Bi-Polar Economics


If ever there was a financial metaphor for Bi-Polarism, it is the current economic crisis. Not only that but, pleasingly enough for me, the financial world has now proved that it is as crazy as I am. 

I don't get it. Excessive spending and reckless credit have created the current economic recession so we must start spending like mad and acquiring lots of credit again in order to solve our problems. This doesn't make sense, unless of course you take a 'fight fire with fire' attitude. In some ways, that's what has happened with my own medical treatment. The only thing that seemed to work was in effect a bi-polar treatment with a medication that brings me down and another medication that lifts me up. Somewhere in the middle lies that magical stability.

Of course, stability is not cure. Stability is just one enabler that supports my healing. The other two legs of my recovery stool (somehow, this doesn't sound too good!!!) are:

  • Self-awareness: that of which we are unaware controls us (aint' that the truth!) but that of which we are aware we have a degree of control over. It's no good for me to shove pills down my throat unless I take full responsibility for my recovery. I am not afraid of this word 'responsibility' because I have never equated it with 'blame'. To me, responsibility is a great gift. It helps me identify, by myself or with the help of others, where I am helping myself and where I am unwittingly working against my own best interest AND it encourages me to take corrective action.
  • Trust: even though I am big on self this and self that, I also recognise that there are bigger forces at work than my own little ego can perceive. This keeps me humble AND open to good things outside my direct control. It also encourages me to be accountable, not only to me but to those who care about me. Last but not least, it teaches me to be mindful - i.e. to switch off on a regular basis so that I do not exhaust myself keeping the sometimes harsh light of self-awareness on myself for too long. In that sense it gives me a break without letting me off the hook (I have lost count of the number of metaphors I have just used but who's counting....)

Going back to the economic crisis, I am now going to have the nerve to suggest that the financial world would do well to take a leaf out of my book.

I have heard a lot of talk about stabilising the system - all well and good. Absolutely necessary. Essential ... BUT not sufficient.

What about the self-awareness bit? I don't mean just saying sorry - I mean having the courage to look the way things are straight in the face and to come up with an action plan that actually changes the way the whole system works (not just the effects of it). I heard on the radio that we still need to pay huge bonuses to financial top management because we want to retain the best brains in the field. Which best brains? The ones who have got us in the mess we're in? I'd rather they carried out a good spring cleaning and started afresh with NEW brains that don't have so much invested in the way things have always been.

What about the trust bit? We certainly don't trust the financial system any more and their people's track record of mindfulness is abysmal. They never gave a second thought to a greater world than the one of their immediate benefit. Besides, societal mindfulness needs other people to keep an eye on you and your behaviour, not just the regulators that are part of the very system you're in.

So by all means take your bi-polar medication financial people but do not think for a minute that this gets you off the hook of public accountability, whether that hook is governmental or otherwise.

I do not feel vengeful towards the financial system but I do feel impatiently reformist. I want to see real long-lasting sustainable change in the way financial institutions operate.

I expect no less of myself in the way I operate...

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