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Rabbit Holes 🕳️ #56
From the business case to do the right thing to happiness through sustainability, the importance of disengagement, the missing revolution, and reindigenisation
Let me be bold and preface this by saying this Rabbit Holes issue is a BANGER! 🤪
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THIS WEEK → 💼 The Business Case For Good 🌞 Happiness Through Sustainability 🧘♂️ The Importance of Disengagement ➕ The Missing Revolution 🚿 Reindigenisation
Rabbit Holes 🕳️
As always, here are three perspective-shifting ideas to create a better world, plus some fun extras below. Enjoy!
#1 💼 The Business Case For Good
This is an older article but I saw it being shared recently on LinkedIn by the author, and after reading it, I think it’s (unfortunately) still very timely and insightful. The bigger picture here, in my opinion, is the misalignment of economic (or business) ideals with ethics and “the right thing” in general. The grotesque situation of having to make a business case for doing good coupled with the massive importance we give to business and the economy overall, shows the necessity for radical, systemic change. If one of the most essential systems of humanity struggles to make a case for doing the right thing, then what use does it have?
“I’ve been a consultant for almost 20 years, advising companies on complex challenges in ethics, risk, and responsibility. Each year several clients raise the same issue: the need to get buy-in from a skeptical senior executive in order to demonstrate a concrete benefit that will follow a proposed investment in an ethical business initiative or function. The executive needs a business case. And so I get asked questions like “What evidence can I provide that doing the right thing will make or save a company money?” […]
Many managers can easily recite the business case for ethics: Who doesn’t want better risk management, deeper employee engagement, reduced regulatory costs, public trust, and a lure to purpose-driven Millennials? […]
The problem is that our obsession with making the business case for ethics makes us sound apologetic and hollow. After all, there is also a business case for tax avoidance, deregulation, and even higher death rates. We do ourselves — and the world — no favors by locking ourselves into this instrumentalist argument. There are (at least) three major flaws with it.
Metrics Are Not Your Friends
[…] While there is a business case for integrity, an organization that embraces it must make a conscious decision to prioritize the long term, the intangible, and the existential over the specific and measurable. […] Moreover, the business benefits of integrity have many variables. […] How do you know that recent growth resulted from greater public trust in a product, not a competitor’s screw-up? Such difficulties in attributing causation have led to a focus on recording effort rather than impact, and they have driven initiatives that are incremental rather than transformational.
You’ll Never Convince a Skeptic
Frankly, I’ve never attended a meeting at which a doubtful executive was won over solely by a business case for integrity, no matter how persuasively it was delivered. […] There is evidence that simply introducing the concept of the financial benefits of ethics might muddy your case, since focusing on money undermines peoples’ ethical intentions. […]
It’s [the business case] Not Your Best Argument
On the other hand, senior executives often respond enthusiastically to the potential of business integrity to provide an inspirational narrative. Amid the world’s faltering political will to tackle long-term social and environmental challenges, business is well-placed to assume a leadership role. Most corporate leaders know this. They understand the power of reputation and relationships. They think often and hard about their personal legacy at the company and their opportunity to change the world for the better. […]
Arguing that companies should prioritize integrity simply because it is the right thing to do could not be more unfashionable. It is not surprising that we avoid it. But our fear of sounding naïve means we’ve ended up in the unenviable position of trying to make a simplistic commercial case for corporate “purpose” — contradicting and exposing ourselves in the process.”
» Harvard Business Review | We Shouldn’t Always Need a “Business Case” to Do the Right Thing by Alison Taylor
#2 🌞 Happiness Through Sustainability
This is an excellent tale of how the sustainable option can also be the more joyful, happiness-inducing option. In this case, it’s the simple act of replacing a car with an e-bike. I believe that we urgently need to focus on exactly these types of opportunities: Sustainable solutions that are more joyful than their non-sustainable alternatives. And no, please don’t think about convenience + sustainability... As this example shows, the less convenient option (the bike) is still the better option in the end.
“A year ago, my wife and I sold one of our cars and replaced it with an e-bike. As someone who writes about climate change, I knew that I was doing something good for the planet. […]
But I also viewed getting rid of my car as a sacrifice—something for the militant and reckless, something that Greenpeace volunteers did to make the world better. I live in Colorado; e-biking would mean freezing in the winter and sweating in the summer. It was the right thing to do, I thought, but it was not going to be fun.
I was very wrong. […]
Biking to work wasn’t just not unpleasant—it was downright enjoyable. It made me feel happier and healthier; I arrived to work a little more buoyant for having spent the morning in fresh air rather than traffic. Study after study shows that people with longer car commutes are more likely to experience poor health outcomes and lower personal well-being—and that cyclists are the happiest commuters.
One day, shortly after selling our car, I hopped on my bike after a stressful day at work and rode home down a street edged with changing fall leaves. I felt more connected to the physical environment around me than I had when I’d traveled the same route surrounded by metal and glass. I breathed in the air, my muscles relaxed, and I grinned like a giddy schoolchild. […]
Of course, e-bikes aren’t going to replace every car on every trip. […] But we don’t need everyone to ride an e-bike to work to make a big dent in our carbon-pollution problem. A recent study found that if 5 percent of commuters were to switch to e-bikes as their mode of transportation, emissions would fall by 4 percent. […]
E-bikes are such a no-brainer for individuals, and for the collective, that state and local governments are now subsidizing them. In May, I asked Will Toor, the executive director of the Colorado Energy Office, to explain the state’s rationale for a newly passed incentive that offers residents $450 to get an e-bike. He dutifully ticked through the environmental benefits and potential cost savings for low-income people. Then he surprised me: The legislation, he added, was also about ‘putting more joy into the world.’”
