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Eureka! I'm a columnist
by Jay Gutman
2016-11-29 10:45:56
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If I had to try to define my career, I would say I have mostly infiltrated the micro level to try to explain how things work at the macro level. I was never paid by any organization to do such tedious work, that is spending 10 years in Korea to understand how the hermit kingdom works, living with families from around the world to understand how the family structures work, observing couples to observe how relationships work, working in all kinds of jobs from construction work to plumbing and tinkering to selling rags at the market to fortune 500 companies to understand how the corporate world works, infiltrating financial institutions to understand how money works.

eurika01The result is sometimes scarier than one might think. For example, I met a lot of women who confessed to me that they were waiting for their children to grow up before they can throw their husbands out. I met families who owe so much money I’m surprised they can even find money. Women whose part-time job was prostitution, and the male version of prostitution is driving a taxi or bus at night. Why women don’t drive taxis I don’t know. STDs are a lot more common than what I thought, and many couples I know were involved in fights involving knives. The data I gathered was gigantic, messy and spread all around and what I do is derive patterns from such data.

I did infiltrate political organizations and I can tell you this: most countries have a left wing and a right wing, or a liberal and a conservative party. Traditionally the liberals get most of their funding from labor unions, and the conservatives from business owners. What happened over the last few years, perhaps since the start of this century, is many stopped joining labor unions. Why would you stop joining labor unions? Such workers tell me that they view their factory, construction or employee job as a stepping stone, and they’re daydreaming about starting their own business. When you work with people who view their jobs as stepping stones, it’s hard to negotiate labor conditions with the CEO, especially for those who want to keep their jobs long-term, and it’s also hard for the liberal party to get funds. The CEOs don’t donate to the conservative party because they know the liberal party’s broke and the conservatives are going to win the election.

During the process I came up with a lot of ideas that I want to put forward in subsequent columns. How to help the government save paper and get work done on the ground. How administrations can be more effective. Why people are really unemployed, and how to get them to be employed. How the government can organize. How companies can sell effectively. How marriages can last and how to pick the right partner. How to organize more effective security policies, tourism policies, transportation policies, agricultural policies and water policies or health policies at the social level.

The question I get asked the most is how to explain the current economic and political mess. Simply put, remember all those articles that were saying “X is the next facebook” and “Y is the next google” and “z is the next twitter?” Investment banks loaned billions of dollars to companies investing billions in servers, coders, human resources and real estate to build the next facebook. The problem is everyone stayed on facebook, and most people still use google. So we’re in the midst of a dot.com bubble burst, coupled with poor agricultural harvests and this leads to a financial mess, as food prices go up, but companies can’t find money from investment banks for new investments. The more companies invest the more food prices go up because of the food shortage, so companies would rather freeze investments despite historically low interest rates. There’s more to that, but I’ll save that for a future column.

Eureka! I’m a columnist will try to explain the day-to-day events around the world. I like to call that “feeding the trolls” because journalism has been mostly trolling anyway. I’m one of the few journalists who tries to explain rather than troll. A final word: Eureka! I’m a columnist!


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Emanuel Paparella2016-11-29 12:36:17
Indeed, there is a lot of confusion between explaining and trolling. Socrates was considered a godfly because he did not stop at the how and the what but went beyond to the why one led one kind of life rather than another and proferred the irritating statement (earning the label godfly) that the unexamined life is not worth living.

During the Nazi period a bad psychologist would have said to his patient: "you say you don't fit in this society. Not to worry. I'll fix you, for the right fee, so that you can function." A good psychologist would have said: "Congratulations, you don't fit because you have a conscience. Stay as you are and see how you can change the kind of society you live in."

Moreover, the bad psychologist would subsequently write an article describing empirically what he observed. The good psychologist would write an article describing the meaning of what he observed, its interpretation, and how things can be made better.

So, we are back to the proverbial "science and positivism is concerned with the how, the practical, the explaining; philosophy and religion are concerned with the why, the meaning, the interpretation of one's life. Some call it trolling, some call it digging for meaning and enlightenment.

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