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An informal, stream-of-consciousness reflection on business ideas, events and issues in modern business, modern life and with some specifics to the web-software industry by Paul Tomori, Internet Entrepreneur

Man Against Nature, Man Against Machine, Man Against Man, Man Against Himself
A Bystander To Chaos

By Paul Tomori
Wednesday, March 16, 2011 at 04:28:55 (EST)

It is cliche to suggest that hindsight is 20-20 when it comes to disasters, especially when everyone thought that foresight was itself 20-20. We experienced this "surprise" with Katrina along the Gulf Coast some years ago in an area that tries to reconcile below-sea-level urban centers (located right on the water) with extreme hurricanes that regularly threaten those areas. Now, the coastal cities of Japan have been ravaged by untold destruction and loss of life in a country that has known for centuries how vulnerable they are to extreme seismic activity (i.e. several earthquakes a month). All along, Japan has been heralded for its earthquake preparedness... Buildings are designed to withstand major movements and people are educated to know how to react accordingly, but how do you deal with something so unexpected as a 30ft tsunami? The losses of life and property are shocking and very sad. As a father, my heart is pained by the tragedy. Each lost human life is someone's son or daughter. How can this be avoided in the future? Hopefully, the people of Japan will NOT rebuild what has been damaged. Rather, they will hopefully convert all coastal areas to nature preserves uninhabitable by people... nice places to visit, but not nice places to live. The move inland to higher ground is the only sane choice now. Any other course of action is a game of Russian roulette - it will only be a matter of time before a similar disaster strikes again. I am reminded of the saying: "Nature to be commanded, must be obeyed". "Man Against Nature" is a rigged conflict with only one certain winner every time.

With the Gulf oil well disaster last year and now a nuclear crisis unfolding in Japan, our attempts to harness nature in smaller more controlled ways, while usually not catastrophic, can also sometimes cause great chaos too. Let's face it, technology still has a tremendous share of unpredictability. We try to account for all possible contingencies, then something unexpected happens. Nevermind human nature that makes us a little too bold after years of problem-free living. Things can go right for years... A false sense of immunity sets in. Laziness can lead to forfeiture of protocols. This kind of apathy gives way to blunders and blunders exacerbate or cause catastrophes. Think about a very simple machine that most of us use on a daily basis, a cutting knife. It can be handled for years without mishap, then one day, apathy has made us a little less attentive than we should be and then comes the blood. In Japan, apparently some back-up generators that would have helped keep the nuclear reactors from over-heating, had empty fuel tanks. When it's "Man Against Machine", our odds are improved by diligence and attentiveness. A failure in these areas will make the machine our superior instead of our subordinate.

The chaos does not end there. North African countries are undergoing divisive internal struggles against long-standing dictatorships. Egypt's Mubarak was recently overthrown after decades in oppressive power. Libya's Gadhafi is facing similar civil unrest and he is responding with extreme aggression by bombing and firing on his own people. Instead of listening to the battle cries for democracy and responding with concessions, a man like Gadhafi remains so egomaniacal and power-hungry that "Man Against Man" becomes the latest in our world of conflict.

Then, there is Charlie Sheen... "Man Against Himself". I think we can conclude with 99% certainty that his antics are not part of a carefully controlled PR stunt. It's sad to see such a talented actor imperil himself in such a way as to give new meaning to the concept of self-sabotage. It seems clear that the man has become overwhelmed by internal conflict and inner "demons" (i.e. bad choices that have led to a crippling of his ability to make corrective choices). Life can be challenging enough! Clear-headed people have enough to contend with in the business of everyday living, nevermind clouding their coping efforts with drugs and alcohol.

Let's take a step back from the race to personal over-indulgence and let's recognize some of the self-defeating folly of our poor decisions. Let's also recognize our extreme vulnerability to the forces of nature so that we can work constructively to align with those forces instead of to always be looking for ways to counteract them. And, let's train our thoughts and actions to be more principled and diligent. Apathy can happen to anyone, so let's put backstops in place to address such shortcomings. After all, doing more of what doesn't work, simply does not work.

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