How Not to Fix a Problem

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nahani_cover-medWhen I was reading Dick Turner’s book Nahanni, something struck me. He talks a bit about the Natives that he encountered at that time, which was back in the 30’s and 40’s, in the Northwest Territories. He said that they were the most generous people he had ever met, helping anyone who needed it, and that most of them found the white man to be very greedy.
It seems to me that, to a large degree, “white man” just confirmed the Native’s suspicions of greediness when the government started fixing problems by throwing money at them. That’s a typical government response, and they did it large-scale with the First Nations people. Sure, natives received land, but they also received a regular allowance and the ability to make money without paying any taxes. In addition to the usual allowance, the gov’t recently gave out $10-20,000 per person (even babies) to make up for what they did in residential schools. You or I, non-natives, might want a piece of that cash, but does money really make up for the abuse and pain they endured? Nope, not one bit, but that’s the government way, and it proves that they put more value in money than life; they think that giving them more money is the solution. They could have spent the money on large-scale counseling and anti-addiction programs… that would better address the problems they created. But that’s tricky and messy, and this way they can say they’ve done their reparation and wipe their hands. Nice and neat, no follow up required. If First Nations people are the wards of the government, the government seems intent on raising spoiled children.
But is this greed? Giving away money? Well, it’s an indirect sign of greed (and misplaced priorities), kind of like agreeing to treat a friend to lunch, if you don’t have to work. Why not make work wait and put more value in your friend? What about agreeing to work an overtime shift when you had already promised to tutor the neighbour’s kid? How much money is a broken promise worth, and what kind of message does it send to the child? Driving to and fro to go shopping and run errands, but not wanting to use any gas to visit family? But is the solution to buy expensive gifts at Christmas to make up for that nagging guilt from not putting people first? Money is not the solution to problems that aren’t money-based! Greed makes us think that it is, and I think that TV promotes this, so anyone who watches it, no matter what culture they come from, is susceptible. I’ve noticed subtle signs in my own behaviour, like a reluctance to share an idea, because someone else might run with it and make money that I had hoped to make. (Like there aren’t enough ideas/money in the world!) Lately, I’ve been trying to decide what to do with my career — cling to my job as long as I can, because I might make some good money, or should I be letting go and embracing new ideas (that might not be profitable right away).
Thus, this blog’s title emerges: how not to fix a problem. Don’t throw money at it unless your problem is debt. Do spend the time to think about the root of the problem or challenge, and think or talk through the best solution. Don’t be afraid to embrace the “messy” solution. When you catch yourself about to spend money, check if you are trying to solve a problem that money won’t solve. Some people spend compulsively, but they are actually lonely, insecure, or unhappy for some reason. Don’t be afraid to look deeply and see what is true for you. It’s not the capital “T” Truth — it doesn’t define who you are — but it’s where you are right now. Lastly, think about how you’d really like to be, and become it.

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