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Culture Jamming, by Kalle Lasn

America has been subverted by corporate agendas and its elected officials bow before corporate power as a condition of their survival in office

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Here are excerpts from the culture-shaking book, Culture Jamming by Kalle Lasn, published by  William Morrow in 1999, which rings truer now than ever!

A Multitrillion-dollar Brand

America is no longer a country. It’s a multitrillion-dollar brand…. essentially no different from McDonald’s, Marlboro or General Motors. It’s an image “sold” not only to the citizens of the U.S., but to consumers worldwide. The American brand is associated with catch-words such as “democracy;’ “opportunity” and “freedom.” But like cigarettes that are sold as symbols of vitality and youthful rebellion, the American reality is very different from its brand image.

America has been subverted by corporate agendas. Its elected officials bow before corporate power as a condition of their survival in office. A collective sense of powerlessness and disillusionment has set in. A deeply felt sense of betrayal is brewing.

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By The People?

American culture is no longer created by the people. Our stories, once passed from one generation to the next by parents, neighbors and teachers, are now told by corporations with “something to sell as well as to tell.” Brands, products, fashions, celebrities, entertainments, the very spectacles that surround the production of culture, are now our culture.

Our role is mostly to listen and watch-and then, based on what we have heard and seen, to buy.

A free, authentic life is not possible in America today. We are being manipulated in the most insidious way. Our emotions, personalities and core values are under siege from media and cultural forces too complex to decode. A continuous product message has woven itself into the very fabric of our existence.

Most North Americans now live designer lives: sleep, eat, sit in car, work, shop, watch TV, sleep again. I doubt there’s more than a handful of free, spontaneous minutes anywhere in that cycle.

Smile Button Culture

The human spirit of prideful contrariness and fierce independence has been oddly tamed. We have evolved into a smile-button culture. We wear the trendiest fashions, drive the best cars industry can produce and project an image of incredible aff1uence-cool people living life to the hilt.

Behind that happy mask is a face so ugly it invariably shocks the hell out of my friends from developing countries who come to visit, expecting the giddy Americana depicted on TV and finding instead a horror show of disconnection and anomie.

Our mass media dispense a kind of Huxleyan “soma.” The most powerful narcotic in the world is the promise of belonging. And belonging is best achieved by conforming to the prescriptions of America™. In this way a perverted sense of cool takes hold of the imaginations of our children. And thus a heavily manipulative corporate ethos drives our culture.

The Facade of Cool

Cool is indispensable, and readily, endlessly dispensed. You can get it on every corner (for the right price), though it’s highly addictive and its effects are short-lived. If you’re here for cool today, you’ll almost certainly be back for more tomorrow.

American cool is a global pandemic. Communities, traditions, cultural heritages, sovereignty, whole histories are being replaced by a barren American monoculture.

Living in Japan during its period of sharpest transition to a western way of life, I was astonished by the speed and force with which the American brand took hold. I saw a culture with thousands of years of tradition behind it vanquished in two generations. Suddenly, high school girls were selling themselves after class for $150 a trick so they’d have cash to buy American jeans and handbags.

The Earth cannot support the lifestyle of the cool hunting American-style consumer. We have sought, bought, spewed and devoured too much, too fast, too brazenly, and now we’re about to pay.

Killing the Planet

Economic “progress” is killing the planet. This did not fully hit home for me until nightmarish environmental stories suddenly appeared on the news: acid rain, dying seals in the North Sea, medical waste washing up on New York beaches, garbage barges turned away from port after port, and the discovery that the milk in American mothers’ breasts had four times the amount of DDT permitted in cow’s milk.

To people like me, for whom time had always seemed like a constant, eternally moving train which people got on and, seventy years later, got off, it was the end of innocence. The premonition of ecocide — planetary death — became real and it terrified me. It still does.

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Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®



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Business

Delegation: An Ongoing Phenomena

Failure to delegate effectively often happens because team leader don’t trust the people with whom they’re working

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For most of your career, you’ve read or heard that one of the key approaches to getting things done is to delegate effectively. This presumes that you have others to whom you can delegate. In my contact with more than 950 organizations over the last two and a half decades, I’ve found increasingly that people have fewer resources, a lower budget, and less staff people. If they want to get something done, often they have to do it themselves!

