I’m ok and you’re ok. I like to think this way. I once read in a Robert Anton Wilson book that one could take humanity and divide it into four Boolean groups; I’m ok you’re ok, I’m ok you’re not, you’re ok I’m not, and finally, neither of us is ok. Bob went on to expand a little further with regards to management:
The ‘neither of us is ok’ guy ends up a very low achiever. He believes he is not able to solve his problems and thinks everyone else is stupid too.
The ‘you’re ok I’m not’ guy, makes a great follower. He feels he is lost without a good leader. He himself cannot see himself as a boss, but willfully follows orders.
The ‘I’m ok you’re ok’ person, makes a good boss. He believes in himself and also in the capabilities of others. However…
The ‘I’m ok you’re not’ guy, refuses to work at all unless someone lets him be the boss. He knows he is right and everyone else is wrong. This is why the boss can sometimes be a jerk. The ‘I’m ok you’re ok’ guy often doesn’t want to fight about it, so he frequently allows this guy to be the boss.
Today I want to expend further on the ‘you’re ok I’m not’ guy and how these insecure persons get infected with social malware. I want to argue that, with all the great things the internet has brought to society (I do not want to go back to a simpler time), not only has this created a platform for malicious code to infect our computers, phones and other internet connected devices, it has also allowed for the spreading of social viruses like worms, trojans, rootkits and botnets.
I have been involved with martial arts since I was very young. As I searched for a school, I noticed that there were a lot of people who wanted to follow a master. I never really liked any of the so-called masters I met, in fact, most seemed pompous to me. I grew up in a rough section of North Philadelphia and have been in many street fights. So when I met these “masters” I was less than impressed. I felt I could best them in a real fight- given the right circumstances and a little luck. But that was my opinion, and it didn’t stop others from just sitting in awe of said “masters”.
I was glad to find I was not alone with my negative feeling about masters and fortunately, I found a number of teachers who are more like modern coaches. Rather than a master/follower relationship, I find the coach/star player relationship much more healthy. One of my coaches, the late great Joe Lewis, once said to us “Guys, don’t follow me. I hate followers. I make a lot of mistakes in life and when I do, I can use some help. And do you know who can’t help me? Followers! A follower would only make the same mistakes or worse. When I need help, I need help from someone who knows more about a subject than I do. Remember, a good leader doesn’t have followers, they have fellowships with other leaders!” I live by this fellowship relationship today and always encourage my students to do likewise.
As children, we all start out as followers; we know we are ignorant of things that our parents understand better, and we seek to learn from them. To me, a healthy human being gradually moves away from this and learns to be self-sufficient as they mature into adulthood, mostly through proper parenting and coaching. However, there are still plenty of people in our society never seem to grow beyond this phase and will always look to be led by someone or something.
In the past, these follower types were typically led safely by the local religious and political leaders in their jurisdiction. For example, if you were an Irish Catholic living in County Cork in, say, 1930, you could blend into society and do ok just by following local rules. You certainly wouldn’t be faulted for not being a leader or thinking for your self, as long as you obeyed the laws of the local courts and churches.
In the Internet connected world of today, people have access to thoughts, ideas and religious beliefs from all over the world. This has caused many local rules to lose the intimate grip on society that they might have otherwise maintained. Ultimately, I believe this is a wonderful thing that will lead to even more great new technologies, products and unimaginably beautiful artistic creations, but unfortunately, it also comes with increased threats from con men and frauds (whom I suspect, range from ‘neither of us is ok’, to, ‘I’m ok you’re not’).
For young people today, it is hard to sort through all the conflicting data available, especially without help from parents, who are very likely to be less Internet sophisticated than the children themselves. For young children still going through the ‘you’re ok I’m not’ phase, it is very easy to get conned and manipulated by malicious information and persons online.
But Just How Far Can Such A Person Go?
Botnets, the networks of insecure systems that have been infected with a selfish, remotely controlled program, provide an interesting analogy to how social malware like ISIS functions.
A system used to attack others without being aware. That is a zombie, pure and simple. The zombie apocalypse doesn’t have to mean people rising from the dead like we typically imagine. The zombie apocalypse can simply mean large groups of vulnerable people getting infected with a sociopathic disease, inflicted with a selfish program, designed to execute murders of other innocent people. I argue this is exactly what is happening with the spread of ISIS. Young, insecure, impressionable people get infected with malicious code that instructs them to attack others without realizing the full extent of what they are doing and how they are being used.
Just how unaware are these infected human systems? In a recent episode of The Daily show, Jon Stewart read letters from discontented ISIS sign ups. While it was very funny to hear these kids wanting out because their cell phone connectivity sucked, or that there was no Xbox. The testimonials were quite telling of their naiveté.
The Nazis were also well known for their propaganda. It has been argued by many including Timothy Leary, that one can manipulate a society through the artistic use of religious and other social symbols. Look at what we know of North Korea and how the people have been taught for decades that the Kims are more than mortal men. But what is the countermeasure? I was mostly taught that the use of propaganda is an evil thing, but one can ask where does art end and propaganda begin? From Leary to Alvin Toffler, there are many who argue that using better propaganda is fair play. In fact both argue that the best countermeasure to bad propaganda is not censorship, but even better propaganda!
So How Do We Fix This?
Security is often described as three processes: prevention, detection and response. As the military and law enforcement become aware of an eminent life-threatening situation, they need to, at times, use deadly force. This is often a required response after detection.
So what about prevention?
I believe prevention starts with better parenting and coaching, and both of these are more easily executed with some good propaganda. This has always been a guiding theme of the band I have been playing in for over 35 years, Gung Ho! All the songs and posters we have made, and continue to make, are with the intent of creating a social meme that is constructive of a better future.
I have been an undying optimist all my life. I look at the future with wide-eyed wonder from high-speed rail, to mining the asteroids, to space migration, and I try my best to encourage the same in my children and my students. I believe when historians from 1000 years in the future look back at this time, they will describe a golden age. The first humans that flew into space will look like the first fish to smell air.
I was very inspired as a youth by the propaganda of the space program. And I believe I am a better person for it. I still believe in the future as a better place than the past.
I believe positive propaganda similar to that of the space program to be the cure for social malware like ISIS. Children who firmly believe they have a place in a wonderful future, I suspect will not grow up to join ISIS.
Of course, there will be need for detection and response to those who do get infected and turn zombie. But a long term fix to these social botnets is to flood the internet and social media outlets with increasingly better art forms; music, dance, images that carry a positive meanings. And of course, for parents, teachers and coaches of all kinds, to see to it that young people have access to these images and ideas. The word religion means to re (do again) league (bind together). The best scientists in the world claim that 13.7 or so billion years ago, we were all one. And then the big bang happened and everything in the universe separated and moved in different directions. ISIS members claim to be religious. I argue that they are far from “re-league-ing” and are quite the opposite or “de-ligious”
I also argue that the solutions I discussed to ISIS and all such “de-ligious” groups are already happening quite naturally. Everyday I see positive messages on the interwebs, coming from some awesomely talented and creative individuals. I believe the Internet, ultimately, has provided young people with a way for us all to learn more about each other. As this generation fabricates the next phase in humanity’s evolution, I suspect they do so with a larger consciousness of others. I see young people today naturally assuming Buckminster Fuller’s ethic for the modern engineer, to create things that “advantage all, without disadvantaging any”.
My job, I believe, is to just keep thinking, “I’m ok and so are you”.
Gung Ho! Everyone.