Sunday, February 13, 2005

Selling & Winning

I've come to realize that one of the major communications problems we have in this country is the way different people conceptualize the world. There are two terms I often see in relation to the world of ideas that are foreign to me: Selling & Winning.

I believe that far too many people view ideas as commodities. It's their aim to package these "commodities" in bright packages, replete with a slick marketing campaign, in order to sell the "product" to the masses. Then, if enough people buy the "product", a person can claim victory (i.e., a win).

I don't share these views at all. I don't view ideas as commodities. For me, ideas are always evolving. They aren't static. They never become a finished product. As soon as an idea is shared with others, it morphs into something new. In other words, unlike a car or a missile or a loaf of bread, no singular individual owns ideas. They are part and parcel of the community domain.

This is very similar to the way Native Americans view Mother Earth. Back in the 18th & 19th centuries, the Great White Father was always trying to cajole and bribe Indian Tribes to sell [their] land. The Indians just looked at US negotiators as if they were stark raving mad. They would say something like, "Mother Earth belongs to all creatures. How can we sell you something that all of us already possess?"

Their point, of course, is that nobody can "own" the land. And the same can be said for ideas. If no one owns an idea, how can you sell it? If ideas belong to all as part and parcel of the public domain, why would anyone need to buy one?

The second term used frequently is "winning" or "win". I don't like that term at all. My problem with having a winner is that you must concurrently have a loser. Many of us (me included) often talk about win-win situations, but winning only has meaning if someone, somewhere loses. So, in reality, win-win situations don't exist UNLESS what we really mean is a WIN-WIN-lose situation.

Going further, I'm not interested in ideas that can be conceptualized as "winners". Winning is an amoral concept. For any idea to "win the day", it doesn't necessarily need to be moral, ethical, favorable, honest, fair, just or beneficial. All it needs is for more people to accept it (or more power brokers to accept it) than don't accept it. And, since winning is amoral, it leads us down the road of idea manipulation. It leads to a place where the marketing and the packaging of an idea is far more important than the idea itself. In fact, we often find that the marketing and packaging skew the basic premise of ideas so much that they rarely resemble the idea that one is trying to sell.

The Bush people represent a classic example of this concept in action. They market an idea as the Patriot Act and the true premise of the idea (hidden behind layer upon layer of marketing) has next to nothing to do with patriotism. They market another idea as No Child Left Behind and yet the implementation of the genuine idea itself is leaving children behind left and right.

So, I have no interest whatsoever in selling ideas to win. Both lead down a path I'm not interested in traveling. Any person, of course, has every right to continue utilizing these two terms, BUT it must understand that I will be unwilling and unable to answer any questions someone may pose to me which feature these two terms as the overriding concepts. A person might as well ask me such questions in Swahili.

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