In today’s world it is not size but flexibility that matters.
Big does not equal better. The greatest success stories in the animal kingdom are not huge elephants and rhinos, but ants. Billions and billions of them, in multiple self-sustaining colonies, underground, chattering away, getting on with the work of looking after each other and forming what is now believed to be a global network.
Today’s most successful wars are not won with nuclear bombs. They are won with IEDs, Kalashnikovs, an empowering vision, and inspiring words. Small things. Lots and lots of them.
Big things are vulnerable and are easily crippled. “A bee can bite the bottom of the Pope in Rome” (Les Miserables”). An easy target. Billions of small things are difficult to get rid of, as anyone who has had an infection knows only too well.
So how does this reflect on the Brexit campaign?
The EU is focused on more and more centralisation and regulation, with fewer and fewer people making the crucial decisions. Common this, and common that. Fewer decision-makers mean slower decisions – and less time to make them so the quality becomes compromised. In today’s world that is bad news. The problem is not size in itself. It is speed. Big things take a long time to get going, buy-in from all the parties takes close to eternity, and once they are on the move they are very difficult to stop – or even redirect. And almost impossible to reverse. Eventually they stop. (See image above.)
In this world of exploding chaos and complexity, where centralised decision-making cripples progress, the world’s key decision-makers are those at the edge, ‘little people’ facing the immediate local situation who can switch twice in a day, adjusting to what they find. And the best leaders are those who understand that principle, training those people, educating them, inspiring them … and then giving leadership-power away to them, empowering them to decide ‘there and then’ at the point of need, equipped with the knowledge they need. It is immediate connectivity and flexibility that are key in this context. The delivery driver on his mobile phone in his little white van phoning the customer, the school teacher in the classroom dealing immediately with the behaviour of a student, the bobby on the beat sorting an argument, the child deciding on what to have for breakfast.
Think ant not articulated truck. When faced with a challenge, ants get into a little community group and sort out the problem, attacking, defending, and even dying when necessary. (They are typically called ‘worker’ ants. I like that!) When the problem is solved, they go back to their work until needed again. They will go to incredible lengths to support each other, sacrifice, and work. The one in this pic is carrying a seed many times its weight and size.
And it all happens in seconds and minutes, not months and years. Quick, efficient, local decision-making by those affected by the decision sorting the problem out together. Collaboratively. Without a formal structure.
So the predictions for the EU are speculated upon for the next 15 years. “It will be like this in 2030.” One thing is sure. Every prediction will be wrong, whoever makes it. Remember 15 years ago? It was the everyday people, filled with vision and purpose, who decided that for them there was no box to think out of. Like the bumble bee that is technically unable to fly because of it’s weight and wing area, they just get on and do it.
When I see the EU voting for the development of smaller government, disbanding important parts of itself (especially those that currently meddle uninvited in the detail of human community), distributing decision-making power to the edge, promoting freedom, encouraging diversity and speed by building connectivity (roads, airports, internet access), maybe it will get my vote.
I’m not holding my breath. Today it seems to me to be more of a big overloaded truck stuck in a narrow lane, shouting at us about how we cannot do without it because it’s going places, yet blocking the way for the farmer, mother and deliveryman queued up behind, trying to get on with real life.
Meanwhile the flexible little ants quietly march past, over, under and round it, vote it off the job and get on with the work of living.
Those who want the EU are welcome to it. I’m voting ‘ant’.