Somehow everything has got into a big bloody mess. Somehow the means became far more important than the end. What is the end? To ask is to meddle with such cliched questions as what is the meaning of life. But what is the answer to such a question? Few would ever honestly say it is to drive an enormous wedge between rich and poor, those who have and those that do not. Is the meaning of life to denigrate vast numbers of people at home and abroad, to wage wars on flimsy pretexts to protect some notion of security, some notion of control and virtual empire?
How often do we spend thinking about the long term or distant repercussions of our every day actions? The entirely cynical may claim that the 24/7 adrenaline fueled rush of news, entertainment and uncertainty is even in place to ensure that we never get the opportunity to think such matters through. Does an economy really suffer it the shop opening hours are less?
What does it mean when we privatize a natural monopoly? What does it mean when we introduce arbitrary target figures? When our leaders loot pension funds? When the welfare state is dismantled to satisfy the requirements of some idiotic ratings agency that not 6 years ago was content to slap AAA ratings on sub-prime mortgages?
Tony Blair in the late 1990s introduced a system into the NHS that sought to measure every single possible parameter of the world’s second largest employer. Targets were set at every conceivable levels. If managers did not meet these targets there would be repercussions, reduced budgets, reduced control. Suddenly the noble objectives of the NHS were rendered moot. Manipulation of the figures was the name of the game. Patients left for hours on stretchers in anonymous corridors. Juggling waiting lists – waiting for initial, typically irrelevant consultancy, followed later by waiting list for the procedure. Like a magic trick, see the waiting time for the procedure is within the target!
On paper things look good. Targets are being met. The fact that the reality represents a completely different story is irrelevant. A kind of narrow minded, blinkered manager flourishes in such conditions. Think of the money that will be “made”! Oh how this will benefit society when measured on some other invented scale. These are the game players and their ilk has spread like cancer through modern society. You throw them a number and they run after it like some kind of demented hound. Never mind the systems and the lives they destroy en route.
The political class subscribe to the insanity. That is why they enforce whatever targets for reduction in internal national spending that are given to them: by the World Bank, by Moody’s, by oligarchs, by their party whips. It matters not one jot how illogical this may be.
We see this at all levels. The most crucial of all levels is that of the environment. Instead of nations taking real world action, they focus on new games such as carbon credits. Another glorious bubble waiting to happen. I get to dump so much CO2 into the atmosphere if I claim I am funding a piece of rain forest in Ecuador. Who cares that the inspectors are also bought off and that piece of rain forest is already drowning in spilled oil? Or maybe consider paying the mafia to dump toxic waste off the shores of Somalia, it’s cheaper than disposing of it according to EU laws. Well done Mr. CEO you just saved your shareholders a ton of money, you played the game well, you exceeded your targets. Let’s see what the next quarterly report brings.
Yes it’s all a game. Unfortunately as the physicist Richard Feynman beautifully put it at the conclusion of the Challenger disaster commission:
“Reality must take precedence over public relations” – Feynman.
Reality is something we’re rapidly losing any contact with. We believe social media is making real changes but is it? 10 million people join the End Poverty in Africa campaign on Facebook. They raise and enormous $10,000 between them and everyone gets to feel good about themselves. Bloggers are stopped and arrested at borders for their political views that are easily traceable via data gathered from ISPs and search engines. We’re encouraged to believe we cannot afford to look after the weakest in society, that they are scroungers, that foreigners are taking our jobs and benefits, that everyone can become an internet millionaire if they just tried hard enough, that a society cannot be equal, that economic growth is more important than the environment, that nuclear missiles prevent terrorism, that nuclear power is the only serious energy source (and the risks are irrelevant), that the laws apply equally to everyone, that terrorist cells are lying in wait on every corner, that as Thatcher used to say, There Is No Alternative.
Well there is always an alternative, never get that wrong. What is the reality for you? For your kids? Grandchildren? Is it that you actually believed what some Westminster game playing, target chasing moron told you?
The reality tells us what the right path to take is. We must stand clear of our fears and the need to meet nonsensical quotas and ask what really matters in our short lives on this one small world.