Still Thinking Different
I have a t-shirt with the phrase “Think Different” emblazoned across it. Above that is the Apple logo which clearly links the phrase to the Apple advertising campaign of a few years back. But I think the idea can be used in a much wider sense so, like the “I think therefore iMac” I discussed a while back, this one can be used to launch into a philosophical discussion.
At this stage you might be wondering “what’s he on about this time” so let me explain. There’s an old saying which goes something like “if you continue to do the same things you will get the same results”. There is one version attributed to Einstein which says “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” which really means the same thing.
Most people would agree that the world is far from perfect – from a political, economic, religious, and even scientific perspective – so to make things better surely we should be trying something new. In that case why do so many people want just “more of the same”?
In many cases it will be because of fear: many people are just scared of the unknown and don’t want to try anything new. In other cases it will be pure laziness where the person just doesn’t want to bother thinking about anything new. In others it will be because of self-interest: a few people gain a lot from the way the world works now even though it’s clearly not good for the majority. And finally (to be fair) there are people who genuinely think that the current system is genuinely the best we can have.
Of course maybe the status quo really is best, but how would we really know since nobody seems to be prepared to try anything different from the political and economic line which the majority of our leaders seem to follow?
For example, the way to get out of an economic slump which involves high unemployment, low wages, little spending, and insufficient control of corporations seems to be laying off workers, decreasing wages (in real terms), cutting spending, and loosening controls. Huh? We improve things ny making them worse? This is the current economic mainstream opinion? Really?
So let’s look at the reason people might follow such a seemingly ridiculous course. First, they are scared to try anything else in case it fails. Second, they just can’t be bothered thinking that much about the problem and looking for a more creative solution. Third, there are many people who do very well out of an economic depression. And finally, maybe this is the best solution.
I think the first and second reasons have some truth. Austerity is the simple solution and the obvious one, so it’s the safe approach for a government which is interested in just taking the safe route instead of really trying to make things better.
The third reason also (depressingly) has some truth. The more people out of work the easier it is for business to control the “labour market”. The lower wages are the more competitive the country is. The less the government spends the less it has to tax the rich. And the more functions the government hands on to big business the less responsibility it has for the ensuing mess.
It’s no accident that the most successful civilisations of the past (Egyptian, Roman, British, American, etc) have depended on slavery and repression for their economic success. I think many people understand this and the assurances that the pain of unemployment and low wages in the short term will result in some “golden age” in the future is a simple lie.
And there’s the fourth reason, of course. As I said above, it’s hard to see how making things worse could make them better. Who knows – I’m not an economist – maybe I’m just wrong about this. But I don’t think so. I think we should all think different.
By the way I wrote this just before the New Zealand government published its budget for the year so it will be interesting to see how the points in this post fit in with their future plans.
One more thing. I know “think different” appears to be grammatically incorrect. Not necessarily. Think of it more as “thinking about being different” instead of “thinking differently” and it makes more sense.