The Radicalization of Everyday Life.

I’d like to think I’m an optimist.

Suppose you work for a public company and have a sizeable portion of your portfolio in your employer’s stock; suppose further that you get fired. Is your first thought

  1. my stock will go down (because times are tough), or
  2. my stock will go up (because they made the right decision)?

I’m a b. guy. As silly as the above example may be, in my experience optimists tend to be people who manage to keep a broader view of events through a reasonable amount of wishful-thinking. The operative word is “reasonable”. Reasonableness, like common sense, is difficult to attain, particularly today when it’s easy to form opinions but almost impossible to remain objective. Never has moderation been so underappreciated.
   Perhaps we live in a particularly perilous and unbalanced historical moment, or perhaps this is a perfectly average era which has been augmented in reality by the means of communication and the frantic interchanges developed over the past 25 years. I don’t know. Somehow this new info-infrastructure looks to me like a warmonger’s dream, even though I’m told social networks’ members desire nothing more than likes. Yes likes, but only if you agree with the “likee”; otherwise you’re the enemy or just a headless chicken without a spine.

So it would appear we go on living as if in continuous Facebook mode:

  • the rise of Donald Trump is in part a feature of many frustrated voters to like his virtual posts; this shows the embrace of overwhelming emotional impulses against the pondering of reasonably accessible facts;
  • in debating Brexit, Boris Johnson is wooing voters into liking his pro-exit position by referring again to the long-debunked figure of “GBP 350mm a week” cost to UK taxpayers; you’re a headless chicken for thinking otherwise or for thinking such momentous decisions cannot revolve around relative small change;
  • much money is spent and even more words are wasted on the active vs passive investment management debate; common sense and much evidence dictate a more balanced approach, recognizing the costs involved and that true talent is not likely to be found on financial supermarkets’ shelves (a sort of “hope for the best and prepare for the worst” approach);
  • on healthy food, proper level of physical activity, animal rights, global climate and countless other matters of importance you will be forgiven if you are confused by the relentless, almost religious approach taken by opposing parties; the data is out there but no one wants to make the effort to look for it and avoid politicizing it.

The beauty in all this is that we have elevated innocuous banter among close friends and family to the equivalent of a global chitchat videoconference. Also it’s fair to say the younger generations, who get it, appear to be drifting away from this circus. My concern remains that this indiscriminate sharing of information degenerates into a more effective way to spread watercooler thinking on which we then base serious decisions.

Note: While some time ago I advised an acquaintance to hold his Facebook position when it was trading around $17-$18 a share, advice which he promptly ignored, I have never bought or sold the stock for my own account. Please be kind.

Photo source: selective screenshot from