Friday, October 21, 2011

Leadership Crisis at the Core of our Conflicts

Human life has never been so resourceful. We produce more food than we eat (although it is consumed unequally); science and technology have brought us to an era of hyper-modernity unthought of only a quarter century ago; the flow and access of information is unlimited in volume and at near zero cost; entertainment is amusing and at the tip of our fingers.

Yet, humanity has never faced so many and so dire and complex crises in its history: disease and preventable death among children, armed confrontation and high homicide rates, discrimination towards women, people with different religious background, ideological clashes, environmental degradation.

Some people believe there are too many humans on the planet. Others think the planet could hold up to 18 billion humans if lifestyle was truly sustainable.

Meanwhile, I perceive a dramatic lack of leadership at all levels. That is no surprise. We have been brought up to follow others' leadership: a religious authority, a school teacher, a government officer, a boss. This has blinded us from our own, individual leadership. We practice it since we learn how to walk and we voluntarily choose in which direction to go and discover our Universe. But faster than we think, our leadership is shadowed by that of others. We must discover the leader within.

Perhaps the gravest problem is not being aware of the need to have collective leadership, which is not achieved by one person instructing what to do, but by many -all of us- moving in the direction of common interests. Like feeding the hungry, curing the sick, empowering women, accepting religious differences, restoring nature.

Our world is in urgent for solutions. We must have common objectives (perhaps the U.N. has already done an outstanding job at that), we must aspire to them, and we must understand the consequences of not doing so. Look around you. So much freedom to choose what to do with our spare time, buy the latest gadget, travel to a more remote tourist destination, be the first one to be entertained, has in fact enslaved us. Which is the greatest paradox of modern life: the more freedom we have, the more it enslaves us. And still, we have the same 24 hours per day our ancestors had, so it all seems to boil down to time.

And to virtue: how we use that time to serve the common good is a critical factor to prosperity. We can aspire at all the individual happiness we like, and to all the well-being for our family and relatives that we can, but this does not mean we are prosperous. Prosperity is the improvement in the quality of life of all life on Earth. We are seriously far from that. Once again, the bottom line seems to be ethics, or the lack thereof.

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