Assuming you have others to whom you can delegate, the first or second time you personally tackle a particular task yields useful information. You learn more about the nature of the task, how long it takes, and whether or not you enjoy doing it.

By the third time, a task of the same ilk as those you’ve handled before often becomes best handled by someone reporting to you. Such tasks could involve updating a database, completing an interim report, or assembling meeting notes.

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All that You Can

On the path to getting things done, your quest is to identify all those things that you can possibly delegate to others and then prepare those others so that they have a high probability of succeeding. In the course of your workday there may be only a handful of things that you alone need to do because of your experience, insight or specialized knowledge. Everything else that can be delegated should be.

Some people feel they have to take care of everything themselves and to this day haven’t been able to break the habit of “doing it all.” If this someone is in your seat right now, recognize that as a category of one, you can only get so much done.

Many managers and supervisors fail to delegate effectively because either they don’t fully trust the people with whom they’re working, or they’ve always been get-it-all-done-by-myself types.

Take Time before You Assign

Prior to delegating anything to anyone, take the time to actually prepare your staff for delegation. This would involve assessing an employee’s skills, interests, and needs. You could even ask people what new tasks and responsibilities they would like to assume. You might be surprised at the wide variety of responses you receive. There may be people on your staff right now who can help you with tasks you’ve been dying to hand off to someone but didn’t see how or when you could put them into play.

While you want to delegate to staff people who show enthusiasm, initiative and interest, or have otherwise previously demonstrated the ability to handle and balance several tasks at once, sometimes you have to delegate to someone who has not exhibited any of the above. In that case, delegate on a piece-meal basis.

Ensure that the staff person is able to effectively handle the small task or tasks he’s been assigned and does not feel swamped or overloaded. When the staff person demonstrates competence, you can increase the complexity of assignments and even the frequency with which you delegate.

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Multi-tasking: More Harm than Good

In this day and age, where so much competes for our attention, it is easy to stray!

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I belong to a local health club, and while I was there one day, I saw a woman get on the Stairmaster. I watched as she whipped out an mp3 player and started listening to music. Then, to my surprise, she reached into her gym bag, pulled out a book, and placed it on that ledge to read. I almost asked her if she would like a piece of gum!

Today, when so much competes for our attention, it is easy to stray! More often than we care to pretend, in the office and at home, we invite more than we can handle, and then act as though we didn’t. As individuals, throughout society, we are trained to believe that the ability to multi-task is a great attribute. Unfortunately, that’s a big mistake. Here’s why, and how to avoid multi-tasking in the future.

First Things First

What’s the fastest and easiest way to handle six tasks competing for our attention? Identify the most important task, second most important, third most important, and so on, then tackle the first and finish it all the way, move on to the second and complete it, then move all the way down the list.

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Any other way of tackling those items, whether they are tasks for home or work, is simply not as efficient. The catch is, any other way is more psychologically satisfying.  Why?  It’s almost as if juggling projects, switching gears unnecessarily or abruptly, or leaving a job unfinished to start a new project gives you the opportunity to say to other people, “Hey, look at me! Look how involved I am! Look at how busy I am! I’m great at multi-tasking.” A multi-tasker, however, can’t compete with others who tackle their to-do list, one item at a time.

What about doubling up as a procedure for tackling a number of routine items or very simple tasks? You can eat dinner and read a book at the same time. Eating and reading at the same time is relatively harmless.

How about driving and talking on the cell phone at the same time? Driving requires your sharp attention, as does carrying on an intelligent conversation with someone else who is not present; doing both at the same time spreads your attention too thin, with often disastrous results. The same is true for projects you’re working on that require your best thinking.

Tips:
* give yourself 5 to 10 minute intervals to focus on the task at hand
* safe-guard your immediate environment to avoid interruptions
* acknowledge yourself whenever you stick to one task and finish it
* repeat all the above, often, knowing that ‘more often’ is better!

Your Undivided Attention

When you’re working on a new task, brainstorming, engaging in first-time thinking, or doing creative work, it’s vital to offer your complete and undivided attention to that one task before you. To dissipate your attention or otherwise stray means you are not going to do your best work.

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