Friday, 19 August 2011

Lead by example?


In the fallout of the civil disturbances in England, David Cameron spoke of problems he felt contributed. He spoke of the lazy culture of youth that took what they wanted without regard. He was right in that but I don’t agree that the blame can just be laid at the doors of their parents.

I am a parent who has spent years trying to instil a sense of right and wrong in my children. In that, I have found myself working against the influences outside of the family. In the wider world, those who took what they wanted, without regard, are considered the winners and are celebrated as that.

How they achieved this was not that point as ‘winning is the only thing.’

We live in a world where we preach hypocrisy to our children. We tell them to be honest even as we are not. We teach them that compassion is important while we selfishly pursue our interests over others. We tell them to play nice together while we are in contention with everyone one around us. It is a classic case of do-as-I-say . . .

In England, like many other places, the allegations of phone tapping have striped the covers off what many have known for years. Politicians are far too cosy with large business interests, police forces can be bought and the media – the fifth estate – is now the mouth piece of corporate interest.

We cannot blame politicians because we, as voters, encourage and reward populism over integrity. We define our political taste through our emotions rather than a logic that would look at the longer term. We get the politicians we deserve.

We cannot blame the police because, just like the rest of us, they can be induced. They are, after all, public servants living on salaries that they feel do not compensate for the risks they take. Certainly when compared to professional athletes or corporate executives they could feel under paid.

So who can we blame?

I think we are all to blame! We are all so busy in our lives – putting bread on the table, big screen TV’s in the den, new cars on the driveway, new cell phones for the kids . . . The list is endless so it is no wonder we are all too busy minding our own business to have time to deal with the real business – our civilization is being eroded and soon there may be nothing left.

Riots of angry have-nots are not new and are usually a symptom of the disparity in society. Unattended, the underlying problems have led to revolutions and the overthrow of regimes. Sometimes that has improved the human condition and sometimes it has been disastrous.

England was in turmoil in the 1970’s and the solution to that was Thatcherism. Born out of a sense of solid work ethic, the concept was that effort and endeavour won reward. And even if the rewards went to those on the top of the pile the rest of us would benefit from a trickle down. It didn’t really work out that way and quickly morphed in a cheap money trick. For many years we were sated with convictions of our growing worth even though our real incomes were falling. We were all encouraged to get on the property ladder in that ‘all boats would rise on the same tide.’ It worked well until the crash! Then, it all felt like a worldwide pyramid scheme – which, when you think about it is a perfect explanation for Capitalism!

Back in the 1970’s, Socialism was not the dirty word it has since become. It has been ridiculed in favour of the free-market jobs and prosperity myth that has allowed Capitalism to flourish despite failure after failure. In 2008 we Socialised Corporate debt and now we criticise Governments for that, and other accumulated debt. We all went along with this because we had no other choice. We couldn’t let the whole thing collapse because that might have hurt our own interests. We are slaves in golden handcuffs.

So, maybe David Cameron, and all who agree with him, should stop and look at their own part in this. We all must because, actively or passively, we have created this mess. We are all to blame.

We cannot ignore the fact that we cannot have Civilization without civility – something that modern Capitalism discourages. We cannot spend all of our time competing against each other by means fair and foul and then complain when the marginalised stake their claim. Greed is good, we have been told and many of the champions of that have succeeded by questionable and shady methods. Should these not be decried too?

This is still our world and we make it the way we want it to be. If we want a better one we should lead by example because someone needs to lead us away from where we are going.