The middle game IS the game

As a couple committed to that which is True, Good and Beautiful (add Noble specially for me), it is fair to say that my Beloved and I have not chosen an easy path. M wrote this on his FB and I got compelled to share it here because it is probably the most succinct way to express the depths of M.

When, like M,  you have a brilliant mind working in perfect harmony with an equally amazing heart, and have the patience of a baobab tree, you are destined to achieve amazing things. It is  fascinating for me to live by the man's side, surrounded by his wisdom. My hot temper makes me sometimes lose sight of the goal, especially when the middle game is so complex and takes forever, but a glance at him and I am back on track. I then hold his hand tighter, and together we make our moves.

So here is what my Beloved posted on his status:

"When I was in high school I played pick-up chess at the public library in Aspen. At one point, a chess junkie who used to be Spassky's tennis partner on the tours played me several games with me and then told me, "You've got an amazing middle game. Your opening game is mediocre and your end game is terrible. But I can train you how to do those. The middle game is the hardest part to train - it requires a deep intuition." I chose not to train with him because I didn't want to give my life over to a game, but ever since I've identified as a middle game player. In a sense, I feel like I'm always playing middle game, trying to intuit how to get where I'm going, but never having the satisfaction of playing the decisive moves of the end game."

To which, one of his friends asked him to discuss further. He then replied:

In order to explain I must first explain the nature of the "opponent" with which I struggle. Coming out of St. John's, I wanted to pursue the True, the Good, and the Beautiful. One of the most obvious forces opposing the Good seemed to me to be free market economists, who advocated for a system that rewarded greedy business people for stoking the flames of materialism and consumerism. As someone in love with the Greek ideal of a virtue culture, this seemed self-evidently evil. So I went to the University of Chicago to examine the Chicago economists from the inside to discover the moral and intellectual errors that led them to promote such an evil system. I discovered that I had not really understood economics. There is nothing intrinsic to free markets or economics that necessarily rewards greed nor that necessarily rewards stoking the flames of materialism. I worked within Gary Becker's framework to create a theoretical structure within which markets would reward virtue, primarily though education. At the same time on the practical side I began providing Socratic teacher trainings through Mortimer Adler's Paideia Program in order to inculcate virtues in public school classrooms. As I shifted to the development of a framework for virtue development that was consistent with economics, I discovered the fury that mainstream academia has for those apostates who work within a market-oriented framework. Despite the fact that my goals as an educator were intellectual and moral goals that most professors would enthusiastically support, because I was now identified with "Chicago economics" I was attacked, ostracized, or ignored. I then spent fifteen years actually creating schools, and again found that because I no longer believed in government schools, even though I was doing work that Enlightenment liberals should love, I was still attacked, ostracized, or ignored. I then began working with John Mackey to promote entrepreneurial solutions to world problems. Again although the substance of each entrepreneurial solution I proposed was largely aligned with the goals of Enlightenment liberals, the same reaction from the academic establishment. Finally, in my work with Startup Cities, the same thing. Thus I feel as if my most tenacious opponent for the last several decades has been the anti-capitalist bigotry of academic intellectuals. Where ever I go, their deep, irrational tribal loyalties prevent me from making progress that is as deep and wide-ranging as it should be. On my part I've been trying to establish such unimpeachable "goods" associated with improving the lives of the poor (in terms of much of my work in FLOW and Startup Cities) and developing intellectually engaged, cognitively sophisticated learners with a moral sensibility (in my education work) that intellectually honest academics would begin to concede position. But it has been a very long, difficult struggle. I had thought our side was making progress in the early decades of this millennium, but then GW Bush's hypocritical use of market rhetoric set us back, and then the 2008 crisis set us back much further. It feels like a chess board where we are fighting for the moral and intellectual high ground, and we are struggling to get the advantage of a pawn or two so that when we move to the end game we will have the advantage needed to win. Their position is intrinsically weaker, but because they've got almost all of academia, the mainstream media, and the K-12 system on their side, our side faces a very tough struggle. Worse yet, untutored human nature is naturally anti-capitalist, as Hayek pointed out, so a corrupt Krugman can pander to the natural economic ignorance of humanities scholars and ordinary people and thereby have immense influence. Thus the only way to win this battle is for the most intellectually influential individuals to acknowledge the power of the best arguments on behalf of entrepreneurship and markets. As you well know, we are still in the middle game on this issue. But at some point we will enter the end game, and if our positional advantage is strong enough, we will win decisively. I expect that you and I are young enough that within our lifetimes the anti-capitalist bigotry of 20th century intellectuals (now extending into the 21st) will exercise a morbid fascination for thoughtful, intelligent minds looking back at the damage for which such people are responsible."

