Larry Banman – Don’t live life as a marionette
November 24, 2009
Are our lives really better with some of the advancements we have seen over the past few decades?
Over the past two weeks, I have harbored that thought about two things. I am talking about computers and grants. Really, the issue is broader than those two specific items, but they have been on my radar. The snafu with the national airline booking computers this past Thursday morning only serves to emphasize my point.
Before we get into too much wailing and gnashing of teeth, I will freely admit that I make a living with my fingers on a keyboard and my eyes trained on a computer screen. I thank my stars daily that I use a computer and not a typewriter. I get weekly photos of my grandson, courtesy of a computer. I keep in touch with family and friends on a level that I would never achieve without a computer. In ways to numerous to count, I gain some benefit from a computer. I am better warmed, fed, sheltered and entertained in no small part due to computers. My life has probably been extended due to computer technology.
However, I have also experienced the loss of time and money when a computer system hiccups. I have been part of the frustration felt when an operation grinds to a halt because every task in that office is tied to a computer. All of sudden we realize that everything we do is dependent in some form or fashion upon technology. I don’t like how I feel when I realize that I haven’t a clue how to survive, apart from something that has been artificially created.
On the subject of grants, I have been heavily involved with grants throughout my life. I have written them and benefited from the largesse that they provided. I look around Kremmling and see an assisted living center, major parts of the school district, several parks and a major waterline project all funded heavily with grant money. The quickest way to get money in this instant gratification society is to be a successful grant writer. With the right words, you can open the floodgates to an almost unlimited source of money. When received, a grant feels like that surprise cash birthday present from your mother.
But, just like a personal credit card, a bill is due to arrive. The biggest misconception is that grant money is free money. At the very outset, almost all grants require matching funds or donated in-kind services. The piper must be paid. Grants come with requisite reporting and paperwork requirements. Grants come with stipulations, regulations and restrictions. Grants provide employment for people whose jobs must be terminated when the grant funding expires. In other words, grants come with strings attached. A grant is more like a “gift” from a friend, that turns out to really be a “loan” with interest. The “strings-attached” metaphor relates to a marionette being controlled by a person who is, appropriately enough, called a manipulator.
The question that kept coming into my head is this: Am I better person because of computers and grants? I am, no doubt, living a more convenient life because of both of those things but, at the end of the day, am I a better person?
I can be idealistic, but I am not naive. I also hope my friends know me well enough to realize that I am talking about something much larger than computers or grants. To attack those things would be like cutting off my nose because a head cold was causing a runny nose. The issue is related, in my opinion, to utilization. Do we use what is available to make our lives more convenient, or are those items used to improve the lives of those people with whom we interact? History is littered with examples of people and institutions condemning things which weren’t understood. Human nature has never adapted well initially to change.
I believe the key is to recognize which end of the marionette strings is the end to which we are attached.
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