Are you on “The List”

I had the pleasure of visiting a friend down in Appalachia country over the weekend.  It was a delight, the countryside was beautiful, and everyone I met was not only a character, but someone I could easily spend time with.

One gentleman worked for the fire department, and told me a few funny stories about the plight of being the last county to get any upgraded services.  Their dispatcher was still referring to the color of a barn’s roof in order to give the emergency vehicle directions.  The fact that it was the dead of night didn’t seem to register.  Luckily, they figured out where they were supposed to go, and got there in time.

The sad part about our conversation was that the local officials had circulated a special list to these gentlemen, and the instructions that they were not to disturb those people on the list.  The meaning was clear.  These were special persons in our community, and whatever they chose to do, it was your job to look the other way.

As a student of behavior, we want to fight the propensity to judge a person, or a society on its choices.  I can tell you that the gentleman relating this story to me thought the list was an injustice, but we didn’t discuss it in depth.

More to the point, it’s likely that only the high and mighty are on that list.  If you are rich and powerful, then you are above the law.  That is what “the list” represents.  And all too often history has recorded events where such people commit great crimes against society exactly because they feel they are above the law.

So, consider the list at this county level.  And think about whether there is a list in your county.  Is there a list in your state?  Perhaps such a list even exists at the national level.

Are YOU on that list?

 

Watching glaciers move

Great trends take time to reveal, much like watching a glacier move.  No one wants to do it, but to really understand the process a student of behavior has to be ready to take the long view of things.  It’s like watching a glacier move down (or up) a mountain pass over the years. It’s still moving, but soooo sloooowly!

One great trend we all talk about on occassion is the spread between the rich and poor.  Sure, we have our handy truisms, like “It takes money to make money,” or “The rich get richer,” but no one has ever taken the time to prove it.  And even though we do measure it to some extent, no one really has a way of connecting that disparity to the health of our society.  But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.  Let’s get back to that glacier.

Can we actually see it moving?  Is it possible to go to the edge of the cliff and be lucky enough to see it calve an iceberg?  Sure it is!  It’s all in where you look.  Like looking at the edge, we don’t have to try and take in the whole glacier at once.  Strangely enough, a great place to see a piece of this particular glacier is at altitude – 30 thousand feet of altitude!

When aviation began, all air travel was high end.  Mnay airlines began their services with fuly cooked meals, served hot, on china with silverware and linen.  There were beautiful young women as attendants.  Over the decades this has changed.  the fancy services become expensive, and the passengers less appreciative of them.  The passengers themselves became more ‘common’ as the numbers of people increased.

People got used to air travel as well, and their expectations dropped.  There was a time, some decades ago, when the whole idea of classy service was dropped.  Everyone became a regular passenger.  Everyone was “cattle class” (as some call it) on an equal footing.

The decades rolled on, and this brief flirtation with classless service did, too.  Business class emerged in the 80s, then first class came back.  Now there’s super-economy and many shade of rewards programs.

How do these classes appear to us in the here and now?  There’s an impenetrable curtain drawn once we reach cruising altitude separating our classy cabin from the classless.  Attendants make an announcement telling commoners to stay out.  They even hide behind the pretense of “national security” to keep the common folk out of the front bathroom.  Then there is also the free-flowing alcohol, large meals, and other affectations of class.

So, which is better for our society?  One in which there is little true separation between rich and poor?  Or one in which there are great disparities?  Which ones feel right to you?