greed

Electing a Leader

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I don’t usually write about politics. It’s a topic that I generally avoid because some people can get really angry really quickly and then they become irrational and unable to listen to an opinion that varies even slightly from their own. I don’t follow politics, because I find it too frustrating. I do have a few observations I wanted to share, however, from a more philosophical point of view.
In the past few decades, we have made money our god. We will do anything to have more of it, to save it or get it (directly or indirectly) from each other. I have found people don’t even think twice about screwing someone else out of money, because, well, it’s money. In popular culture, it is perfectly moral to do what you have to do to get more money. Millionaires are idolized and people wish they could take their place.
As a result, the citizens of the US elected a rich man to be their leader. He has no other leadership abilities or selling points, but he is rich. Maybe they thought that electing a rich man would make them all rich, and he may have made promises to that effect, but we all know not to believe a politician’s promises, right? He was also somewhat famous before he was elected, and many people seek fame as well as fortune. So it makes sense that we collectively elect someone that comes from a group that we admire — in this case, a millionaire.
I wonder if there is a certain amount of momentum behind the choosing of a leader. I mean, if around the world, millions of people all shifted their focus toward being more responsible people, making good, logical decisions, and taking responsibility for their actions, it might still take some time to see a change in the actual leaders who get elected. If millions focused on being kinder, gentler, more accepting and compassionate, — if we idolized equality, fairness, or empathy — those sorts of people would rise through our ranks to be our leaders. There would still be people who value money over all else, and who are selfish, greedy, capitalist consumers, but they would not be chosen to be our leaders. Could it be that our most treasured values are mirrored in the leaders we elect?

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I fear our election processes choose the most popular candidate, but not the best people to actually LEAD. Do you ever feel like politics is like high school, where popularity is everything and the smartest kids aren’t necessarily the most popular, nor are the ones who would ultimately be the best leaders. Thank goodness politicians alone do not make all policies. Every political office has staff who are experts in their field — people like the public health leaders who have, especially in my country, Canada, really stepped up to the plate and become true leaders, advising the politicians on the best course of action to take.
So, if we take this line of thinking and continue on a philosophical journey into the future… who will our leaders be in the decades to come? Those who had wild success of Tik Tok? Maybe a pop music idol, if one chose to pursue politics? A famous actor? There are many who have the popularity but few choose politics. I think it will be some Instagrammer, YouTuber or TikTokker, and it makes me wonder about where we are headed next.
Instagrammers often (not always, I know) focus on appearances. Everything looks perfectly composed, tidy, or cosy, or whatever vibe they are going for. Nothing is real. Okay, my Instagram is real, complete with rusting tractors and grass that needs to be cut in the background (@teresas_alpaca_cam, if you are interested)!
TikTok is about entertainment, is it not? Who can get the most views, whose video goes viral the fastest. This is pure fluff and there is zero guarantee that someone whose TikTok is wildly popular would even be able to lead a squirrel out of a paper bag (which is easy, if that wasn’t clear).
Have you seen on YouTube the obstacle course that a guy made for squirrels? They have to run a complicated gauntlet to be rewarded with the nuts they love so much. This guy put in a lot of engineering savvy to create the course that was sufficiently difficult and would not harm them. He built a squirrel catapult which safely flings any squirrel which lingers on its platform too long! This guy could, possibly, lead a country. He has at least shown that he has some smarts, problem solving ability, clear thinking, persistence and compassion towards animals.
I wonder if our current political system actually repels the truly good leaders? I wonder if they are “discouraged from applying for the job” so to speak? And I don’t just mean successful people, because believe it or not, they aren’t always good leaders… or wouldn’t be cut out for public office, in any case. Just because you are a good CEO doesn’t mean you can run a country. A good political leader should always be interested in the greatest good — not the bottom line, or the balanced budget or other things that might occupy a good CEO’s attention. A government’s job is to provide common-use services, safely and fairly to all its citizens. It collects taxes to do this — to provide and maintain common-use roads, schools, hospitals, libraries, and cultural centres. Its job is not to make as much money as possible, or save as much money as possible (common corporate goals). Its job is to provide services. It should try to do so with a balanced, reasonable budget, but at times, this may not be possible. One could add that its job is to stabilize the economy, whenever able.
So if we can’t draw from a pool of successful CEOs for our high-ranking politicians, who can we look to? Should we look to University professors? They are some of the smartest people out there, and many would make good leaders. They are thinkers, and many are logical and analytical. Some might not be overly compassionate, but neither are CEOs, necessarily. Again, I think our current system doesn’t not encourage such a person to even consider it. The pettiness we see in debates and house discussions would be unsavoury if not appalling to most civilized university types (I think).

What do you think of my ponderings? Am I crazy? Or do you worry about who our next leaders may be? I am little worried for my neighbours to the south, and friends who live there, but I will not share and describe my worries here. They are contagious. Hopefully, the next election goes smoothly and the leader who wins is well-suited to lead.

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.