Procrastination that Failed a Nation
Posted on January 26, 2021
When I am working, I have had to get myself into the habit of dealing with boring matters as they come into my email box before they become an escalating problem. I have this terrible habit of ignoring the uninteresting, yet vital things, until it is almost too late. I’m a bit like the kid at the breakfast table frantically doing his homework on its due date a full three weeks after it has been set.
The funny thing is, doing things as they come in, is irrationally satisfying. Last week, I completed an HMRC Intermediaries document (a list of contractors I have used over the last quarter) several weeks before its deadline. This resulted in me saying, ‘C’mon! under my breath whilst carrying out a slow fist pump you would normally associate with a tennis player completing an overhead smash. It was the most excited I had been since remembering to fill up my wiper wash earlier in the month.
I guess there are those of you who have empathy with what I am saying and those of you who are disciplined enough to avoid ongoing procrastination. You are the type who get tasks completed before they are an issue. I am working on this personal disability and by identifying it, I am comforting myself that I can be better at being useless without ever fully putting it behind me.
Of course, when it is an individual like me who is dithering, the damage is limited. However, what about when it is the people running the country who suffer from this affliction? Taking political bias out of the equation (Labour may have dithered as well) it is now quite apparent that procrastination has played a huge part in the Covid-19 catastrophe.
Ever since last February, there has been a ‘let’s see what happens’ or ‘worry about that later’ attitude towards the pandemic. This has led to panic stricken and ill-conceived (and corrupt) implementation of PPE and Test and Trace contracts. There could be many reasons for this (pressure from neoliberal internal Covid deniers, for example) and finding the right balance can’t be easy. However, indecisiveness at critical periods, has walloped the UK more than any other nation on earth.
Like any self-respecting procrastinators, we have come up with a last-minute escape route via an impressive vaccine roll-out. What is not known, is whether it is all too late to avoid a total health and fiscal breakdown? It certainly is for the family of the dead folk. The quote from last year stating that under 20,000 deaths would be a decent result, certainly hasn’t aged well.
From what I have witnessed and read over the last 10 months, a failure to forecast and act on bad or worst-case scenarios has been a disaster. The government has too often found itself being reactive to situations, when what we should expect from leaders is to be highly intelligent and proactive. It’s why they are leaders, to lead. The answer is in the title.
Reactive people are often passive until a situation has occurred and they are pushed into dealing with it. It can and often does, result in chaos and damaging situations that could have been easily avoided (I’m an expert on this). Proactive people are on the case early, learning quickly to nullify potential doomsday scenarios and put the brakes on things running out of control. New Zealand PM, Jacinda Arderne, is a great example of a leader being proactive.
Britain has a strange affection for reactive heroics. We have all heard the term ‘Dunkirk Spirit’ which refers to ‘Operation Dynamo’ and the evacuation of allied soldiers stranded on beaches like sitting ducks. Yet Dunkirk could easily have been total ignominy without the idiotic errors of judgement of Hitler. Heroics born out of the increasing lunacy of others, is not the way forward, in my opinion.
If Britain can learn anything from this, it is this. Reactionary heroics, and an obsession with being stoical in the face of disaster (clapping and banging pots etc) is not the way forward. If Hitler hadn’t stopped his Panzer division to foolishly allow Goering’s Luftwaffe a stab at glory, Dunkirk would have been a massacre. No if, no buts, it would have been a bloodbath.
Covid-19 won’t stop in its tracks to foolishly give the Common Cold a stab at glory. It is proactive, ruthless, and free from human error. It won’t be beaten by ‘fight them on the beaches’ speeches and by convincing our own minds that the government is only doing its best. It’s time to get real, if not for now, the next time.
Procrastination fails a nation.