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Nothing's Too Hard for Jacinda

Entry 2036, on 2020-04-02 at 19:53:19 (Rating 4, News)

One of my favourite adages is this: "nothing is too hard for the person who doesn't have to do it themselves". If the meaning isn't already obvious, this is how I see it: it is easy to make decisions, have announcements, and document plans on new initiatives, policies, and rules when someone else has to do all the hard work and overcome all the inherent problems which are conveniently overlooked - or not even understood in the first place - by the people making the original decision.

At this point you might be thinking something like: "oh no, here he goes again with an anti-authority rant dismissing the leaders in society, such as politicians and managers". Yeah, OK. Guilty as charged!

But humour me for a while and think about it, because despite the "ranty" nature of this post, I still think it has some validity and particular relevance in the current situation we find ourselves in.

First, an example. In the news recently I saw this statement: "Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is setting up a website for Kiwis to raise concerns about supermarket price rises during the coronavirus lockdown."

I mean, we all know that Jacinda is the world's greatest leader, and an inspiration to everyone, and the recipient of fawning admiration from many quarters, but I had no idea she had either the skills or the time to create a web site as well!

But, no. She isn't actually setting up a web site for this purpose. She dreamed up an idea that it might be a good plan, and had some people with the relevant skills do the hard work. I have no idea who these people are, because all we hear is that it is the PM's site.

So, not only did she take credit for an obvious idea (and who knows whether it really was her idea or not because I doubt it), but creating it was an idea which almost anyone else could just as easily arrived at. Plus, she doesn't need to worry about budgets because she just throws taxpayer money (that's our money) at any project she deems worthwhile, on a whim.

Could anyone have done the PM's job in this case? Of course. It's easy. Could anyone have done the job of the web developers who actually did the specialised work? Well, no. Web development isn't the most difficult job in IT, but it still requires a lot of specialised skills that probably less than 10% of the population possess.

When defending the decision-makers in these situations, I often hear the claim that "the decision was made with a knowledge of the big picture". This seems to imply that these leaders are working at a higher level, which few of us could ever attain, and that they have value for that, even if they don't actually have to carry out the more mundane but specialised roles involved in implementing the decisions which come from this "higher plane".

There might be some merit in this, because nothing is ever as simple as right or wrong, but I would rephrase it to say "the decision was made with a knowledge of a big picture". Notice what I did there? The first phrase suggests that there is a single big picture which our leaders are closely attuned to. My alternative changes the word "the" to "a" because there are many big pictures; as many as there are people thinking about them. So being able to visualise a big picture actually isn't that hard.

Despite my example, I didn't mean to imply that our current PM is the only one guilty of this behaviour, because it is almost universal amongst politicians. Except when things go wrong; then it is suddenly someone else's web site which caused problems, because part of being a big picture person is avoiding taking responsibility when things go wrong.

And they often do. A related web site created for the New Zealand Police - notice I said created for, not created by there - has not been a conspicuous success. This site is highly controversial to begin with, because it gives people an easy way to report others who don't seem to be observing the rules of the lockdown.

As I said in my previous post, I think we should take the pandemic seriously, and we should genuinely follow the rules where it is practical to. But this site is just going to instill suspicion and resentment into the population. Unless a transgression is very serious, I would suggest we would be better off without an easy way to report it.

It's particularly annoying when the PM is encouraging us to all be "kind" to each other (I really hate that; it's so condescending) but then allows the police (or who knows, maybe it was her idea again) to create a site which let's people attack each other through the use of the police.

Luckily this site was so grossly incompetently made that it didn't really fulfill its purpose anyway. It crashed on the first day after receiving overwhelming demand. OK, so guess what that demand was: 4,200 reports in 24 hours. That is genuinely pathetic. Any decent site should be able to handle that many reports in a few minutes.

It's really not that hard to create a site that works. Maybe the police should have got Jacinda to create it for them!

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Comment 1 (5242) by Anonymous on 2020-04-03 at 10:17:16:

Jeez, easy to be critical from he comfort of your self isolated, middle-class armchair eh! There's a lot going on in Government at the moment. Haven't you heard, there's a pandemic thingie... I think a bit of tolerance would be a good idea. Maybe you should listen when people suggest that being kind (or more tolerant) during times of stress is actually a human response? It's only condescending if you choose to take it that way.

Questioning of Government is essential, especially when they are exercising extraordinary powers in response to an extraordinary problem - but micro-analysing every word they say (e.g. your suggestion that the PM is singlehandedly taking responsibility for a website's creation) seems like a complete waste of everybody's time.

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Comment 2 (5243) by OJB on 2020-04-03 at 10:59:01:

I was trying to make a statement about the bigger picture (see what I did there?) regarding those in control versus those two need to do the actual work. The comment about the PM's web site was just a single example of a bigger issue, rather than micro-analysing.

And yes, you said we need both tolerance and questioning. This is true. It is just a matter of where that balance lies. I suspect supporters of the PM would let her away with things that they would be super critical for other leaders (especially Trump) doing, so I wanted to add some balance and criticise her for a change.

Also, I know it is easy to be critical of leadership, but I have sat it on meetings with high ranking people and it was pathetic. I really do think it is easy to be a leader, when others have to do all the work. I have a disrespect for authority. Maybe I go too far, but maybe others don't go far enough.

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Comment 3 (5244) by Anonymous on 2020-04-03 at 11:18:58:

A single example is exactly that; a single example.

If you've been watching the mainstream media you will see plenty of questioning of the Government's response (also if you are watching the special committee chaired by Simon Bridges). Wondering why you are picking on a person rather than the Government. Play the ball, not the person.

I've sat in meetings with high ranking people whom I respect tremendously for they ability and leadership. What's your point? That ALL leaders are incompetent and you could do their job?

"I really do think it is easy to be a leader," Wow - I wonder how we would all do at making decisions that could result in unnecessary deaths? It's easy to look in from the outside without knowing all the facts isn't it?

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Comment 4 (5245) by OJB on 2020-04-03 at 17:12:45:

Should I have filled my blog post with examples, instead of discussing the underlying issues? I suppose I could have, but that wasn't really the point. That was just a topical example of the phenomenon. I pretty sure that if I had chosen an example involving Trump you wouldn't be criticising it like this!

I'm sure not all leaders are incompetent, although I can't think of any examples of people who are particularly impressive. Not one (maybe Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, but they are both very flawed as well). I think people who want to push other people around probably have the wrong personality traits to be leaders.

I often joke (half seriously) that if I was in a group trying to decide on a leader I would ask all the people in the group who want to be leader to stand up, then tell them to get out and choose someone with more humility.

I think most leaders are so self-absorbed and arrogant that they don't care that much about deaths arising from their decisions. I think the narrative is that it is just a burden those in leadership roles must bear. What heroes!

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