The Inside Scoop: Economics-Non-Economics

Countdown T Minus 9 Days

img_9988Yoda and Darthy staring at Yong Tau Foo
Lau Pa Sat, Singapore, 2019

June 26, 2019 – In Need 

I am plugged in. (Listening to “In Need” by Sheryl Crow). I am rained out. I am staring at a very big fan.

img_9992-1

The chimes of the clock tower in Lau Pa Sat remind me of the Ipoh clock tower I had just driven past last week.

img_9639Clock Tower
Ipoh Old Town
Ipoh, Malaysia, 2019

I think of Boston, I think of London. I think of Zurich.

img_9813Boston, 1995

img_9811.jpgLondon Bridge, London, 1997

img_9839.jpg
Zurich, 2013

They are all financial capital cities.

In every city, there is a City. A financial hub.

In that hub, transaction support guys. Transaction Support. The exchange of corporate-related property rights. Be they shares/equity instruments, loan instruments, tangible assets, intangible assets and derivatives of these. And there will be accountants. I know lawyers are still called lawyers. Company secretary is now corporate secretary. I don’t know what accountants call themselves these days. Inside me, I am still an accountant, I guess.

I went to the City today.

img_9971Lau Pa Sat, Singapore, 2019

When I was younger, I would go into the City for work. Today, I went to see a friend.

ae252d95-d027-4f71-8271-002742cee762Sandra Seah & PEK
Bird & Bird Singapore, SGX Centre 1
Singapore, 2019

She lifted a ton of heaviness off my shoulders and my heart. I had imagined friendships in Ipoh Old Town, and now I am living friendships in 2019 Shenton Way. My heart is soaring. Maybe it isn’t all madhatting after all. Maybe there is such a thing as doing business, being professionals and living kindness.

 

A Platform but Not Quite So Sexy

Oops. This is what happens when you add a dash of something interesting into the works. Like Economics.

And the entire terrain shifts itself.

Just last week, I offered a young lawyer beer for his (legal) services. He blushed. I think he couldn’t believe I was really offering a trade. But maybe he is too young (for such non-cash transactions).

My friends tell me I can’t say such things. Cannot mix metaphors. Cannot talk so much in polite commercial situations. And they tell me I must comb my hair. Curl them, even better.

I tell them about love and friendship in the marketplace, and one friend said, “You sound like you are setting up a dating platform.”

 

Light Switches and Rape Alarm

I remember Euston House 1995, being a junior auditor being involved in the privatisation of the British Railways Board. Preparing a penultimate and terminal accounts of a nationalised institution of the Welfare State that had to be corporatised. I couldn’t understand the emotions. But I could feel it visibly. I could see it in those around me, but I couldn’t read it. I was too young. I couldn’t understand the choked words. Seeing an entire building empty, and I understood, in my mid-twenties that the accountant and the janitor are left to switch off the lights of an institution. Someone to turn off the lights and someone to settle the last dollar.

Usually, during the audit season, the junior auditor turns off the lights at the end of the day. So an ex-auditor is quite used to operating light switches and setting up company alarm systems, when everyone’s gone home, and it is dark, and one learns to become unafraid in the aloneness, and nonchalant almost, about darkness. Because one already sees dawn, and the switching off the lights is simply to transit to another good day’s work and usher in another turn of the good day.

But I didn’t understand the in-betweens. I had the understanding of the mapping of an auditor. I understand the processes of all the key threads of functional flows and the gates of risks. Every material checkpoint – we have our eyes on them. We were a little bit like Gurkhas, except we were in suits and what London had to get used to then, in mid-90s were girls at work, in the City.

Guess what this is. Yes, it’s my work drawer (in 2019) and two stories.

img_9807The Ancient Rape Alarm
PEK’s Drawer,
Singapore 2019

Standard issue to rookie girls: A rape alarm. I hold it in my hand when crossing London Bridge in the dark. Can you spot it?

