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My opinion is important
If only to me.
I had an interesting dream last night, which I would like to share.
Now, I know what you’re thinking – other people’s dreams are usually only interesting to themselves, and the freedom from any rules or conventions makes them contextually hard to follow (…and then this green viking turned into a fish and dived into the pink sea after the swimming laptop…). I get that, but my point is that a dream can sometimes spark an idea – and this one did exactly that.
The idea for this article, naturally.
I don’t usually remember my dreams for more than a few seconds after I awake (if that), but this was a particularly vivid one, and stayed with me in some detail. I suspect that I also woke up right in the middle of REM (the sleep state not the pop group), which also helps with recall. The dream itself was very simple. I was working in an office – the headquarters of some faceless multinational corporate (OK, so maybe it was closer to being a nightmare). The point is that I knew I had all the answers – the right marketing strategy, the perfect HR policies and so on, but every time I tried to explain these to my colleagues, I was shut down with a comment that such thinking was not needed right now, thank-you very much. At one point I even tried to get a colleague to one side to explain my thinking in a one-to-one, but we couldn’t find a quiet space alone, until we came across the CEO’s office and it was empty. I was part-way though explaining my thoughts to the colleague, when we were interrupted by the CEO, who had apparently been sitting at his desk all along. He then explained that all the ideas I was setting out were – how should he put it? ‘…my opinions only, and not aligned with their wider plan…’
I woke up with a burning sense of injustice and frustration. How dare my colleagues be so dismissive and condescending? How could they not value my contribution when I had all the answers? Why was I not being heard? But once I had been through the whole ‘it’s only a dream’ thing, I got to thinking.
Maybe the message my subconscious was giving me here was how a single person’s opinion can be marginal, when viewed against the wider scope of a complex problem.
It made me realise how we as a society so often filter complicated issues through the simplistic viewpoint of a single person’s experience. In essence, how we try and use ‘human interest’ stories to illustrate issues that deserve a much more in-depth and nuanced approach.
Take for example, the current appalling increase in the cost of living – and the cost of energy in particular. Everyone is suffering, and as the prices go up, it is only going to get much, much worse. As I flick through the news channels, I find they are all using ‘human interest’ stories to illustrate the issue. But I think that’s missing the point. To hear from some bloke who’s been ambushed in the street by a TV crew that he’s unable to pay his gas bill does not, in my opinion, advance our overall understanding of the situation. Such views might be of interest to the bloke himself and possibly his mates down the pub, but they are way too simplistic and personal to advance the national understanding of highly complex issues.
Instead I think we should be looking at the root causes of the inflation – including causes such as:
The end of the pandemic
Putin’s wholly unsupportable war in Ukraine
The world’s reliance on dwindling fossil fuels
And we should be considering how the trajectory of these issues will create change in the future – so that we can get a perspective on what the eventual outcomes will be. I’m sorry, but I don’t think hearing how Bert from Birmingham is going to manage his finances cuts it (any more than a story on how Teresa in Taunton felt isolated during the pandemic illustrated the socio-economic effects of COVID).
And while I am on the subject of the cost of living, I do take my hat off to the Labour Party, who have continually banged on about how the energy companies (and the train companies and the postal companies, for that matter) have been paying dividends to shareholders rather than passing on profits to the customers as lower prices, or to the workers as higher pay. They re-framing the narrative so it sounds like a few fat cats are raking off the money that could benefit the many – while the truth is that a large chunk of these dividends are actually paid into peoples’ pensions and other funds that help keep the economy afloat. Not to mention that without shareholder investment (and the expectations of a return) such companies would be unable to trade – affecting both customer well-being and employee livelihoods.
So I felt my dream was worth sharing, if only to show how I came to realise that ‘human interest’ stories are marginal to a deeper understanding of complex issues. Sadly, I can’t see how putting Bert from Birmingham or Teresa from Taunton on the spot have contributed anything of value to the solution of our modern-day problems. Of course, if we were to put Vladimir from Moscow on the spot (a war crimes court in the Hague, perhaps?) then there’s one individual who’s life changes could have much wider implications.
Now that would be a dream worth having.
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