Author of "This Is Rage" and "Endless Encores"

Posts by goldsteinadmin

What Is Normal?

By on Jun 22, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

I have never given a commencement address. Maybe someday I’ll be asked. No, I’m not fishing, just pondering the opportunity to rant a bit in academic garb. Ah for the chance at an honorary doctorate of anything from anywhere! Okay, now I’m fishing. If I were invited to give such a dignified speech this year, I think the question I might pose to students is: What is normal? Why that? Much of what I’m hearing these days is all about getting back to something called normal. What is normal after the Covid-19 pandemic? What is normal after three months of shelter-in-place directives? What is normal after the brutal police murder of George Floyd? What is normal after millions of people flood into the streets for weeks to protest against systemic racial discrimination and social injustice? Maybe what bothers me isn’t so much the idea of normal as the notion of getting back to some previous state that is somehow better than where we are at the moment. Perhaps we want to believe there will a new normal. In that new normal, would it be possible we could all agree on what would constitute a better normal? Could we all agree that honesty should be normal, that we shouldn’t lie, particularly when the consequences to others of not getting the truth could be dire? Could we all agree that believing in science should be normal, and in unforgiving matters such as health and safety, documented facts should triumph over manipulating opinions? Could we all agree that exercising our right to vote should be normal, that in a democracy we are better served if every citizen votes, that it should be easy to vote, that elections focus on well-reasoned policy instead of lobbyist agendas, and that politicians seek office to be public servants where scandal and mudslinging take a back seat to critical issues? Could we all agree that the unquestionable dignity of human beings should be normal, and that matters of race, ethnicity, gender, faith, sexual orientation, and age have no place in one person casting judgment on another? Could we all agree that acknowledging life as precious should be normal, that empathy is preferable over insult, that competition can...

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Trust Is Not Negotiable

By on May 26, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

I’ve been thinking a lot about trust. I’ve been thinking a lot about truth. I’m trying to wrap my head around what I thought for fiftysomething years were the basics: If we’re going to climb a mountain together, we have to agree on what mountain we’re climbing, where it is, are there airports nearby to get in and get out, has it been climbed before and under what circumstances—you know, the facts. We won’t necessarily know the exact temperature at the top, the weather patterns tomorrow or the next day, the precise condition of the trail at every turn, those sorts of variables. There are always unknowns ahead of us that we’ll discover together, but if we can’t start on the same page, how can we possibly agree on plans to address the unknowns? I find these days truly unsettling, not just because there is a debilitating health crisis before us, but because I don’t have enough trusted information to know what the crisis is and the ability to share in that belief set collegially with a vast majority of the population. We are confused. We are bombarded with conflicting information. We are scared, anxious, and divided when we need to be informed, building consensus, and united. How do we address monumental problems when we have little idea what we can believe? In the age of the Internet, with the ability to share more factual information globally than in all of history, we are mired in noise. How do we navigate a crisis and ask people to make personal sacrifices—not the least is the temporary surrendering of certain personal liberties—without a unified voice in leadership speaking with sound judgment and reverence for the impact of expert advice? To me, the deepest impact of the Covid-19 pandemic beyond the tragic loss of human life remains the nagging head fakes that cause me to have no idea what to believe. Contradictory information is not just a health concern. The unrestricted blending of fact and speculative opinion can undermine our entire economy. If truth blows in the wind, if we have no idea what basic financial information constitutes truth, how can we wisely invest? How can we guide careers? How can we...

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5 Key Learnings in Crisis

By on Apr 21, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

Many of us are trying to decipher some level of meaning in the Covid-19 crisis. I must admit, I’m unable to find any. This is an act of nature, an act of environment. I see no message in either the depths of pain and loss this disease is causing globally, or the resulting social and economic havoc that is its byproduct. I think if you’re looking for a clear definition of existential occurrence, this is as clear as it gets. For better or worse, the dialogue doesn’t have to end there. Like any shock to the system, Covid-19 does offer us some learning opportunities. I’ve been thinking a lot about this the past several weeks. Here are five modest headlines I believe can be some of our more instructional takeaways once we together find a way to cross the chasm. Leadership and trust are inseparable. In the absence of recognized authority, chaos will fill the vacuum. We are seeing this and suffering with it day after day. The issue is not whether we are politicizing a deadly disease, whether our polarization is obstructing more sensible activity. In times of distress, we all crave calming leadership around which we can rally. As I have written many times before, trust cannot be assigned, it has to be earned. Effective leadership cannot be mandated. Leadership is acknowledged by example. There is no such thing as alternative facts. A fact is a fact. While scientific practice can be revisited by disproving the conclusions around previously applied data, it can only be done so with more disciplined inquiry and even more rigorously evidenced data. An intelligent, educated population hungers for touchpoints of agreement that can be demonstrated empirically. without hype, manipulation, or ulterior motives. Our nation and our planet have indeed managed through historical crises worse than Covid-19. If you look back at how those triumphs occurred, you will likely see the link between leadership and trust on grand display. Investing in readiness is not a luxury. I wish I could find the words to express my dismay in how flat-footed our nation has proven itself in addressing a severe threat to our fundamental health and wellness. Even the most basic understanding of chain...

