Exercising the Ridiculous: The Colbert Nation vs. Johnism?!

stephen_colbertCo-Editor Kurt Heinrich’s post has inspired me to write an open letter to Stephen Colbert on behalf of Ice-Holes and Syrup Suckers everywhere.

Dear Mr. Colbert,

So it’s a ridiculous gauntlet throw-down of ridiculousness you want? Game on, sir. And, before we get rolling: thank you so, so much for paying attention to us!

Once you, American speed skaters and The Colbert Nation have donned your bursting spandex and the official Pink Toque of Olympic Oval Ombudsmanship, there’s something else that we should probably talk about. As you know, sir, you have simply started another tired chapter in the history of Canadian/American binary opposition. We get it, man. Canada and America are the same, but different in minor ways. Hilarious! You know that whenever an American comedian (not Canadians who practice comedy in America) mentions Canada the Prime Minister drops everything, calls the CBC and holds a press conference telling us all to watch, right? We erupt with elation at opportunities like this. You’re doing us a great service (and probably boosting our maple syrup exports by at least 4%), but, my good man, there is more at stake than just speed skating. There’s a whole preconceived narrative we need to overcome. And we need to do it together!

22769_299422171938_6004081938_3591218_7812464_nWe’re “syrup-suckers” because Canada makes and consumes a lot of syrup. Hahahahahahahahaha! Oh Stephen, cut it out. Honestly, I – nay, we – expected more than this simple joke, but I guess from your gorgeous hair to your intuitive gut you’re just a simple man. Or perhaps you were being ironic. After all, even though 80% of the planet’s maple syrup is produced in Quebec, it is also produced in Vermont and up-state New York (and its production reaches as far south as Virginia). Also, when it comes to syrup-sucking, America has Canada and, well, the entire world beat into a fine, molassassy liquid that just seems to be in everyting from pizza crusts to Jimmy Dean sausage-wrapped-pancake on a stick. Whether it’s maple or high-fructose-corn syrup, a recent study by the USDA’s Agriculture Fact Book argues that Americans consume over 150 pounds of caloric sweeteners each year. If there was a syrup-sucking Olympics, good sir, your team would surely, and deservedly, win gold, silver, bronze, and delicious pies for the fourth-to-tenth place finishers.

Ice-Holes? Really? Because it’s cold here, right? Hahahahahahahaha! Oh Stephen. My friend, this is Vancouver, not Montreal, Toronto, Saskatoon, or Iqaluit. Have you been to Vancouver? I mean, the average winter temperature is about 2 degrees Celsius (36 degrees Fahrenheit). New York City’s is certainly below zero degrees Celsius, which is around 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Look, I’m not calling you an Ice-Hole, Wikipedia is; that’s where I got the data from. But, don’t worry, you can get in there and change it right away. Sure, Vancouver’s not Charleston, South Carolina, but it’s not Pierre, South Dakota, either. But you knew that because you’re a smart guy – and your Ivey League writing team certainly is – so you must’ve been talking about how speedskaters skate on amazing ice we build and export around the world. You were never on Talking to Americans, right? And you were also going on and on aboot how and we “Saskatchewhine” aboot it. First, one of our Saskatchewanian speed skaters, Kim Weger, just retired after a fairly fantastic eight-year career. I’m not sure if she’s whining too much about it, but, I’m sure your jab was thoroughly research-based and not at all an Ivey League pun that came from the gut. Second, if anyone plays “dirty beaver” (what many Canadians named John Horn call “whining while cheating”) it’s you and the Colbert Nation; your segment Cheating Death with Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, DFA teaches people how to break the rules of life-living while falsely representing the Fine Arts community. Furthermore, this whole Wikiality business seems to be chalked full of cheating the Hungarian people out of their history. And speaking of an hisotrical example of dirty beaver, well, you showed us all what whining and social mischief can get us. It got you a treadmill on a node and, more recently, it’s gotten you a Pink Toque of Ombudsmanship. Well played, sir. Well played.

