George Monbiot: How to Really Take Back Control

Every successful movement relies on a restoration story.

In 2008, no one had a new restoration story.

Globalization (no capital controls) has made Keynesian impossible. (25 min)

A growth-based system can not be sustained (27 min)

(28 min) A New Restoration Story

Why Joel Osteen, “The Smiling Preacher,” Is So Darn Appealing

It’s hard to quantify charisma, but by any measure Joel Osteen has some pretty impressive stats. Every week, the man some call “The Smiling Preacher,” draws an estimated 43,500 individuals to his Lakewood Church, which he moved into a former professional basketball stadium just off Houston’s Highway 59 in 2005. Osteen’s weekly sermons are beamed across seven networks in the United States and, by some estimates, reach 95 percent of the nation’s households and more than 150 countries.

The 53-year-old pastor, with his boyish good looks, ubiquitous incisors, and his impeccably coiffed mane of wavy, brown locks, oversees a budget estimated at upward of $70 million. He has penned no less than seven best sellers (most derived from his sermons), has amassed a net worth estimated at $40 million, with book sales and related revenue reportedly exceeding $55 million, and lives in a 17,000-square foot, $10.5 million mansion. All of it is built upon the personality—the words, the wisdom, and in no small part the charisma—of the man the congregants of the nation’s largest charismatic church refer to, simply, as “Pastor Joel.”

So, what is it that makes Osteen different from the rest of us? What is the source of his magical magnetism?

Many—including Osteen himself—might attribute his gifts to the favor of a higher power. After all, charisma, wrote the early 20th century German sociologist Max Weber, who gave the word its most widely used modern definition, is a quality that sets an individual “apart from ordinary men,” and causes others to treat him as “endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities.”

But there’s a small but growing group of individuals who have another explanation. Using brain-scan technologies and modern statistical techniques, a band of committed academics in recent years have set out to decipher that mysterious quality from which legendary leadership is born. And some have reached what a previous generation of observers might have considered a dubious conclusion: That it’s possible not just to reverse-engineer charisma, but that it’s something, at least in part, we might learn to master.

“Charismatic tactics can be taught, and the more charismatic leadership tactics used, the more individuals will be seen as leader-like by others,” says John Antonakis, a professor of Organizational Behavior, and Director of the Ph.D. program in management at the University of Lausanne. (Read the Nautilus feature about how we create charismatic leaders and the dangerous consequences of their power.)

By studying well-known charismatics and replicating their actions in the lab, Antonakis has identified a series of what he calls Charismatic Leadership Tactics (CLTs), which range from the use of metaphors and storytelling, to nonverbal methods of communication like open posture and animated gestures at key moments.

t the request of Nautilus, Antonakis assigned a doctoral student, Benjamin Tur, to sit down and code the first 10 minutes of a 2012 sermon by Osteen, “The Power of I Am,” a speech that Oprah Winfrey says changed her life.

The sermon opens with a photographic montage that includes an image of a smiling Osteen, standing with his photogenic family—son, daughter, and wife—autumn leaves cascading joyfully down around them. It moves to snapshots of his son throwing a football, his daughter kissing a puppy dog, and finally lands on Joel standing with his beautiful wife Victoria, her long blonde hair billowing gently in the wind. The screen cuts to a camera slowly moving over a huge multiracial stadium crowd of all shapes and sizes, panning in and resting with the handsome Osteen. That’s when the magic begins.

Osteen is clad in an impeccable Cerulean blue suit, crisp white shirt and purple, paisley tie, and he is at that very moment, extending his arm and open hand outward toward the screen—toward me—toward all of us—beckoning viewers to join him.

“God bless you! It’s a joy to come into your homes,” Osteen says, pointing his index finger E.T.-like at the viewing audience for just a second, flashing a humble smile, then leaning his right shoulder ever so slightly toward the camera, while blinking his long eyelashes rapidly, as if awakening to a bright, glorious morning. “We love you. If you are ever in our area, please stop by and be a part of one of our services! I promise you we’ll make you feel right at home. Thanks so much for tuning in.”

Osteen shambles over to a wooden podium, places a hand gently on its edge, and tells the audience he likes to start with “something funny.”

