Friday, September 10, 2004

Post from the Past

Yesterday, I was spammed with two messages from a 'tim reynolds' at

First message had no words, just lines of dashes. Second message contained a post I myself had written, get this: 4 years ago.

The message had been posted on an Organizational Learning listserv called Learning-Org, which is where many leading thinkers for organizational change were gathered - people in corporate world to academia and, to a lesser extent, government. It was written while I was in a very activist-oriented Environmental Studies program.

1)  I posted that message from a completely different email address 4 years ago.
2)  It's being sent to me from 'tim reynolds' at a different, recently created email address, and the post's topic is relevant to my current activities (see below).

3)  It is an obscure post, the Learning-Org listserv archive is not even searchable. I even tried Googling my name + Learning-Org + post title + text. And again, it's linked to a different email addy.

4)  My name does not appear on outgoing emails.

For somebody to spam me at my recently created email address, with an email posting I myself had written 4 years ago, on a topic that is totally relevant to my current activities and concerns -- I'd say they were keeping a pretty close watch on me.

Who has these kinds of resources, authority, power?

[Edit: This would seem to confirm my assertions that I've been under government surveillance for several years (please see About Me). No one else would have the ability, nor take the time, to observe me and my email activity so closely. RCMP and CSIS have been known to monitor people in extreme detail for 30-year stretches. See Enemies of the State by CBC's fifth estate. 10/15/10]

Please also see my post: 'Email bounce from Mayor's Office'.

(Have edited my Learning-Org post for readability, based on my recent learning about the internet and websites over the past few months.)


To Learning-Org:

RE: Collaborative Online Learning

Right on, Bill! Thank you for putting into words something that I also feel, but have not been able to articulate. Your description of how a sense of balance and wholeness can be more easily achieved through in-person dialogue, and your questions about how this might be enabled online here at LO [Learning-Org list], really struck a chord with me.

I have had similar concerns for quite some time, but even more so afer a brief dialogue with someone offlist. We are missing out on the wisdom and treasures of so many out there!! More emotive or feeling people may be intimidated by the abstract, logical, hyper-intellectual, 'Socratic-style discourse' (Sajeela's apt description), and thus, feel indirectly silenced.

Other challenges:

- imbalances between introverts vs. extroverts;
- creating safe space for emotions vs. meeting practical timelines, etc.

Emotions take longer to gestate and are harder to express clearly. They also speak to one's sense of humanity, and don't always jibe well with people who want measurable outcomes and have practical agendas. And yet, both logical and emotional communication styles are invaluable and necessary.

"To administer a social organization according to purely technical criteria of rationality is irrational, because it ignores the nonrational aspects of social conduct." - Peter M. Blau (1956)

...and it's not just conduct, but also human responses and levels of engagement -- be it emotional, psychological, intellectual, spiritual, etc.We cannot design holistic, transformative and practicable solutions for organizations, society, the world, or this planet, IF we are ignoring the majority of people's selves/identities.

How do we find balances that allow wise beings of all kinds (silent, loquacious, and otherwise) to come forth? Do people feel safe enough to share on here? Are there opportunities for people to plug in according to their personal strengths, wishes, or learning styles?

I find this overall topic quite interesting. In an online, 'virtual' discussion space, how do we find ways of reaching that place of collective wisdom, while ensuring as many people as possible are actively involved in the process? How is this done when there is such broad diversity of experiences and perspectives among us?

After a bit of a shake-up, like we've just experienced here on LO (a "creation with death" perhaps, as Jon describes), people usually rush in to re-establish order and structure, and try to re-define comfort zones and familiar territory. Some of this is useful -- ie, re-finding common ground -- but it's equally important to remain open and flexible, explore the social ruptures, and maybe even embrace confusion.

[To better contextualize what was happening on the list, the challenges were these:

1) How to bridge the gaps between the experts and those seeking information or advice;
2) How to balance participation and feedback (listservs tend to fall into a pattern of being dominated by a few);
3) How to make the material / theories relevant to those living in multicultural cities, since a fair number of active members are from the U.S., South Africa, Pacific region, etc; and
4) How to essentially 'walk the talk'.

The advantage of in-person meetings is that it's easier to make connections and foster dialogue. We can also read one another's body language. There is a greater likelihood of having communications flow freely. For example, when people are vibing collectively, hearty 'talkers' sense when to withdraw and let others speak, and those who are less verbally inclined start to come forward to share their powerful truths. When this happens, everything just comes together.

But how do we create that optimal balance online, with such a large group of people (approx. 1800 members), in asynchronous time? It's much harder to gauge one's impact on people in an online environment, and to also know when to participate and when to withdraw.

[Edit: These thoughts pre-date Facebook by 4 years and Twitter by 6 years - two of the most popular social networking programs sweeping the planet, with 500 million and 100 million users, respectively. 10/15/10]

You asked for ideas, Bill. I too feel that having focus groups is extremely useful. Maybe this could be done on the new site that Rick has mentioned is being developed. Depending on its format, there could be ways for topics to evolve. I don't know how that might be done...but it would be great to be able to 'vibe with one's tribe' (ie, according to topic, or learning styles, etc), while still connecting within the main LO forum.

