EDITORIAL – WHY DO WE FEAR THE INEVITABLE?
Most people seem to accept without question that ‘change is inevitable.’ Yet, interestingly, most persons also resist change and very often fight vigorously to maintain the status quo. This continuing battle between acceptance of the inevitable and resisting the inevitable is a reflection of another truism – fear of change is the main reason why we resist change.
Persons fear change because change tends to represent the unknown. We are hesitant to change jobs or to change our voting habits because as many of us would say – ‘better the devil you know than the one you don’t know.’ While work and politics are areas that readily attract our attention when discussing change, more fundamental and vital concerns arise in relation to policy changes. We often complain of the absence of a comprehensive policy to address issues, which we consider deserving of a deliberately considered and applied policy. Sadly, in many instances, the absence of a deliberately considered and applied policy can in fact be considered to be an embodiment of a government’s actual policy in that area. Such ‘policies’ in fact reflect the unknown because they are unclear to citizens what should be the expected outcome of any application, issue, matter or concern they might raise with the government of the day. A well-structured policy, deliberately considered and applied can in fact, while representing change, ensure certainty of outcomes. Such a policy can only be created through the appropriate use of data and should serve to significantly allay our natural fear of change. As espoused by IBM in 2014: “The key to survival is embracing data and using it to drive change.”
Social issues in the areas of Health, Education, Immigration and Labour, to name a few, cannot currently be described as comprehensively and definitively addressed by well developed and implemented policies. The lack of clarity or certainty in relation to many aspects of these social areas, directly and negatively, impacts the ability of citizens to plan, and the competency of public officers in their engagement with members of the public. All this can be positively addressed if there is an expressed desire for change, resulting in well-defined and constructed policies designed to ensure certainty in their application.
Is it, however, our desire to institute a system which offers greater certainty of outcomes, or are we happier with existing systems which very often can be used to facilitate individual interests? Too often we prefer to retain the status quo because we are very aware of how to work the existing systems and have no desire to deny ourselves the fruits of such systems. We are hesitant to look beyond our potential individual losses to consider the potential global gains for Anguilla. The change in psyche required to remedy this situation requires collaboration between residents, business owners and elected and appointed government officials. We must expect and demand more transparency and equity in policy related matters, and elected and appointed officials must respond appropriately to those expectations and demands.
What qualifies as an appropriate response on the part of elected and appointed officials? Only in instances of utmost urgency should change be effected without a full appreciation of the status quo that is under consideration; the concern(s) with the status quo; the affected stakeholders; the changes that are necessary to adequately address the identified concerns; the various options for effecting those changes; and the resources needed to effect the various options. This information will not magically appear. It must be deliberately sought. One anticipates that a government should encounter no great difficulty sourcing the data required to adequately respond to the areas set out above. Why then do we generally feel that there is a paucity of well developed and implemented policies which guide the work of the various elected and appointed officials charged with managing the people’s affairs?
There appears to be an absence of will on the part of residents, business owners and elected and appointed officials to ‘be the change’ required, to see the creation and implementation of meaningful policy changes. This is very evident every time the House of Assembly considers requests for duty exemptions. The individuals applying are happy to benefit from the grant of the requested duty exemption, and the approval of the requests generally see both government and opposition members seeking to outdo each other in proclaiming their support for the applications. But what of the many persons who, despite having similar circumstances, do not realise, due to the absence of a well-established and publicised policy, that they too can seek the same benefit? The further question must, however, be asked – Would the mere documentation and publicising of the existing practice be in the best interests of Anguilla’s development? The deliberate collection and analysis of data would assist in determining the appropriate answer to this question.
While change may be inevitable we can determine what the change should be and the pace of the change. Data collection, the analysis of data, the sharing of such analysis and ultimately the reliance on such analysis to inform the policy making process, should assist in alleviating our fear of the inevitable. With the appropriate and timely use of accurate data, our fear of change can be significantly reduced, as change effected in this deliberate and well considered manner will not necessarily represent the unknown.
Will we, through the collaboration of residents, business owners and elected and appointed officials, establish and implement a policy creation regime premised on evidence derived from the collection and analysis of data? Will we demonstrate the necessary collective will?