Systems thinking

Early humans got sick of living from hand to mouth, so they developed systems to help them live more comfortably. Food was stored for the winter, tools were made to be later used and shared. Nowadays, many people live in a system that provides food, healthcare, transportation and housing that would have been the envy of people born at in other times and in other places.

But do we take care of the system that takes care of us?

Maybe we think that because the system is bigger than us, it does not need looking after. Or maybe we think it’s someone else’s job to look after the system. Both points of view are wrong.

Unless you are a newborn baby, or want to be seen as one, you need to look after the system that looks after you. Don’t expect politicians to do it, they are themselves beholden to the system.

In fact, don’t expect anyone who is doing well in a system to want to change the system they are doing well in. Whether you want it or not, the job is yours.

Luckily, changing the system is easier than you might imagine – it’s really just a matter of changing your language. Instead of asking:

“Why is that person such a jerk?”

you ask:

“Where is the system failure?”

Let me describe an example:

A politician spends taxpayer money flying his family for a working holiday. You feel he has abused his privileges. You feel like calling him a bludger (UK ‘scrounger’, USA ‘moocher’), but you remember that like you, he is part of a system and ask instead, “Where is the system failure?”

So, you try to come up with some answers:

The results may seem small, but they are significant:

I wouldn’t say it is necessary to give up completely on calling other people jerks; I would not want to deny people driving cars the tremendous fun they seem to have honking their car horns at other drivers.

But I’m pretty sure that when it comes to discussing world affairs on Facebook, people would do well to note my recommendations.


Phil Bachmann

15 Feb 2018