WITHOUT debt there would be no capitalism; mankind would be living in caves and eating whatever it killed. But Margaret Atwood's elegant and erudite canter round the literary, cultural and historical aspects of borrowing, lending, owing and repaying has less to do with economics than with human nature. Her new book is a collection of radio talks, conceived and delivered long before the current crisis, but its publication is remarkably timely.
Debt is as old as human civilisation. The first recorded laws had to do with repayments and repossessions. The idea of debt depends on a common sense of fairness: if you borrow and don't pay back, justice is violated. That is not exclusive to humans; chimpanzees seem to have similar ideas. But debt is not morally neutral. Borrowing too much is a sign of depravity. So is being a merciless lender. Debt metaphors (“overwhelmed”, “drowning”, “crushing”) are dramatic. In the end, money is time, and you may pay with your life—if not through death, then through drudgery.
The best bits of “Payback” are about debts that do not involve money. What do people owe to the planet? To other people? To God? The author is particularly taken with Charles Dickens's “A Christmas Carol”, a story usually read only as a sentimental fable. Ms Atwood strips it down and rebuilds it with the brisk pen of an expert literary critic. The Archangel Gabriel bears the same relationship to God as Bob Cratchit does to Scrooge, she argues. It sounds odd, but makes perfect sense when you read it.
Ms Atwood weaves in all kinds of literary references from nursery rhymes to modern fiction, from Aeschylus to Darwin, via Mary Poppins and Charles Kingsley's “The Water Babies” (where the lovely Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby is the counterpart to the severe Mrs Be-donebyasyoudid). As one would expect from a novelist of Ms Atwood's calibre, the phrasing is polished and the metaphors striking: revenge taken in red ink can be even more satisfying and gruesome than that taken through red blood.
One criticism is her caricature of Christianity, which has shaped Western thinking about the debt of sin and the means of redemption for the past two millennia. Ms Atwood's apology for squashing Christian theological thinking into two chatty and disrespectful pages does not sound wholly sincere.
But the overall effect of the book is stimulating, if a trifle dizzying. Even Ms Atwood, scintillating wordsmith though she is, cannot quite patch holes in the logic. Her greenish, gently leftish convictions poke through rather too visibly sometimes. Ultimately, debt is a way that people bet on their own futures, placing a wager on their own ability, cleverness, diligence and luck. When those bets fail, the consequences for the loser can be sad. But the world is a better place, on the whole, if people have the right to make such wagers in the first place.
As car prowl became the top safety concern among Seattleites according to a 2015 Seattle Police Department community survey, the Seattle Police Department North Precinct is partnering with neighbors to apply diverse technological strategies to fight against this property crime.
The department has designed online surveys to learn about community concerns and is also advertising micro-groups involving police officers and neighbors—called “Living Room Conversations”.
The police also facilitate focus groups through the social network Nextdoor.com, at which citizens can connect with their neighbors and the police can explain SPD’s new Micro Community Policy Plans.
SPD North Precinct Research Assistant Jessica Chandler said that she hoped these strategies would help the North Precinct find out what the Northgate-Maple Leaf neighbors’ main concerns and specific needs are.
Deputies of the Charles County Sheriff’s Office, along with Sheriff Troy Berry (D), attended a community forum on Saturday at the Metropolitan United Methodist Church in Indian Head, fielding questions,
Guest blogger Dr David Patton ... The Criminal Justice Systems (CJS) in many countries are dominated by negative responses to crime and criminality that are focused on retributive punishment and exclusion. Policies, ideologies and acts of retribution, exclusion, excessive punishments, excessive powers being given to criminal justice agents, a disregard for human rights etc.…
The new approach to crime and punishment in Alaska — based on the theory that locking people up longer is expensive and doesn't get criminals to live right — has started to influence the way justice plays out in Alaska.
What can you do to increase relational energy in your workplace? Here are four actions you can take personally and as a leader.
Build High-Quality Connections. By definition, high-quality connections generate relational energy. Jane Dutton and Emily Heaphy suggest several ways you can grow and improve high-quality connections, such as taking on a challenge at work with a group of like-minded people. In one case, two operational leaders at Kelly Services, a workforce solutions firm, created a Business Resource Group to promote leadership development and increase employee engagement. As Dutton and Heaphy describe, the leaders focused on building high-quality connections and strengthening social capital as ways to improve the leadership pipeline.
Create Energizing Events. Organize and run events with an explicit focus creating energy, not just delivering content, products, or services. Consider how Zingerman’s, a renowned community of food-related businesses in Ann Arbor, Michigan, infuses energy in their seminars and events. I often bring groups of executives to their restaurant, the Roadhouse. After dinner, CEO and co-founder Ari Weinzweig or one his managing partners will present on a particular topic, such as visioning, open book management, or the natural laws of business. The content and delivery are fantastic and energizing themselves. But energy goes up another level when a panel of frontline staff come into the room and field questions. They can answer any question, but what matters even more is the energy they exude. They are positive, enthusiastic, and clearly love their work and the organization. The executives leave the event abuzz with energy because it’s so contagious.
Use Tools that Promote a “Giver” Culture. The act of helping someone at work creates energy in the form of positive emotions — the “warm glow” of helping. Receiving help creates energy in the form of gratitude. Gratitude for help received encourages paying it forward and helping others, as Nat Bulkley and I documented in a large-scale study. The Reciprocity Ring, a group-level exercise involving giving and getting help that my spouse Cheryl Baker, CEO of Humax, created, elevates giver behaviors — and energy. In a pilot study Adam Grant and I conducted, we found that participation in the Reciprocity Ring increases positive emotions and decreases negative emotions.
Try Mapping Relational Energy. Organizational network surveys map the invisible network behind the organizational chart—the real way people interact.
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