“I heard about this 92-year-old man,” Osteen begins. “He wasn’t feeling up to par and he went to the doctor for a checkup. A few days later the doctor saw him walking in the park. He had this beautiful young lady by his side and he seemed as happy as can be. The doctor said, ‘Wow you sure are feeling a lot better aren’t you!’ He said, ‘Yes, doctor, I’m just taking your orders. You said, ‘Get a hot mama and be cheerful.’ The doctor said, ‘I didn’t say that, I said ‘You got a heart murmur be careful!’”

With the tone set, Osteen is off, exhorting his followers to hold their Bibles aloft, repeat a prayer, and then launching into an inspirational message.

Right out of the gate, Osteen is using three of Antonakis’ identified tactics: an animated voice, facial expressions, and gestures. All three figure in Osteen’s opening, even before he has launched into his actual sermon. Taken together, the gestures cue the audience that they have arrived on friendly territory, and encourage them to let down their guards. Osteen begins his sermon. “I want to talk to you today about the power of I am,” he says. “What follows these two simple words will determine what kind of life you live. I am blessed. I am strong, I am healthy. Or, I am slow, I am unattractive, I am a terrible mother. The I ams that are coming out of your mouth will bring either success or failure.”

To connect through a verbal message, Antonakis says, a leader must do three things. He must

  1. frame” a vision or paint a picture by using metaphor or stories. He must
  2. express sentiments of the collective. Finally, he must
  3. deliver it all in an in animated and passionate way. In the minutes that follow, Osteen will continue to do all three.

Of the 12 different CLTs that Antonakis and Tur look for, nine are verbal. They are:

  1. metaphor and comparison,
  2. story,
  3. rhetorical question,
  4. contrasts,
  5. lists and repetitions,
  6. moral convictions,
  7. expressing the sentiments of the collective,
  8. setting high and ambitious goals, and
  9. creating confidence that goals can be achieved.

Osteen uses on average one charismatic verbal tactic every two sentences. By comparison, Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech has well over three times as many verbal signaling techniques per sentence—his language is infused with powerful imagery and metaphor. “Osteen’s speech is rather average when it comes to use of verbal signaling techniques,” the academics say.

But Osteen makes up for his relative poverty of verbal CLTs by the way he delivers his sermon. He takes full advantage of the medium of the television, which allows us to watch him up close.

Antonakis and Tur say that Osteen shows an open body posture and uses representative gestures at key moments; for instance, when he says, “I am so old,” he mimics wrinkles at the corner of his eyes. There is also his voice. He displays variation both in term of pitch and speed, slowing down, using pauses or speeding up. “Like MLK, his voice sometimes vibrates in this preacher style,” Antonakis and Tur say. Finally, there is Osteen’s facial expression. “He is smiling constantly and accompanies that by raising his eyebrows, making his face more expressive.”

In conclusion, say Antonakis and Tur, the handsome Osteen “embodies his speech and smiles constantly throughout the talk. This combination of nonverbal behavior makes the speech captivating for the audience.”

The Bicycle Thief

Tom Justice was once a cyclist chasing
Olympic gold. Then he began using his bike
for a much different purpose: robbing banks.

.. It would be many months before Tom Justice would even be considered for a nickname by the FBI. Armed robbers and violent offenders are the agency’s top priority. And Tom had perpetrated just one nonviolent “note job” for a haul of $5,580. He wasn’t going to draw heat, especially when the FBI was handling a record 171 bank robberies in the Chicago area in 1998. For now, Tom would stay under the radar. And he took precautions to keep it that way.
.. On October 27, 1999, nearly one year to the day after his first robbery, Tom hit the Lake Forest branch of Northern Trust. He wore a similar disguise and used his bike to escape with $3,247. This time he put the $20 and $100 bills into paper bags and discarded them in alleys where he knew homeless people would find them. He took all the $2 bills and hid them in the bushes outside his apartment. The Eastern European superintendent had two kids who used to play in the courtyard. Tom watched from his second-floor living room window as they discovered the money and screamed and giggled. Robbing banks and giving away the money was intoxicating. Tom saw himself as both mischievous and righteous.

