The Change Desired — is Less Change
I’m physically sick to my stomach. No. Seriously. I’m physically sick and feel it all through my gut. I’ve just spent 30 minutes reading the headlines from today’s news and I’m not sure that I ever want to read the news again.
It’s not because of the what the news says, it’s more that there is a feeling of helplessness in that I cannot do anything to fix most of what is going on in the world today.
There are atrocities going on throughout the world in Syria, Eritrea and across the Middle East. And as troubling as these stories are, they are not what drew my attention this morning. They are not the ones that made me physically sick.
This morning I read story after story about the deep, deep unhappiness of people in Western society. People who are so deeply unhappy that they are desperate to completely destroy society of today.
It is this level of dissatisfaction and disaffection of which revolutions are born.
People who voted in the UK for Brexit. People in the US who will vote for Trump. People in France supporting Marine Le Pen. Everyday people who are hungry for change. Given the choice between things carrying on the way they are and change they want change — even if that change leads to a situation that is worse than it is today. They want things to be different. They don’t care if they are worse for a period of time, they simply cannot bear the thought of things continuing as they are.
And what change do they want — they want Less Change.
Has society changed too much — too fast?
Today we have seen growing economic disparity between rich and poor. We have seen liberalization of social values towards abortion, immigration, free trade and gay marriage. We have seen uncontrolled capitalism focus on short term dividends and share prices to the detriment of employees, customers and society in general (through tax avoidance). We have seen a lot of change and not all of it has been good. And from the perspective of some, it is downright catastrophic.
People want to roll the clock back to more conservative times and values. They want to roll immigration and free trade policies back to where their jobs are protected. They want to roll laws back to make gay marriage illegal — and to make abortion illegal too. They want to go back to the way things were at some ill defined point in the past — not too far back — but far enough.
Trump wants to Make America Great Again — He wants to turn the clock back on progress. His “again” hearkens back to the 1970's.
My old friend from 40 years ago in America keeps ranting at me that Obama has destroyed America. You know what — he’s right! Obama has destroyed America — the America that he knew.
The new America is more civilized, more open, more intelligent, more profitable and more inclusive than ever before (despite and obstructionist Republican controlled Congress). Today’s America is vastly different from the America of 1970 (and even more so compared to the America of 1950!) This type of change is called progress. And some people hate it.
My friend’s point is still correct — the old America he knew has been destroyed and the a far better America has been created. Well — at least as far as I am concerned it is a far better America.
Is this all about too much change too fast? Or is there something else?
There is another aspect of change that I want to address. The “rate of change”.
Did society move ahead too quickly and not allow enough time for people to get used to the way things were before moving to the next step? Possibly. But I think the problem is deeper.
Where we have failed is in bringing “everyone” along when prosperity happened. We didn’t ensure that when things changed economically that everyone came along for the ride and benefited equally.
When capitalism really started taking off, only the people who owned shares and assets benefited. The rest of society not only didn’t benefit — but in many cases the rest of society suffered. This is a key driver in the discussions, debates and protests against the 1%.
When we didn’t ensure that everyone prospered the effects were felt in other areas of society that maybe we didn’t even notice at the time. I’m talking about areas of social change and progress.
As it is, the social changes have been aligned with times of economic disparity, uncertainty and collapse. Thus the social changes we have seen were “tarred with the same negative brush” as the economic changes.
If life is harder and people have less economically and at the same time there are social changes, then the social changes might be somehow aligned with having less. That means that the social changes could be seen as bad just by proxy.
Is Capitalism Fit for Purpose Today?
Capitalism is well defined legally and is focused on protecting those who provide capital to business for growth. Unfortunately capitalism does not have components to ensure that companies place sufficient focus on social good and inclusion through paying taxes and responsible wages for employees. Capitalism doesn’t focus on delivering world leading quality customer experiences. Capitalism doesn’t focus on improving the livelihoods and welfare of all of it’s employees. Capitalism focuses solely and exclusively and to the detriment of all else — on profit.
If CEOs make choices that are good for society or good for employees, or even decisions which build long term brand value at the expense of short term profit and share price, those CEOs are thrown out.
And if a company decides that the best way to build long term value is to deliver a world class service that absolutely stuns and delights customers — it’s considered a bit out-there. The majority of businesses are looking to deliver the absolute minimum service they can get away with and still have customers. RyanAir has been doing this for years — and Willy Walsh is now trying to destroy British Airways reputation as a high quality travel through withdrawing as many services as possible and replacing long term experienced staff with cheaper staff who will constantly churn through. (Disclaimer: I have family who work for BA!)
This is a fundamental flaw with capitalism and I don’t see very many people who even acknowledge the flaw let alone have a plan on how to change capitalism in a way that works for both shareholders and society at large. (By the way, I don’t have an answer for this one either).
No one can understand why people would vote for Trump. Let me explain.
There are a myriad of reasons why people would vote for Trump. At the core is still this theme of wanting change — less change.
People in America today are hurting. Sure — unemployment is low but household income is still incredibly low. Expenses are high. The economy has recovered and all of the economists are thrilled and so is the stock market. And those who own assets and stocks can feel the benefit.
The man on the street in America — not so much.
