Every Crisis Is The End Of An Illusion

So I read a book earlier this year called “The Secrets of Consulting”. It was a very good book. You can read my review here. There was one part of the book that I didn’t put in the review that really stuck with me. I have been thinking about it a lot recently.

“It may look like a crisis, but it is only the end of an illusion.”

The Secrets of Consulting page 149

You see this often in business and in software. There is some problem like lack of organization, lack of coordination, lack of knowledge or perhaps in the software world we rack up a bunch of technical debt. Somehow in spite of that problem we are able to succeed, at least in the beginning. We know the problem exists. We know we should take the time to go back and fix the problem but for whatever reason we don’t.

What do we do instead? We create an illusion. We convince ourselves everything is fine. Every time the problem pops up its head, we justify in our heads why we don’t just go fix it. Oh it’s an isolated incident. It’s not really that important anyway. Oh that is someone else’s problem. That doesn’t directly affect me, so I don’t have to worry about it.

That illusion and the justifications we give ourselves allow us to march on and ignore the problems. We aren’t living in reality. We are living in an illusion that we built. At some point that illusion clashes with reality in a way that we cannot ignore. The startup that was borrowing money like crazy but never turned a profit runs out of backers and money. The government system that was relying on 40 year old cobalt code gets overloaded when the coronavirus hits and they can’t find any COBOL programmers. Blockbuster finally realizes that people aren’t renting physical tapes and DVDs any more. Kodak realizes one day that people no longer buy film. We act like it is a crisis, but all of these things are predictable if we are living in reality.

It is worth noting that these events were very painful for the people involved when the illusion finally ended. It was not the situation itself (they could have adapted) that caused the pain, but rather the illusion itself.

“… people can create illusions, which they build to replace the lost reality. Most real change is a slow process. Like aging. But when we build illusions to hide the change, we soon find ourselves spending all our energy maintaining the illusions. That keeps us from dealing with the change while it’s still small. It’s the crash of illusions that makes us believe change happens as crises.”

The Secrets of Consulting page 151

I write about a variety of topics on this blog. They are all generally related to LabVIEW, software and business. Occassionally I write about other topics. This is one of those times. If you have been paying attention to what is going on in this country, there is a crisis going on. I think it is the end of an illusion.

Many white folks, myself included, created an illusion.I had black friends in college tell me about negative encounters they and their friends had with police and I wrote them off. That cop was just one bad apple. They must have done something to arouse his suspicion. The cop let them go without a ticket so what is the big deal. This doesn’t affect me so I don’t need to worry about it. I created the illusion that cops were the good guys and that the real problem was crime and criminals got what they deserved and if a few innocent people were inconvenienced in the process it was worth it (if I’m honest I would add as long as those people weren’t me.) I ignored the racism inherent in the system.

I think that illusion is starting to come crashing down for many. If that hasn’t happened for you yet, I suggest you look here. I think it will open your eyes. Watch those videos and then tell me if you think those cops are living up to their mission of protecting and serving. There’s a lot of videos there. It’s not just one bad apple. For me, the illusion has come crashing down. The truth is that our system of policing and the criminal justice system seem to have lost their way a while ago. We are just now noticing as a nation and it is painful.

All lives matter is what the counter protestors shout and it’s a nice sentiment. I would like to live in a world where everyone’s life mattered. I may have even uttered that phrase in the past, however I have come to realize that until black lives matter we can’t say all lives matter. It’s quite clear right now that to the criminal justice system, black lives simply do not matter. Cops seem to be able to do what they please with virtual impunity. At its heart, this issue is really about how we treat each other as human beings. We can do better. Let’s fix this problem now instead of kicking the can down the road and continuing the illusion. It will be less painful to do it now than if we wait. I don’t know what the solution is, but I am confident we can find one. We just need to try.

Don’t worry I am not turning into a political commentator. I have some good technical posts lined up for the next couple weeks, but I felt I had to stop and say something. If you want to hear more of my thoughts on this subject and of course software as well, follow me on twitter.

To anyone who says this is way too off-topic, I will leave these words from Eric Starkloff (the CEO of NI in case anyone doesn’t know) – I would say that makes it somewhat LabVIEW related.

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