenter” who came every day from the other side of the city in the tube (tools and all), worked the whole day as I was in the office, and even managed to carry away the debris of the wall back to his place, or who knows where. In the tube.

Back then, I never entertained the idea of buying a ladder, nor I would know what use could I find for such bulky contraption.

I was obviously unprepared to the hardships of Germany, and even worse equipped to withstand the critical eye of my dear German wife in what relates to house improvement abilities and capabilities. Generations of skilled men in her family modelled a DNA signature, incompatible with the sight of me atop a stool, stretched arms, sweating and panting like a Spanish bull would have been chasing me around the block, unsuccessfully trying to drill through that tough, well-built, DIN, ISO and all, steel reinforced concrete ceiling.

I wonder if the purchase of  a ladder would be something to celebrate. Something you would do when you come of age and you move away from home. The beginning of a long friendship.

My lamp is finally hanging. Somehow in the right spot.

i can have it but i cannot enjoy it

the last warmth feels trough my cupping hands as with closed eyes I inhale the last scent of coffee. The buzz of the coffeeshop in the background envelopes me. My mind is empty for a few seconds trying to capture all this sensorial wealth.

How many people are right now finishing a cup of coffee in the world? and how many people are taking the time to appreciate this moment? And by extension to appreciate the sheer size of cultural, technological, and economical advances that enable us the feats of growing the beans, bringing them over here, inventing and manufacturing the coffee machine and firing the porcelain cups.

Indeed, everything we do, carries a large legacy and thinking of it is overwhelming if not mind-blowing. And it all is brought to us in such an easy way. So affordable. So ubiquitous. We almost forget the value of those things we encounter everyday. We are too much hyped with our hopes, frustrations and anxieties, with our projects and aspirations that we rush through the day oblivious to a myriad things that happen all around us.

Ultimately we swallow the espresso coffee whilst eyeing the watch and with our thoughts in the meeting we will start in five minutes. All that sensorial exuberance would never reach our awareness. How many things can our wealthy lifestyle afford us that we fail to even notice? as we busy ourselves through life. Blind, deaf, numb.

but I feed 100.000 families…

And my collapse would send fatal ripples through the whole country’s economy. So I won’t take any responsibility for the mishaps I intentionally and knowingly created with my malfunctioning products that I have sold by the millions. I won’t take any measures to correct my criminal actions even if they are technically solvable. I do not care if entire populations will become sick or have a higher risk to die because intentionally and knowingly I chose to make my products faulty.

Incidentally, my customers, my beloved morons I muster with complacency, ought to get rid of those faulty products the best way they can, and buy new ones of course from the new range of products I offer and that I promise this time are great. That those faulty left behind products will have a span of many years and will pose a continued damage to people is something I do not feel responsible for. Those morons should be glad to even have the chance to buy my products second hand, so why should they pester me now with their petty complains? I will even go to the length to do some PR about the replacement program I successfully had to extend because of the great success it was.

Laws and rules do not quite apply to me, because I feed 100.000 families, and I am a political force to be reckoned. I wasn’t elected, not even I care to make politics. But I have become one, and the wellbeing of people is definitely not one of my priorities, unless those people are stakeholders of my corporation. I only fear those who are larger than I can tame, those in the EU Council. Dangerous ones are they!

Come take some of those middle managers to prison, I can afford to lose some. I’ll get new ones and will take care that those are being well provided for. Or not. I am all too important to mind those little details. I can even find new lobbyists if needed. They can be bought with the cash I do not have to waste mending my wrongdoings. If only those warmongering journalists would shut up!

it cannot get worse

so why not voting to the party of Beppe Grillo in the next Italian elections? hypothesises the patron of my dearest luncheon place.

As regrettable as it is that some politicians would abuse the trust we place on them and fall to corruption, there are many others who do a good job. A democracy is not given, like oxygen in the air. A democracy needs a great deal of keeping. And yes, it can get worse. It can get way worse. Italy, with all its political corruption and problems, is a democracy in the EU. Many countries would give all they have to be in Italy’s place in the global politics.

We citizens with our rights and duties, have to now and then spare a thought on the delicate and yet strong balance of institutions that make up the political statu quo of our democracies. It is but for the ingenuity and effort of thousands of people and the legacy of other thousands that we have functioning countries to live in. That we are entitled to the rule of law. That we have roads and railroads, streets and street lighting, police and firefighters, hospitals and medical doctors, electricity, water and heating in our houses.

We have a great responsibility to care for what have been given to our generation, after centuries of fight and sacrifice, for each and every right we enjoy nowadays. Hence, yes, it can go way worse. It never was, and it is not today neither the time for complacency nor for voting questionable demagogues. We have already one too many of those in the world.

“Beppe Grillo, leader of the populist Five Star Movement in Italy, prides himself on his ridicule of the parliamentary system. Yet while his anti-establishment rhetoric sounds appealing, at heart it’s actually anti-democratic. And very similar to that of an infamous Italian from the past.”

