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September 30, 2006
Not Invented Here

Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade
him, because he was not following us.
Mark 9:39

Engineers have a name for this refusal to credit and benefit from the
work of others: "Not Invented Here" is what they call it. I won't use
your results because they are not my results. I won't learn from what
you're doing because it's not what we do where I work.

"Not Invented Here" is common. It's why the American automobile
industry suffers -- it refused to learn from its Japanese competition
that well-built cars with excellent gas mileage are what people want to
buy. Oh, we don't make those. We make enormous American behemoths that
get 11 miles to a gallon of gas. That"s what we do.

"Not Invented Here" slows AIDS prevention in certain African countries,
where admitting that HIV causes it is seen as caving in to American
imperialism. We don't believe in the virus, it goes.
That's not our idea. It was not invented here.

"Not Invented here" works in politics. Superbly, in fact: you decide
where you will look for your answers and where you will not, and
anything outside the boundaries of that choice just doesn't happen.
You stay the course, and you don't look to the right or to the left.
You don't look at what you did not invent, and you don't let any new
facts inform you.

And nowhere is "Not Invented Here" more beloved than in religion. This
is ours. This is us. This is our kind. This is what we do, and this
alone. Nothing else can be true if we are true; it must bear our
stamp. By their membership we will know them!

But Jesus seems unimpressed by "Not Invented Here" as an argument. The
one who is not against us is for us, he remarks, and calmly goes about
his business.

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