Monday, November 11, 2013

Week of 11/11/2013

Our Petulant Children
– by David Matthews 2

Once upon a time there was a family named State.  It was a really big and extended family, with plenty of in-laws, children, step-children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and even adopted children.  Some might even say that the State family had way too many “adopted children”, but that’s a different discussion for a different time.

Of course, with so many children and step-children and grandchildren and adopted children about, it’s not hard to imagine that the “adults” would have their favorites.  Some children were clearly favored above others.  Some were spoiled endlessly while others suffered through endless neglect and abuse.

It wasn’t right, and it certainly wasn’t fair, but it was simply the way things were in the State family.  They knew that they couldn’t satisfy everyone in that family, so they didn’t even try.  They simply picked on their favorites and worked on those they thought were “trouble”.

One day the matriarch of the family decided to “fix” some of the more “spoiled” of the children.  She saw them as being too tyrannical, constantly bullying the other children when they should be helping their brothers and sisters (and step-brothers and step-sisters and cousins and nieces and nephews and so on and so forth).  After all, this is supposed to be one big “family”, right?

She turned to the children seen as the “bankers” of the family, since they were the ones that oversaw the distribution of allowances and the management of the family budget, and told them they needed to do a better job with the distribution.  Not all of the children were getting their allowances, and some of them were losing their allowances due to some very creative “fees”.  The matriarch saw this and said this needed to end.

“You need to do better,” she told the “banker” children.  “You need to share.”

But the “banker” kids would have none of it.  They’ve enjoyed the money they’ve collected through their various schemes and they certainly didn’t want to “share”.

“You can’t tell us what to do!” they screamed.

“Yes I can” retorted the matriarch.

“We won’t change!” they screamed back.  “You can’t make us!”

So they stormed to their rooms and threw their tantrums until the patriarch of the family showed up, and after some quiet discussion, the matriarch was assured that the “bankers” would behave.  He even said they would give some of the money back from some of their schemes.

Of course nobody talked about how the “banker” children came up with new schemes to pilfer the allowances from the other children.  And the money they “gave back”?  They really didn’t.  They just gave some of that money to their “parents” as a “penalty”.

And despite the complaints continuing from the other children, the matriarch didn’t want to bring the matter back up again, partially because everything seemed to work “so well”.

But the matriarch wasn’t done trying to “fix” the children.  She then turned to the children that they dubbed the “supervisors”; the ones that oversaw the chores being done.  Apparently there was work that needed to be done around the house and around the neighborhood.  Both “parents” were quick to volunteer their children to do various things in the community.  The “supervisors” would determine what work needed to be done, who did the work, and then work with the “bankers” so they’d be paid accordingly through their allowances.

Unfortunately there were complaints about the work being done.  Sometimes it wasn’t being done.  Sometimes it was being done badly.  Sometimes it was being done by kids from other families.  Sometimes the work was being done but the children weren’t getting paid as much through their allowance as they should.  The matriarch said this needed to change and told the “supervisors” to include the other family members.

“No!” screamed the “supervisors”.  “We can’t work with some of these people!  They demand too much!  They’re shiftless and lazy!”

But again the matriarch insisted.

“No!” screamed the children.  “You can’t make us do this!”

“Yes I can,” said the matriarch.

And so they too stormed to their rooms and threw their temper tantrums.  And, again, the patriarch of the family stepped in and later assured the matriarch that their “children” would do better, but then he added that maybe the matriarch should just ease up a bit, as if it was somehow her fault that the children were not measuring up.

Then the matriarch turned to the children grouped together as “healers”… the children that took it upon themselves to administer the band-aids and the aspirin and took care of the other children when they were sick or injured.  This is, after all, a really big family, and you can’t expect the parents to do that, right?

And here, apparently the matriarch again asked for too much, insisting that those that are sick or injured be treated without hassles or haggling over how much those children should pay for those bandages and aspirin!  You’d think they would be expected to get those things for free, wouldn’t you?

And once again, the “healers” protested.

“You can’t tell us what to do!” they screamed.

“I just did,” the matriarch said.  “And you will do what I tell you to do!”

“You can’t make us!” they screamed.

And once again, they stomped their feet and went to their rooms and threw their temper tantrums. But this time they weren’t alone.  The “bankers” and the “supervisors” also complained loudly about this.  And even the patriarch of the family joined in, saying what the matriarch was demanding was simply “too much”.

But the matriarch was adamant that the “healers” would do what they were told to do.  After all, the others did so well, right?  Sure they threw their tantrums, but she was then assured they would all “fall in line”.  Why should this time be any different?

Much to her surprise, though, when the next children got hurt, there was nothing for them.  The cost of the bandages was too much for them to bear.  Plus, it wasn’t like they could afford to spend money on a bandage.  They had no allowance money because there were no chores for them to do.

The matriarch was shocked to discover this.  The patriarch then blamed her for the failure of the children to do as she had asked.  The children then jumped in, claiming the matriarch was a failure because she should have done more to see these “changes” put in place.

But, really, why should this be a surprise to anyone?  If you understand human nature, then you’d know this kind of destructive action is to be expected.

Obviously this “family” is fictional, but their actions are certainly based on real examples.

Let’s get brutally honest here… people (not to mention institutions and businesses) in positions of power and wealth are very much like petulant children.  They will not do what they are told they “have” to do if they don’t want to do it.  They will fight it tooth-and-nail whenever possible, even if it makes them look bad.  Even if others despise them for doing it.

So then why should anyone be surprised to hear about insurance companies making life hard for people when it comes to healthcare reform?  Or when banks are told they can’t screw over their customers like they used to do?

It’s a matter of ego.  People that have spent any amount of time in positions of power, wealth, and influence feel entitled to those things.  They feel these things are theirs to control and use as they see fit, and they don’t like being told that they have to give them up.

And it doesn’t help matters much when half of those “parents” in our real-life “State family” seem to be supporting those “petulant children” and may even be quietly encouraging resistance, no matter the damage done because of it.  Just look at the recent government shutdown if you don’t believe me.

People with a mind for reform need to remember that it’s not just a matter of the “greater good”.  It’s also about other people, especially those in charge or those that have any kind of leverage in that system.  They need to be convinced that whatever you need changed would be in their best interests as well, because otherwise you will have nothing but petulant children on your hands that even the best parents in the world would not be able to handle.

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