Second story: don’t use the word drawer in the (United) States of (America). Do not ask to look into your manager’s drawers for files or stationery.
Backpacks & Mobility

Come second year, they issued us backpacks. Figured we really couldn’t lug those boxes (without wheels) across London Bridge and still be able to pull the plug off the rape alarm. Client files or chastity. So they issued us a backpack.

Then I figured pant suits. At least there will be another checkpoint.

It’s all about gating. Like managing dams and canals.

It’s still raining so I am working at Lau Pa Sat. The tables are super sturdy.

img_9995Swissy Doing the Imagined Yoddle
Lau Pa Sat,
Singapore 2019

40 rookies assigned to hotel 4 desks. In that kind of rookie environment, we learnt very fast to be mobile and be very lean. And to be grateful for every inch of square foot that you can rest your tired behind. First generation to whack Lotus Notes email and replicate electronic working papers on-site and talk on recording devices called the voicemail. We learnt to clear review points by leaving each other voicemails – point by point.

Some review notes have stories in them if you get a manager who likes to write. Some just have one or two words, and you have to scramble to decipher the secret coding of that partner or manager.

So one learns to decode very fast in this kind of environment where suits get very upset if we miss delivery. Very upset.

We were lucky coaching had entered the scene so yelling wasn’t allowed anymore. Plus I think it wouldn’t look cool to yell, even then. So I don’t know what the coping mechanisms people have developed since then in the evolution of their professional careers, but now I have developed my ahimsa space.

img_0009Inside a SunHat
Singapore, 2019

It isn’t working. That ahimsa space, because I am still yelling. In the midst of fast-action business decision-making, and as an entrepreneur, all the coaching went out the door. All the theory too. And all the practised decorum. And one becomes authentic. (Brene Brown will approve.)

 

That’s what I have discovered. Zero.

 

Zero to A Glimpse of Point 1 (0.1)

I love Zero. I hated it before. I hated not knowing. I hated hating. I tried to sugarcoat everything and it was no wonder everyone started calling me a “Princess”. Interestingly, I would have liked “Princess Warrior” but no one called me a warrior, only a princess.

img_8104
Yoda & Darthy Not Impressed at Underpreparedness, Generally
Backpack strap doubling up as shoe sole holder
Singapore, 2019

Confessional: I cried in my suit in the bathroom as a rookie. And I cry openly as an entrepreneur, trying to stitch the ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) together to become a sustainable economy.

Write it down. Write down the Economics. Wow. How do I write down 39 years? At 10 years old, I had translated my first corporate agreement from Bahasa Malaysia to English. I looked back at my baby photos. Other baby girls get dolls, I visited factories as soon as I walked.

I have a photo to prove this. But will dig up after finishing this piece on Economics.

 

OK, Economics.

OK, I write it down.

Where did I pick off from? After the baptism of fire of the public accounting passage.

I jumped into not-for-profits to understand where the equitable piece went. In terms of the allocation of scarce resources bit. I was taught – equitable and efficient allocation. So I just wondered to myself, what happened to that piece?

The next piece was family. I am a mother of 16 years with two children, and yes, I do have a man too. Our household has a household management system involving two helpers and the division of portfolios and body parts. We basically manage according to strengths and specialisms. The entire terrain is scanned, mapped, covered. Without too much microexplosions. Typically mine are procrastinated and my husband’s are on Trello.

And then, I started to re-look at economic poverty. And these became underserved communities and became underserved persons for me. I had to re-examine disabilities and debunk that labelling because our son came with an extra chromosome, which was a brilliant, surprising twist of nature and gift of the cosmos. Thanks to (one) Brian Cox interface (at a physics lecture which is not a lecture), I have a better grasp of cosmology, or so I think.

Space-time was actually interestingly, largely missed in Economics. So, we wired the quantum and latent potential in. Through haiku’s and non-conceptual Ommmmms. So materiality became like literal – the material of matter. Matter-distribution at like epic-cosmic levels!

The idea of Commons is like at sunspot or starburst or like blackholes twirling rainbows. It gets psychadelic, on its own, even without any intervention.