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Embracing Puerto Rico

By on Mar 31, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

It wasn’t exactly a slow news week. Covid-19, a.k.a the novel coronavirus, was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization. The President of the United States declared a national emergency. As he described his proclamation, those were “two very big words.” The stock market crashed. The NCAA canceled March Madness. The NBA and NHL suspended their seasons. MLB postponed Opening Day of the 2020 season. Disney closed all its theme parks. Travel between the United States and most of Europe was announced to be suspended. Schools began closing and attempting to move course instruction online. Thousands of classroom teachers who had never heard of Zoom quickly discovered modern videoconferencing. Other than 9-11, I can’t remember a week like that. Meanwhile, I had arrived the previous weekend with a team of volunteers in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We had committed to a service trip there more than six months ago partly to help with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, but also to begin a wide-ranging relationship between our university alma mater and our clearly underserved fellow American citizens about 1150 miles southeast of Florida. While we were getting media snippets of the chaos on the mainland, we found ourselves highly engaged in a set of more basic, everyday challenges faced by the people of Puerto Rico. We learned about the historic struggles of Puerto Rico, approximately 400 years under Spanish authority and just over 100 years under American governance. We learned about the deeply personal, unique, and diverse culture of Puerto Rico in music, dance, mural art, proper apparel, naming public buildings, storytelling, legends, heroes, and political argument. We learned that there seems to be an infinite number of delightful ways to combine rice and beans, in much the same way many on the mainland think of pizza or burgers. Puerto Rican cuisine, particularly Mofongo, is a source of creativity, pleasure, and national pride. Locally grown artisan coffee is exquisite. Although sugar cane is no longer harvested in Puerto Rico, the Commonwealth is the largest producer of rum in the world. We learned through our host partner, Instituto Nueva Escuela (INE), how Montessori education is making a seminal change in the efficacy of Puerto Rico’s public school system....

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The Problem with Joker

By on Feb 17, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

I don’t write about movies often. On the occasions I do, it’s likely because something bothered me. Joker really bothered me. I can’t deny the performance of Joaquin Phoenix. He is a gifted actor. He gave a masterful depiction of a troubled, anguished, sick character. That only makes my criticism more severe. I’m also not going to argue against First Amendment expression. The creators have an inalienable right to make and distribute this work, for profit or otherwise. That simply makes them guilty of intellectual laziness at best, and self-serving irresponsibility at worst. I think both have occurred, and I am deeply troubled by this because of the film’s enormous audience reach. Its success makes the laziness and irresponsibility all the more pernicious. They could have done better. They deliberately elected not to do so. I’m going to tell you why I think this movie is psychologically problematic, but first, let me warn you, this will be one of the worst spoilers ever. Do not read a sentence further if you intend to see the movie and don’t want the ending ruined. Okay, if you’ve seen it or don’t care to see it but want to know why I’m upset, please read on. It is important to remember that the core source material for this literary work is a comic book. I read comic books a lot as a kid, and in fact I was about as big a fan of Batman as they come. That was in the escapist pages of a comic book. The character portrayal in this onscreen depiction seems to me evolved from the school of naturalism, extending the realm of realism to a more interpretive form of social commentary. The extreme portrayal seems less a form of entertainment than it is a comment on cruelty and its origin. The clown makeup does not separate the storytelling from the gritty suffering in the streets. The imagery throughout could appear as hyperrealism, as Stanley Kubrick approached similar territory in A Clockwork Orange, but that would have required artistic choices that aren’t evident in Joker. There can be obvious real-world consequences to confusing the worlds of fantasy and framing souped-up slice-of-life imagery as somehow predictive or inevitable....

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