Every individual, every business, every organisation, every country finds itself drifting from time to time. Working hard is tiring. When the rewards of hard work flow in it is reasonable to take a break, relax, watch the sunset. Everyone needs a rest sometimes. Today’s world, however, presents problems we have not had to deal with before.
Watching the sunset is good but we must also watch the sunrise. Each new day brings a challenge. If we drift, we miss it – and the opportunities that always accompany challenges,
What are the danger signals of drifting?
Lack of focus on where we are heading is the most telling. As with individuals, a destination is essential if we are to make progress. Express it as ‘who we want to be’ or as ‘where we are going’ it amounts to the same thing, our purpose for the next few years. Paying attention to the trivial is always a sign of drifting. It is a habit of most of us is to avoid the difficult and fiddle with the detail. Nero did so; see what happened to Rome.
Worthy leaders put what matters at the top of the agenda and leave the nitty-gritty to others. It is a common symptom of stumbling leadership that vision is lost and internal scrapping takes its place. The Trump administration is a good example of this but it is not the only one. Several leaders in the world are stumbling today. That is why their countries are drifting.
Fundamental questions like ‘destination’ demand specific answers, not the kind of general hog-wash that implies better things will happen anyway. The priorities for a leader are clear. People, their development, their motivation, their protection and their future are top of any leader’s agenda. Survival as a family, an organisation, a country, a society, a specie, comes next. The threats against our specie may be no greater than ten thousand years ago but they are a lot nearer and potentially swiftly conclusive.
What enables leaders to implement their plans in 2017? An educated constituency or electorate is key but not in the way we currently see education. Children are, for the most part, brought up to lead good lives. That means to behave within the law, treat their fellow human beings decently and lead clean and orderly lives. It is not enough.
Children need to learn how to be happy. Few of the things we currently teach them lead, of themselves, to happiness. Mostly they lead to a frantic and frustrating existence during which, if you are fortunate, you scrape enough together by two-thirds of the way through to pay horrendous medical bills to see you reasonably painlessly through the rest.
A good education actually means drawing out an individual’s talents and gifts so s/he can use them for the benefit of others while fulfilling their survival and family obligations. That involves understanding other people, contributing to society’s development, developing a sensitivity that allows the appreciation of beauty and being clear that happiness comes to you, but not if you try to grab it. Our education systems fall short by these criteria.
A well-educated constituency can be reasonably consulted, not for collective decisions on details but for agreement on the destination. “One country” should mean what it implies, a common goal. Here’s an approach that isn’t rocket science but that doesn’t seem to have been widely adopted anywhere so far. Agree the priorities. These are [a] political independence, [b] self-determination and the rule of law, [c] social cohesion / equity, [d] economic survival, [e] prosperity – in that order. That doesn’t involve absconding from a sensible grouping, as happened with Brexit. Nor does it suggest economic isolation as Trump would have us believe is good for America. We are in a global world and any pretence otherwise is dangerously self-delusional.  Identify the destinations. Each of the above priorities should have its own destination. The politicians and leaders jobs are to knit them together, bearing in mind the priority order. Some of the destinations will appear irreconcilable with each other. Leaders’ jobs involve making the compromises acceptable enough to avoid a riot, advanced enough to promote a vision. Without vision no individual or organisation can develop.  Control the Generals – those leaders who are going to make it all happen. They will compete for funds, for attention, for special treatment. Good in moderation, bad in excess. An army at war with itself loses both vision and achievement. Firm smack of government matters more at the top than at the bottom.  Build an identity. This is not a one-off job, it is continuous. If at first it sounds rather wishy-washy, think again. A legitimately and modestly proud society is a happy society. The identity every society must develop today is the uniqueness – and unique value – of a human being. Lose that and no amount of technical development will restore the beauty of our lives. After years of teaching people their rights it is time to teach them their responsibilities.
The theme of this Daily Paradox is clearly sharing. The word is used all the time, mostly incorrectly. It does not mean dumping my PowerPoint presentation on you to proof-read. It cannot be compelled by regulation and guideline. No tax system, no legal obligation, no forced giving will ever produce equity and fairness. Those are qualities only we can practice.
They are the qualities of human beings.