Radical … whatever

Just a brief note today.  I enjoy Twitter – not so much sending tweets as getting them.  It’s often the best way to enjoy public events – whether the Eurovision song contest or the closing ceremony of the Olympics.  I’m not sure it can claim to create a sense of community, because people tend to choose tweeters of similar views/nationality/class for their daily input.  Nevertheless, it gets you into news events, and often alerts the world to abuses or idiocies.

And sometimes you get great wisdom in short packages.  Just yesterday someone retweeted a note from someone who calls himself Kurt Vonnegut (surely not a spirit message from the real one, who died in 2007) – “Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance”.  This rang a bell with me after a life in public administration under the rule of people who want reform and restructuring.  Structural reform is easier than doing it right: think how easy it is for a politician to change the funding or governance systems of schools, rather than improve the teaching (which is the only proven way to raise standards).  Orwell was onto this – in the 1940s he was mocking people who were promising ‘radical transformation’.  The promise of change is so seductive – witness the 2008 Obama campaign (‘change you can believe in’) and Francois Hollande’s 2012 campaign – when I reckon what most people actually want is not restructuring, but the current system run better and more cheaply.  Which requires competence rather than vision. As one Victorian aristo said – “Reform ? Reform ? As if things aren’t bad enough already !”.

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