…”with great expectations, we had the greatest of expectations. We were always waiting for something to happen.” – The Gaslight Anthem.
My mother was and is, wonderfully and innocently naive. She is God fearing, in her eyes the Church and its seemingly absent yet omnipresent boss are the ultimate moral authority. Perhaps God is the best example of someone who exercises influence through his networks and still works from home; Yahoo take note! Anyhow, My Mum believes politicians, elected representatives and Public Sector leaders are servants of a higher purpose and are fundamentally good, she does not think that they would ever knowingly act deceptively and that when they appear to do so or are caught lying it must be for a greater good that the rest of us can’t comprehend or don’t need to know about. Importantly to her, she also feels that they are worthy of her prayers and she commits many hours to asking God to guide them in their work. She believes that Public Servants understand the inherent privilege of their position and she never ascribes to malice what can be explained by incompetence…in short she believes that the institutions of our time and the people who lead them are there for the Public Good. Psychoanalysts please feel free to have a field day at this point.
Whilst I rib her regularly about her beliefs, I do think its nice…its nice that she expects them to do what it says on each of their respective tins that they are supposed to be there to do. She expects her local elected MP to work for the good of their constituents, she expects her local council to be there to help her in her old age, she expects the local Job Centre to help her children and her neighbours children find jobs, she expects the tax office to make it easy to help her understand her tax code, and of course she thinks her local health services should be available for her when they are needed. Its reassuring that in the face of overwhelming evidence she has never allowed her old fashioned expectations of the Public Sector and of those charged with Public Service, to waiver. She believes they are there to help ordinary tax paying citizens like her and in this respect her belief in them is the belief that we would all have in them were it not for our knowledge of human nature and the often bitter taste of experience. She expects those calling themselves Public Servants and who take the public shilling to work tirelessly for the Public Good, to make promises they can keep, to deliver on their promises and to make things better for us all. Is this naivety or just a refusal to stop believing in the notion of a Publicly Funded Public Sector that serves and reinforces a democratic fair society? Discuss…
My Dad on the other hand has very different and less generous views about the role of institutions and the people within them (they weren’t married long), which were reinforced by his extensive experience of working abroad in Third World Countries. When I was in my early teens I visited him in Nigeria and he shared his experiences with me, he explained that in some cultures you are simply not respected unless you have the guile to line your own pockets and look after your own interests; it is expected and not to do so can be construed as a sign of personal weakness…his insights reinforce the notion that I adhere to, which is that if the crooks know all the tricks then honest men must learn them in self defence.
But I’m beginning to think that it suits our Public Sector institutions when we stop expecting from them and believing in them. It’s easy for them to manage our expectations when we become conditioned to expect so little from them. As we in the UK prepare ourselves for the next six months of electioneering, of claim, counter claim, PR, partial truths, half stories and spin…perhaps we should ask ourselves when we stopped expecting, when did we become so cynical and why do we expect so little from a Public Sector that we ourselves own?