America was founded on change, wasn’t it? Why is it so hard to change now?
Didn’t our fore-parents unabashedly give up their lives in the old world for a new start in a new land? Not really. While some adventurers and liberals came for the promise of a new start and riches in this new land, more came to escape their struggle against the monarchs and entrenched power of the old world or to escape religious persecution. Others came as indentured servants or to escape debtors prison. Many more were forced to come as slaves. Change is hard. Seldom voluntary. Often forced. And, typically, when other choices are worse, or no longer possible.
We like to give lip service that we are open to change, but we fight to our deaths to maintain and protect what is known and comfortable. It is human nature. We will work harder to not to lose something (pick one or more: ❑ money; ❑ power; ❑ possessions; ❑ prestige; ❑ love; ❑ status quo; ❑ beliefs; ❑ big cars ; ❑ guns; ❑ private health insurance; ❑ farm subsidies; ❑ political party affiliation; ❑ immigrant labor; ❑ electoral college; ❑ air and water pollution; ❑ oil subsidies; ❑ import taxes on sugar-based ethanol; ❑ tax cuts for wealthy; ❑ disposable containers; ❑ long patent protection; ❑ no regulation of hedge funds; ❑ no real regulation of Wall Street; ❑ miserly minimum wage; ❑ predatory credit card charges; ❑ alternative minimum tax; ❑ off-shore tax havens; ❑ tax subsidies for highways; ❑ stem cell research; ❑ drilling, mining and timber harvesting in our parks and wilderness areas; ❑ seldom disclosed stock options and exorbitant executive compensation; ❑ policies toward the southern hemisphere; ❑ Cuba policy; ❑ wall at Mexican border; ❑ Predator drones bombing civilians; ❑ independent contractors in war zones; ❑ no-bid Pentagon contracts; ❑ military weapons development we don’t want or will use but are in multiple states protected by Congress; ❑ domestic spying; ❑ exporting weapons; ❑ detention without trial; ❑ torture; ❑ genocide; ❑ nuclear proliferation; ❑ airport security lines; ❑ voter ID cards; ❑ polls only open on Tuesday; ❑ green lawns; ❑ war on terror; ❑ spam, etc.) than to change something, even when it is in our best interest. And the more you have or the longer you’ve had it, the more ferociously you’ll fight.
Our business leaders and politicians know this (so does cable news). They know how easy it is to create a constituency against change than for change. Just play the fear card. Turn on that primal fear of change and logic loses its voice. Facts become suspect. Us against them. Join the mob and kill the monster.
If change is so hard, how does it ever happen since we no longer persecute religious preference, have debtor prisons, monarchs, entrenched power, slavery or the opportunity of a new land? Good question. Coke got rid of sugar just by not telling us. Ditto smaller amounts of potato chips per pack. Digital TV passed because they made it so far in the future that no one cared (the future is here and it is too late to care). Poisonous drugs get removed from the shelf when we find out that enough of us have died. Ditto toxic waste. Election laws changed when enough people took to the streets. It took a war to end slavery and may take another one to end economic slavery. It took the depression to regulate banks, but only took the promise of an unlimited expansion to deregulate them. It took Al Gore to give us the internet, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs to get us computers, but it took porn sites, Facebook and Craigslist to get us high speed access. It took Bush and McCain to give us our first non-pink President. And, the almost-great depression to give us the economic prozac of TARP and the stimulus.
I haven’t answered the question of change ever happens. I “believe” change takes some combination of strong leadership; faith; common sense; promised treasure; compromise; luck; timing; spin; good marketing; patience; and the absolute promise of all out voter retaliation. Speaking in April to students in Turkey, President Obama said of change, “States are like big tankers. They’re not like speedboats. You can’t just whip them around and go in another direction. You turn them slowly, and eventually you end up in a very different place.” Have we started turning, yet? It sure looks like we’re heading nowhere.