Der Spiegel (March 15th, 2013)

fall to the bottom with Primo Levi

Born in 1919 in Turin, Primo Levi was captured on December 1943 by the Italian fascist militia, delivered near Modena to the Nazi regime in January 1944 and from there promptly hoarded by cargo train to Auschwitz. He survived.

His book “If this is a man” is a first person narration of his capture and year in the Monowitz (near Auschwitz) concentration camp. He does not only convey the facts of his depressing timeline but also his state of mind and thoughts; from the initial fatality of knowing his sure death, through the stupor of falling deeper and deeper beyond inhumanity, to themes in the life—if life is not a too generous term—of a jew in a Nazi concentration camp.

Hence the lector is taken through that slide down the depth of humankind, and down to the bottom, and yet another bottom, around the themes of work, illness, food, hopelessness, the thin line between life and death. Through Levi’s eyes, one can figure out the system behind and beyond his story. A system designed for one purpose: the destruction of people. Of a particular part of humankind. A system we all, for our sanity, want to deny it ever existed, and it could ever exist.

The macabre design of an economic system within those camps, where faucets be new prisoners and sinks be “selections”, cold, and hunger-by-design. With a stock exchange (a stolen screwdriver during the day at work could mean a week of food), currency standards (a loaf of grey bread), and the undeniable certainty, that who did not engage in this forbidden-but-encouraged economical activity, would die after three months. Systematically precisely three months.

The arrival of the winter 1944, on that morning of October, when “winter” become another meaning beyond that what the free people can imagine. When movements must be carefully and precisely executed so that the contact of the body with the wet linen of the jacket is minimised to not lose that last bit of body warmth and keep alive, one week longer.

The magnitude of evil is so difficult to comprehend, that one can only recall these words and reflect. And never forget.

“But I say that even as the holy
and the righteous cannot rise
beyond the highest which
is in each one of you,

So the wicked and the weak
cannot fall lower than the lowest
which is in you also.”

Kahlil Gibran

scaffolding the corporation for the 2030

in still many corporations, young arrivals would, after a time, come to realise that the only way to make a career is to work up the ladder towards management. Yet not everybody can be or ought to be a manager. This is not new hence unfortunately many who today are shouldn’t be.

In the down of AI, many jobs that today still exist and busy thousands of people, (e.g. moving data from one excel sheet to another, from one database to another) will be one day no more. When a text line will suffice for AI to do all we need with data. And those people who have been shifting cells and making graphs for the last fifteen years won’t have it easy to still be able to add value to their organisations. Yet we find them in ageing swarms in our offices nowadays.

At the same time, we loose young talent because they see no ladder other than the management one. But eventually they would see themselves fitting in the role of an specialist, however no career scheme is today set for those.

Come the time of AI, will be those specialists who will be able to add value to their organisations, and will be those we regrettably miss, and even more regrettably we let go of them when we could have kept them, and grow them inside and in time.

Now more urgently than ever it is time to build the scaffolding of what our organisations will be in 2030. Otherwise we will find ourselves where now traditional banks start to find themselves: rapidly rendered inefficient by FinTech.

A career path moving toward specialisation that will grow towards mastery and end in a position not of management, but of organisation core competences, strategic growth and newcomers nurturance for a new generation of mastery.

This builds into an organisation with less people but more specialised and thus expensive people. Yet those organisations who choose to save money on their people and not foster specialisation, will soon have to close entire divisions out of asphyxia and with a high social cost. Still we have time to make a choice for the future, foster talent and be agile.

becoming invisible

In former times, the worst possible punishment a society could impose on an individual was being sentenced to invisibility. Ayla was thus sentenced by her clan in Jean Marie Auel’s “The clan of the cave bear“. Without the support of the cavemen society, life would normally meet an end for a social being as the Neanderthal were. Our strength lays in social interaction and thus our survival. It is hence no wonder that social isolation afflict us in a special irreflexive way today.

One widespread mode of social isolation is what elderly experience as they pass the age when they are regarded as “customers”. In a capitalist economical system—as well as the communist implementation that history records (E. Fromm), an individual may be regarded as a customer as long as this individual will actively engage in economical activities by exchanging money for services and goods. As long as each of us is seen as a potential customer we do enjoy social awareness and we feel part of the whole. But as soon as we come to fit into the type of individual that is no more seen as a potential customer, society will loose interest on us, up to the point when we will feel socially isolated. It is often for this reason that people reaching their retirement age will feel anxiety and look for workarounds to still feel useful and part of the society.

It is unfortunate and a sign of our shortcomings as a society, that we let our elderly live their life in anxiety. Those people who built the world we are now living on. That created the basement of what things we are today ourselves building. We should be reminded that this fate is waiting for all of us “customers” too, unless we start doing something about it now.

There is an untapped potential in our elderly, waiting for us to channel it. Our mobile and modern lifestyle rendered them away from the traditional family environment, but our technology can bring them back where they always belonged for a very needed role that our children today, as much as ever, long and need in order to grow as whole persons.