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Engaging on Philosophy – Interesting, where do you/I fall?

“Ask [Republicans] why the free market will work better than government when in this case the opposite has proven true again and again, and they’ll quickly move back to the level of philosophy, because as on so many issues, it’s much more about values than about the actual effects of policies. I’m sure Republicans aren’t actively pleased about the fact that so many of our people have no coverage, but they don’t care deeply enough about that practical problem to accept a solution that in any way violates their philosophical principles (or helps their political opponents, of course).

Liberals talk in philosophical terms far less often, in part because our philosophy tends to be less inclined toward rhetorically easy black-and-white constructions… After a lot of conversations with fellow lefties in the search for a single summation of what progressivism is, what I came up with was this: We’re all in it together. That’s the fundamental thing that distinguishes liberals from conservatives. Liberals believe we’re all in it together, and conservatives believe (for the most part, anyway) that we’re all on our own and we’re all out for ourselves.”

Engaging on Philosophy – Interesting, where do you/I fall?

To Find Happiness, Forget About Passion

by Oliver Segovia, Harvard Business Review

Several years ago, a friend decided she wanted to follow her passion. She loved the liberal arts and academe. She was a talented graphic designer, a great writer, and was the president of a student club. But the prospect of working a nine-to-five job was never interesting. I can’t blame her. After all, ours is a millennial generation proselytized to pursue our dreams. So she spent seven years getting a PhD, writing an award-winning dissertation in the process. It was a wonderful ride while it lasted, and she was among the happiest people I knew.

Then the recession hit. The value of university endowments crashed. Teaching and research positions were cut. She moved back in with her family, stopped paying off her student loans, and waited two years before getting a minor teaching role in a small research center. Throughout this time, she suffered the anguish of an uncertain future, became socially withdrawn, and felt a sense of betrayal.

It’s a poster tale for our times. Was following her passion worth it?

Like myself, today’s twentysomethings were raised to find our dreams and follow them. But it’s a different world. And as the jobless generation grows up, we realize the grand betrayal of the false idols of passion. This philosophy no longer works for us, or at most, feels incomplete. So what do we do? I propose a different frame of reference: Forget about finding your passion. Instead, focus on finding big problems.

Putting problems at the center of our decision-making changes everything. It’s not about the self anymore. It’s about what you can do and how you can be a valuable contributor. People working on the biggest problems are compensated in the biggest ways. I don’t mean this in a strict financial sense, but in a deeply human sense. For one, it shifts your attention from you to others and the wider world. You stop dwelling. You become less self-absorbed. Ironically, we become happier if we worry less about what makes us happy.

The good thing is that there are a lot of big problems to go by: climate change, sustainability, poverty, education, health care, technology, and urbanization in emerging markets. What big problem serves as your compass? If you’re a young leader and you haven’t articulated this yet, here are some things you can do.

Develop situational awareness. There’s too much focus on knowing the self. Balance this with knowing the world. Stay in touch. Be sensitive to the problems faced by the unfortunate and marginalized. Get out of the office and volunteer. If you’re in school, get out of the classroom. It’s been a long time coming, but business schools are finally instituting changes that put the real world at the center of their programs.

Look into problems that affect you in a very personal way. We’re more likely to be motivated by problems we can relate to on a personal level. In Passion & Purpose, Umaimah Mendhro recounts her story fleeing a war-torn Pakistan with her family and how the experience of dodging bullets to escape helped her summon the wherewithal to found thedreamfly.org, an initiative that helps create connections across communities in conflict.

Connect with people working on big problems. In a world where problems are by their very nature interdisciplinary, just getting to know people who are passionate about one problem leads to discussions on how other problems can be solved. When Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala helped reinvent Manila Water to better provide for the Philippines’ capital, he had to deal not only with the typical issues a public utility had to face, but also with problems related to climate change, technology, and community development.

Take time off and travel. Forget about traveling as a tourist. Instead, structure a trip that takes you off the beaten path. Go to an unconventional place. Backpack and get lost. The broader and richer experience pays dividends down the line. Steve Jobs described his time living in India as one of the most enriching and mind-opening phases of his life, and this undoubtedly helped him develop the intuition to solve the big problem of making lives simpler through technology.

We don’t find happiness by looking within. We go outside and immerse in the world. We are called to a higher purpose by the inescapable circumstances that are laid out on our path. It’s our daily struggles that define us and bring out the best in us, and this lays down the foundation to continuously find fulfillment in what we do even when times get tough.

Happiness comes from the intersection of what you love, what you’re good at, and what the world needs. We’ve been told time and again to keep finding the first. Our schools helped developed the second. It’s time we put more thought on the third.

What big problems are you trying to solve?