Needless to say, it’s time to transcend this tired, simple and, I’m one to say it, cliched approach to nationalism. We knew this was coming before you did. I mean, come on, this isn’t a Molson Canadian beer commercial, right? This is speed skating! Here’s why you need to transcend the whole Ice-Hole thing. A Canadian member of your nation, The Colbert Nation, made a great point to kick off the blog-comment-thread on your Comedy Central letter writing campaign:

Stephen… What about your Colbert Nation supporters that reside in Canada? I would hate for this issue to divide your supporters. As a proud Canadian and equally proud member of the Colbert Nation I hope to be the voice of peace and reason. Let us skate together in Vancouver 2010! But this letter campaign to be honest doesn’t really threaten us… the US postal system will probably only end up delivering a fraction of the letters successfully.

Enter Johnism. See, fueled by democracy, the Colbert Nation, like the global political system is still built in a way that attracts and enables people who want to

First rule of Johnism: no whining. Second rule of Johnism: bears are amazing, naturally peaceful creatures!

First rule of Johnism: no whining. Second rule of Johnism: bears are amazing, naturally peaceful creatures!

be the world’s powerbrokers and reap all the delicious, material, ill-gotten/gettin’ goodies that such power allows. We need leaders for our communities – from local to global – but we need a new selection process. No dictatorial Colbertism. Free market, libertarian, open source Johnism. Recent findings show that there are approximately 942,564,723 people on the planet named “John” (translation and regional dialects were taken into account during this study). So, this up-and-coming ideology isn’t based on status or age or experience or ability or education or qualification or people named Stephen Colbert or being good at anything. It’s based on having a really common name. A name so common that, when the random, name-based selection of global leadership takes place, we can be sure that the new team in charge are truly drawn from all parts and places of society. Wow – think of how much extra cash we can spread around when credentials do not include the ability to raise $1 billion in campaign funds or being sponsored by Doritos! Fun fact: a study from The Recent Findings Institute indicated that nearly 11% of the Colbert Nation is made up of people named John, Jean, Giovanni, Juan, Ivan, Jens, Johann, Yochanan, or Yayha (all variations of the name “John”). Members of the Colbert Nation named John (or one of it’s variations), it’s time to think beyond America; take your ideas everywhere my friends, not just to the Olympic Oval – although, I must say, the architecture is spectacular.

If your community really wants to grow, Stephen. It needs to go beyond the simple binary of Canada vs. America – or America’ s nation within a nation. Take on something bigger than you. Challenge yourself and your nation to be more ridiculous that it already is. Then, and only then, will you have earned your Pink Toque of Ombudsmanship. For Canada – and the Johnists who herein preside – we embrace and love the ridiculous. Just look at our government’s stance on Climate Change!

Keep building communities around the world, Stephen. After all, people are listening. Thanks for the memories and for the attention.

Kindest regards,

John…ism

Powerful People

Courtesy Marvel Comics - Two of the Most Powerful People on Earth: Barack Obama and Spider-man (The Ghost of Abe Lincoln, unfortunately, didn't crack Forbes's Top 100)

Courtesy Marvel Comics - Two of the Most Powerful People on Earth: Barack Obama and Spider-man (The Ghost of Abe Lincoln, unfortunately, didn't crack Forbes's Top 100)

Last week Forbes magazine released its list of “The World’s 67 Most Powerful People.” I know what you’re thinking (because I thought the same thing): why 67 people? Why not 100 or 50? What’s with such a random number? Here’s my theory. Budget cuts. Originally Forbes struck out to list the world’s 100 most powerful people, but a sudden drop in ad revenue forced them to curtail the list and stop it at 67. Do you know why this sucks? It sucks because a factual and comprehensive study from The Recent Findings Institute showed that Daily Gumboot Editor-in-Controversy, Kurt Heinrich, was slated to be listed at number 72. Tough break, Kurt Buddy. We still think you’re terrifically powerful.

Moving on…

You can review the entire list by following this link. Some interesting and “fun facts” about the list include, but are not limited to, the following observations:

