Motto (actually the story of the four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody):
There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got upset about that, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.
(Source – lots of them on the web…)
Reminder: I started the roots series last year with the purpose of exploring how deep the current crisis goes back (not only in terms of time, but also in terms of cause).
Today's choice of root is quite a big challenge in terms of contributing something more than the motto, especially as the above wisdom (or leadership) lesson only costs some 10 euro in Hamburg , coming on a nice metal plate. Still, I will invest some time and words into it, as I would like to tackle the size of the idea of 'the other' in our contemporary perception of reality.
I will call in for help another classic quote: “tomorrow is another day!'. Yes, it is! And so was today yesterday, and now tomorrow is already gone…
Do not get me wrong; in that context from the movie, it was a wise thing to say. This approach can actually be used as a change driver, whenever we need reasonable time to take reasonable steps. However, when we take those four words out of the original context and use them as an excuse for continuous postponement, their sense turns rather sour.
I have come to see 'the other' as a root mostly because of the size of this phenomenon. And it has two major sides – the other as a solution and the other as a benchmark. I will dive into those one at a time and so I will start with ‘the other’ as a solution.
The perception of ‘it has to be done’ is gradually eating more and more from the territory of ‘I have to do it’. No matter if we talk about people, time or space. The story of the four in the motto is only one dimension of ‘the other’. Two other basic dimensions are time and space, but we can even think of more (for example culture). The excuse for not doing something vary from ‘this would never work here’ to ‘this is not the right time for it’, going through ‘not my job’ classical driver of 'the other' approach.
We have become so reliant on the services that ‘the other’ provides that we are gradually eroding our instincts of survival, self preservation and responsibility. We have outsourced so many things in the name of comfort and efficiency, that we are swiftly becoming specialized in one thing only: getting through life as comfortable as possible. We have learned to expect things to happen, to be done, to get solved, regulated, enforced, taken care of and so on.
Civilized society has become master at giving tasks and expecting perfect results, tending however to forget about the complexity and originality of people. There should be no surprise that the outcome is sometimes unpredictable, and not just a simple button-pushing-guaranteed-result-delivery-service.
People wake up in the morning wishing (or even expecting) that things which interfere with their daily comfort, are unpleasant or resemble long-term-hard-work-responsibility patterns are taken care somehow by ‘the other’. They idealize money as the answer to all the problems (as they are a way to pay for such services), therefore they get frustrated when ‘the other’ can externalize more of their life because they have more money.
And so I get to ‘the other’ as a benchmark. People are social animals, deemed to compare. They have a strange satisfaction from seeing themselves better than the less fortunate, however at the same time also looking up to the ones who have done better. In this process they no longer pause to enjoy life as it is, because they will always see the others on both sides, and more of them every day. The secret of happiness is not about getting something (or someone, or somewhere) you want, but still wanting it after you got it, which is very hard if you always compare with ‘the other’.
What is then left? People delegating their regular life to others, to free some time in order to keep on running to catch imaginary ‘others’ who are doing better than them. Then they start complaining that there is too little personal time left for real living. And whenever they get some spare time, as they do not need it for petty little things that are better done by the others, they start wondering what the real purpose of life is. They end up either getting bored by having too much time, or burn-out by working too hard on a job that has nothing to do with their own passion in life (but is supposed to pay for allowing the passion into their life).
So why do we find it so hard to do things ourselves, but easily expect others to do it instead? Why is it difficult to change things that are directly or indirectly related to us, no matter whether it is small or big things, affecting ourselves or our immediate environment? Why the same 'we' that cannot initiate change within us are always so ready, willing and determined to change THE OTHERS? Why do we expect them to immediately come closer to what we expect, molding to fit our image of the ideal them? Why do we always forgive ourselves for not being able to change, but we find it hard to forgive them for not being able to become who we want?
There could be many answers. In no particular order, I would think of comfort, selfishness, human nature (it is easier to recognize mistakes or shortcomings in others before we admit it within ourselves), expectations about roles in society, about rights and duties, misperception about means and results, drivers and motivation for change. Ideally, we may wish to initiate change in the others out of a selfless desire to help them. We learn from own experiences and try to teach also the others, in an attempt to prevent them from hurting themselves in the same way. Still, we tend to forget about their own circle of comfort, about their own resistance to change and get disappointed that we fail to influence them.
Finally, I would also add that one factor that accelerates 'the other' symptom is the fact that we experience nowadays a huge and constantly growing offer of such others. In terms of community, we are part of bigger and bigger ones, therefore we feel smaller and more insignificant every day. We will not manage to change the world, so why should we bother?
And so, the others are protecting our comfort and preventing our change at the same time. We have grown to love the others so much that we do not know how to live without them anymore. Should we do anything about this? I cannot speak for the others who read this, but I will start by taking back some of the things that I have given away. How much? Well… just enough to preserve me into my life.