We are all doing our own risk analysis to deal with the COVID scourge. It is becoming clear that while there are many unknowns, it is not rocket science. If you are smart and accept some basic principles, then risk goes way down. If you ignore the problem, it punishes you and others near you.
Couple that with the disgusting state of our public discord and polarization, as well as the collective impact all of it has on the economy and everyday life and the force overwhelms almost all of what we took for granted in our lives. We need to act and do it strategically to build a “new normal.” This needs to done for individual self-preservation, but also to ensure we reemerge with strong communities and healthy prosperous countries.
The “new normal” by definition implies that we find a set of “norms” that we agree on. The textbook definition of norm is “something that is usual, typical or standard.” New sets of norms have often grown out of major disruptions and human suffering in the past. Many sets of norms, like our Constitution, are comprehensive and complex and seem to be easily eroded over time. Some, like the Ten Commandments, are hampered by religious parochialism.
In the aftermath of the Great Depression a straight-forward and non-sectarian set of norms was created. It was credited in restoring some companies to ethical and financial success. It was also adopted by some courts, government organizations and Rotary International, where I first heard it.
It is the “Four Way Test” of the things we think, do and say:
1. Is it the truth?
We must restore trust. We need to believe each of us is well when we are just getting together for lunch or a drink. Confidence in a vaccine will never be achieved by people who have not earned trust. Spin, lies and deception need to be called out by honoring and rewarding ethical behavior.
2. Is it fair to all concerned?
We have an opportunity to redefine fair in our families, community or country. We are faced with unrest and violence, most of which is caused by inequality and unfair treatment in our society.
We have people who believe their wills should be imposed on others or that if they feel inconvenienced they can just ignore the rules; drive as fast as I want or make as much noise as I want or park where I want and cheat on my taxes because that’s what is fair for me. Individual rights, justice and fairness describe a society of free citizens holding equal basic rights and cooperating within a classless society. We will only start to approach that when we stop selling those rights to the highest bidder and embrace fairness.
3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
We have lost sight of the true meaning of brotherhood to a point where it has been co-opted by racist hate groups and gangs. Some wear hats to piss off the left, others wear shirts to shame or denigrate the right. Goodwill and building bridges is viewed as a sign of weakness and alliances and cooperation are all measured in winners and losers of power and fortune.
Real peace cannot be won by dominance, only moral leadership, respect and cooperation. Today, religious intolerance is acceptable and leveraged for power and wealth around the world. Peace brings prosperity. History and the most important writings of all cultures bear this out. It is time to re-acknowledge this fact and to embrace this norm.
4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
Over my many years this concept has been twisted more than the rest. It is now seen as a “unicorn”, as mythical or extinct with no perceived value except to the naïve. It cannot exist in an environment where return on investment and market dominance is paramount.
It would flourish in communities who believe in it and the collective good. Real “community service” is the path to peace of mind, contentment, a culture of entrepreneurship, wealth creation and much more. We will all benefit when we all work together.
In conclusion, I hope it is clear I am not preaching or trying to be political. If you don’t agree that we need any societal norms I do not want to live in your society. If you have better ideas I (we) need to hear them.
If we all us, every person, be it rich man, poor man, politician, religious leader, CEO or blue collar worker just tried to purposefully follow these norms we will breathe new life into all of our institutions and our country and its guiding principles.
Wally Krutz is a resident of Windsor.