When politics fail

The political failings of the West came under scrutiny at Davos. Naturally, China went into the bullring with the first criticism. Other delegates chuckled. Well, they would, wouldn’t they? They are now the politics of the West, more than the elected politicians. Bankers, Insurers, Big-Big Business are all playing a major role in how we live and where we are going. The ensuing chaos is not just Brexit or France, it is the divisions in the whole world between the rich and the poor. It is the divisions between the leaders and the led.

This is a revolution. After their chuckle the delegates – some of them anyway – pondered. What Fang Xinghai, the vice chairman of the Chinese government’s main securities regulator, had said was right. The West’s politics are in a mess. Even the most regulated, safest places on earth are having upheavals, however calm the surfaces look. A whole new thought process is needed, almost a non-process. Standing things on their head would be a good start.

Think of something that happened a long while back. Where do you think the greatest impact of the fax machine was felt? The answer is in the office of every agent, satellite and representative of every international or diversified business or organisation. Perhaps the best example is the diplomatic. From the day the fax machine was installed, ambassadors’ powers declined. Enhanced communication cuts both ways. I built Cerebos Pacific Ltd because my parent company didn’t know I was doing so. They had asked me to get rid of it.

Questioning democracy is rather a no-no in a world where every salesman needs the freedom to lie to meet his KPI Quota. It also seems to be a politician’s right to make and break promises faster than daylight comes and goes. Truth is a Pontius Pilate exercise in didactics. Apple Pie and Motherhood become the joke that portrays innocence as a loser. Personal responsibility is redefined to suit the wearer. Charity is measured in tax rebates, generosity in promotional value.

One person one vote, regardless of input and outtake?

In the village the best contributors, not the richest or most brutal, got to keep order and rule. An Elder who didn’t perform or who was observed misbehaving was removed from office. Disgrace was enough punishment. Shame still existed then, you see. No longer. The most shameful become celebs. Society’s standards have slipped so far in my lifetime that I worry for decency.

Through the cracks in the wall of silence I see glimpses of reform, redress, awareness of how sluttish wealth has made so many. #MeToo and other movements promise an improvement for which we are all grateful. They are helping to straighten out some of the personal behaviour. But they are not addressing the Big-Bigs, Intellectual Property, Genuine Competition, nor the elephant in the room, Democracy. We measure, almost to the point of hysteria. But behavior, not much.

Relationships, the fountain of life, have become too instantly overtly familial without becoming more genuine. A good relationship takes time, civility and humour. As it matures its crowning success is trust. You don’t need to groom for that, nor measure the outcome. Trust is not measured, it is treasured. It is not a golden handshake but a golden hug.

In my own tiny way I am trying to do something about how organisations work. My column in Singapore Business Times (alternate Saturdays) called Management Unleashed turns management practices on their head. In April I shall present my ideas to the Singapore International Chamber of Commerce (SICC). Management is as reactionary as anyone. Some businesses are run as fiefdoms where jobs are by patronage, promotion by crawling. Management needs upending.

How we decide who is suitable to rule us is not taught, examined or pondered enough. The battle to win the leadership positions starts before due diligence has been completed. Let us devote more time to teaching ‘How to choose the best leaders for our society’.

‘People get the leaders they deserve’ may not be wholly true.

But it is true enough for us to ponder it.

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