Hold On Forever!

tumblr_mc0w6cTzam1ryr9i1o1_500 Earlier this week, I received a letter from one of my Senegalese fans, B. Her letter hit me hard, for its rawness and truth. Although my life is very hectic, I wanted to get back to her rather sooner than later, because we cannot afford to lose any such engaged person to hopelessness and despair.

I also decided to post her letter here and my answer, because I know many go through the same. And I am trying to lift them up through this as well.

Read on, and hope it helps.

B's Letter:

Hi Magatte,

It's 2h30 am in Dakar and I cannot sleep...I have been very troubled these days and my mind constantly keeps going back to you. You know, when discouragement hits me really hard, I listen to the Coran, my beloved Khasidas and I read/watch inspirational talks/quotes. Among them are your youtube videos and blog. You are such an inspiration, machallah! So, I thought I would write to you to share a couple of concerns and hopefully pick your brain and get unstuck.

Magatte, I am very concerned about our country's economic development and I am trying my best to make my little contribution. I know I am still very far and that the road will be a long one. First, because working in a so-called development agency is not the best place where you can effect meaningful change, hence I am considering making a drastic change. Secondly, because I have not identified yet a field, an area and issue that will keep me awake in the middle of the night (like you said at the Global Competitiveness Forum, I loved that). Everything is a priority area for Senegal and Africa and it can be overwhelming to pick and commit to one fight (education, health, citizenship, access to water, people's empowerment etc)! I personally believe that being spread out is not an option, especially if one want to get meaningful results. Magatte, how do you choose one cause to fight for the rest of your life when so many issues move you to tears?

I was just reading your blogpost titled "My biggest fear" and this sentence deeply resonated with me: "Thus if I became famous like some freaks I will not name here or for some BS, I would not be happy, at all." This might sound like an unfair generalization but I have come to realize that our people give precedence to looks, wealth, fame, elegance, over substance, authenticity and hard work. People like to take shortcuts and being famous at any cost is what seems to drive the majority of Senegalese, hence the booming of "top models", wrestlers, actresses, tv presenters, politicians-by-training (and not for genuinely serving the community), people who indulge in multiple TV appearances where they make shallow interventions. I have nothing against people being artistic or into sports and expressing their inner talents through those means. However, the core of the matter is to be seen and "sagn-see ba diek". Even if you are selling BS, people will worship you. Sometimes it saddens me to see that the millions for whom a few are genuinely fighting for do not seem to care about development, about doing what is right, about preserving our values. People lie and take shortcuts to be rich and famous. Girls sell their souls for petty cash. It saddens me that the majority of the Senegalese population gets abused by BS-tellers who manipulate them and seek political power just to just fill up their bank accounts. Magatte, where does one find the energy to keep on fighting when the majority don't give a damn and barely listen? How does one keep on fighting when trying to be genuine+authentic in a general atmosphere where one is looked at like an alien? I am just in tears as I am writing this...

I hope you will have time to read my long message and look forward to your insights. You really give me strength to push through the disappointments.

Love,

B

 

My  Answer:

Hello My Dear B!

Sorry it took me awhile to get back to you. I have been very busy.

