Not data. We need a narrative, a story for our time

History has messages for those prepared to listen.

On a program broadcast on The Drum (ABC-TV, Thursday 27 March 2020) one of the guests attempted to introduce some history and some big picture thining into the discussion. 

One of the subjects introduced by host Ellen Fanning was: What we value at this point in time (as governments and the community attempt appropriate responses to the COVID-19 situation).  What follows in a transcript of one of the panel guests: Adam Carrel, Ernst & Young, Perth.

Ellem Fanning  – What we value …

Adam Carrel – After the GFC we didn’t do a good job at learning our lessons and recalibrating our priorities.  We hoped that just everything would return to normal.  Household’s vulnerability was exposed.  Early signs of a philosophical recalibration evaporated.

People are realising they have spent their time on a treadmill this past few years and this professional FOMO – pursuing ends because everybody else is and have neglected some of the more important things in life.

The darkness of the plague in Europe brought the light of the renaissance ultimately.  We might have a community philosophical awakening after this.  That family and love and connectivity are far more important than a lot of things we have been prioritising for a long time.

Shane Wright – We would like to see the thoughts that Adam spoke about that this would  bring a new paradigm to how the world operates.  He’s right – nothing changed after the GFC and I suspect we won’t look back and we won’t change that quickly.

Adam C. – I don’t think we should be surprised by the failure of the public to heed the message, the information.  People have been writing books about post truth for years – truth has become a partisan commodity that people have selected on their own terms.  This is where we find ourselves.  We’ve been allergic to bad memory for a long time.  Bad news – you just don’t talk about these things – find a way for them to disappear of their own accord which is why we find ourselves being so caught by this crisis.  We obsess about data – data, data, data, will set us free – we’ve got plenty of data.  Plenty of curves shared about it.

Everyone has access to them, but, Churchill and Roosevelt brought their nations together not with data, but with a narrative and story.  We need to be emotionally mobilised toward a collective effort.  Data on its own never does it.

Shane W. – what’s the difference between a leg wax and a short back and sides.

Ellen Fanning– John Daley from the Gratton Institute said the other day – it’s public pressure that focus’s government to take stricter measures. – Is it going to be that business is going to lock us down  — to Adam C.

Adam C. – The citizens have to take responsibility for this – we are a well-educated, relatively well remunerated country. We should have been able to act with a degree of self-sufficiency on this.  I know you want me to do some more homework on my citizen purchase COVID recovery bond idea, so I won’t talk about it, but I want to mobilise community intellect and community wealth to tackle this problem.  The time will come if the situation doesn’t work when the community is going to have to come together. We are going have to have a redistribution of private wealth towards this problem just like we did in war time if runs for too much longer and household can’t cope.  We can do this.  We should be smart enough to figure this out on our own.  There’s a great meme – I’m sure you’ve seen this:

Our grandparents had to go to war to fight for our way of life and all you have to do is sit on the couch.  You can do this.


We’ve become complacent and we’ve become dependent on others to tell us what to do.  The notion of the common good and for the betterment of the group have taken a back seat. 

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