A week or so ago, a friend asked me whether this was the end of the world? Seemed to be a quite amusing question at the time, but in retrospect, it did make me think. But no, I don’t think 2020 is the end of the world; we haven’t reached the ‘off to hell in a handcart’ moment just yet, and in any case, it won’t be in a handcart – a 4×4, more likely.
However, 2020 will, in due course, come under intense scrutiny by future generations. Covid, Brexit, Inequality, Austerity, Climate Change, Fake News, Alternative Facts, and Autocracy have all contributed to make this a year to remember, for a lot of very bad reasons, and that’s just for starters. What a time they will have making sense of that lot.
What is so sad is the complete and utter failure of most governments to address the various crises that affect modern life. There have been billions of words written on this during the course of the year, mostly describing the various problems and pinning blame. And where so many governments fail is that they do not see their mission as providing a national infrastructure and relevant services that support the basic wellbeing of their citizens. More often than not, they treat their citizens as clients, and absolve themselves of responsibility, by adopting a command and control and ‘we know best’ attitude as their right and as a form of self-entitlement. And fundamentally, when faced with any form of crisis, they never address the root cause of the problem, but just tinker with the symptoms.
Covid is a case in point: there’s a very simple approach to root cause analysis, based on the Five Whys. For each known ‘fact’, or piece of evidence about the problem, ask why; this should create another fact; then ask why again. Do this five times and you’ll arrive at the root cause of the problem. Once you get there, then it’s time to put in place appropriate actions to prevent it happening again. If indeed the root cause of the Covid pandemic was the live markets in Wuhan, why do we have live markets? Cheap food – why? Poverty-why? Lack of food hygiene – why? Lack of education-why ? Government policy? Oh, and then, why did Covid spread? Didn’t communicate the problem– why? Pretend it’s under control – why? Ignore the science – why? National reputation – why? Government policy.
The contribution of science, technology and engineering through the evolution of mankind has steered progression through the Stone Age, Iron Age, Industrial Age, Machine Age and Information Age, and afforded some the opportunity to enjoy comfortable lifestyles and general wellbeing. The contribution of political ideologies and governmental power has created wars, slavery, and poverty, which has afforded others inequality, hunger, disease and fear.
So, when we reflect on 2020, one consistent theme has been for governments to ignore the experts, ignore the science, and abuse the technology, but instead, base their strategies based on nothing much more than wishful thinking. It doesn’t work; never has, and never will. When will politicians ever learn?
Happy New Year – may 2021 bring better times.