Pixel Tracker

Tuesday, January 15 , 2019, 8:58 pm | Overcast 56º


Tim Durnin: Four Simple Steps to Enslaving a Culture

We have become slaves to a bureaucracy that has created a self-serving life of its own

Over the past three decades, a radical shift has occurred in how we go about the business of living, working, believing and playing. The early 1980s brought us trickle-down economics and a leaner, less compassionate government. For those conscious during those times, we saw major tax revolts, the complete annihilation of the mental health system and the rise of a righteous indignation for any sort of dissonance or dialogue.

These changes occurred across party lines, and their infection spread to every major sector — education, health care, investment banking, retail, even religion and leisure. And so we have spent the past 30 years falling in line, embracing the normative and drinking the Kool-Aid of corporate and political America, which has increasingly crossed the line into education and faith.

In the process, we have become slaves to a bureaucracy that has created a self-serving life of its own. We don’t own it, it owns us. Enslaving a culture is quite simple really, and can be accomplished in a few “easy to remember” steps.

» Step one: Convince everyone there is a right way to do everything. The secret is to find that way. Well, not exactly. The right way is far less important than the ability to convince people that it is the right way. In this model, spin is everything and there is no such thing as bad publicity. Villains thrive and incompetence reigns in this milieu.

The rise and fall and rise again (accomplished with your tax dollars and bipartisan support) of the financial services industry is a fine example. Did the good guys win? The financial services industry led us to the cliff, stepped aside and looked on in mock horror as average Americans tumbled down the cliff. They then returned to their lairs unscathed and ready for the next windfall.

» Step two: Tie success to doing everything the right way. Six Sigma comes to mind. Developed by Motorola for its manufacturing processes, a Six Sigma process is one in which 99.99966 percent of the products manufactured are statistically expected to be free of defects. It is a worthy goal to be sure, but at what price? Few would argue that Six Sigma reduces the humanity of the workforce to mere numbers and defines the only worthy end as profit. That’s not my father’s company, nor was it his father’s.

» Step three: Use data to support success and impose universal rubrics. In his first bid for the presidency, George W. Bush touted the success of his education reform in Texas. It was not until a few years later that it was discovered the vast majority of gains were realized by lowering the educational benchmarks in the state. As is typical, our short cultural attention span quickly dismissed this revelation and educational “standards” were embraced with a new and dangerous enthusiasm.

Unfortunately, standards are not working, unless of course you take the data being produced by our schools as evidence. Data from educators with an agenda should always be viewed with suspicion. Most often, however, it is accepted without review or criticism. We want to believe our schools are good and the education system is working for our children. It is not, and standards have done little if anything to stem the tide of declining academic readiness of our students. The United States currently ranks 20th globally and has been in a decline for the past two decades. In spite of this, we act and vote as if the opposite were true.

» Step four: Convince people that all of this is in their own best interest. Whether it is the latest political propaganda, a pharmaceutical company peddling its latest wonder drug or the pastor of a mega church dolling out salvation and damnation like candy at a carnival, the underlying message is, “We want what’s best for you and we know what that is.” Only they don’t.

It is, admittedly, far easier to surrender, to let the currents take us where they will. But the destination of those currents has changed and with it the need for us to reflect on whether this is really where we want to be going.

I don’t believe it is, so I’m sticking my feet in the mud and standing against the tide. We need a new direction.

— Tim Durnin is a father and husband. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) for comments, discussion, criticism, suggestions and story ideas.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.