Chin Hwee, Ngai Kin & PEK
Eating, Drinking & Chatting
Singapore, May 28, 2019

I don’t really understand it all much actually. So I went and looked up two friends: Ngai Kin and Chin Hwee. We were supposed to have read Economics. Apparently, we read it all differently. So, we could only chat about what we read. We tried to refresh our active revolving telomeres and see if we could map the evolution of Economic Theory and Developmental Economics. I confessionally couldn’t figure Political Economy and Economic History (especially of Victorian Britain and the Interwar Years). Still can’t. So I did reach out to some nifty friends in these areas, and they have to tell me stories, to explain it all. I said, “No math for this?” They said, “No, baby. It’s non-rational.”

Plus, we are squarely all back smack in South-east Asia in 2019, and the world kinda has changed. Like drastically, and plus, much of the oral history of mass transmigration of twentieth century of Malaysia and Singapore is now like 95+ years old. And much of the documented history is still too raw to be dialogued. Plus, we have a lot of languages to figure out.

 

The Auctioneer

OMG to the T-max. What is Economics?

And so, I had a massive identity crisis. Because up till then, I thought I had understood it. As vaguely as the Invisible Hand could afford me some semblance of structure and order. My favourite character if you will in the whole grand scheme of things is The Auctioneer. So I imagined the auctioneer fixing everything.

I will dig up a photo of my imagined Auctioneer, I promise.

Back to the Walras’ Law.

I had believed Professor Hahn, with his umbrellas. His price of umbrella on a sunny day is different from his price of an umbrella a rainy day.  There should be a price for every good/service for every state of the world. The most fascinating theory that never left me is this promise of the microfoundations of macro economics: The General Equilibrium Theory. I like it because it is most hopeful and most expansive. Plus it is complete and perfect. Theoretically, speaking.

Until you examine the squiggles and realise that there are conditions like:

  • Complete and Perfect Markets
  • Complete and Perfect Information
  • Perfect Coordination

I don’t remember the others. I am still trying to hunt down that journal paper. I see the equation in my mind’s eye, and mostly, Professor Frank Hahn calling us “little kinder” but I can’t remember the details. And I think the lot of us have recycled our lecture notes, after 30 years. (This too I did a round of validation.)

 

So, does the market clear on its own, or do we need intervention?

 

I believe there are multiple equilibria and equilibria can get stuck, and with just a little bit of nifty intervention, we can reboot the pathways towards goodness and renewability.

 

I believe it coherently, theory-wise, and conditions-wise.

 

So, I think theory is important. Even if it isn’t reality, it is a map. A framework of thinking. A mapping of pulling out threads and figuring the weaving and rework.

 

Otherwise, it gets a bit scary, like art-making.

img_9836Making Zentrummy Art
Zentrum Paul Klee
Bern, Switzerland, 2013

Or like jumping into a community of persons.

IMG_4014People Chatting
Singapore 2012

If we have several neuron structures in our brain architecture (ref Antonio Damasio), then even our internal communication structure isn’t quite understood yet by ourselves as homo sapiens, then how are we to coordinate ourselves to arrive at the equitable and efficient allocation of scarce (now converted into renewable) resources.

So, we spent a lot of time pondering People.

  • Caring Economics (ref Tania Singer)
  • U-Lab & Presencing (ref Otto Scharmer)
  • Gift of Imperfections + Vulnerability (ref Brene Brown)
  • Wellbeing (ref The Happy Heart School Library)
  • Neuroscience (ref Antonio Damasio)

Then, we chatted a lot about Patterns.

  • Generative Code (ref Christopher Alexander)

In the midst of it, we checked out the Anthropocene. (ref Stockholm Resilience Centre & Johan Rockstrom)

And then we integrated:  Happiness!

  • Gross National Happiness Centre, Bhutan (ref Saamdu Chetri)
  • Doughnut Economics (ref Kate Raworth)
  • UNDP Global Goals

One last piece, ESG Investing.

  • PRI – Principles for Responsible Investment

I lie. One more, Enterprise Value Creation & Risk Management.