Prairie Miller, WBAI Arts Magazine

The Pamela Yates documentary, State Of Fear, about the twenty year reign of terror in Peru, is a devastating look back at those tortures and massacres under the now disgraced presidency of Alberto Fujimori. But there are also troubling questions about what is seen and not seen in this film.

Most notably, the role of the US in covertly funding tyrannical leaders like Fujimori, the better to expedite the economic infiltration of those countries by the multinational corporations. Then, whenever they start to ignore US interests, turning around and villainizing those leaders, and getting rid of them. Suddenly, the focus shifted to ‘freedom,’ not profits. We’ve seen this all before, and all too often…

Primarily there’s an extensive focus on Peru’s investigative body, the Truth And Reconciliation Commission, which is placed at the heart of this narration, and on Sendero Luminoso, the now discredited Maoist peasant-centered rebellion that swept the country…

Missing from State Of Peru most glaringly, is the role of the US and the multinational corporations in what befell that country. In particular, the US militarizing and arming of Peru in connection with their alleged war on drugs in Colombia; the pressure to privative everything by the IMF and the World Bank; and the aggressive telecommunications economic invasion by multinationals like BellSouth and FirstCom. Also absent is any mention of the progressive political movements currently sweeping the continent leftward: Chavez in Venezuela, Kirchner in Argentina, Lula in Brazil, Vasquez in Uraguay, and now Morales in Bolivia.

…the promotion of democracy through their grants, but not economic equality or social change.

In conclusion, State Of Fear is a humane portrait of a deeply scarred country. But to limit itself to the guidelines apparently set down by the Truth Commission and not look into the role the United States played in helping establish terror in Peru, is a little like talking about lung disease without mentioning the tobacco industry, or corporations that pollute the air.

Prairie Miller, WBAI Arts Magazine 

Americans Now Eat Less Meat – But the Rest of the World Wants More

by ; February 2, 2012

Bad news for the meat industry, good news for the planet: Americans are eating less meat. The United States Department of Agriculture predicts that U.S. meat consumption will decline for the fifth straight year in 2012 –  a decline of more than 12% since 2007…

Consumers, still struggling to recover from a devastating recession, have responded to higher meat prices by choosing lower-priced plant-based protein alternatives at the grocery store. But falling incomes and rising food prices aren’t the only factor driving a change in the way Americans think about eating meat.

Rising public awareness of the negative impact excessive meat consumption can have on the environment — and specifically, climate change — has been shifting attitudes toward meat as well. According to WaterFootprint.org, on average, it takes 2,500 – 5,000 gallons of water to create one pound of beef — that compares to just to 244 gallons of water to create a pound of tofu. And the Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology estimates that producing one pound of beef generates nearly 42 pounds of carbon dioxide — far more than most vegetable foods…

The Environmental Working Group offers a Meat Eaters’ Guide that uses simple graphics to show the environmental impact of meat and encourages consumers to make more eco-friendly choices. The Meatless Monday movement trumpets the health benefits of eating more meatless meals in addition to promoting ecological advantages, noting that people who skip at least meat once each week may benefit from a lower risk of cancer and heart disease…

This shift in American attitudes toward meat eating has the potential to be a hugely positive development for the global environment. People in the U.S. consume more meat than any other population in the world; one sixth of the world’s meat supply is eaten in the U.S. yearly, even though the country only holds one twentieth of the world’s population.

But the Earth’s gains from Americans’ reduced interest in steak dinners could soon be swallowed up — literally — by sharply growing consumer demand for meat elsewhere. In December, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization issued a World Livestock Report that predicts global meat consumption will rise more than 70 percent by 2050. That prediction is based partly on projections that the world’s population may increase by as much as 35 percent by that date. But the biggest factor behind the UN FAO’s prediction of a sharp increase in global meat demand is not the projected increase in the world’s population but an increase in the amount of meat the average person in 2050 will want to consume.

As globalization has led to drastic lifestyle changes worldwide, over the past decade, people in developing countries have dramatically increased the amount of animal products they consume. In China, between 1990 and 2005, average yearly meat consumption rose from about 57 pounds per person per year to 119 pounds per person per year. Even in India, where the prevalence of Hinduism makes vegetarian diets popular — the average Indian eats roughly one tenth the amount of meat the average American does — per capita meat consumption rose to a record high in 2011.

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The U.S. economy added more jobs in January than in any month since early last year, pushing down the unemployment rate to a level not seen since President Barack Obama’s first full month in office.

Employers added 243,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department said Friday, notching gains across a wide swath of the economy. That marked the fastest pace of job growth since April and brought the unemployment rate down to 8.3%, from December’s 8.5%—the fifth consecutive monthly decline.