Whining While Complicit

October 1, 2000

In this issue:

Whining While Complicit, by John Renesch

More Newsbriefs

New Name Selected for Aha!




According to Po Bronson, author of Nudist on the Late Shift, “People in Silicon Valley are not happy, and have no ambition to be happy. They want to live the ‘great lie’.” He made this statement while being interviewed on the book channel – C-Span2.



Whining While Complicit

by John Renesch

2000 © John Renesch

Have you wondered about who is responsible for the degeneration of community in our cities, the growing disrespect for law, the lowering standard for good taste and aesthetics? Have you ever wondered how our society seems to be steadily losing its desire for beauty, order and elegance, exchanging these time-honored values for the sake of convenience, instant gratification and economic vomit?

As I witness people in discussion about this gradual demise of good taste and commercial-free living I see a tendency for many people to point fingers at a number of culprits – none of which seem to have anything to do with them. The problems – such as the dissolution of the nuclear family, our over-crowded school systems, under-staffed police departments and television violence – seem to be caused by “someone” other than the complainers. At cocktail parties and around the hallway water cooler we take solace in keeping the source of these problems “over there” – outside of our realm of influence or responsibility.

Certainly it seems that way, doesn’t it? After all, I don’t know anyone who sprays graffiti on public walls. I obey the law. I abhor violence of any kind. I hate all the advertising I am exposed to and feel imposed upon as fewer and fewer spaces in my daily view are free from four-color ads and hype. For all I can see, the problems are definitely caused by others. Not me. Oh yeah?

Have you ever wondered how things have gradually gone to hell without your participation? Is it possible you have been supporting this trend that you publicly object to so avidly? Could it be that you have been and continue to be complicit – a collaborator in this trend that threatens our quality of life? “No way!” you say. Well, that’s what I thought about a major global problem – the subjugation of women. That is, until last year.

On one Saturday morning I attended a workshop sponsored by The Hunger Project (THP) – a non-profit organization which has concluded that the subjugation of women in the world is at the core of persistent and chronic hunger in the developing nations.

I was moved to tears throughout the time I was there, as I listened to presenters who work with and for THP, including a longtime colleague Lynne Twist.

I was never as aware of my middle-aged, white male, American-ness as I was that day. I live in the U.S. as a member of the “ruling class” – the segment of society that is the most privileged and probably the most unconscious of this pernicious marginalization of half the world’s population.

On this day I learned that:

  1. Women produce 80% of the food in Africa; 65% in Asia;
  2. Particularly in third world countries, women eat the least and eat last, yet are expected to be the nurturers of the entire family;
  3. Approximately 585,000 women die in childbirth each year; the death rate is 100X higher in developing countries than in developed ones;
  4. For every woman who dies in childbirth, thirty more endure infections or injuries which are often lifelong sources of pain, disablement and embarrassment;
  5. More than 6,000 Indian brides are burned to death because their dowries are considered inadequate; the accepted explanation: a “kitchen accident;”
  6. In China and India, fetuses are tested for gender and, if they are female, they are aborted;
  7. In both these countries, poor families often kill female children, considering it a “mercy killing;”
  8. Roughly 60 million women are currently designated as “missing” in the world today;
  9. Females in the developing countries rarely get to go to school – reserved for the boys (after all, why waste an education on the girl, who will either die prematurely or get married); and “she’s only a girl;”
  10. The world already knows that education for women is related to population growth and infant mortality; for EVERY YEAR beyond the 4th grade that girls go to school, family sizes shrink 20%, child deaths drop 10% and wages rise 20%; yet international aid for education has dropped steadily (a 41% drop between 1975 and 1990);
  11. Throughout many cultures, girls have their genitalia routinely mutilated, usually without any anesthetic, so as to be sure they do not “enjoy” sex.

Walking along the streets of San Francisco following the workshop, I was still deeply moved. I looked at what role I played in this horrific practice. I “knew” that I was complicit in some way. After all, I am a fellow human being, and this practice is prevalent in many parts of the world. So, how do I participate? How was I complicit?

It came to me quite quickly once I allowed the question to come to the surface of my consciousness. It hit me like a lightning bolt. I was complicit by my own complacency. My complacency was maintained by being white, living in the United States, and being a man. From this privileged perspective, it was difficult to even know about these goings on in the world. One had to seek out this information, and if one is not among those disenfranchised in society – minorities, women and people living in poverty-prone environments – why would want to?

Now I know about these matters and I see and own my own complicity, I have a choice about how or what I may do something about them. But now I am awake and aware of my complicity which makes me far less interested in finding fault with others about our problems.



Paul Walker is the author of this month’s guest editorial in eCHOICE , John’s UNfree e-newsletter. Paul is head of leadership and team development for Conexant Systems, Inc., the microprocessing chip-maker/conglomerate that was spun off from Rockwell a year or so ago. In his article, entitled “The Greatest Teacher,” Paul talks about a recent rafting excursion with his company’s senior mamngement team. He points out that, “True learning is a multi-sensory process.” To subscribe to eCHOICE (see information below).



Jane Alexander, CNN newscaster, will be interviewing John for SBTV.com (Small Business TV) later this month for an anticipated new thread for the Webcaster – a series focused on spirituality in business.



Thanks to the subscribers who sent in their ideas about a new name for Aha! The new title will be (drum role please)….

Better Future News: The Free Newsletter from Renesch.com.

Starting next month, the newsletter will bear the new title, so be sure to remember this new name when it arrived in your inbox in early November.



“Getting to the Better Future: A Matter of Conscious Choosing”

by John E. Renesch from New Business Books of San Francisco…

Foreword by Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop.
Rave reviews by Warren Bennis, Neale Donald Walsch, Peter Russell, Sally Helgesen, Michael Ray and others…..

For preview, go to Getting to the Better Future



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About John Renesch

Aha! is prepared monthly by John E. Renesch, a San Francisco writer, futurist, and business philosopher. His new book – Getting to the Better Future: A Matter of Conscious Choosing – is just out. He served as Editor-in-Chief of The New Leaders business newsletter from 1990 to 1997 and has created a dozen business anthologies on progressive business subjects, including consciousness, intuition and leadership. These books include New Traditions in Business, Learning Organizations and The New Bottom Line.

He is also an international keynote speaker, having addressed audiences in Tokyo, Seoul, London, Brussels, Budapest as well as many cities throughout the U.S.

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John Renesch

John is a seasoned businessman-turned-futurist who has published 14 books and hundreds of articles on social and organizational transformation.

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