The health system needs more money. So does the school system. So do our roads. As we have no railways system anymore we have no request from those quarters.
We are informed that there is an industry turning over 4.6 billions/year selling telephone rings and melodies. Our children go to school well equipped with cell phones, calculators, I-pods, …, they may not learn much but we have spent over a 1000 box to get them ready for life. The USA goes to war to protect their oil supplies so they can sell more SUVs and Hummers. It also helps the environment.
Change subject. For the last two months I have read scores of books bemoaning our society, analyzing its failings; hundred of pages leading to lame conclusions. We should do this better, that needs improving.
The response of Governments varies from “spend more” (Bush&Berlusconi) to “harf, harf, harf” (Paul Martin).
Oh, yes, I forgot. Terrorism. We will fight it to the beaches, we will arm to the teeth (particularly with space rockets where Osama an Elvis prowl), and we will cancel civil liberties. Security first. Sure.
So? Well, it is really simple.
We do not have a management problem, we do not have the wrong tools, we do not have insufficient information, and we do not need to change our political structures. Ya, all the above need improving but the real, major, huge problem is very simple: we are heading the wrong way.
You know, like wanting to fly to Vancouver and heading for Florida.
Everybody, writers, politicians, columnist bemoan our society “technical” failings (the plane is noisy, uncomfortable, …) but what about the wrong destination?
And interesting enough our serious failings has one common root: rotten ethics.
Careful here, rotten ethics, not lack of religion, wrong religion, weak religion. No, rotten ethics, rotten rules of behaviour, rotten priorities, rotten objectives. And no amount of extra money, better organising, and better management will help. Back to the travel example, a quieter, faster aircraft heading for Florida will not get you to Vancouver.
The problem has been building up for decades, rooted in the confused American culture where deep religious convictions coexist with unethical objectives like the chasing of material goods, wealth, ostentations, “growth”.
Then come the revival of the “free market” cults, the Thachter, Reagan and close to home the Mulroney and Barbara McDougall (remember her “greed is not a sin”?). And major linguistic confusion. “We want a free market, free from government interference”. Sure, but please they government must buy there airplanes, their weapons, their trucks, built the roads for their cars. Or the “entrepreneurs”, you know the guys who rake million of dollars a year as employees of banks, insurance companies, etc. with not a penny of their own invested in the business they “manage”.
To look for a cure we need a common starting point, and I propose Maslow pyramid, a bit old but reasonably uncontroversial.
Maslow’s pyramid of needs puts at the basis the “Physiological” needs (food, drink, sex, survival). Next comes “Safety” (security and protection from harm). Then we have “Social” needs (Love, belonging, acceptance, friendship). We can the look at “Esteem” (self esteem and esteem from others). And at the very top “Self Actualization” (becoming what one wants to become – be oneself).
Some our billions inhabitants of the planets are struggling to satisfy the fire first step of the pyramid – the physiological need. Interestingly enough, we the wealthy, have serious problems with the second basic step “security”.
In my very remote part of the world the police advise parents that children under fourteen should not be left on the street alone. A stolen car report to the Mounties is immediately moved to the “forget” file as is a break-in. Let us ignore the hijacking, blow-ups, and other more dramatic possibilities.
The next three steps require self engagement. We can purchase “love” with presents, good dinners, and money. But is cheap “love”. We can purchase “friendship” and “esteem” from our peers (at school or the club) with our gadgets, cars, clothing. But is cheap friendship or esteem, destined to fade with the advent of the new gadget.
But daily, obsessively we are bombarded by messages which assure us that the right beer will get the best blonde, the right car will open the door to exquisite sex, the right clothing will get you the hunk with the bulging muscle. Sure.
I could get on for 300 pages, like most books I have mentioned do. (300 pages are what make a book worth a publisher effort. Please no short books).
Really either you get or forget it.
Our ethic is screwed up and so logically our actions.
Terrorism? The answer is in eliminating the source of the anger which leads a young mother to strap o her waist a few sticks of dynamite to blow up a few Jews. Do you really believe she does because of her religion? Or patriotism? She does because she is desperate, there is no future for her and her children. Give her a land of her own, a future and she will plan a garden not the seeds of death.
Do you really believe the hatred which is killing millions in Africa is due to racial tension? Why did some massive ruthless killing not happen before? How about abject poverty, lack of water, food, starving children.
We waste money on gadgets, musical phone rings, monster cars, the terrorist roots are starving children, desperate mothers and fathers.
Should we not consider sharing wealth instead of bombing them?
I introduced Maslow because it allows another look at our world, a look at what is “necessary” and what is “superfluous”.
Farmers, fishermen, miners, carpenters, butchers provide for our basic need (physiological needs). And they do a good job, for which they get a pittance. I submit that teachers, nurses, policemen provide (rather poorly) for our second need (safety). But they good get paid a pittance.
We must satisfy these first two steps, so the activities involved in achieving satisfaction are necessary.
Unfortunately most of our money, most of our brightest people are engaged in satisfying very peculiar “needs”. Entertainment is one of the major industries of the West, financing, in particular the trading of little pieces of papers between adults, is given a quasi-religious status. People who kick balls or pieces of wood, are given “hero” status and the industry which support them is worth more that the total GDP of 40 Countries combined. Pretty girls and pretty boys with or without a significant voice and their industry also turn over billions.
Just imagine if all this pretty, young, intelligent people would devote their energies to finding a cur for cancer, solutions to social problems, teaching the young, caring for the sick and the old. Imagine the money spent on phone rings going to support massive development of Afghanistan, Palestine, Rwanda, … with our brilliant young mind behind it. Imagine the same money spent on improving our roads, pay and train our policemen.
A stupid, impossible dream? Just a moment: the above mentioned industries produce “worthless” products. We would starve without potatoes. We would hardly notice the non –appearance on a new version of Windows!
We are paying with our money to keep these useless industries, these fantasies going. Can we not pay with the same money for teachers, nurses, policemen, hospital beds, nursing home? Hey, it is always OUR money, eh!
Do we really prefer to spend 10 box to watch twelve man in shorts kick a ball or avoid getting killed on the 103 (a so called motorway south of Halifax that reaps more death that all our military missions abroad).
We need a reassessment of what is needed, and re-establishing of priorities. And, yes, the Government must lead. Nobody else can do it. Horror, the Government interfering with our divine right to produce garbage, to pollute? Yes kids, the Government job is to choose the destination on our behalf. Remember the Government is us. Scary, considering our present leaders. Scary indeed, so let us kick them out. Let us get rid of the most incompetent gaggle of leaders we ever head (well, at least in my lifetime!). But we have new, young leader on the scene, that given a chance could lead us out of the mess we are in. We must encourage them, push them. Don’t forget every politician wants to be a hero.
You got it right: it might mean outlawing the production of SUVs, Hummers, ATVs and get the good people who produce them to deal with the sick, the poor, the old. They could produce better buildings, better chairs, and better beds for the sick. Do not worry there is lot of work to do. And much more satisfying that sitting all day in front of a screen trading currencies or creating a new version of Windows.
We must decide what is needed, go for it and dump the rest. Once we have decided the direction we will get there. Please, let us stop fiddling with colours of the plane.
Jan 21, 2005