#3 🧘♂️ The Importance of Disengagement
This is a fantastic article that highlights the importance of disengagement, leave-taking, escaping the routine, leisure, and anti-work, and frames these acts as solutions rather than acts of capitulation or escapism. It’s a long read, but I encourage you to read the entire piece – I definitely struggled to keep the excerpt below short because it was all so interesting 😅. The thoughts here are very much in line with my piece on Pleasure Activism, the idea of rest as resistance, the power of killing time, and the need for contemplation that I shared in previous issues.
“Acts of disengagement are routinely met with scepticism, judgment and pushback in public discourse. What if we were to treat them instead as opportunities for open enquiry and ask what is to be gained by them? In that spirit, I propose an expanded lexicon that speaks to the benefits of escaping (even temporarily) the confines of waged work; of disconnecting from the enmeshments of a modern existence; and of seizing interludes for contemplation in a world that is chockablock with demands and distractions. […]
Seldom do we reckon with the costs of civic engagement or even frame that as a problem unto itself. […] The social media from which many of us reflexively gather our news and perspectives increasingly command our attention, virtually eroding opportunities for independent thought. In short, there is much to be anxious about, and moments of Thoreauvian withdrawal, in which we remove ourselves from the grid, might allow for some measure of self-preservation and sanity.
But this isn’t just about seeking exit from the turmoil of a modern, connected existence, nor is it merely about recharging our batteries so that we can absorb yet more political polarisation, toxic social media or climate catastrophe. It is also about engaging in a social policy of degrowth as a corrective to practices that are taxing the planet, overheating our politics, and putting a strain on our individual and collective health.
Writing in Big Issue magazine in 2020, the anthropologist and activist David Graeber put it pointedly: ‘If we want to save the world, we’re going to have to stop working.’ His observation echoes the philosopher Bertrand Russell, who asserted in the essay In Praise of Idleness (1932):
‘I think that there is far too much work done in the world, that immense harm is caused by the belief that work is virtuous, and that what needs to be preached in modern industrial countries is quite different from what always has been preached.’
Statements such as these acknowledge our own role in maintaining the schemes – hustle culture, time poverty, consumer capitalism, infinite growth – that threaten the very survival of our species or otherwise sabotage our prospects for a more satisfying life.
It is often only in the interludes that we come to realise just how much our busy lives are an active conspiracy against the very things that supposedly give our existence a deeper sense of meaning and purpose. […]
Withdrawal has an almost universally negative connotation in public life, where it is treated as the ultimate transgression and disdained as retreat or defeat – the very opposite of engagement. However, to withdraw is also, crucially, to repair – both to go to a place and to mend. From this perspective, withdrawal is not merely a defeatist tack; rather, it is, or can be, direct action for a restoration of intellectual life […]. […]
‘Leisure … is outside of work and outside of inactivity,’ explains Byung-Chul Han. ‘It is not a practice of “relaxation” or of “switching off”.’ Han continues: ‘Thus, St Augustine distinguishes leisure (otium) from passive inertia: “The attraction of a life of leisure ought not to be the prospect of a lazy inactivity, but the chance for the investigation and discovery of truth”.’ […]
[…] There are alternatives to the way we live now, and interludes provide the distance we need to recognise them. A good interlude can alert us to much of what we’ve been missing. In Hampl’s phrasing: ‘What a surprise – to discover it’s all about leisure, apparently, this fugitive Real Life, abandoned all those years to “the limitless capacity for toil”.’”
📕 If We Burn - The Mass Protest Decade and the Missing Revolution by Vincent Bevins
”From 2010 to 2020, more people participated in protests than at any other point in human history. Yet we are not living in more just and democratic societies as a result. IF WE BURN is a stirring work of history built around a single, vital question: How did so many mass protests lead to the opposite of what they asked for?”
📕 Black AF History - The Un-Whitewashed Story of America by Michael Harriot
”In Black AF History, Michael Harriot presents a more accurate version of American history. Combining unapologetically provocative storytelling with meticulous research based on primary sources as well as the work of pioneering Black historians, scholars, and journalists, Harriot removes the white sugarcoating from the American story, placing Black people squarely at the center.”
📕 The Age of Magical Overthinking - Notes on Modern Irrationality by Amanda Montell
“‘Magical thinking’ can be broadly defined as the belief that one’s internal thoughts can affect unrelated events in the external world. […] In all its forms, magical thinking works in service of restoring agency amid chaos, but in The Age of Magical Overthinking, Montell argues that in the modern information age, our brain’s coping mechanisms have been overloaded, and our irrationality turned up to an eleven.”
💡 How The Youth Boom In Africa Will Change The World by Declan Walsh (New York Times) (without paywall)
”By 2050, one in four people on the planet will be African, a seismic change that’s already starting to register. You can hear it in the music the world listens to. You can see it in movies, fashion and politics. You can sense it in the entrepreneurial drive of young Africans, and the urgent scramble for jobs. You can see it in the waves of youth who risk all to migrate, and in the dilemmas of those who remain. A person’s two open palms, crossed, and holding a small I.D. photo of a young man. The world is becoming more African.”
🚿 Shower Thoughts
That’s it for this week!
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