  • Barack Obama is, in Forbes Magazine’s opinion, the most powerful person on Earth; this is probably the first time a non-white person has been given this title, which is kinda-sorta reflective of hope and change for a planet that desperately needs it.
  • Women are in short supply on this list, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel coming in at number 15 and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton coming in at number 17. Oprah Winfrey ranks number 45 on the list.
  • Educators, writers and thinkers are scarce to say the least. Luckily, Forbes thought of such a problem – for the record, this isn’t the first time that Forbes outwitted the editorial staff of The Daily Gumboot. Check out their “one in a billion” list to find powerful thinkers, teachers, medical folks, and even Hollywood. The idea of “one in a billion” comes from the fact that the global population will soon reach seven billion people, so it will be important to distinguish the fantastamazing people from the 6,999,999,860 other folks on the planet. I haven’t checked the media category, but I’m pretty sure The Daily Gumboot, Callum Ng and/or Margaret Hanson are on the list. And if we’re not, I challenge the ver foundation of realism  “voting” and Liberal Democratic Logic that made up Forbes’s selection process.
  • Of notable absence is George H.W. Bush. I mean, I know that his son and Puppet Master Dick Cheney have recently joined the ranks of America’s unemployed, but, give me a break – George Bush Sr. might be the single most connected fellow on the planet. His resume is beyond impressive, including stints as US Ambassador to the United Nations, Chief of the US Liaison Office to the People’s Republic of China, Director of the CIA, Vice President to Ronald Reagan, and President of the United States of America. Throw in a fairly intimate relationship with Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al Saud (who is number 9 on Forbes’s list) and some outstanding, non-partisan philanthropic work and, well, in my humble opinion you’ve got a recipe for a pretty powerful person. Renaissance Man Justin Timberlake and the comedic tag-team of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert were left off the list, too. Finally, speaking of comedians, I’d like to make a case for Canadian Mark Henry Roswell to be on the list, too. Mr. Roswell is perhaps the biggest foreign influencer in China (RIP Michael Jackson and way to spiral out of control, Tom Cruise), as his comedic persona, Dashan, entertains millions of folks in  a country that yields almost as many “powerful figures” on Forbes’s list as America does. In the opinions of Hu Jintao (number 2), Li Changchun (number 19), Li Ka-shing (number 23),  Lou Jiwei (number 34), and Li Rongrong (number 61), this video might very well be hilarious! And that’s a lot of power for a Canadian to have…

In conclusion, what is power? And why do we think nobody from Vancouver, let alone Merville, BC, graced the list with their presence? According to Forbes, power seems to be measured by political might, business, money, and influence through media. But what do you think? Is power truly global, or can it me more effectively wielded on regional and/or local levels? For example, in the city of Vancouver who is more powerful, Stephen Harper, Gregor Robertson, Russell Peters, Miss 604,  or Gordon Campbell? And, last but not least, how do you wield power in your community?

I gotta say, I’m pretty excited to hear your thoughts on Forbes’s list and how our communities from here to Toronto and back again relate to it.

Have fun with it!

- JCH

Harvard and The Gumboot: More than 10 Global Trends to Watch

About a month ago, an up-and-coming business magazine, the Harvard Business Review, released an article called “The 10 Trends You Have To Watch.” The article is penned by Eric Beinhocker, a Senior Fellow at the McKinsey Global Institute, and also had some help from Ian Davis, McKinsey’s 10th Managing Director, and Lenny Mendoca, Chair of the McKinsey Global Institute and Director of their San Francisco Office. The authors have defined the trends listed below as accelerating, steady and decelerating. For the record, I feel smarter just having read it.

The Most-Watched Trend in Global Business

The Most-Watched Trend in Global Business

What more can you say about brilliant leaders from the planet’s leading strategic management consultancy? As it turns out, not much, covering bases is what these guys do. Here’s what the best of the best think you need to pay attention to:

