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.

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.

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 weep 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 our 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. Just not behavior.

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 Business Times (every alternate Saturday) called Management Unleashed turns management practices on their head. In April I shall present some of my ideas to the Singapore International Chamber of Commerce. Management is as reactionary as anyone. Some businesses are run as fiefdoms where jobs are by patronage, promotion by crawling. Management needs upending.

Small this effort may be, but the sum of many such efforts is what the world is calling for.

How we decide who is suitable to rule us is not taught, examined or pondered enough. The battle to win the place starts before due diligence has been completed. Let us have a commission on ‘How to choose the best leaders for our society’. Let it be small but comprise one from menial tasks, one from supervisory work, one from general management, one from senior management, one experienced politician, one senior religious leader, two highly thought of young people, one top academic, one military person. Let the ten choose who shall Chair them. Let all the votes be equal.

Their remit: ‘How to choose the best leaders for our society’. Commit them for six weeks, limit their report to 2,000 words.

Let’s see if they can do it.

If they can’t we have a bigger problem than you and I thought.

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