Editorial View - By Asher Shla'in

[Comments are welcome at our Dialogue Corner]

"Small Head" Syndrome

Shallowness & Mediocrity

Viewing just the few recent weeks, one can encounter references to: (1) the worrying report on unsuccessful integration of immigrants from Ethiopia, (2) the unfavorable report on the poor level of school-students, (3) the financial crisis in the health system, (4) the creation of sudden unbearable distress to families in need, (5) the brand new contamination of the Kishon River. In effect, the subject of this article could equally pertain to either (6) the way we explain ourselves abroad, or (7) the irregularities displayed in police violence, even (8) phenomena of harsh violence among juveniles, or (9) the functioning of courts, possibly (10) those disastrous military inadequacies (11) the operational guidance granted to the enemy in the media by reporters and commentators, or just (12) the deposit charged for bottles and cans...

Each issue requires of course a special analysis and lesson drawing, but it is important to discuss the common reasons for such apparently different failures. I assume many of our readers have already formed opinions on this matter and I invite them to share their ideas with us at our 'Dialogue Corner' . The rest of the space here is used for some observations.

One widespread phenomenon is a shallow approach. This includes disregard for details, for factors that are not salient at first sight. The indicators heeded to are not the real meaningful ones: Real quality seems inferior to successful salesmanship; long-range planning is ignored in favor of spectacular record; an easy way is chosen over tackling a tough evil; gaining approval is preferred to doing the right thing; enlisting personal, organizational or political support prevails upon promoting the real public interest. All these practices are in fact well rooted in human nature, but need we not do better than that?

Much of the shallowness is not the result of vicious intention but the outcome low capability. Some call it mediocrity, meaning that people in charge knew how to get instated in their jobs, but their ability to have their work done properly is much poorer. In the higher echelons, the right person in the right place is too scarce (though maybe it is these fewer loyal workers that actually keep the whole system working). The prevalent attitude is that of small-mindedness ("play it in a small head" as they say in Hebrew). People, even consciously, limit the scope of their responsibility.

The causes for this situation deserve a separate broader discussion.

Asher Shla'in, 8/August/2003


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