In discussing current affairs with my neighbour, I turned my thoughts towards an issue closely linked to the mindset of our population and the state of our nation.
“One of the issues of the society we live in is that of an inward-looking shortsighted approach in what and how we do things,” I told my neighbour.
Unfortunately this seems to be the norm across a varied number of sectors and it can be defined as society’s myopia. In Maltese we also have our own expression: tara sal-ponta ta’ mnieħrek, literally translated, ‘seeing just till the tip of your nose’. Idioms and their survival through the years is no coincidence.
In medical terms, a person with myopia can see things that are close with no problem but has difficulty seeing things that are far away. Americans call it nearsightedness and we, with our British influence, call it shortsightedness.
Myopia has also been applied and extended to the business world, as ‘marketing myopia’. This term refers to when a business views marketing strictly from the standpoint of selling a specific product rather than from the standpoint of fulfilling customer needs.
Within a social context, be it personal, corporate, governmental or political, this comparison becomes interesting and extremely plausible. For starters, I’m not one to label the Maltese as if our characteristics are only applicable to our nation. Yet, there are certain traits which are more likely to be found in small-sized populations. Hence our small size, our proximity and social interaction also brings these characteristics to the front line, and present us with a stark reality on a daily basis.
But if we, or the majority of us, act in an inward-looking short-sighted approach, can we attribute this to something? Enter the survival of the fittest theory, which in a way justifies the ‘everyone for themselves’ approach. Yet this should be applicable to nature and not to society. It describes how nature acts and evolves, but it does not tell us that it’s the right way to act.
So, as much as one can intrinsically link, digging deeper the connection is lost. So as much as one can try to find an explanation to this, there is no single answer. Probably the best link justification is a combination of factors, both from a personal and external point of view.
So how can we stop this short-sighted approach? Personally, I think that on a national level we can’t. Trying will only waste precious energy and increase frustration. Yet, on a personal level one can. Even if just by being aware of certain decisions and by repositioning the concept of value above money. The two are closely linked, yet adding value to whatever we do is key. If we add value to whatever we do we are contributing to a long-sighted and outward approach.
Nonetheless it is not only a big challenge, but one could see this as a time bomb. The fact that technology has created a society based on instant gratification has worked towards eradicating the concept of patience. This further fuels the inward looking and short-sighted approach and further creates a lethal combination.
But it’s not all negative. Those individuals, companies, organisations and leaders that not only acknowledge this ‘social myopia’ but operate with an inclusive long-term vision will easily shine above the rest.
It will not happen overnight but it will come; one day…
Published in The Times of Malta 5 Dec 2017