The Art of Scrubbing

Bear with me while I make a short point about the status of the American (and possibly global) mindset at the moment.

I started writing databases back in 1984. I have written many, from the complexity of a predictive foreclosure manager to the simplicity of a phone list. The first thing one does when writing a database is “scrub” the data. “Scrubbing” is a technique we use to make the data consistent so that it is (a) easily searchable and (b) easier to generalize data in reports. The criticality of this step increases commensurate with the size of the database.

As populations increase (any population, even within the confines of a business entity), the need to manage that data forces the dehumanization of the individuals in that population. We transform from a person, known by our uniqueness, to a line item, identified only by the commonality we share with other members of that population. It’s bad enough when it is a global company, especially if that company has become a large entity over time, absorbing smaller companies (as many of my recent clients have been). When it is a country, with vastly different populations, and localized idiosyncrasies, it becomes a nightmare.

Humans feel less and less hopeful, and therefore more and more depressed, as we get lost in the “scrubbing.” It is demoralizing to call, for example, an insurance company, and KNOW that nothing you say will be addressed because your line of data has no power. YOUR personhood doesn’t meet the critical ranking level that other stakeholders do. This is where we are as a country. We’ve become so hopeless, so demoralized, that like a weakened virus, we are turning on each other, using each other as fodder for our rage. Is this really who we want to be?

True globalization (which has been tried numerous times throughout history) will not succeed because as the data becomes more and more sterile, and humans begin to grab what is theirs and escape the onslaught of so severe a change, the individual countries will unravel but the cultures will continue to fight for relevance. Change is the great nemesis.

WE individuals are not losing our humanity. We are losing our hope that our lives matter in the face of immense external pressure. We are witnessing dangerous groups (such as DAESH and MS13) emerge that give hopeless individuals a localized sense of belonging. Groupthink roots deeply under those circumstances. I am a strong proponent of communities for this very reason.

Stay connected to your community, whatever it may be. Know your neighbors. Volunteer your time. Be part of a solution instead of spewing rage at a force under which individuals are powerless. It is the only antidote for scrubbing.

And before anyone starts the “but…but…isolating groups…blah blah blah” rhetoric, think long and hard about how “communities” reach out and welcome people whose lives have brought them to those places. Communities are first and foremost, welcoming. If your mind immediately goes to isolationist groups, then you are part of the problem.