Sunday, May 13, 2012

Citizens first

I'll probably question the wisdom of this later, because after an afternoon in the sun, a barbecue, and a bottle of wine, this post is likely to be rather more random than the subject matter deserves.

But, here goes...

After my last post, I thought about some of the comments. There's a lot more meat to be picked from this particular bone in future posts, but right now I decided to ramble a bit about what I mean by "Citizens first" - what it is, and what it isn't.

First off, a few things it's not.

This is not a rant against the evils of money. I actually think money is a great invention, and essential to getting us beyond simple bartering. It is a sophisticated way of allowing us individuals to specialize in what we're good at, and to exchange what we can offer for what we need. Without it, we would not have access to the bewildering range of products and services that we have come to enjoy.

This is not a rant against greed and corruption. They will always be with us. It is part of human nature. No. This is a rant against the social, political, and economic structures that allow greed and corruption to flourish. That is a very different prospect. You have little chance of stopping people from acting selfishly, but I think you have a very real chance of arranging things so that self interest aligns with the public good.

Finally, I saw the word "politics" in the comments, and thought to myself "this is not political". However, I have to retract that somewhat. Sure, this is not about conventional politics. It is not promoting socialism or decrying capitalism. Forget the "isms". However, as this touches on government and power, I guess that does make it political.

So what do I mean by "Citizens first"?

This is a dream. A dream that we can escape from the self-serving madness that the world has become. Where we are driven to exploit the planet at unsustainable levels, not because it makes any sense, but because it yields the biggest profits. Where things are produced deliberately to degrade and need replacing because that helps sell new products, whether they are needed or not. Where our leaders are not necessarily those who will make the best choices for us, but those with the best funding, connections, and sheer ambition to win the election race.

This is a dream, but more specifically this is about some concrete and - I think - achievable ways forward. This is about manipulating our web of interactions so that the ordinary citizen is considered the most important player. This is about devising new sets of rules and rewards to incent beneficial, rather than harmful, behavior.

Back to the "Nots"...this is not wishy-washy idealism, as in - if we can all just agree to get along, then everything will be hunky dory. I don't believe that. And that is not cynicism, it's realism.

This is a call for people to take concrete action, beginning with research and understanding of how people and organizations function. It is a call to find ways to motivate people so that their actions serve themselves by helping others, rather than at the expense of others.

I don't pretend that these thoughts will have universal appeal. Not everyone will agree.

Putting the ordinary person back front and centre of society is a choice, not a given.

If you are greedy or uncaring then you will not like this direction. But if you have half a heart for your friends, your neighbors, and your children, then you might agree that enough is enough.

The question is...are there enough of you out there to wrest your world from the hands of the greedy and corrupt few?


  1. The greedy and corrupt will also always be among us. Greediness is not against the law, but corruption can be. We live in a fallen world rife with a proclivity for self-preservation above all things else.

    As far as I am concerned, I just do what I can to help others and treat others as I'd like to be treated.

  2. Personally, I'm planning on declaring my own country where common sense and kindness are the constitution. All intruders will be shot. lol.

  3. Where do I sign up? Maybe it's being a certain age but I find myself thinking more and more about where the money is - and where it isn't. If everyone were paid a living wage - meaning less to those who have weightier wage packets - and we all agreed that a huge return on investment is not necessary...a good return is enough. Then maybe we wouldn't need food banks and children wouldn't need to be fed at school. But I know I'm a dreamer. Who would voluntarily take a pay cut so someone else could have a pay rise?

  4. I don't know that there will ever be an answer to this. If one is not rewarded monetarily for working harder than someone else than what is the point of working harder? If everyone was guaranteed a good wage some people still wouldn't show up for work. I've worked with plenty of people who couldn't figure out how to budget their money and pay their bills and not sink further into debt and figured it was because they didn’t get paid enough. But when I pointed out how often they had missed work and how much income lost that equated too there was still no change in their behaviour. My husband and I are doing well now but in the beginning we were not well paid and yet we still did better than what was considered average. I think a big problem with society (especially North American society) is consumerism. My husband sees it all the time in his line of work (he's the cable guy). He goes into people's homes and they can't even afford formula, furniture (they literally sit on the floor), or rent and they want full out cable and have a huge brand new TV. People can't afford to pay the hundreds of dollars they owe the cable company and are getting evicted from their homes for not paying rent, but they have an iPhone, a Coach handbag, or a shiny new 2012 truck. It kills me when people live beyond their means because they see celebrities living that life and they figure they should too. Grrrr!! Less is more and a lot of peoples financial burdens would be solved if their spending was prioritized on first needs and then wants.

    Sorry about the rant. :S I couldn't help myself. *blush*

  5. Jeremy: The greedy and corrupt will always be with us. True. That is why individual action, although necessary, is unlikely to be sufficient to make real change. That was an "Aha!" moment for me.

    Delores: Shot kindly I hope! :D

    Stephanie: If we all agreed - and lived by - what you say, that would be marvelous. But we also wouldn't be human any longer. My thought is to acknowledge our human weaknesses and devise ways in which they are harnessed to good rather than harm. Therein lies the challenge.

    Stella: Rants are good. It shows I've touched a nerve. That kind of behavior annoys me, too, and it's a sign of a very sick society. It's not just North America, though. Equally self-destructive behavior can arise from all sorts of social pressures. Traditional Japanese society is big on gift-giving, for example, sometimes resulting in a spiral of increasingly extravagant gifts that can lead to bankruptcy. All because neither party wants to lose face.


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I also try to respond to comments. I usually do so during the early evening (Pacific time) which may be many hours away from now!

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