This topic probably deserves a book of its own, but for now, I wanted to post some observations.
I’ve been watching, and I see a general rule at work in our society: Most people don’t want what they need. Instead, they want what they want, and they’re quite willing to neglect their needs, or even to lie to themselves (and others) about the nature and importance of those needs.
Here are some varied observations that support this assertion.
- Some years ago, in the early years of my political involvement, I started an initiative called The Twenty-Minute Patriot. The problem it aimed to solve was that people do not spend enough time being involved in overseeing our government. Therefore, participants were urged to pledge twenty minutes a week to politics—no matter their philosophy or partisan leanings. Those twenty minutes could be spent reading an article, debating a topic with a friend, contacting a member of Congress, and so forth. And the moral of this story? Many people congratulated me on what a “great idea” this was, and they even admitted that they “needed” something like this, and yet nobody signed up!
- A business associate and I once met with some mid-level managers for a major insurance company, showing them how they could save billions of dollars (which insurance companies are always eager to do). Though they could not find fault with our plan, their objection was “it’s just not about saving money”, which was an obvious lie. They took personal offense at the presentation, and never looked into the matter further.
- In 2009, Kay and I invented the Rule of Law Restoration. Acknowledging that our governments at every level in the US are routinely exceeding their authority, we managed to reach about 1,500 candidates for state and federal offices, inviting them to take a pledge that, if elected, they would not exceed the powers of their office. To our great surprise, 71 candidates (nearly 5%) took the pledge! (That’s an amazing conversion rate for any type of internet campaign.) The issue, however, was not the candidates, but the voters. They were asked to sign a voter’s pledge, by which they vowed not to vote for any candidate who had not signed the candidate’s pledge. With about 19,000 page views in 2009/2010, and with lots of people saying how much we need to return to lawful government, only about 24 people signed the voter’s pledge. (And half of those were people that I had personally influenced to do so!) We would learn that the voters were afraid to give up their option to vote for “the lesser of two evils”, even though they knew that we need to purge our government.
- I have an online service that provides valuable information for a fee to a niche repair industry–the basic goal of which is to help certain contractors find lucrative work. The annual subscription fee is just a fraction of what they could make on a single repair job. Further, the service is designed to save them boatloads of their highly-valuable time compared to getting the same information for free from a number of other sources. My service can save them many, many hours in research time each year, and as if that’s not enough, we charge less than half of what our (gouging) competitor charges. We had the perfect recipe, therefore, to sweep this particular industry like wildfire, but we have learned instead that relatively few people are willing to pay for what they need, no matter how many times over that investment will earn them in saved time and new work.
- Over the past couple of decades, I have overturned a great many of my previous beliefs about Christianity–simply by having studied the Bible thoroughly enough to see that those particular beliefs of mine were erroneous. Since then, I have noted with great interest how others respond to the same information I found–to the facts that would tend to negate some of their various tenets of doctrine and belief. I have made it a habit to ask the types of questions that would tend to expose the contradictions between their good tenets and their bad ones—questions like, “Well, if what you believe is true, then how can we account for this other passage over here?” I’ve even ventured to make challenges like, “I can prove that your belief about ______ is in error; would you like to see the proof?” Amazingly, I get very few takers! And yet, when I ask people whether they need to study the Bible more often or at a deeper level, practically all of them admit that they do!
If these examples aren’t adequate, then consider how many of us know we need to improve our diet, and yet do nothing. Or look at how many of us know we need to read the Constitution, but have put it off for years. We would rather spend many frustrating hours every year plundering through our garages to find things, than we would to invest half a day to organize them. Similarly, far too many would rather put up with the incessant tantrums of their children than to invest the time in training the children to think a new way. Thus are the children (and the parents) consigned to years of agonizing mental strife when they could easily have been freed with some concentrated and consistent training.
A man will tell me he doesn’t have the time to read my article right now, or to consider buying my time-saving service, or to discuss an important political or religious issue, and yet on a whim, he’ll run out because he wants something exciting to eat. He’ll come back two hours later, having indulged at Dairy Queen in some treat he knows he ought not have eaten, and having spent $10 on this excursion. And when he’s back, he’s still convinced that he doesn’t have the time for things he would readily admit are important, and that he can’t afford to pay $29 for a year-long subscription that can earn him many thousands of dollars.
Naturally, this observable trait of human nature disturbs me very much. Is it really any wonder that our nation is in such a quagmire of negligence and corruption?
The real issue here, however, is that none of us must live this way. I am convinced that there is not one person among us who has no choice in the matter….and there is no evil super-being that makes people unable to make the bed they know they should make, or read the article they know they need to read.
The culprit here is that somebody has taught us that what we want is the priority. And beyond that, they have taught us to want the low-hanging fruit on the tree of opportunity. We want what is easy to get–things that are instantly gratifying–rather than the things that really have some appreciable and long-lasting value. We will invest a couple of hours and a lot of money in eating a meal we know we should not have eaten, but we will not invest a couple of hours in studying our way down a path whose end we cannot yet see.
Ours is such a short-sighted society. We tend to be driven far more by what we think can be satisfied today, than by solving the fundamental issues and problems of life. We would rather spend a minute eating a Twinkie in captivity today than to invest that minute searching for a way to free ourselves.
What a base existence this is.
And who is calling for better? Who is leading the rebellion against this base paradigm?
Nobody, as far as I can see. There’s an organization (or two) behind nearly every imaginable cause, but I can think of none that is devoted toward helping man to be diligence in doing what he needs to do.
This should not be.