vrijdag 5 september 2014

Live to see

What you hope, if you’re intensively involved in a particular issue, is that you and your generation may live to see things improve regarding that case. But sometimes you have to be realistic, and then you conclude that it can take longer than your life time, before things will be okay.

With regard to the two issues that I have been intensively busy with for a long time, I have to draw that conclusion now. By the way, in both issues the same concerns are at stake: it’s always about cooperation and trust.

One subject is Israel, or rather, peace between Israel and its neighbors. It’s clear that lack of trust was the big issue there from the outset, and still is. A traumatized people resettled on land that in the course of time had become the possession of others. Wars and terror ensued, and it may be feared that the most recent war in Gaza will not have been the last one.

In realizing this situation, for me nothing more remains than, like Rabbi David Lilienthal once did, try to imagine what the situation will look like if you do not take your own life as a reference but a much longer period of time. Could the situation be much better for example after another three hundred years? Could the Middle East then be like nowadays Europe? For that to happen, by that time obviously not only in Israel but also on the side of Isis and Hamas and kindred spirits some things should have changed.

The other subject is the dysfunctioning of the Amsterdam municipality, ie of its civil service. With that I have in mind employees and departments who refuse to talk to each other, stressed bosses and top-down pushed solutions for problems that are not really known. What happens there is not a war such as in the Middle East, but it sometimes indeed reminds me of it: I see a lot of deeply unhappy people, more than I think is necessary.

That yet cooperation in Amsterdam cán run well and smoothly, I also was allowed to experience recently. Last year, for a whole year, time and energy were invested, within the framework of the Amsterdam City Servicecounter, to accommodate divergent views in a focused and professional manner. Which was only possible – I contend – thanks to generous attention to the primary process, in such a way that everyone involved, from clerks to managers, knew what they could expect from each other. The accommodating itself was a form of cooperation.

But I was wrong about the seriousness with which a sequel was allowed to this successful experiment. It’s nice, cooperation and trust, but it is apparently not the intention to make that into something more permanent. The fact that the Board of Mayor and Aldermen puts, because of imposed budgetcuts, the entire device systematically under pressure now, does not make things better. The bombardment of political and strategic imperatives is so fierce that attention to the core business is smothered in pushed through solutions. Employees are on their guard against being driven crazy.

So here too I have to face the fact that – except during the past year – I will not experience utopia. It will take a while before trust and cooperation again have a chance here. Okay,  maybe not in three hundred years, but easily in a hundred years: then it must have become self-evident that organizations, regardless of the strategic demands that are imposed, do not for even a moment lose sight of their primary processes and core business.

Defeats? Sure, but fortunately still other opportunities are left for me to experience cooperation and trust.

Also see Trust