Yes and no.
Renee Descartes coined the term which has now become associated with his name; Cartesian dualism. The mental and the physical. My mind, my spirit. You and my idea of you.
We have right and left. Or perhaps better written, Left and Right.
We exit in a world of off and on; the digital or binary realm is 1 or 0.
I have written before about my thoughts relating to this split in the way the world is divided, perhaps secondary to gender, perhaps the side of the brain that is dominant.
I don’t know.
What is clear and, this by no means says that it is a 50/50 split, people have tendencies or preferences towards one way or another. The majority probably sit in the middle – that indeed is what might be described the human condition; affable, agreeable, Mahayana.
Yet, it is not these folk who determine the shape of the world – it tends to be those on the extremes; perhaps influenced a little by Outsiders.
I’ll get to some concrete examples.
It came to me on Thursday.
I was attending the board of governors of my daughter’s school. I have been a member for the past year or so, I am therefore still considered a newbie – we only meet once a quarter, so that is approximately four meetings, with two that have been online and didn’t really count as I was on Zoom and others were in the room.
You see, there are those who perceive the world to be OK, or not even OK, but good. And, don’t get me wrong, for many people, especially those living in the West or in the UK, life is. Great.
Some people see Great Britain as not a reference to E, S, W & NI, but, our overall splendour as a nation.
Financially, emotionally, socially, for some, things are as good as you might want.
Money in the bank, contended husband, wife or partner, children doing well, and all this, during a period of Covid that remains unpredictable.
Not quite Candide’s best of the best of all possible worlds, but, pretty OK.
My sense is that if you asked any member of the Conservative Party or some of their more passionate followers whether things are ‘OK’ they would respond in the affirmative*.
And yes, if you look at lots of things, if you try to remain objective, the world I see and others encounter day to day, things are OK. There is water in the taps**, electricity when I turn on the kettle, the chance of my suffering a violent death minimal, I have clothes, shoes, a job. I even have two puppies (until next week).
If you re-wind the clock 50 years, and compare what I have with what my parents had, I would probably measure better on everything except perhaps the close-knit community and circle of family and friends that were the backbone of their existence.
Speaking personally, my health is OK, I can sleep well at night, I don’t have chronic pain, and I’ve an Apple Watch.
At the recent governor meeting we heard about all the fab things that are happening at the school – the level of happiness of the children, the satisfaction of parents, the successes and plans for the future.
Yet, this isn’t the whole picture. And this is my problem. It is a recurrent theme in my life, when I hear great things, whether it is the government spouting about the wonderful nature of our country, my employers telling me about the ace things happening across the hospital and in relation to the care of patients and staff, I keep coming back to a position of, and, which is part of an old song (which may not exist), ‘If it’s all so good, why do I feel so bad?’***
And this I struggle to answer.
You see, if I ask a group of people, ‘Are you happy, contented, warm, safe?’ and 90 per cent respond, ‘Yes, absolutely,’ there is a tendency to say, ‘everything is fine, let’s chill-out and watch some cricket.’
And for many people, perhaps a significant proportion of those 90 per cent, that is how they would feel. The ‘Things are good, why worry?’ approach.
And here is the split.
For, you see, within those respondents, whether they are proportionately representative of the whole or not, there are 10 per cent who are not happy. Who don’t feel contended, safe or warm. Indeed, they might be very sad, dissatisfied, scared and freezing in the cold.
If their lack of safety is 10 times greater than your perception of safety, are they safe? Are you?
And this is the point of this blog.
You see, and this is my sense, we question whether we should accept 90 per cent is OK and move on, or say, ‘We must to do more!’ – You could argue that those 10 per cent, whether they represent 10, 1000 or a million people will never be happy, so why try. Some of them might have the same amount of money, security or warmth as the other 90, 9000 or 9 million, yet their perceptions, their level of satisfaction is different.
‘You can’t please all the people all the time,’ is another song lyric.****
When I talk with my daughter, she like me seems to fall in to this minority group.
She has problems listening to some conversations where gender, race or social position is questioned or not valued appropriately.
She has sensitive antennae that create a situation where she feels that some people are being racist, sexist or hostile to others.
And, even if 99 per cent of folk are fine, she has a problem with that one per cent and feels she can’t rest until something is done.
Life and experience teach us that there are always going to be people who hold different values to us, in fact, much of the time there are always others who hold different viewpoints.
In the meeting I found myself isolated in my belief that cricket is a waste of time. Whether I should have confessed this impression I don’t know.
You can see where my daughter gets some of her ideas.
I agree it must not seem fair.
‘We have worked tirelessly to provide a workplace that offers high quality care/service/education/whatever’ – It can seem like a proverbial kick in the teeth when someone comes along, misses all the great work and focuses on the minima.
Yet, that is how some of us are constructed.
I remember telling a former colleague a few years ago, ‘Don’t worry, I am never happy.’
What I meant was, that even if we reach a point of improvement, innovation or growth where 99.9 per cent is great, I will worry about that 0.1, I will want to examine how we can push back the boundaries, review our systems and process to increase inclusiveness, safety, quality, fun.
You could call me a malcontent or you could consider me a continuous improver.
I prefer the latter.
Now to find a way to get this across without offending.
*Please See Haruki Murakami’s Killing Commandatore for the origins of this.
**Can’t think of this without think of ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’
***?Olly Murs/Flo Rida/Moby/Dido/etc
****Abraham Lincoln manipulated into Bob Marley