Do It Now versus Do It Right

Science fiction. Double feature. Equality, or MutantEquality?

The Hollywood Cliche

We’ve all seen the movie. The boffins in the lab are working on a new product, but it has a few flaws. It’s possible that, unleashed on the market before it’s properly refined, it could cause untold harm. Into the lab strides the owner. He’s arguing with the chief scientist, who is telling him the product’s not fit to release just yet. They need a little more time…

The businessman sweeps him aside. “It doesn’t have to be perfect, so long as it does the job. We can clean up any problems later. Besides, if we don’t get this to market soon, the competition will get the jump on us.”

The chief scientist, who has been working on this breakthrough for years, refuses to give in. A couple of his close associates back him up. Enraged, the businessman sacks them, and replaces them all with eager junior members of the team.

The product launches to great acclaim. Huge kudos accrues to the new, fresh, visionary team who swept aside the old guard, and the determined businessman who ‘got the job done’. Everyone ignores the sacked scientists who warn of the potential dangers. But then stories start to emerge of mysterious disappearances, of bodies found with strange wounds, in the area around the factory…

It’s the plot of a hundred creaky old sci-fi movies. It’s a cliche, but cliches got that way because they’re usually true.

Do it Now or Do it Right

Business always wants whatever it wants done now. Get the product to market, start earning a return. Never mind perfection, good enough will do. We can fix it up later. Academia, on the other hand, wants to take the time to get it right.

The whole art of successful business is selling products with acceptable flaws. Products that are just good enough to sell. Software is a good example: every time Apple or Microsoft releases a new operating system, it’s full of bugs. They then start issuing updates and bugfixes to bring the product up to scratch. Physical products are developed and sold the same way.

There are merits to this approach. But sometimes business is in too much of a rush. It cuts corners. It releases products with much larger flaws, which it then attempts to conceal until after people have bought the product.

Sure, said a certain vehicle manufacturer, our diesel emissions aren’t that great. But it costs too much to fix the engines to emit less pollution: let’s fix the engine software to fool the emissions testing system.

Business says “Make a decision, any decision, and move on. Doesn’t matter if it’s a wrong decision, we can fix up problems later.” Which is how we end up with poorly made and designed products, polluting diesel engines, wanton waste of natural resources, and rapacious exploitation of poor people in poor countries.

And this is how we ended up with the Dean Smith Marriage Amendment Bill. But is it just buggy in a minor way that can easily be fixed later? Or is it the VW diesel motor of marriage equality?

Pardon? What’s this got to do with Marriage Equality?

Turnbull is a businessman. He wants it done now, never mind if it’s flawed, never mind if it causes problems down the track. He wants a win. Lord knows he’s had few enough on them. So long as something is done now, on his watch, it doesn’t matter. The next man in the Lodge can clean up the mess. Get a win. Bugger the consequences.

Dean Smith’s Bill. It’s the product of business-think. It’s a “do it now and never mind the mess, we can fix that up later” Bill. And it came about in a businesslike manner.

Some people became impatient with the “get it right” approach, and switched to the “get it now” approach of a few rich gay men and their political allies. They booted out the seasoned experts and promoted the junior team. And said, “Just get it done.”

The result is the Smith Bill.

Now, on the brink of winning (as they see it), they are angry and impatient at people like me, pointing out the flaws in their product. They are even trying to whitewash seasoned campaigners who don’t agree with them from the history of the struggle, claim victory for themselves, and saddle us with a flawed bill that will be nothing like as easy or quick to fix as they think. They’re businessmen. They want their product on the market. Now. Flawed or not. Accept a little ‘collateral damage.’

But – remembering the NBN, Mr Turnbull – isn’t it more important to get this right?

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)