Change we can only believe in

carrier5America 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.

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5 thoughts on “Change we can only believe in

  1. Mike Pattillo

    Welcome to the greatest nation on earth. Now lets change it! Lets make banks impossable, credit card companys ass holes, automotive manufacturers foreign. Give only the criminals guns. Make health care free for all illegal immigrants -all 11 million plus illegals . Free for eveyone that chooses to be stupid by not going to school, Lets charge working people with gumption $1050.00 per month for their healthcare insurance. Lets let North Korea test their nuclear weapons systems on the US. Give everyone a bailout- . Slavery is gone- the African warlords just cut off the heads of their enemys and throw them in the river. Im sorry but I do not want leaders. I want managers that enforce the American laws and ensure our freedom and principals. Managers that do their jobs and not seek power. Power belongs to the free society, not the idiots.

  2. Lee Leslie Post author

    Mike: The “greatest nation on earth” is not a real contest*- just political rhetoric to fire up the patriots (all of us) and the xenophobes (too many of us).
    I do believe that we have institutionalized many of our problems, and given current conditions -- 15 million unemployed; another 15 million way under employed; the spike in foreclosures and bankruptcy; wars, warming, etc. -- I believe it is time to review many of these entrenched (generally defined as profitable enough to have K street lobbyists) policies to make our nation even better. Especially better for our children.
    I hear and share your anger. Power does belong to we the people, but our power is expressly given to our leaders (they hire the managers) when we vote.

    I totally agree with you that the policies that aren’t working need to CHANGE. The policies that fostered the greed on Wall Street and the bailouts need to CHANGE. The policies that attracted and allowed 12-20 million people to live here illegally need to CHANGE. The policy that allowed Pakistan to make and market nuclear weapons that ended up in North Korea needs to CHANGE. The policies that made healthcare so profitable for some and impossibly expensive for most of us (I pay much more than $1,050 per month for a basic policy) need to CHANGE. The policies that have given or sold weapons that keep African warlords in power and enable their genocide need to CHANGE. The failed policies that have a third of our young people (our future) dropping out before graduating, whether that is about the schools, the families, the drugs, need to CHANGE. That’s all I’m talking about.

    One question for you: aren’t the credit card companies already assholes?

    *Maybe it should be? a beauty contest? an intelligence test? a justice test? a democracy test? a business test? what would it be like? would Simon be a judge and own the winner? I invite ideas.

  3. austin mcmurria

    “The human mind treats a new idea the way the body treats a strange protein: it rejects it.”
    Peter Medawar, Nobel Laureate, for discovery of acquired immunological tolerance

    “A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.”

    -- Douglas Adams

  4. Chuck

    A quick answer for Suz’s question: I think we did see what happens: from 2000 to 2008. Which leaves us in this boat that needs to be turned around and which leaves folks like Mike saying leadership has no value, and that he therefore just wants “managers.” Not sure where Mr. Pattillo works, but every high-performing company I know of has good or better managers who keep things moving, but they also have leaders. They have people of vision who say, “There’s a better way to do things.” Because of that, we’ve seen the growth of great companies like Google, Nike, Microsoft, Apple, FedEx, and the list goes on and on. Google has Serge and Larry, Nike has Phil, Microsoft has Bill, Apple has Steve, FedEx has Fred. Leaders, all of them. They help create wealth that wasn’t there before and give their customers capabilities they never had before. And guess what? All of them are still making money in this recession. So clearly, leadership has value. I’m just asking you, Mike, consider whether leadership really does have value to you. And if you simply reply that politicians can’t be leaders, then you’re not really thinking. Consider it. Really think about it. Then see where you come down.


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