It's important for different needs to be met, and even for project ideas or outcomes to be developed, for the mutual benefit of all or various participants.

Examples of focus groups might be: a) more theoretically-inclined discussion, b) business, c) HR, d) social development areas, like education, environmental learning, and 3) philosophical areas, like art, philosophy, and so on.

Or things might just subdivide according to current interests--eg, artistic expression, venting about various problems (damn those bureaucrats), etc. I don't think it's about overstructuring LO, but simply hashing out ways to make it more responsive and help create a participatory learning culture.

These challenges shouldn't fracture our community here on LO; they should encourage us to pool our resources, and develop new ideas and connections, or simply facilitate individual expression.

People have expressed concerns that the 'great ones' [highly respected organizational learning theorists]* have left and are no longer participating on this listserv. I say, no worries, we can 'walk our talk' by developing our own *greatness*, and also help one another to reach new levels of wholeness. I for one don't feel we all have to be Olympic Learning-Org types to excel on here. If that's how others feel about organizational learning, then I am definitely in the wrong place!

*[Note: Many esteemed learning-organization theorists had left, mostly because they found other learning pools that fit their expectations better. The difficulty with the Learning-Org listserv is that it uses a linear, 'threaded' format, and the archive is non-searchable. This makes truly collaborative and holistic discussion, learning, engagement, and dialogue a real challenge. Instead of building information and progressing forward, many ideas and topics were repeated - truly frustrating for visionaries and experts.]

Developing one's potential, while living optimally within a system, is the key point. Trying to reach new heights of individual achievement, while simultaneously encouraging democratic community development, is tricky.

Finding a balance between individuality and community, freedom and responsibility, intuition and logic, unity and diversity, is incredibly difficult -- and yet necessary -- especially, if we are to ensure a healthy, peaceful world and ecological sustainability for future generations.

Sachidananda Mohanty summarizes it this way:

"No longer do we have the easier option, the exclusive choice. Today we must have environment as well as industry, learn to accommodate the search for an elitistic excellence with the quest for an egalitarian social order; we must combine internationalism with the demands of ethnic and regional cultures."

Being one of the more long-winded types on here, I will try to listen more. I just couldn't help responding to Bill's and Graham's messages.

Warmest wishes to all.

To blog readers:

Wow, hard to believe I used to be a nice person -- despite the severe depression I was suffering at that time. Please note: the distrustful, sarcastic, or antagonistic person you may encounter today was once a sensitive, confused soul, who was wanting to be understood by people.

If you've gotten this far, you're probably wondering why this post is relevant and why it's being sent (spammed) to me at this time?

Not only have I been spouting about organizational learning, socio-environmental change, community action, and so on, but these surveillers would likely find my analyses of certain social oppression quite accurate, as I had returned from 5 years of working in Asia and one year of living, working, travelling in India.

Plus there's the added bonus of watching all my clumsy social encounters (frequently involving aspects of race, class, gender, etc). I'm an unfunded social experiment.

If I am right in saying I've been under surveillance for the past several years, they would've observed all the extreme situations I've been through -- including being a social outcast and pariah for several years. (I'm only just coming out of it now, but am still easily triggered, unfortunately.)

I make a good case study for human behaviour and social dynamics, having been to hell and back -- socially, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. I also believe they're using my experiences as fodder for creating new Divide-and-Conquer strategies. (examples to come...)

Sounds pretty crazy, eh?


Why spam me with my own listserv post at this time?

I'm currently participating in a community initiative, and have tried to raise issues around group facilitation, communication processes, etc. I also attend a weekly women's group, and had been talking to the facilitator last week about the challenges of allowing everyone a voice within a group setting. I then gave her copies of my writings about politics, activism, and surveillance.

The night I got this mysterious email, I was a bit wired and behaving very child-like (eg, talking to myself in a kiddie voice). Okay, I know that sounds crazy, but prolonged stress, going through a debilitating depression for several years, and social isolation can do strange things to people.

In other words, when I'm most at my 'cracking point' is when overtly bizarre, impossible or disturbing incidents happen to me.

The email sender's address is interesting:

If you read my whole blog, you'll find several references to male identity (I'm bi, androgynous, feminist, etc - I've been called a 'ball-breaker' before, when really angry). Lately, I've been receiving increasing, yet subtle, hints that my life may be prematurely shortened.

On the night of my uncle's funeral, a guy deliberately hit me on the head and said, 'Oh, we thought you were a guy'. I happened to be balling my eyes out, at the time, yet he and his friend laughed in my face.

I admit I've become increasingly aggressive and reactive towards people these past three years. (You'd be pissed off, too, if you were being illegally surveilled and harassed, plus feeling bogged down by constant politics and prejudice. I literally went to about 15 different groups to *find my people* and ended up feeling more alone. My extended family turned their backs on me.

I was also dragging my mother down financially and emotionally (she literally spent about $70K to support me and my studies). So, in a desperate bid to support myself, I applied to hundreds of jobs (I believe it is possible CSIS blocked my office job opportunities), and I ended up working as a waitress, bartender, dishwasher, telemarketer.

Anyway, if the email 'spam' above isn't clear proof of internet hacking and surveillance, I don't know what is!

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