I know too well the feelings and realities that you are describing. It is not surprising you feel development agencies are not the proper answer to our situation and needs. Because they simply are not!!! For many reasons, that I am sure you probably understand better than most by now. So I support you getting out of there, because we cannot afford to have the very few youth (and people in general) who have their heart + mind in the right place slowly give into the ranks of the "establishment" because they got beat. So get out before you let your fighting soul die there!

All those problems you are referring to (when you say "education, health, citizenship, access to water, people's empowerment etc") have to do with ONE cause at the end of the day: POVERTY more or less directly!! And poverty is because people have no jobs. And we know jobs are created by entrepreneurs. So in a way, you already do know what keeps you up at night :) And the remedy is a "monomaniacal focus on entrepreneurship". Everything that you do from here on should focus on supporting entrepreneurship. It does not matter if you decide to work from the Education, Government, Private or NGO sector, you need to be laser focused on "How can I support entrepreneurship from my position". So pick what you are most excited/passionate about and operate from there.

As for all the crass-ness and mediocrity surrounding you that you are referring to, I can understand how frustrating it can be. And it is tempting to lift up your hands in the air with a defeated "Why even bother? I give up!". But in times like this , you must remember that you are not alone in this. Somewhere else, 10 feet away from you, or 10,000 miles away from you, someone else is fighting your fight. Your job is to find them and together create little islands of excellence in everything you do and the way you do it (especially having and taking pride in not cutting corners). At some point others will start noticing, and wanting to emulate that for you would have created something very irresistible.

Things will change, I believe that firmly. But things will change because of people like YOU! And every little thing you do counts. Cheikh Amadou Bamba, Mandela, Ghandi, Dr King, and countless others all operated within very hostile environments, and they still managed to win their battles. I am trying to give up on being mad at my fellow contemporaries, but it does not mean that I am happy to say "Oh this is the way it is". Instead, I focus on those beautiful alternatives I am working on creating for them. I know that the day those become real, others will slowly embrace them. And at some point it will become the new norm. Most will resist at first of course, because as humans we are creatures of habit. But there are always going to be those 2-3 first people to join you. And those are the ones who will change everything. But you have to create "IT" first, for them to have something to rally to. At the end of the day, "there is nothing to promote until there is something to sell". So go back to your core, remember your dreams for your country and the world you live in, and get back to work! Be relentless at it and only llisten to that small voice in you, the voice of God. Let that voice and its comfort guide you as you create your "it" and they will come! Criticize by Creating!!! Hope it helps! Much Love.

Magatte

A GrandMother's Advice

http://youtu.be/VhfF2Bd7xj0 "Conseil" (french word for "advice") is Youssou Ndour's new single. And I LOVE it!!!!

Youssou  just entered the Presidential Election Race for Senegal, but I will not comment on that today. All I want to do today (and doing) is dance! Once again his lyrics are full of comfort for those, who like me, vowed to live their life with Honor and Dignity in a world unfortunately currently overwhelmed with  Mediocrity and Crassness, with messages like this:

"The Truth is the only thing that should be of  interest to you

If you have something grave to say, think it through

It is worth being alone with God (meditating)

If it's money, it's not worth it

If it's something else, it's not worth it

Don't sell out your honor nor your dignity

Because everything has an end eventually..."

And he says that it is the advice his grandma gave him. Mine did too!!!! I so miss my GrandMother Arame Ngom!

Cowgirl Code

On this blog post, I saw the following and very interesting concept of "Cowboy Code". While my answer to the author is that I think Capital Hill should adopt this ideology, I also would love to see more girls and women adopt it too! More dignity and honor would be  great for a change, and I believe we, the ladies-chicks-nanas (whatever you want to call yourself) have a great role model opportunity to shape the world to be a better place:

Here are the Ten Principles of Cowboy Ethics:

1. Live each day with courage

2. Take pride in your work

3. Always finish what you start

4. Do what has to be done

5. Be tough, but fair

6. When you make a promise, keep it

7. Ride for the brand

8. Talk less and say more

9. Remember that some things aren’t for sale

10. Know where to draw the line"