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“Change” vs “improvement.” Is different always better?

Putting aside (with some difficulty) how we feel about people like Donald Trump personally, I want to talk about the way the restlessness of the masses has resulted in a culture of “it’s a bit broke, let’s throw it away and try something unknown.” We’ve seen this happen recently with Brexit, and now it looks like it’s going to happen again in the United States with the possible election of business tycoon Donald Trump as president. People are equating change with improvement, and different is not always better.

It’s not easy being the boss!

Running a country is hard. Humans have been organised as countries, tribes and group for thousands of years, and no perfect system of management has arisen in all of that time. No genius has ever come up with a system that works flawlessly, or even close to flawlessly. Managing a collection of people is tough. You have to balance their privacy and freedom against their security. You have to promote growth and expansion while managing resources. You have to forge new and more efficient technologies while keeping people employed. Science and religious beliefs have to learn to co-exist. Culture has to be respected, borders respected, people’s right to self-identification and the freedom to love who they please encouraged while preserving what the society considers are its values. The Romans seemed to get a lot of things right, way back when.

The Roman Senate

Did the Romans get government right?

We have it easy now… time to complain about the little things!

The world has gone a long while now without an all-encompassing war. Yes, we have military situations happening in what many of us feel are “far away” countries, yes we have the rise of terrorism, fueled in part by people’s access to almost instant news coverage of any shocking event. And agreed, gun control is an issue in the US. But in general, in Western countries, we live relatively safe, peaceful lives. We’re able to focus more on issues like personal freedom and Pokemon Go than dealing with the draft or night time Allied bombing raids.

World War 2 Bombing Raid

So, as seems to be the way with people who have time on their hands, we start to nit-pick. We don’t like this policy. We don’t like what that politician said. We take for granted the freedoms we’ve had for so long.

Change for the sake of change?

The argument I heard for the Brexit vote in the UK was that people wanted change… and many of them, after the vote, were surprised and possibly even regretted their decision when the UK decided to leave the EU. The same thing seems to be happening in America now.

Brexit - a change for the better?

Did people really understand the consequences of change?

I happen to like Barack Obama, as a person and a leader. He’s personable, he understands the way the world works now, appearing comfortable on social media. He tried valiantly to change the health system in the US, against a barrage of hate, racism, and abuse. It surprises us non-Americans.

Barack Obama evidence of positive change

The wonder of a black man as president

Broken US healthcare

When I traveled to the US on a filmmaking project in the early 2000s, I contracted an ear infection from the swimming pool at the hotel where I was staying. I visited a US emergency room, was prescribed antibiotics, and I thought I was done. To my surprise, after I returned to New Zealand, I started to receive bills. From the emergency room. The attending physician. The pharmacist. They totaled over $2,000. Luckily, my travel insurance took care of that.

Contrast that with the fact that for the last year or so I have been on a program in New Zealand that ended in bariatric surgery, and involved repeated visits to nurses, psychologists, support groups and a stay in hospital… the whole process did not cost me a cent!

So, on the one hand, you have a country – the US – crying for change… but not actually wanting change. Preparing to vote for a man with no real political history, just because they “don’t like” the “establishment” alternative (I am not a fan of Hilary either…). But they’re about to take a huge risk – greater than the risk the British took with Brexit.

Slow and steady wins the race

I’m not saying stay with the status quo. The American political system,  like many, is full of corruption, corporate interference, greed and many terrible aspects of human nature. But it also knows how to keep the lights on and play well with other countries. It’s a system you could continue to improve from the inside. Look at Portugal, who decriminalized all drugs to great success… look at European countries with free education, look at countries like New Zealand and the UK (for now) and their positive health systems.

Let’s elect people with vision, who are prepared to take risks and try something new in safe and measured increments. It feels like the US are in many ways behaving like spoilt brats, who don’t appreciate what they have, and the monumental challenges of running a country of that size, and are prepared to throw all of their babies out with the bath water in favour of something new, for the sake of being new. It’s a change that could rock the stability of the world and open the way even further for fundamentalism and radical Islam to stoke our fears.

Of course, these are my thoughts and my opinion as an outside observer, and one of the freedoms I have is the ability to express those. Fans of outspoken (and frequently, hilariously crude) Australian comic Jim Jefferies might find his thoughts on the situation, part of his “Freedumb” tour, quite interesting.

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