So you think the best antipoverty program is a strong economy?
Still listening to that ‘rising tide lifts all boats‘?
After all we’re going through. After the reports, the statistics, the debates. Next time you hear somebody talk that ‘rising tide lifts all boats,’ just do a U-turn. Flip the channel.
It’s a wrenchingly insulting metaphor from a group of nasty people.
After the catastrophic events of the last few years, they continue to natter the little sayism. ‘A rising tide lifts all boats.’
But this image never fits what you see, looking out the window, as you drive through the city.
It is a competitive society. They are proud of that. Now, the outcome of any competition is inevitably a winner and a loser. That’s an inequality. Obviously both people are not lifted; only the winner’s boat.
So they musts concede that in a competition (between people or between groups) one side increases, the other side decreases. The sum of the two is zero. That’s why it’s called a “zero-sum”.
So the truth we need to be telling each other is another picture. Scrap the boats. The accurate picture is: ‘The higher the tree, the deeper the roots.’
The economy is an organic whole. The top and bottom parts are not disconnected from each other. Not detached like boats, and that aspect is obvious. Everything is connected in society. The tree’s branches reach high into the glittering sun because the roots reach low into the clotted dark.
So in the business world. Stratospheric bonuses for CEOs are possible because the wages of the workers have not increased from mud-low.
So why do they keep drawing for us this picture ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’ on us?
Because generations of greed are so rationalized.
But why do they say so, when it is clear it is not so? Over and over, like preachers who shout from the pulpit for two thousand years that the rapture is coming, and for two thousand years the congregation then turns out of the church door in rapture. But on the way home, the congregation doesn’t see any rapture. Just the city. On the way home, they notice that every year, the limousines get longer, and every year there are more homeless people.
We think: it can’t be. Some people are raised, yes. But not the poor. Not all are raised.
Educators: this is a teachable moment. That boats metaphor is insulting because it’s not rational. In any competition (on which business is based) one party wins because the other party loses. It is not possible that both the winner and the loser of a competition win.
The depth of this is that, after this is explained, that they will use their sayism again. But repetition is not the same as truth.
If we try to explain to them about the tree roots, they start to object, not on the basis of evidence, but with scorn that we do not understand.
That scorn is no substitute for reality. It is the way they nail their points. And it does not make the boats image true.
Politicians know the effectiveness of images and metaphor to convey complex processes because it’s hard to disprove an image. And in our culture of sound bytes, the shorter the communication, the better — few people stop to ingest an economic treatises. But a competing image, catching the imagination, has the power to move, because it combines concept and feeling. It has a sticking quality. Communicated, it has the power to upset a whole paradigm.
Less boat. More tree.