As I continue to observe the happenings around me, I’ve realized that our society has a few characteristics that don’t really help matters. We only live on this planet for 70’ish years so each of us has a time frame of reference that is not so big in the grand scheme of things. Collectively though, we seem to respond mainly to dramatic happenings in a reactionary way thinking only of the short term. Great examples include 9/11, the Great Recession of 2008, and Toyota’s accelerator pedal recalls. Instead of thinking ahead and preventing bad things from happening, we let things slide for a while until something terrible and dramatic happens. Then we overreact and institute changes that sometimes help, often don’t, and usually do little more than make us feel better.
Policemen keeping cars moving in front of airport terminals is one feel-good “solution. I didn’t know that suicide bombers will only detonate car bombs once their vehicle has stopped completely in front of an airline terminal and that any velocity above 0 mph will prevent it from working. The people at Homeland Security must know something I don’t. The airport security Terror Threat level has been at orange for about 8 years now. I can pretty much guarantee that the threat level, (and caution that goes with it), will only go up if and after another incident happens. When it comes to investing, we tend to jump on board when the stock market is hot and bail when it has gone cold. It’s exactly the opposite of what we should do. We can’t prevent natural catastrophes, but we can take measures to make them affect us less severely, like not live in coastal areas that are prone to flooding and erosion. But we do anyway and ask for help and insurance when the surprise catastrophe happens.
Even personal well-being is an area that is usually overtaken by “Dramatic Reactionism.” We let ourselves go with bad diet and a lack of exercise until one day we end up going to the hospital and to find out (after much expense and hassle) that we need to do something drastic or one of our lives might end soon. Only then, do we take action. Smokers are even worse with this phenomenon. Just don’t light up the first time and you never have to quit.
It’s not just the expense and ineffectiveness of this strategy to tackle societal and life challenges that are annoying, but the things we entertain ourselves with are usually dramatic. There is no show about a preventative medicine health clinic. That would be boring. Instead, there are 5 shows about the emergency room. We like drama. Maybe we want our lives to be more like TV shows; not the reality kind but the dramatic kind. Perhaps we’re subconsciously trying to make our lives more exciting by not planning ahead, enduring major negative occurrences, and by reacting severely.
We should probably stop with this strategy. It’s time we start planning ahead. Look at what’s happened to our planet. We’ve neglected it for so long and now we have to take drastic measures, but those are difficult for people and economies to swallow and now we’re in trouble. If we just had controls in place to prevent the creation of toxic financial instruments, the economy might be better off and never would have gone through such a crisis. Companies lay off employees to increase shareholder returns for the next quarter without regard to how hard and expensive it is to find good employees. Don’t forget all the company knowledge in their minds that they take without transferring it to anybody else at the company.
The other problem with drama is that it gets our emotions going. Emotions don’t usually help us make the right decisions for the good of the general public. Drama and reactionary behavior prevent us from taking a step back to look at the whole situation and to determine how our actions could impact the long term. A lot of violent crimes could be considered “Over-Dramatic Reactionism.”
Of course we are humans and not psychic robots. We can’t plan for every problem with foresight and a cool mind but any movement in that direction would help us all.