Franchisees: master storytellers caught in a literate machine

December 11, 2008

chaplinmodernFranchisees have primarily retained their geographically-specific, oral culture. As a species we have survived because of our ability to listen to and tell stories (a narrative), appropriate to a specific narrowly-defined physical landscape.

  • We’ve never needed to be that smart at rational decision making, especially if time and complexity are added.
  • We’ve evolved to look for dangers in certain places only.

The most vibrant research is coming out of the fields of behavioral finance, social psychology, law and economics, neuroeconomics, etc.

  • Basically, we walk around scratching ourselves with a belief that our rational brain (neocortex) is in charge, while in fact, 90% of what we do is caused or strongly influenced by our reptilian brain or the limbic system. [We think Spock is in control but we behave as if we’re Lucy Ball.]

Mankind has evolved primarily as a member of tribal structure within a hostile natural environment. Only since the industrial revolution,  has a phonetic alphabet gained its ascendancy in the West.

Our culture (Literate Man) views oral or tribal civilizations as more primitive, backward. Voltaire’s Bastards worked very hard to stuff the native genie in the bottle and they were extremely successful in doing so. There were some unintended consequences (externalities) though with this world view: slavery, theft, genocide, arms race, environmental collapse…

The printing press was the technology that revolutionized Western civilization. It brought with it many impressive and life-enhancing benefits. These, through a rational, Literate Man’s eyes, make them superior to the older, oral traditions.

The Gutenberg Galaxy (phonetic literacy) is an infinitely repeatable, homogenous and repetitive juggernaut. Franchise agreement is an example of an archetypal, industrial revolution machine. It is a colonial instrument intended to be used to control the savages (see indentured service).

A new technology (electronics) came along and now we in the West are in a postliterate age. And this scares the hell out of the self-identifying rational Supermen (ie. the franchise bar). They can hear the drum beats over at Blue MauMau.

  • All the franchisees have to do is to cast off their own blinders and assume their rightful leadership role via internet information sharing.

We know how to flip the switch, notwithstanding the huffing and puffing.

— Modern Times, Charlie Chaplin

Canada: A Fair Country

December 1, 2008

afaircountryI’ll be at Hart House, University of Toronto this Wednesday night, with any luck, with my son.

We’ll be listening to an essayist and philosopher called John Ralston Saul explain his newest book called A Fair Country: Telling Truth about Canada.

The latest from The Man with Big Ideas:

We [Canadians] are a Métis civilization.

What were are today has been inspired as much by four centuries of life with the indigenous civilizations as by four centuries of immigration. Perhaps more. Today we are the outcome of that experience. As have Métis people, Canadians in general have been heavily influenced and shaped by the First Nations. We still are. The influencing, this shaping is deep within us.

When I dig around in the roots of how we imagine ourselves, how we govern, how we live together in communities – how we treat one another when we are not being stupid – what I find is deeply Aboriginal. Whatever our family tree may look like, our intuitions and common sense as a civilization are more Aboriginal than European or African or Asian, even though we have created elaborate theatrical screens of language, referrence and mythology to misrepresent ourselves to ourselves.

I believe this is true in a very real sense.

One thing that I am constantly amazed at is the truly unique Canadian rock-solid belief in egalitarianism.

egalitarianism (derived from the French word égal, meaning equal) is a political doctrine that holds that all people should be treated as equals and have the same political, economic, social, and civil rights. Generally it applies to being held equal under the law and society at large. Wikipedia

I think Saul is on to something here. Something more than just simply stirring the pot or posing.

Canadians elected a bantam-sized former Baptist minister as the Greatest Canadian of all time in 2004. As a boy, Tommy Douglas needed surgery on his leg but his family could not afford it.

It was only the charity of a surgeon that prevented him from having it amputated. Douglas never forgot and as Saskatchewan premier was responsible for the Canada’s first free hospital care.

  • It doesn’t seem fair for people to have to chose between their health and their homes.

Note that the book’s cover art speaks to an Ojibway/Anishinabe creation myth called Turtle Island. The Parliament of Canada, Centre Block, Ottawa, Ontario is borne on the turtle’s back.

One common creation story:

Turtle Island is a traditional name for North America. The name comes from a common indigenous creation story: The first human, a woman, tumbled from the sky to the earth below. At the time the earth was completely water. Birds caught the woman in their wings, but they needed land for her to live on. Several animals tried to dive to the bottom of the ocean to retrieve some dirt with which to build land. Finally, the muskrat succeeded. Placing the dirt on the turtle’s back, the woman blew and sent the dirt expanding across the ocean, making land for her to live on and a place for her to give birth to the first humans.

Experts? We don’t need no stinkin’ professionals

November 27, 2008

VoltairesBastardsPeople sense that our society is backwards but they lack the understanding of why.

Saul suggests that it has to do with our fetish with the individual:

Just how confused we are over what we mean by individualism can most easily be seen by looking at the West from the outside. Buddhist societies are horrified by a great deal in the West, but the element which horrifies them most is our obsession with ourselves as a subject of unending interest. By their standards, nothing could be unhealthier than a guilt-ridden, self-obsessed, proselytizing white male or female, selling God or democracy or liberalism or capitalism with insistent superior modesty.

The individual is an old idea but “individualism” began to take form in the early 19th century. This is when the idea of “professionalism” came about:

The rise of the professional was therefore intimately linked – throughout the Industrial Revolution, the accompanying explosion of inventions and the growth of the middle classes – with Western man’s assertion that he was a responsible individual. He was responsible to the degree that he was competent. Thus the value of individualism was pegged to the soaring value of specialization.


By becoming better at what he did, each man believed that he was increasing his control over his own existence. He was building his personal empire of responsibility. This was both the measure of his worth and the sum of his contributions to society as a whole.

But, oddly, as the specialization and professionalism increased, the expert became much more isolated. In fact, we have pepper/fly poo time:

While our mythology suggests that society is like a tree with the ripening fruits of professional individualism growing thick upon it, a more accurate image would show a maze of corridors, blocked by endless locked doors, each one leading in or out of a small cell.

Voltaire’s Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West, John Ralston Saul, 1992.

  • Franchising is barren because certain members of the franchise bar feel personally insecure as men.

Maybe in the 2nd half of their life they can become less fearful of death (and life).

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