When The Obsession With ‘Short Term’ Turns Enemy Of Progress

World Chaos
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“Politics is the art of focusing the concerns of the masses to serve the interests of the politician” he asserted. He had just returned Orwell’s Animal Farm back to the library after reading it four times over. 

Orwell’s Animal Farm is a satiric fable where overworked, mistreated animals in a farm overthrow their farmer. The farmer is replaced by pigs who promise a paradise of progress, justice, and equality. Soon the farm becomes the home of tyranny to a totalitarianism where no one other than the pigs find progress, justice and equality.

“After all,” he argued, “the politician is interested in no one but himself”.

“Politics, however, continues to project itself as the magic wand that can cure all the ills of our times. For every issue we are faced with, there is a politician waiting to benefit”, he continued.

His agonizing truth, painful as it is, is common experience. 

She responded by narrating her story, “Our homes were destroyed when the city flooded. We had bought houses that were built on the land of the river. The builders had built the houses on the land of the river, where they shouldn’t have been in the first place. They were built there with the blessings of the politicians.”

“The builders were indifferent, unaccepting of their violations and uncaring. So, instead of holding the builders responsible, we rushed to the politician for help. The politicians echoed our sentiments. They even made gestures that seemed to show care. Then time passed. The politicians did nothing. They did not help relocate us or any of the affected”, she said in despair.

Unfortunately, the short term became the enemy of the Short-Now, the lifetime of a child born now or over a hundred years.

“The politicians” she said to me, “did not free the land of the river so it may never flood again. They did not tighten their audit of the development plans so streams and rivers will not be encroached. They did not create rules that ensured the engineers sanctioning such buildings in the land of water bodies would have to face the consequence of their flooding. They did not ensure the rules would put the builders’ skin-in-the-game, like you have written about, by causing them to pay for relocation of those who they sold homes in the land of the river and vacating the encroachment.”

My friend from Mumbai narrated his tale, “More than 30 hectares of the 1,300 hectare of Mumbai’s Aarey forest are being claimed to build a shed for metro repairs. The political parties have expressed support. Yet the project has not been halted.”

His colleague countered, “I read your article about our strange obsession to design our world where those who manage our world are excluded from experiencing the consequences of their actions.

It is true with the Aarey forest too. The officials who are giving permission to destroy this forest have no consequence of their actions. In fact, they have made a career doing just this! The politicians who are watching to see how they can benefit from the people’s cause, do not share the same consequence as the people when the forest is destroyed. In fact, they search for benefits either way. Politics is about finding consequences benefitting the politician irrespective of what the consequences are for the people”

Greta Thunburg, 16-year-old climate activist, has mobilized millions of people to come together and demand that the politicians and bureaucrats declare a climate emergency.

In September millions are protesting all over the world in hope of political action. But political solutions will not suffice. They are only the drug for the short term. Unless the climate emergency will make the governments face the consequences for their actions or inactions, it will not change anything. Greta’s movement, if anything, is slowly helping people to recognize their interactions with the environment. That is the first step to altering these interactions. That enables changing the system.

The climate crisis, like most of the problems we face, needs to put back the skin-in-the-game for everyone. The politicians, the bureaucrats, the technocrats, the economists, the market evangelists all need to have the same consequence of their recommendations and actions as the people.

Green legislations, green technologies, and green action do not work if they only benefit those propagating these ideas but fall short of allowing from experiencing the same consequence as those affected. Unfortunately, that is how the market design works. It benefits those marketing in different ways from those affected by the consequences of what is sold. Unfortunately, that is exactly what has led us to the climate crisis.

As long as we do not design systems that allow all the participants to experience the same pains and pleasures that result as a consequence of their actions, we will continue to experience different pains and pleasures from the politicians, bureaucrats and technocrats that drive our markets and economies.

It is time to look at the designs of our systems that have led to the climate crisis. It is time to change the designs of these systems so we may experience a different world.


#All views expressed in this article are those of the author and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to them. 

Anupam Saraph

Anupam Saraph

Dr. Anupam Saraph grew up in a Pune that was possibly a tenth of its current expanse and every road was lined by 200 year old trees. He’s committed to the cause of de-addicting the short-termers.

He can be reached @AnupamSaraph
Anupam Saraph

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