#49 Elephants in the room

Image of hand holding a globs of the world

On this very special day – Earth Day 2018 Google have done well to refer to the wise words of Dr Jane Goodallas she reflects on her time in the jungle:

Everything is interconnected in this tapestry of life

Having spent the Easter break in the USA I was fortunate to spend some time in Washington DC being a different form of a jungle but with similar settings of interconnection. Along with some of the best museums I have ever been to across the world I found three interesting scenarios worth sharing. These scenarios all centre around three caricatures; the shape of an elephant; the USA flag and an extremely obvious coif of hair!

These three scenarios represent three questions that I believe societies all over the world are currently attempting to tackle. In this Consequences Blog #49 each of these scenarios are presented in the form of a question which I share not just as a reflection of my trip but what the caricatures may represent.  For the purposes of this Blog let’s assume and agree that the caricature of the elephant (is the elephant) and the flag represents the country of origin (USA) with the coif of hair representing the leader of the country – in this case the USA president – Donald John Trump.

The first scenario and question enquires whether the combined caricatures are suggesting that Trump, the president, is the elephant in the room? This question simply expands on the many disgruntled people who openly shared their disappointment of having Trump as their president. On my travels I heard comments from all walks of life with possibly the most alarming coming from a taxi driver. The taxi driver (being an immigrant for over a decade) proposed that the only reason there had been no assassination of Trump along with his extreme views was due to the fact that the people who would consider doing such things were the ones that had voted for Trump!

Another interesting observation of Trump representing the elephant in the room was the fact that the promotional material or ‘ tourist toot’ ( as my husband calls it) was still heavily weighted to the Obamas ( USA president 2009-2017) with only a limited amount of Trump promotional material. In answering this question of Trump being the elephant in the room it leaves a country being led in a way that even though impossible to hide is trying to be hidden – which of course is not good for anyone – especially to the extreme that the Taxi driver was referring to.

The second scenario presents almost an opposing question and view – is Trump doing well because the elephants in the room are being exposed? Such elephants could be considered as the example of manufacturing which prior to Trump was being sourced in other countries causing high unemployment. Trump has ensured that USA manufacturing was given a priority but to the USA, so it keeps both funds and productivity in a more conducive direction. Prior to going to the USA and in observing Trumps portrayal in the media he gives a sense of saying it as it is (sometimes way off the script) and in doing this it could be argued that by exposing the elephants in the room issues that normally wouldn’t be dealt with are now being addressed. Of course, there is an argument as to whether they are for the better.

The third scenario and question drew attention to the lens or prison through which Trump and the elephant represent – is politics itself an elephant in the room? We now live in an era of urgency where nothing is the same and the future must learn from the past but not necessarily emulate it. The need for agility and transformative approaches is paramount. The politics and its very construct of the 21stcentury is very different especially to the forms of legislation and policies that worked in the 20th century. I use the phrase being ‘fit for purpose’ to describe the ‘preferred  intention’ and in posing this third question – is the caricature of the elephant and the phrase Trumpism simply a reflection of politics in the 21st century and by being the elephant in the room no longer being ‘fit for purpose’.

Australia’s version of these three questions includes issues such as ‘innovation’ and how it is being promoted as being important to the future of the country. The promotion of innovation on its own is not enough and the Turnbull government even created an Innovation Fund to encourage more innovation. Usually the elephant in the room is set around there not being enough funding for innovation. In this case the government has brought the elephant out and been proactive. On the flip side an obvious example of the same government actually being the elephant itself is the most recent Foreign Bill fiasco (see references below). I have used the word fiasco as to have a bill (even a proposed bill) that ‘gags the citizen voice’ is both limiting and creates many more elephants. Finally, the third elephant being more systemic is best evidenced in Australia with the federalized government system. This blog is not advocating for a governance shift but simply pointing out that a system that was ‘fit for purpose’ in 18000 may not be the case in 2018!

My time in the USA was most enjoyable but I couldn’t stop thinking about these three scenarios and questions. In some way there is no right or wrong answer. The concept of there being an elephant in a room purely stands for the paradigm shift we are all living in. I write this with much excitement and building on Dr Jane Goodall’s call for harmony and quoting one of my hero’s David Attenborough’s 21st century challenge:

The question is, are we happy to suppose that our grandchildren may never be able to see an elephant other than in a picture book?

With a focus on Economic Social Governance -ESG – ecosystem this calls for collective action and an ability to find ways to engage in discussions that explore opportunities whilst accepting there will be differences and many elephants to be considered. The extreme change agenda is something that must not be ignored and straddling both structure and spontaneity provides the pathway to better understanding our collective challenges – the elephants in the room.




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