Social Stresses Weakening our Countries.
Unintended consequences destroy the best laid plans of mice and men.
But on my hypothetical “super-human spirit intent on causing misery to humans and destruction of Christianity and all godliness”, unintended consequences are a delight. One can motivate us dumb humans to adopt policies firmly - fanatically even, believing that we are doing so for the good of humankind all the time kept blind to the fact that the real consequences will be just the opposite.
I live and work in a small suburban fringe town 10kM from the next hamlet. Traffic is not a problem! But for workers in the inner suburbs an hour each way to and from work in frustrating traffic jams is the norm. For those on public transport routes waiting for an already overcrowded train, tram or bus and the subsequent jostling ride is only marginally better. So people arrive at work already stressed and cranky – how easily the day only goes downhill from there on! Then they arrive home exhausted and frazzled – kids to bath? Family dinner to make? It all seems a crushing burden: no wonder birth rates are dropping alarmingly in first world countries!
Then our well intentioned activists shout: “No more freeways!” “Public transport is all we need” and “The future is car-free”.
Half a century ago those of us at school were taught that cities were like concentric circles with CBD and industry in the centre and transport routes radiating out. Residential development surrounded these or made ribbon development following the train lines. Maybe once cities were like that. Not today! True there is still the “downtown” area. But additionally there may be multiple CBD-like centres scattered around it. Some of these may be particular areas of heavy industry. But most people travel, not to the centre or even to a subsidiary centre, but cross-town from where they live to the small businesses and factories scattered all over the city. You simply cannot service the bulk of a modern city's travel-to-work needs by public transport. It is just too complicated a web. Add to that all the tradesmen – and there are lots of them in a western city – needing to carry heavy tools and materials and the problem magnifies. The idea of a car-less city is an impossible dream: but its currency serves to stifle good road planning and development – and adds to the build-up of social frustration and time waste.
Then there is lack of provision for the needs of working women. In the last half century or so the ideal of the stay-at-home mother has vanished like the morning mist. But provision for her to still be a mother and balance career with the vital role of nurturing kids has not followed pace.
I had one parishioner who was a highly competent executive. When she had a baby she looked for part time work. There was nothing to be had at her level. She was told repeatedly that it was “all or nothing”. She chose the “all” but you can guess the extra stress this generated.
Another lady worked as a high level consultant for the United Nations. In every studyshe wrote up the UN insisted that she include a section detailing how it would affect women's lives. So you would think the UN would be sensitive to the needs of the women it employed. Not likely! She would start early because, as she explained to bosses, she had to leave on the dot of 5pm to get to the child-care centre before it closed. Did they accommodate this reasonable request. No! The bosses liked to start late and never got round to commencing the meetings they wanted to have with her until nearly five! She had to give up that job.
You probably know many similar examples. The point is that “we” being Western societies have made one huge change in life and work practices, but have not made the subsequent necessary changes for it to work out well for people. Result: stressed out people and families missing out, giving stressed and fragile communities.
These are just two areas to demonstrate how unintended consequences are coming back to bite us.