Delusion and Discrimination

Ezra, my 4 year-old grandson, has a favorite expression: “I NEED IT, RIGHT NOW!!!!”

“It’s not fair when I don’t get what I want” is a common lament we often hear from people of all ages. Employees at corporations who are in the top 1% of all wage earners frequently complain that they should be making as much or more than their peers. After all, “isn’t it obvious that my performance is far better than Jane’s?” Family members complain about perceived favoritism. “Why does Bill get so much attention, support, and praise? I never cause any problems, but it seems I always get the short shrift.” And, when it comes to getting along with others, 25% of people rate themselves in the top 1%. “Why don’t people recognize how superior my interpersonal skills are?” It’s not fair. 

I often wonder how much of this perceived unfairness is a function of delusion, and how much of it is a result of poor discrimination. How much truth is there to the complaints? What is a fair attribution of variance between delusion and discrimination? 

Title: *Explored*: Deep Space Visualisation by Candaş Şişman (TR), NOHlab/Plato Media Lab (TR) | Credit: Ars Electronica / Christopher Sonnleitner | Source: Flickr | License: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Title: *Explored*: Deep Space Visualisation by Candaş Şişman (TR), NOHlab/Plato Media Lab (TR) | Credit: Ars Electronica / Christopher Sonnleitner | Source: Flickr | License: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Delusion can be defined as an idiosyncratic belief or impression that is firmly maintained, despite being contradicted by superior evidence, or what is general accepted as reality. For example, in the current political circus, Donald Trump stands out as a person with serious delusions about his intelligence, capabilities, and presidential worthiness . . . even his wealth. If you haven’t watched the video by Jon Oliver on Trump’s veracity, consistency, and self awareness, it’s a must see: click here to watch it.

Discrimination is typically defined as making a distinction in favor of or against a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing is perceived to belong rather than on individual merit. While there can be no argument against the ugly history of racial, gender, ethnic, and sexual discrimination, I’m viewing discrimination here as a capability to make fair and accurate assessments based on impartial and objective evidence.

To me, fairness can only be achieved through impartial objectivity applied to ourselves and to others. Since 25% of all people can’t possibly be rated in the top 1%, how do you decide which members of that 1% deserve to be rated as such? Given the fact that only 1 person in 25 can be right in this case, self evaluation is not a valid measure. But what level of confidence should we have that the raters are being impartial and objective in making their discriminations? For example, returning to the Presidential race, how impartial and objective is Fox news in its assessment of the Democratic candidates? Please note that I’m not suggesting the equivalent is true for the New York Times‘ assessments of Republican candidates. In my mind, Fox news does not even come close to the standards of impartiality and objectivity pursued by the NYT. At least the NYT goes to extraordinary lengths to qualify its sources and disclose its relationships.

Surely, if you are a Fox News fan (an unlikely possibility if you are reading this post), you might claim that I am not only delusional but also making bad discriminations. And there is the rub in reaching any agreement on truth or fairness. Who decides what is delusional vs. what constitutes an accurate discrimination, and what is subjective partisanship vs. objective impartiality?

At this critical juncture in history, we should not be as concerned about what we want (think Ezra and his chocolate) and more concerned about what the country and the world needs; people should be less concerned with perceived unfairness and partisan ideology and more determined to look for evidence that reveals the truth.

When I first started writing this post, my intention was not to give it a political twist. I’ve been trying to stay out of the muck of this election because it only creates negative energy, and my purpose with this blog is to write about timeless and transcendent issues instead of temporal craziness. But this election has such far reaching consequences that I decided to get into the fray.

The original intent of this post was to write about our apparent inability to distinguish between subjective impressions and objective reality, between perceived unfairness and truth, between we want and what we need, and between what is true and untrue about ourselves. At age four, my grandson thinks he needs chocolate for breakfast. It’s understandable that at his age, he has a limited faculty for discernment, and fortunately, he can’t vote. But somewhere around 50% of the population want Trump to be President and, unfortunately, they can vote.

Let’s get real. In the decision to fill the most powerful position in the world, the place to start is with the requirements of the job. In my work identifying successful CEO’s, I always advise starting with the requirements of the job. For the US President, it seems to me that the primary competency requirements are:

  • Deep knowledge about global issues
  • Deep knowledge of and relationships with world leaders
  • Deep knowledge about social, economic, and political issues
  • High Intellectual Intelligence (for example, the ability to process objectively enormous amounts of information and generate innovative solutions)
  • High Emotional Intelligence (for example, the ability to collaborate and relate to very powerful and complex personalities and create diplomatic solutions and compromises)
  • High Spiritual Intelligence (for example, the ability to exercise restraint, act with integrity, and seek compassionate solutions)
  • High Physical Intelligence (for example, the ability to sustain high levels of energy under prolonged periods of unrelenting stress)

On March 1, 2016, there are still 7 candidates running for President of the US. While none of the candidates satisfy all of the requirements at the highest levels, six of the seven do not even come close. This election is more about a celebrity reality show that gives us plenty to laugh about than one of the most crucial and consequential elections in history. This is not a time to satisfy our wants and react to perceived unfairness by electing a president who appears to be tough, successful, and self-funding because he spits on political correctness, spats with anyone who disagrees with him, and spews insults about people instead of suggesting policy solutions. It is a time to dig deeply for the truth about who can best satisfy the requirements of the job and avoid making disastrous decisions. And that, by the way, is a timeless and transcendent principle.

I know it’s tempting to return to our 4-year-old mentality, scream about what we think we need, and give into our delusions that getting what we want will actually make us better. But this is not about chocolate for breakfast; it’s about the future of the planet.

I’m concerned that most of the candidates are delusional and most of the voters are making incredibly bad discriminations based on political or religious beliefs. I’m also chagrined that the best sources of truth in the public domain right now are coming from comics like Jon Oliver, Chris Rock and Trevor Noah. I’m not hoping that the candidates will become less delusional; I am hoping however, that the public becomes more discriminating. In tribute to Ezra, I NEED TRUMP TO LOSE . . . AND I NEED IT NOW!!!

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Also published on Medium.

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[…] In the next several months, I hope we will imagine a harmonious world order, stand for truth, and feel the responsibility required to sustain human life on this planet. And I hope that the American people will come to their senses and not prove democracy to be a really bad idea. Criticism is fine. Disagreement is good. Dissent is what makes America. But it needs to be grounded in facts and evidence. […]

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