Hillary Clinton is a career politician. She is far from perfect and has made some bad decisions. She has been transparent about most of them and after scrutiny by the FBI and Congress she has thus far come through bruised — but not damaged.
Hillary will continue the work of Barack Obama. She will continue to engage with a (likely) split congress. If elected President she will have opportunity to appoint no less than 2 — and maybe 3 — supreme court justices.
Hillary is more of the same. And if there is one thing the man on the street can’t fathom — it’s having more of the same.
The Republicans can’t stand Trump. And they are distancing themselves from him at every turn. But there’s a problem with this tactic. It makes people love Trump even more.
You see — Republicans in Congress are part of the problem. They are “more of the same”. And if a career politician hates Trump then that must mean that he is the right man for the job. He will affect change. He is definitely not going to be more of the same.
People will vote Trump — even if they hate him — even if they believe he will destroy America — because a destroyed America will be different than it is today and it just might be better than it is today. It might be worse for a while — but it certainly won’t be the same.
If Trump wants to lose — all he has to do is to start sounding like a career politician.
If Hillary wants to win she needs to stop sounding like a career politician and to offer a chance for society to catch it’s breath before making even more sweeping changes… She needs to offer “less change”. (Which — btw — her liberal supporters will HATE!)
And what about in the UK? What about this Brexit business?
Here in my British home? Brexit? Very much the same. Many of the seniors who voted for Brexit want to return to the “days of Empire”. The UK doesn’t need the continent. “We were doing just fine as we were before joining the EU.” And somehow they believe that by leaving the EU they can return to the way things were before. They refuse to accept that the rest of the world has moved on and become more global and continues to do so each and every day. The change they want — is less change.
What of the middle aged and middle England who resoundingly voted for Brexit? They want to go back to a better time when London wasn’t the epicenter of England. When Finance and The City weren’t the powerhouses that drove the country. They want to go back to lives where they were more in control of their own destiny’s and to a world where they were able to contribute and compete on a level playing field. Again — they want to go back. They want less change.
For those who think we won’t actually leave the EU. I am sorry to say that I believe we will. It will be very VERY bumpy for a while. It will be OK in the end. Scotland will leave the UK. England will wind up an isolated little island with a limping economy except for the square mile of the city.
Why don’t we trust that everything will be ok?
Trust. It’s a fundamental element to help society hold together. Do we trust each other? Do we trust our governments? Do we trust the companies that provide us with our goods and services and who employ so many?
Trust. Trust has been systematically destroyed through sensationalism in search of profit and fame.
Profit seeking by whom? The Media. The Media are 100% complicit in bringing us to this point and the destruction of Trust. The Media are focused solely on selling advertising. The art of journalism is all but lost. Every story is focused around three things: Fear — Uncertainty — Doubt. Those are the stories that gather attention, and attention is what is needed to sell advertising, and ads make profit.
When speaking with friends and family in America about gun control and why there are so many people who insist on carrying weapons they tell me that it is all about a lack of trust.
People who carry guns and are so adamant in protecting their right to own and carry guns do not trust the police force to protect them. And they do not trust the government to protect them from economic collapse. My family explains that some people insist on carrying guns so that when the stock market collapses and society descends in to chaos they will be able to protect themselves.
People have so completely lost trust that they are living in a constant state of fear. And people who are afraid who have guns — that’s just a recipe for bad things to happen, and they are.
Julian Assange and Edward Snowden have made an art out of destroying trust in search or personal fame and notoriety. At their core they are common ordinary criminals who should be tried and convicted to the full extent of the law. They are not social heroes. They are not bastions of truth. They are sensationalist troublemakers whose only purpose in life is aggrandizing self promotion.
What have they achieved? They have accelerated the complete breakdown of trust between people and their government. A bit of distrust is healthy and keeps everyone honest — but what these men have done is beyond reproach.
Most of the “stories” they have disclosed have no place in society out of context and out of control. They spin their tales to the whip up the highest levels of fear and to make themselves sound like beacons of truth. To that I say “Rubbish”. In nearly every case there was an opportunity for the issues they discovered to be handled through appropriate channels and to allow the governments to continue to function in the best interest of their citizens. Were there a few bad actors who overstepped their bounds — yes. Was it malicious in intent — no.
And The Guardian newspaper and the New York Times? Well I don’t even read the Guardian anymore. They may not be a purely capitalist endeavor, but I lost all journalistic respect for them when they embraced Wikileaks. When Snowden came along and they “broke that story”, that just reaffirmed my view that The Guardian is no longer a paper to be trusted as they have lost all journalistic credibility. They are no better than the Daily Mail. That’s right, I lost trust in The Guardian. (And I don’t often read the NYT anyway…)
So, what does it all mean?
There are a growing number of people who want to destroy society the way it is today because they are in so much pain and fear that they cannot imagine things staying the same. They associate changes to society with the pain they feel in their economic hardships. They have been fed a steady diet of fear, uncertainty and doubt resulting in an erosion of their trust in companies, governments and even their fellow man. And even if it is worse for a time it has to be better than the way things are today.
People want to destroy capitalism (but they don’t want socialism). People want to unwind social progress like gay marriage and abortion (but not too far). People want their lives to be better (but they feel powerless to do anything because they don’t know what to do)
They want change. And the change they want is Less Change.
This is the stuff of revolutions.