Civic Diary: The Lack Of Planning

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

I’ve been thinking about why politics sucks.  When the world is burning up, and people blame Millennials for problems the previous generations created, and we put migrant kids in jail, you kind of wonder “what the hell happened.”

Now is where I get very weird and discuss the ability to plan and organize.  Also, yes, this is going to involve Agile and Project Management, and no it’s not bullshit.  I’m serious.

One of the things I noticed over the years is that people are often terrible at planning – when you’re a planning professional, it gets noticeable.  You’re hired to help people get their act together, which tells you that they can’t do it themselves or don’t have the time.

As you help people plan – and watch plans fall apart – you realize many people can’t plan for crap.  This is nothing against them – we’re not taught to plan or organize very well. However, they still fail, and why don’t we do anything about it?

A thing we get taught in any form of planning or management, from typical Waterfall to Scrum, is that you need a goal.  If you have a goal, you can direct your actions and make things work, and if you fail, you know why so you can adjust and try again.

So how many people are good at setting goals and measuring them?  I’m guessing a lot of us aren’t as good at it as we’d like to be – myself included (one thing you get taught in management practices is to keep learning).

Apply this to politics.  How many of us have a vision for the world, our lives, our countries, and the future?  How many of us have an idea of steps like A to B?  How many of us have at least a vision to work towards that makes sense, and we can evaluate?

Yeah, I know the answer.  I didn’t for a lot of my life, only the last decade or so did I think about these things.

Now apply this to politicians and big money donors and the like.  Sure they think they have a plan, but also have a lot of money and power, so they don’t have to think about results (beyond “hey I got more money and power.”).  The world burns and things fall apart, but they’re shielded by money and power so they can avoid consequences of bad choices for a long time – while we get to pay for them.

No vision, no plan, no goals, just flailing around.  If you have enough money or power, you can try to grab more, but it won’t solve the problems bearing down on us (hell, it makes them worse).

Right now if you look at the good things in the world, think how many people who helped make them happen did plan, did focus, did think.  Feel like we’ve got enough people like that?  Probably not.

We’ve left a lot of the world in the hands of surprisingly few people who have their shit together.  It’s not fair to them.

So yeah, if you want to change the world, start learning productivity techniques and such and use it to get your personal and political life in order.  Think about goals and plans and visions – because by and large, we’re kinda bad at them.

Also, it’s going to kill us if we’re not careful.

Steven Savage

Civic Geek: In On The Scam

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

This is going to be a bit of a “darker” column than my usual writing.  I want to talk about why the world seems to be such a mess.

A compromised president  A congress that doesn’t seem to care about that or anything else.  Some new political scandal emerges every week, usually about a Republican, and usually something hideously creepy.  People end up voting for these creepy idiots and we can’t figure out why.  Television is a parade of lickspittles and temporary celebrities kissing up to power.  So-called populists backed by millionaires parade about, and insta-celebreties appear out of nowhere jumping on whatever political bandwagon is convenient.

What the hell is going on?

Let me suggest that part of this bizarreness is that we’ve democratized political grifting.

Sure, there have been many politicians and rulers in history who didn’t actually believe what they said about things like morals and decency and patriotism.  We knew that.  We’ve always known that.

But now, because we all know that, some people want in on the action.  They too want to be political grifters, big and small, and they don’t really care what happens.

You can back a candidate that’s clearly an immoral liar – and you know it – but you can enjoy “triggering” people.  You can become a YouTube celebrety by spewing BS.  Manage to get yourself “in trouble” and you might become an celebrity as you claim persecution.  We don’t just have people trying to manipulate the system – we always had them – but now we’ve given more people ways to do it and made it even more profitable.

if you’re ambitious enough and immoral enough, you to can not give a dam and see how much wealth and power and fame you can accumulate.  You can even keep changing your mind or switching gears until the right grift pays off – and maybe all you want is something simple like yelling at people!

B.S. backs B.S.  Conspiracy theories provide covers to real corrupt officials.  A popular pundit or preacher or politician can elevate some no one who spews the right B.S. to new popularity.  More people are in on the scam.

Only it’s a meaningless scam.  Political Grifting doesn’t fix things, they’re just a way to make yourself wealthy, or powerful, or just cope with your feelings of inadequacy.  It’s a giant race where everyone is trying to get theirs before it falls apart.

Meanwhile everyone trying to scam in the New B.S. Economy is both destroying our good will and society and ignoring real problems.  Sarcastic television comments aren’t going to stop client change.  Wage disparity isn’t going to be repaired by tearfully claiming persecution for the latest deliberately-shocking thing you said to get attention.  People both make things worse and don’t work to fix our real problems.

So that’s one of my theories about Why There’s So Much Suck Right Now.  More people are getting in on ages-old scams, more people are engaged in political grift.

We’re going to need to get wise.  Literally.

-Steven Savage

Civic Geek: When The Gods Speak

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

A bit of a change from my usual monthly civic geek posts, in this one I want to talk about religion and politics. It just won’t be in the way you expect.

My latest novel, A Bridge To The Quiet Planet is set in a a post-post apocalyptic techno-fantasy setting/ This was a world that suffered genocidal war, disagreeing gods, and unleashed weapons fusing science and sorcery. However, in the current setting, it seemed shockingly “together,” with a very stable society – and I began analyzing just why my imagination had made it such.

What I narrowed in on surprised me – and taught me a lesson.

In this setting, the gods are real and communicate with people. Now it’s a good three hundred gods, each of them an eccentric by human standards. However when someone speaks for a god, you’re pretty sure they’re actually speaking for that god – and if someone lies about a god’s intention, there’s a good chance said god is going to clear it up.

So you have a planet intertwined with oddball superintelligences, but at least everyone is pretty sure what they want and mean, or if they don’t everyone is equally confused. When there are conflicting messages, no one assumes that any one is right, but they ask the gods themselves.

That made me realize what had happened with our politics in America and in other countries and other histories; people who claimed to speak for the gods or gods cause a lot of issues.

When you believe someone has divine authority, that they speak for a powerful supernatural entity that controls your fate, you listen to them. You assume that person has some kind of direct communication to that god – which is probably a terrible assumption.

But it’s apparent on our world that a lot of people are saying damned different things about what their gods say. This disagreement should lead people to ask “hey, why are we getting different signals here?” This disagreement should lead us to ask various theological questions, from “how to talk to X god” to “hey is anyone here actually speaking for a god or is this bullshit.”

Caught up in tribalism, assuming all the time , too many humans think they have a direct line to a god or gods and everyone else is wrong. Not enough ask “well, where is this god to show up and clear up this shit?” People don’t want that – they want tribalism.

In theory if you thought a god was really out there, and you wished to know it’s will, you should embark on a spiritual journey yourself. You should try to be open to it telling you what’s going on – treat it like a person and assume that it will tell you. The last thing you should do is assume someone yelling about things is some direct conduit to the divine.

How many of our problems are caused by A) assuming that someone is speaking for a god, and B) not asking questions or even giving the god the respect to ask them.

This kind of tells me how many people really don’t take their god or gods seriously. They’ll gladly listen t someone say what they want to hear, but don’t deal with the theological discomfort of reconciling conflicting messages. They don’t really respect their god or gods enough to treat them as people and ask them.

It’s a peculiar kind of blasphemy, not giving your god credit enough to clear things up. It leads to blasphemous actions as people uncritically carry out the orders of men thinking they’re from a god. It leads to a kind of disrespect to attribute the voice of a great supernatural being to be reflected in the rantings of many grifters and criminals.

Our problem isn’t that we listen to gods – it’s that we listen to humans.

– Steve