Like Icarus, our feet are far from the ground

In Greek mythology Icarus attempted to escape from Crete using wings made of feathers and wax fashioned by his father, a master craftsman and innovator.

Before making his attempt to escape he was warned by his father not to fly too close to the sun.

But being a curious chap and possibly looking for a better trajectory he ignored the advice and flew higher than he should have.

The end result was that the wings melted and he drowned in the sea. The moral of the story is one that many of us will have heard from our parents or our mentors and is that we should not try and fly too high until we are ready. Of course, like a lot of these old axioms it does not always quite work out that way.

It is widely believed that certain sectors of our society are paid far more than they are worth and others who are paid more than their counterparts in other wealthier and more developed countries.

So, in effect, it could be said that by paying generously or even over the odds we are paying for the best. The question, which we have much cause to ask, is, are we getting the best? Looking at what has befallen this economy the answer has to be, generally speaking, that we are not — and by a long shot.

Each day that goes by that simple view is proven time and again. The failures, incompetence and inaction by leaders across Europe resulted in the economic crisis that has befallen almost all of Europe’s economies but they are now clueless when it comes to resolving this crisis of their making.

Months go by while they search for a solution, but within days of articulating the solution events once again overtake it and it’s then obsolete. Worse still, they push on regardless even knowing that the latest pet solution will not work.

Rampant austerity has been proven to fail abysmally when it comes to rescuing an economy and putting it on a growth path. Yet they continue with it regardless. All of these people are on big bucks, have huge levels of authority and power.

Unfortunately, it is clear that they are, like Icarus, flying too high. However, they are not paying the price, even though their wings are made with wax and their feet of clay.

The levels of remuneration that pertain generally in banking and financial services but are particularly so in the investment area are stratospheric.

Yet, we are in a financial crisis created by the greed of the individuals who inhabit this sector. They continue to be paid horrendous amounts of money despite their failure and their wings do not seem to melt.

Even Barack Obama, who could have and should have dealt with the excesses in the financial services sector, declined. In that regard, watching the 2010 award-winning documentary Inside Job would be an hour or so well spent.

Closer to home, all we have to do is look to the recent HIQA report to know that we are not getting the best, despite paying to attract the best.

When speaking to the Oireachtas Committee on Health about the Irish health service, HIQA chief executive Tracey Cooper said: “There is not necessarily a sufficient number of strong leaders at local level and when people found themselves in jobs that they were not equipped to discharge, a change in leadership was needed”.

In the case of Icarus the system, in that case the Solar System, dealt with someone flying higher than he should have. However, there appears to be nothing to ensure that those at ground level are up to the job.


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