But as time passed, that feeling faded. Tom’s real life seemed mediocre and unfulfilling. He wrestled with depression. And so he returned to the one thing that would instantly lift his spirits.

.. As the harsh winter winds blew off Lake Michigan, the streets became icy and impossible to navigate by bike. Cooped up that January, Tom brooded miserably, unable to shake the realization that at 29, his window of opportunity to become a world-class cyclist had nearly passed. If he wanted to pursue his Olympic dream, he had to do it now.

.. But the monotony of training was setting in, and Tom’s promise to himself was soon forgotten. His secret identity — and the instant rush that only a robbery could provide — called to him.

.. He pocketed all the $5s and $1s and left the $20s inside public restrooms and port-a-potties at beaches. He didn’t need the money.

.. Then one morning, Tom awoke in the Turret and found he couldn’t move. An intense pain surged through his lower back. He’d thrown it out overtraining. It would take hours before he could even get to his feet — and weeks before he could pedal without waking up in agony the day after. Muscle spasms kept causing his body to contort. His right shoulder was two inches higher than his left. His plan to race in the Olympic trials was over.

Soon after he returned to Chicago, Laura dumped Tom for good. He had changed. He wasn’t merely devastated about missing the trials; he was colder, more distant, and secretive. “I don’t know what’s going on with you,” she said. “But I know it’s not right.”

.. Tom couldn’t resist. Sharing an apartment with a beat cop while committing federal felonies was an insane proposition. But with no girlfriend, no job, and no Olympics, all he had left was his unrelenting desire to feel exceptional, to prove to himself that he was too clever to get caught.

.. Once his lower back recovered, Tom robbed the LaSalle Bank in Highland Park — the heist in which he dumped his $4,009 haul in a park trash can. The next week, he hit three banks in three days, and it didn’t always go smoothly.Outside a Bank One in Evanston, a dye pack exploded in his bag, ruining all the cash. Later that day, he hit an Edens Bank in Wilmette, where a heavyset 50-something teller took one look at Tom’s note and harshly scolded him in a Slavic language. She pointed sternly at Tom, who quickly fled without any money. The third robbery, at a Harris Bank in Wilmette, was a success, but when Tom rode up to his apartment, he saw two cop cars parked on the front lawn. His heart sunk — until he realized it was just his roommate, George. Tom went upstairs to his room, where he hid the $4,244 he’d stolen. George had no clue his roommate had just knocked over his 13th bank.

Two months later, Tom robbed the Bank of Northern Illinois in Libertyville. Chief Carey, who’d spent that winter helping blow snow from his neighbor Jay Justice’s driveway, didn’t have any leads — and neither did the FBI. The most interesting aspect of the robber’s MO — his getaway vehicle — was still unknown.

.. No one suspected Tom, and so he grew cocky. Once, at a nightclub, he met a 20-something brunette in a midnight-blue cocktail dress. Tom couldn’t believe it when he learned she was a U.S. marshal. On the dance floor, as loud club music pulsed, she smiled playfully.

“So what do you do?” she yelled.

“I rob banks.” He grinned and continued dancing.

She nodded and kept dancing, too.

.. Working out of a cluttered garage in a suburban industrial park, Steelman built only 50 bicycles per year. He charged $2,500 just for the frame. Given the demand, he maintained a growing waitlist. If potential customers didn’t strike his fancy, Steelman would decline them. This, of course, increased the cachet of owning a Steelman. As nearby Silicon Valley inflated with disposable income, Steelman bikes reached cult status.

.. Higher Gear’s club riders all wore matching red, white, and blue spandex. One day, the bike shop’s manager mentioned to Tom that a local rider was selling a used Steelman, a 12-speed road bike built in 1996. Since Tom’s bike had been stolen, he was looking for a replacement. The Steelman would be a welcome upgrade.

.. On group rides with the Higher Gear team, Tom was easy to spot atop his bright orange bicycle. Other riders consistently complimented the Steelman. It was, without question, the nicest bicycle Tom had ever owned. And not once did he ever ponder which was more amusing — a bike builder named Steelman or a bank robber named Justice.