  • Natural resources feeling the strain – this trend is “steady.” According to Beinhocker et al, “strategists should plan for a future of resource price increases, volatility and even shortages. Google, for instance, has procured land for server farms near hydroelectric power sources in the Pacific Northwest.” The writers conclude that “resource productivity” will become central to competitiveness in global business.
  • Globalization under fire – this trend is “decelerating.” Will countries like Canada be able to reconcile their need for international talent with economic and social protectionism? Well, with emerging markets producing a growing share of of the world’s college graduates and the “relentless march of information and communications technology” the answer is “yes.” Knowledge work will be distributed globally. And immigrants will bridge the demographic gap in places like Canada, so these articles tell me.
  • Trust in business running out – this trend is “accelerating.” No kidding. “Since the recession began, there has been a precipitous decline in trust. The Edelman Trust Barometer found that 62% of adults in 20 countries trusted corporations less in December 2008 than they had a year earlier.” That’s right, folks. There’s an Eldelman Trust Baraometer…
  • A bigger role for government – this trend is “accelerating.” Arguably, previous crises have resulted in permanent changes in government’s role, and, according to our experts from McKinsey, this one will do the same. Creative partnerships between the public and private sectors will be important in meeting future challenges.
  • Management as a science – this trend is “steady.” The economic crisis has exposed the limitations of data, computing power and mathematical models as managerial science. Drawing on behavioural economics, becoming more dynamic, and integrating real-world feedback, Beinhocker argues, will see a more realistic vision of human behaviour applied to places like the finance sector. Because – wow - did those guys ever drop the ball. Well, no, not really. They kinda told us they had, like, fifty balls when, really, they had a paper clip and some old bubblegum. Or something like that.
  • Shifting consumption patterns - basically, the McKinsey team has these tidbits on the changes in the way businesses manipulate the way consume stuff: prepare for slower long-term growth in global consumption, shift your investment to Asia, focus on older consumers, and find ways to offer luxuries on a budget. Hey, CEOs, as it turns out, your corporate jet might actually be cheaper than flying first class!
    Will keeping watching out for Global Business help or hinder this unfortunate trend?

    Will watching out for Global Business help or hinder this unfortunate trend?

  • Asia rising – this trend is “steady.” This is a great business-language quote: “As Western consumers tighten their belts, expect [powerhouses like Haier, Chery, Tata] and other, less-known players to bring their value-oriented propositions to global markets.”
  • Industries taking new shape – this trend is “increasing.” All companies and industries might be suffering from the recession, but the crisis gives strong players more opportunities to reshape their competitive environment.
  • Innovation marching on - this trend is “steady.” Aside from a lot of trimming in the world of R&D, one key example is to be noted: “Apple’s resurgence as a force in consumer technology was fueled by R&D conducted from 2001 to 2003 despite a sharp decline in sales and margins. This bet paid off handsomely, putting the iPod in the pantheon of game-changing innovations born of hard times, alongside Depression-era breakthroughs such as nylons and the jet engine.” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: entrepreneurs love a downturn.
  • Price stability in question – this trend is “accelerating.” According to Beinhocker et al, managers around the world will have to question their basic assumption that the developed world provides a stable price environment. Things are going to get interesting

So there it is. Pretty interesting stuff that can give us all – in one way or another – a more comprehensive perspective on global business, government and human consumption patterns. I think this Harvard Business Review publication is gonna go places.

What about community? We here at The Gumboot, as you know, wholeheartedly embrace ideas from everywhere. We also think that there are a few more global trends that you have to watch. Cooler ones, too. Researchers at The Recent Findings Institute have provided this blog’s editorial board with some data, too. The findings have been listed in a particular order following an exhaustive statistical assessment and managerial matehmatical modeling based on humour,  importance, relevance,  probability, and awesomeness. Without further ado, here they are:

