Sunday, 14 February 2016

Rethinking Our Priorities

We have been reading a lot of books on restorative justice and the implication of relationship building and putting things right rather than retribution. I have tended to be silent for a while because of workload issues and having to write an application for promotion just to retain parity in the system. Along with a new movie about the financial crash, “The Big Short,” this has all prompted me to write this blog.

A comment that I received from a human resources manager highlights the problem of that I want to highlight in this blog. The comment basically implied that because people don't complain about inequality until provided evidence of the inequality in the system then they shouldn't complain or become upset when they obtain that information. Another interpretation of this comment is that companies should exploit their employees or a situation and when someone complains say that they hadn't complained before so they must have accepted what was happening. Is this a legitimate perspective or do companies and managers have a responsibility to ensure equality?

My argument is that the attitude that as long as no one complains, what is being done is acceptable lies behind the economic crisis. The documentary “Inside Job” and now the movie “The Big Short” both highlight the systemic problems and the momentum of a system racing to self destruction. Despite personal qualms by individuals, the system requirements dominate drawing all to perform to expectations rather than to ethical considerations. When it comes to the fixing of the interbank lending rate (LIBOR), it was individuals who were charged rather than an acknowledgement that the system seeks conformity and rewarded for what later was judged as unacceptable behaviour. In fact the rigging of LIBOR rates is insignificant compared with the gambling on sub-prime mortgages depicted in “The Big Short.”

What is really horrifying is that despite the 2007/2008 failure, the system hasn't changed. The bankers who acted as though there were no problems continue to do so recreating exactly the same conditions as existed before the crash. Although I support structural changes like those proposed by Positive Money or People's QE, I am not convinced that these will make the real changes that are necessary.

How often is this happening and how much of what is wrong with the system is simply expectations that people feel under rather than what they feel they should do based on their conscious?

At the root of the problem is the framing story that our economic system is based on. A framing story that places making money ahead of meeting need, and of growth rather than sustainability. This was clearly depicted in “The Big Short” where so many of the bankers and hedge funds were gambling on making money. That took priority of the social harm caused.

It is time for a serious rethink of our values and priorities. I question the emphasis that we place on knowledge or specialist skills. We need a more equal distribution of wealth. The unskilled jobs that if done properly stop the spread of disease and the destruction of our environment need to be rewarded more than the high paid intellectual jobs that are focussed on money making but deliver nothing of value to society.

Without such fundamental changes, we are racing to endless and short cycles of economic collapses until finally complete economic destruction occurs.

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