Published in El Pais, 17 March 2021.
A goal for any society is to achieve a life free of violence. There are regulations that should prevent this, but they are not used in the perspective of an improvement but only to punish (violent reaction that does not generate learning, it only causes fear). Without realizing it, many of the actions we experience on a daily basis are violent. While crossing the street feeling that the car is not willing to waste a second waiting for you to finish crossing (psychopathy), being a cyclist who shares the street with a driver who is not willing to reduce his speed to protect your life ( psychopathy), mistakes at work that lead to load yelling or threats of being fired without any learning opportunities (intimidation), strict teachers who are threatened with resignation by students and parents regardless of the learning as the objective (bullying), excited neighbors who make coexistence a hell so that nobody claims the monthly expenses without payment (extortion), or any disagreement between citizens with threats of going to trial without trying conciliation options (lack of conciliation habits) … and the list could go on.
Our society is violent, and the different situations show it. The only option that people see in the face of irresponsibility, disagreement, demotivation is a violent response. Let us not be surprised then if we have a violent government since they are based on practices that are institutionalized and even more so if society does not accept drastic changes. Maslow and Kaplan’s Law of the Hammer says, “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” As early as 1964, Kaplan indicated “it is not surprising that a scientist formulates problems in such a way that for their solution they only require those techniques in which he himself is skilled.” Let us imagine that the scientist is the public official, he is called to generate processes and norms. Perhaps for this reason, the legal system bends before irrational practices such as knowing that prisons are already at three times their capacity and many do not have the conditions for humane treatment (result of a study by the Ombudsman’s Office in 2010) to continue to take prisoners for investigative purposes only. No other solutions? Is there no control of the borders to indicate that it is a necessity to prevent their escape? All this shows the great weaknesses of the public system: the lack of clear and transparent procedures, control processes, learning processes, continuous improvements adapted to today’s needs. Public officials have an obligation to generate change, for example, processes that include fewer imprisonments knowing that 70% of people are without sentence (not human). Corruption is not human either, new processes should be motivated to avoid it in order to promote development, not only punish in the end when money is gone. For example, the lines in COVID-19 have not changed in many countries, many pay to have a place in line. Corruption could be avoided by incorporating the use of the internet, online procedures, a single place instead of the client going desk by desk paying a bribe in each one, etc. But since civil servants are not motivated to change but to violence, whoever dares to change something can be fired instead of rewarded.
Thus, many countries live with old regulations that are not adapted to today’s needs, not even in times of COVID-19. If someone dies in line, the boss will be taken to jail because he caused crowding. But was the change motivated in the other institutions to avoid lines and corruption? No, everything remains the same.