  • Startup Studios
  • Venture Builder

 

Impatient with the storytelling style, everyone is now ready to yell at me:

 

Elevator Pitch, Madam Yakker!!!!

We are not a startup studio. We create and enable ESG local-global economies. We are an economic development studio through action research, i.e. we are ESG Economy practitioners. But we are science and arts-based as much as non-conception-based. Critically, we are sequential time-matter-impact-based. We enable the creation of sustainable enterprises that create the goods, services and platforms that serve wellbeing – planetary, social, personal.

I think we are a ESG village enabler. From Street Kid to Village Kid. Watch this space.

We chatted with as many people as possible. Anyone who is able to participate in the U-ing of the ESG Economy, and build upwards towards goodness and kindness.

Kin, PEK, Emmanuel, Chin Hwee, Cyril
at Robinson Law Corp,
Singapore 2018

We built a licence model, with the intention to provide a library and self-governance platform. I asked stupid questions (there are no stupid questions). We have Intellectual Property, and a knowledge-sharing & services structure.

We looked for Andy, to help us with governance and everything else we missed. But largely because Andy used to play rugby, so he can help with team scalability. In rugby, it is a team of 14×14. In badminton, my sport, it is 2×2 or 1×1.

Andy and Kin.jpgKin and Andy
Looking fine and dandy
Singapore, 2019

 

Listening & Speaking

The microsummit is about listening as much as about speaking. We hope to meso, macro and mundo (ref Otto Scharmer).

I had thought previously that it was a journey of transformation. It isn’t. It is simultaneous. We need to be able to do it all, as life is diverse and structured organically. Sometimes competitively, sometimes collaboratively. Sometimes emerging, sometimes dissolving. And in the process of adaptability, sometimes we grieve, sometimes we rejoice.

What takes us through the day and the long, dark nights, is love. Unconditional love. And belief. Don’t underestimate the faithfulness of friendships. It exists, and though invisible, it moves biospheres.

 

Personal Stewardship

And then we zoomed in on sustainability stewardship. Personal Sustainability Stewardship. I realise we cannot change anyone. We can only make a personal choice to make a different decision.

Every time, every day.

“There is no General Theory of Economics,” Kin finally decided to shatter my 39 year old quest. I went like, “Oh???” He went like, “Yaaa.”

“And all the reading and essays we turned in?” I was still hopeful. He said, “That’s all to help us think.”

2018, 05-28 Birth of EUWChin Hwee, Ngai Kin & PEK
Peace Centre, 
Singapore, May 28, 2018

Chin Hwee joined us for lunch. He had coffee. Kin said, “Not me, I cannot name anything.” I said, “Errr I would call it something like Sustainable Integrative Transformative Economics.” Chin Hwee closed his eyes for two seconds, either exercising immense patience, or he was accessing some lotus compassion energy, and suddenly, out of the silence, he made a definitive pronouncement (in his silent authoritative Chin Hwee way), “The Economics of Universal Wellbeing.” Well, fancy that. We took one second, unanimous three-way nodding.

Tada. We have a name for the Economics we hope to move past neoclassical economics of mid-twentieth century. Big aspirations. But big aspirations are good.

 

And solid.

 

A Collaborative Microsummit for Global Sustainability & Flourishing by

Bilberries Blue - Mar 2019 - finalIBI logoRICE-logo_colour-01

DAY 1: July 10, 2019 – 10am-12.30pm, 10 Square, Zero Fee

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/bilberries-blue-inaugural-microsummit-with-nora-bateson-at-10-square-tickets-63727751420

DAY 2: July 11, 2019 – 10am-5pm, Temenggong House

https://www.eventbrite.sg/e/bilberries-blue-inaugural-microsummit-with-nora-bateson-temenggong-house-tickets-63730683189

July 11, 2019 – Temenggong House
18/20 Temenggong Road, S098771
10am-5pm (+ Lunch)
35 pax, SGD300* per person
*20% of Bilberries Blue Microsummit Fees are designated for underserved communities

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