The consumption of alcohol appears to make things better. A lot better. Before they get worse. Much worse…
The consumption of drugs, similarly, appears to make the world better, Even magical. Before it gets worse. Worse enough to cause ruin and even destroy the user.
Ironically, Most public policy also appear to make things better.
Much like the consumption of alcohol appears to make things better, public policy that appears to make things better is consumed more and by more. Predictably, most public policy makes things worse after they initially seemed to get better.
Try telling an alcoholic or a junkie that things are getting worse. It’s as difficult, if not worse to tell a policy maker addicted to the short term to focus on the short now, or the lifetime of a child born today.
A policy maker once turned to me and thundered, “don’t talk about the long term, talk about my term”!
If the city we live in today, the world we leave for our children and their children isn’t as good as that is left for us by our parents, isn’t it because of our addiction to the short term? Isn’t it because of our addition to the “my term” in every policy makers tenure?
My favourite example of policy, where things got better before they got worse, is of the World Health Organisation using DDT (Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) to control Malaria in Borneo in the 50’s.
My friend, Development Consultant and Musician, Alan Atkinson tells the story very well. To take care of a bad health outbreak of malaria, the World Health Organisation sprayed the whole countryside with DDT.
It seemed a good idea as cases of malaria dropped. Till suddenly the people were threatened by outbreaks of two new serious diseases, sylvatic plague and typhus!
The insects that died from the DDT were eaten by gecko lizards, which were then eaten by cats. The cats started to die, the rats flourished.
With the rats flourishing came the serious disease carried by the rats. Thanks to short term. Thanks to the public policy of the World Health Organisation in this case.
Much like a depressed individual drowning his symptoms with alcohol instead of addressing the causes, the policy maker is busy addressing symptoms with little or no understanding of the causes.
Often, the cause of some symptoms lie in past policies and are often far from the place where these symptoms manifest.
In each case, because things get better before they get worse, its difficult to get the policy makers to see their addiction for hiding symptoms.
Here Are Some Urban Policies To Think About:
The policies that promote urban growth and rewards growth and expansion.
The policies that promote urban transportation and connects neighbourhood villages and cities.
The policies that make urban travel faster or more convenient.
The policy to build more reservoirs to supply water to the city.
The policies to link our rivers and provide more water from further and further away.
The policies to build more and more roads.
The policies to permit every open space to be take over for urban use.
The policies that promote the consumption of more and more stuff from further and further away.
The policies to outsource everything so we may be responsible for less and less and eventually for nothing.
Create your list of public policies. Are things getting better before they will get worse?
Are we addressing the symptoms of the short term and allowing them to swallow up the short now? Do we have any idea of the causes that drive the symptoms?
Can we de-addict ourselves from the short term addressed by our policies? Can we allow our generation to move out of the short term into the short now?
#All views expressed in this column are those of the author and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to them.
He can be reached @AnupamSaraph