Saturday, April 30, 2011

Shutting Down and Moving

The Earworm is shutting down and moving to WordPress.

The Earworm on Blogger was a great way for me to get my feet wet in the blogosphear but recently I decided to take things in a new direction.

To that end I'm re-focussing and re-branding the whole thing. No more Earworm! It was a cool idea at the start but in the end I found it a bit of a hinderance, better to write under my own name at this point. I'll keep the twitter feed @theearworm going for now but I will be gradually migrating all of my tweets and followers over to my personal feed @laurensheil in the coming months.

I chose to move to WordPress due to it's greater flexibility, better stats and overall I just like the look and feel of the system more. No offense to Blogger.

The Earworm will remain archived here and I will check in to follow up on comments from time to time.

To all my old Blogger and Earworm friends, I hope you make the move with me and continue to follow my evolution of thoughts and writtings.

Join me now at

As always, I hope you enjoy reading this blog as much as I enjoy writing it.


Friday, April 22, 2011

The Narcissism of Minor Differences

It is precisely the minor differences in people who are otherwise alike that form the basis of feelings of strangeness and hostility between them.
..It would be tempting to pursue this idea and to derive from this ‘narcissism of minor differences’ the hostility which in every human relation we see fighting against feelings of fellowship and overpowering the commandment that all men should love one another. – Sigmund Freud; The Taboo of Virginity

Over the past several weeks I’ve been working through the implications of a socioeconomic and political stance that places brotherly love above all things. I call it Meekonomics. The more I’ve thought about and studied this issue I’ve come to the conclusion that one of the strongest causes of division in society is what Freud called the narcissism of minor differences.

It is the little things that we obsess over. Racism, sexism and ethnic conflict are all based on relatively minor differences, things that either only go skin or even clothing deep or are predicated on behavioural differences that are difficult to detect in individuals. It’s only when you begin lumping people together in groups that the more subtle behavioural differences can even be detected.

As an example take the ongoing conflict in Israel/Palestine; taken out of the context of ethnic war and dressed in street clothes can anyone really tell the difference between an Israeli military officer and a Palestinian fighter? Or even more subtly, look at my profile picture; I’m a white male, am I American, British, German, French, Swedish, Australian, Russian, Canadian, or even possibly South African? Someone with an intimate knowledge of racial histories might be able to narrow it down based on some physical features and when I speak my accent would further give it away but these are all minor differences. They say nothing about the kind of person I am.

I recently reached out to a fellow blogger in Libya in an attempt to exchange ideas. He refused to engage with me citing my government’s involvement in the current Libyan conflict as some kind of evidence that I wasn’t worth conversing with. Sadly he couldn’t see me at all, when he looked at me the only thing he saw was a NATO commander wearing the insignia of the country I live in ordering airstrikes on the country he lived in. A minor difference prevented him from looking long enough to see the similarities in our thinking that could have gone a long way at bridging the gap between our major differences.

Major differences are paradoxically harder to detect but once recognized are easier to discuss and influence than the minor ones. Major differences are ideological but it is much easier to get me to change the way I think than to change the way I look. Unfortunately it is the way I look that most influences what other people think of me so the challenge in any dialogue over ideology is to get people to see past the outer layers and really hear what the person on the other side is saying.

My Libyan associate refused to do that. He accused me of something I have no influence over and made me guilty by association. I can`t tell you the number of times I have received similar challenges. They start out with the person on the other end making a blanket statement about some socioeconomic group that I may or may not be a part of and ends with the conclusion that I must therefore think or act the same way. Most often it has something to do with my faith or nationality. I`ve been told that as a Christ-follower I must therefore reject science and as a Canadian somehow I must have a genetic predisposition to love Ice Hockey; neither statements are true about me as an individual.

When we refused to look at and listen to people as individuals we rob them of their humanity. In order to live in peace with one another we need to give people back their humanity and do the hard work of ignoring our minor differences so we can talk about what really matters.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth. [Jesus, Matthew 5:5]

I came up with the term Meekonomics about a year and a half ago around the time when I read Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, and Daniel Bell’s The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism. Around that same time I was also engaged in a study of the Sermon on the Mount [Matthew 5-7] and many of the ideas of the world’s great economists seemed to create dissonance with the words of Jesus.

The idea came back to me this week as I read another book on the history of economics, The Worldly Philosophers by Robert L. Heilbroner.

In a nutshell, Meekonomics is my economic theory that it is better to give than to receive. Put in more practical economic terms, it is better produce than to consume.

It is by producing a product or service of value that you serve the consumer. The consumer rewards the producer with economic gain which he then reinvests in more or better products that better serve the needs of the consumer. But the goal of the producer is always one of service; gain for gain’s sake is greed which leads to all manner of abuses causing the system to collapse on itself.

On the contrary the producer must always remain meek (also translated; gentle, humble, patient and free of pride). A greedy producer will tend to start hoarding his wealth, stop investing in improvements, and even block the production of competitive products that in the long run may do an even better job of serving the consumer.

Producers who forget that they are servicing consumers will underpay their workers and over produce their goods on the mistaken assumption that there will always be a market for what they sell. When the consumer, who is also tied to the producer as a worker, can no longer afford to buy any products, sales will slump forcing the producer to further cut wages, slow production and reduce the work force eventually leading to economic collapse.

Consumers aren’t off the hook though; they too need to learn a few principles of Meekonomics. A meek consumer recognizes that the producer deserves to be paid for the products and services he provides. Quality is worth something. Not only the quality of the end product itself but also the way the producer treats his employees, his competitors and the environment. Greedy consumers care only about a bargain without thinking about how that rock bottom price was arrived at. Are the employees underpaid, is the producer destroying the environment, is the product safe? These are the questions a meek consumer needs to ask when faced with a price that seems unreasonably low.

When greedy consumers thoughtlessly flood to the lowest price producers will be forced to cut wages, slow production and reduce the work force eventually leading to economic collapse.

Do you see the pattern here?

It’s a delicate balance. Producers and consumers need to live in symbiosis so that the market can be self-regulating. That takes meekness on everyone’s part.

The single biggest threat to a balanced market is greed. When one side of the equation gets greedy the other feels threatened and starts to take steps to protect its interests. The organization of labour, trade unions, consumer protection agencies, industry associations and government lobby groups are all driven by greed, either active greed, the desire for more or passive greed, otherwise known as protectionism.

Some will say that at its heart Meekonomics is the very definition of laissez faire but there is one very distinct difference. Traditionally laissez faire has led to class distinctions and inequality while Meekonomics recognizes equality between producers, workers and consumers. Not economic equality like Marxism or communism but moral equality. The truly meek person (gentle, humble) will never turn his back on a person in need because he sees him as his moral equal. Morality after all is not measured in dollars and cents.

The greatest lie ever told is that some people are worth less than others. The philosophy of Meekonomics wholeheartedly rejects that claim and seeks to help everyone participate in the system. It recognizes that investment in public infrastructure, education and health care will pay dividends for years to come and that the beggar on the street could be a worker who lost his job when you opted to buy that cheap knock off rather than the real thing.

“There but for the grace of God go I” is the mantra of the meek. Now since you have received God’s grace, it is your responsibility to give it back in some way.

Meekonomics is not a utopian ideal. I believe it is the way the world has always been intended to work and that it is greed that continues to undermine a properly functioning market economy. When we successfully banish greed, then and only then shall we learn what it means to inherit the earth.