Wednesday, 25 October 2017

The power of self interest

The word "equality" is being hurled around as folk try to deal with gropers, tax avoiders, democratic deficits, Brexit and Donald Trump.

We have read and heard all sorts of individuals talking about the need for "equality" with reference to bias and unfairness in the societal realm yet I am left confused as to what exactly these strident seekers of equality actually seek to achieve.

Equal means, the same as. Now, outside of the realms of fiction, do we really believe all people should be the same or even could be the same given the large number of variables in any single human life where the sum of life A is the same as the life of life B:

A = (n+n+n+n+n to death) = B =(z+z+z+z to point of death)

In any shape or form, no matter the criteria considered no two people, whatever the political system or social construct will ever be equal. The reality of any system or construct is some will always be more equal than the many. This is the observed reality whether you are in a totalitarian state run by Pol Pot or Stalin, the most open of democracies or an unknown tribal society deep in the Amazonian rain forest.

The argument is turned to say not totally equal, of course that can never happen, but equal in opportunities.

So here we have two children, 12 years old, C and D, both faced with the same opportunity with regards to their future education but it means leaving their current friends behind and going to a different school. Their current friends pressure them not to go to this school as it is for smarty pants and snobs and not folk "like them". Emotional blackmail comes into play, these current friends threaten never to speak to them ever again if they leave the herd, as they would be betraying the ones left behind.

The parent's of child C are indifferent to the educational opportunity, their families have always been workers and artisans, the assumption being child C is destined to follow his Dad into the brewery as an apprentice cooper. The parents of child D come from the same background but they see the opportunity for child D to gain an educational opportunity they never had. Child C gives into pressure from friends and parental indifference and stays put. Child D, with encouragement from his parents, takes this educational opportunity and "risk" of alienating the friends they have played with since they could walk. Child C gets three highers and ends up working for Scottish Widows in an office processing claims, as by the time they are 16 the brewery has shut down so no chance of following the family work tradition. Child D gets six highers, a first class degree and enters the professions.

The classic case of you can take a horse to water but can not make it drink, that is the problem with equal opportunities, they are never really equal when you look at it.

I would argue what any society needs to function effectively is to seek equanimity, fairness. I think this is the real issue at the heart of gender equality or educational equality campaigns, for example. Why should two people doing the same job be paid differently on the basis of gender? Why should your postcode define the quality of education your child receives?

To me, waving the 'equality card' does little to alter the reality that change only happens when those with power and / or wealth see some benefit to either their prestige or their bottom line. Take educational attainment. You can potentially put the most successful head in Scotland into a failing school whether they are successful or not is down to the perceived benefit the local community actually place on educational attainment. Where the local community raise their educational  expectations, take on power and support the head by encouraging their children to get on board, massive improvements occur, recruiting teachers becomes easier and standards rise. Where the local community remain indifferent, the failing school remains a failing school no matter how much money is thrown at it.

So it does not matter how "fair" you try to be, unless the self interest of individuals or local communities is engaged, the "fairness" project is destined to fail, no matter how great the intentions, because success requires a cultural change in the way individuals or communities think, the problem being the "Aye been thon wey" way of doing or being is a difficult mountain to climb.

It is the same with any future independence referendum the "not certain one way or the other" group who plumped for 'No' in 2014 will be best engaged by engaging their self interest, after all that was why, supposedly, workers at BAE Scotstoun or certain groups of OAPs followed the Labour and Unionist carrot to vote "No".

No matter how fine the future political arguments are for independence, next time around, the variations of cry of we are all 'Jock Tamson's bairns' will fall once again on deaf ears if individuals and communities' self interest is not engaged. Maybe it will be less hard shifting opinion given how badly let down by "Better Together" and the subsequent farce of Brexit is now impacting on Scotland's farmers, fishermen, pensioners and shipbuilders. Only time will tell.

In the meantime we "Yessers" need to start engaging the switherers self interest at every turn.

No comments:

Post a Comment