  1. The Great Divide: Fear Mongering vs. Funny Mongering - this trend is “steady.” Who will win? Jon Stewart or Bill O’Reilly? Rick Mercer or CanWest Global? Stephen Colbert or Glen Beck? The Swine Flu or Rational Thought? Really, this battle has been going on ever since Billy Shakes penned some of the greatest, ripping-good-yarns about cross dressing and mistaken identity. In this ongoing struggle, it used to always be about which side could out-yell and out-spend the other; however, with the rise of the Interscape, hilariously inspired twitbloggers are now competing with the barons of mainstream media.  According to this guy, it’s all about coping with the syntheic creation of fear. After all, any good Historian of Humour will tell you that laughter has – ahem - historically been an accurate and common response to fear and tragedy. And nothing oozes human tragedy like Glen Beck and Alex Tsakumis. Who will triumph in the West Coast struggle of positive humour vs. negative personalized attacks on reason and grammar? Only time will tell.
  2. The Alliance Between Pirates and Ninjas – this trend is “decelerating.” Barack Obama’s pledge to halt the rise of piracy combined with backlash following a foiled attempt at world domination by the creator of Real Ultimate Power has marginalized these once prominent symbols of counterculture. Did we even know there was an alliance between ninjas and pirates? Not really. I mean, ninjas, as we know, keep to themselves, and pirates, well, they’ll drink and boast and lie so much that no one really believes anything they say. In any case, what began as a partnership to slander and, eventually, destroy cowboys seems will most likely crumble beyond repair in the coming years.
  3. Community Service - this trend is “accelerating.” Ted Kennedy was a good man. He put forward the bill for the Serve America Act. Over 80% of Canadians do some kind of volunteer work. Dr. Stephen Toope, President of UBC, has mandated that 10% of programming at the university must have a community service learning component by 2012.Yesterday’s “teach English in Japan” is today’s “oversee a micro-financing project in Ghana” – young people from Europe and North America are immersing themselves in the poverty of the developing world and returning home with all sorts of stories and lessons about community. Socialites from priveleged backgrounds are doing it, too! There is a dark side, though, like with the recent funding cuts to Chilliwack’s Time Out program for seniors. The community rallied and volunteers, not paid staff, will now take on the task of spending time outside with the elderly. This is a slippery slope; if people will do jobs for free, other people won’t get paid for them.
  4. Regionalism – this trend is “accelerating.” And not just because of Kurt’s divisive jab against the “Irate Toronto Lobby” over the Coors marketing fiasco. Going beyond our reasons to find food, adventure, business, resources, and everything else will need to be thought about long and hard by many. Prices will rise. And so will heightened ethical, social and environmental awareness. And, no offense to Toronto, but who do we have more in common with: people from The Tdot or folks from Portland, Seattle and Boise? Sam Adams and Gregor Robertson would be a great governing pair for the Republic of Cascadia!
  5. Johnism – this trend is “accelerating.” Despite its few detractors, the general unfairness of the global political system will eventually marginalize people so much that they will look for a new ideology to follow. Any ideology.
  6. Production by the Masses - this trend is “accelerating.” This was Gandhi’s idea. Mass production is unequal and makes a lot of stuff for people in wealthy countries that can afford it. Production by the masses harnesses the priceless resource of “clever brains and skillful hands,” which are possessed by all human beings. This idea suggests that such brains and minds need to be supported with first class tools. For certain, this will empower people from every society on Earth. The rise of social media is a great example of this. The fact that computers can only be purchased by the rich – except in Uruguay, where cheap computers are given out to school children – is an example of how far we have to go.

    "Beware my Ingenious Plan to Enslave Humanity"

    "Beware my Ingenious Plan to Enslave Humanity"

  7. The Rise of Africa – this trend is “steady.” Long story short, when it comes to dealing with catastrophe, Africa eclipses all other continents. Famine, drought, genocide, germs, war, corruption; you name it, they’ve endured it. If/when things start getting really bad around the world, Africa and its people will be able to roll with hardship a lot better than us. This is purely anecdotal, but I have a hard time believing they’re reacting as catastrophically to the recession, swine flu or possible-Terminator-enslavement as we are.
  8. Tipping Point: Technology and Germs – this trend is “accelerating.” All I know is that we’re going to soon be eviscerated by a combination of flu-ish germs and/or hand held, mobile entertainment devices. I don’t know exactly what it is that will destroy us, but I do know that it’s called The Swinepod.
  9. Robots Causing Trouble for Humans – this trend is “terrifying.” Is anyone watching what’s going on in Japan? It’s like a prequel to I, Robot. All one has to do is Google “Japan robots” to see what these soon-to-be servants of humanity can do. Unfortunately for us, this servitude will undoubtedly turn on its head in the not too distant future.
  10. The Re-Engineering of Time – this trend is “steadily accelerating while it decelerates.” As I listened to a wonderful Organizational Behaviour professor today something struck me with what he said: “the thing in business that we can never have enough of is time.” Simultaneously, some movements around the world are trying to cram 36 hours into a 12 hour day while others want to slow everything down. Regardless of what side you’re on, you probably know that, whether it’s domination of fast-paced-efficiency or burnout-induced-relaxed-lifestyle, only one side of this binary will emerge victorious. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m writing this while riding my bike, talking on my other phone, drinking a chai latte, eating a bagel, and I think I just caused a bit of a traffic snarl…

So there it is. At least 20 trends to watch this year. What’s gonna be the coolest? My money’s on robots aligning with pirates to take on ninjas. Or, man, imagine a ninja robot intergovernmental agency of corporate social responsibility!

This has been a trendy experience. Thanks for your time.

- JCH