The word “calamus,” from ancient Greek, refers to the reed used as a spice, as well as the hard part of a feather quill used to create pen tips. To adapt and extend the 15 second encounter concept first articulated by Jan Carlzon, former CEO of SAS Airlines: we are calamus, as pen tips of the digital age, we are writing the future “15 seconds at a time” by our encounters with others.
Recapturing core concepts and rebuilding lost foundations
During an Austin, TX trade mission in May 2012, James Warlick (then US Ambassador to Bulgaria) gave an articulate and passionate talk that the Rule of Law must be the foundation of a sound economy, anywhere and always. We are not free to do wrong, to ourselves or others. Back in the 1919 case, Schenck v. United States, Oliver Wendell Holmes coined the now-famous phrase that we are not free to shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre. Nor are we free to open fire in a theatre with weapons of any kind.
We have parts of at least two generations who simply missed that, based on conditions they lived under. As I learned during my week-long Lima retreat with international ethics trainer Edward Schmidt, who has taught in half-a-dozen South American countries, an effective way to teach basic moral concepts for demographic groups who have either no historical context for the rule of law, or for those in which the social fabric has unraveled; is to teach small groups by way of imparting examples of social stigma (behaviors to avoid and what to do instead), because some populations have such a different experience that our western cultural canon simply does not resonate with them.
Everything old is new again
Prayer has returned to public schools in Sandy Hook Elementary. What I wrote two years ago is even more true today. US President Theodore Roosevelt famously said “to educate in mind but not in morals is to prepare a menace to society” which is more visibly true than in the past 50+ years. Serious students of science and the arts, from Camille Paglia to Christina Hoff Sommers recognize that we have been floating adrift for well over a century, as a cabal of mongrel minds (Marx, Engels, Freud, Nietzsche, Sartre, de Beauvoir) worked tirelessly to recruit passengers on Das Narrenschiff (the ship of fools). We can fight fire with fire and “work smarter” to engage in cultural renewal with the genius of Sun Tzu: the wisest warrior wins by convincing her opponent not to battle.
Freedom is never license. Freedom is always and only the opportunity to choose the good. Social stigma scales with disruptive advantage because it is not rational. Without the rigor of logic, it sidesteps the “demand for a canonical path from old to new,” accommodates the social economy of research cultures and dovetails with the “paradigm shift” concept. Using social stigma to renew the culture, blending the tech fluency of today’s media-sound-bite populace with the time-tested values of the “Greatest Generation” is a very disruptive innovation.
The Sophrosyne Project
Sophrosyne (σωφροσύνη) is the Greek goddess of moderation, self-control, temperance, restraint and discretion. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, women are the pinnacle achievement of the human race. Our vision for today’s intelligent, informed, enthusiastic Sophrosyne project representatives:
“We are the spice of life. We are calamus, the quill and the spice. We are the pen tips of the digital age. We are the voice of reason and emotion. We embrace the discipline of a healthy body and the sanctity of a holy body. We inform reason through compassion as only the feminine genius can.”
The Sophrosyne Project is an inter-cultural, international effort to achieve three decade-long goals, with a distinctively systems thinking edge:
- foster radically better outcomes for women who choose engineering, finance, science or technology careers
- foster better outcomes for the first post-communist generation of children in the emerging economies of Europe
- eliminate the scourge of “trafficking in the womb” from the Americas to foster healthier families throughout the hemisphere.
The “ground game” is to build brand and cultural awareness in today’s topsy-turvy world, where being good is counter-cultural. We can be “cultural revolutionaries” by hosting an expanding series of events to identify, engage, encourage and uplift girls and young women between the ages of 14-24 to be brand representatives and spokeswomen in local communities!
The Sophrosyne Project is one more spark igniting a thousand torches to illumine the shadows of human behavior. In making it easy to do good and hard to do bad, we will encourage many and enrage a few. Steve Poole offers a healthy counterpoint to some of today’s current media darlings. I’m all in favor of that creative destruction which Schumpeter championed back in 1942. I am animated to pour my life into these two projects because my 4-year old son needs a better world grow up in. Bravery animates us to speak the truth in love, especially when the truth will challenge the status quo.