Archive | October, 2008

On the loneliness of leadership and lessons from International Relations class

29 Oct

  The wisest do not think of themselves as wise. The best to lead do not think themselves capable enough. Lack of pride/consciousness in the value of self prevents one from being too content in what one is capable now. As a leader, this trait is doubly important due to the dynamics of problems and hard decisions that leaders must face. Thus it is that the best to lead must have character enough to sustain their own morale/happiness, for they can derive no pleasure from a following.

  Neither Mother Teresa nor Einstein were faking humbleness when they said that their work is not great. It is a backwards approach to tell people they must be humble if they wish to achieve greatness. When we consider such matters of prestige, we lose sight of the pleasure in following our dreams, in doing what we believe is right, in expressing what we think. We are constantly observing the reaction of others and how they should view us. We are fighting to maintain this privilege. We lose because it’s not the point.

  So the best rarely feel pleasure at their besting of others, for it is in their work that they are occupied with, not in the gloating.

  However, the challenges today are such that leaders can not be purely good leaders to be where they are. If they do not manipulate, if they do not negotiate and threaten and accept monetary support from institutes with interest (which their opponents are accepting), if they do not leave out information to appease a highly diversified crowd, they will not gain office.

  Thus, the means has crushed the goal. While we feel gleefully powerful in our supposedly equally wise discernment as we each cast our vote, we are actually gambling – hoping that the one we chose has his/her interest in serving the people, because we cannot hope for one who’ll do it for a strong sense of responsibility. Through our dream of a system of equal rights in choosing the wise, we have instead breeded an industry of unproductive (economically speaking) lobbyists, campaigners, PR people. 

  In my International Relations class my teacher was talking about an ad he had seen.

  “Greed is the engine of Progress.”

  He asked us to consider the relationship of value and price. “Who is the happiest during father’s day?” Mr. Lee asked, “Who’s encouraging you to pay your filial piety to your father?”

  The class, as usual, was silent.

  “The salesmen.” Mr. Lee said. “The capitalist system makes you give values a price. Dad is driving a van, the whole family is going out on a trip, they’re happy because they’re together in this spacious van … quality family time means buying the van.”

  “Capitalism is about competition, often unfair competition. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer. This problem was already seen less than two hundred years ago by Karl Marx. The rich, of course, want to maintain their wealth. How do the rich maintain their wealth? Somebody answer me.”

  There was silence. I thought. I shook my head. I raised my hand: “By changing the laws.”

  “Society is a system of games. The games with the most holding power is legislation. Who sets the laws?” Mr. Lee answered himself, “Legislators. Parliament. Anyone wondering why there’s so much money involved in legislator voting?”

  People drew in their breath. Some chuckled. I chuckled. I wrote in my notebook:

  The more money a politician spends on campaigning, the more careful you have to be about supporting them.

  Mr. Lee continued.

  “Recall that when I asked last time whether you believed that one ounce of hard work means one ounce of reward (一分耕耘一分收穫) and only two people said they believed in this? What does this signify? <pause> It means that in the society we live in now, reward is not equal to hard work. Some people don’t have to work so hard for what they want.

  “Strong polarities between capitalism and socialism is going to draw dissidents. You belong to the impoverished class in a Capitalist world. You go into a shopping mall, there’s all this merchandise that you can never afford. You’re smart, independent spirited, but poor. You seek out other smart, independent people like you and you strive against the system. When peaceful means don’t work, when you can’t fight legislation, you start using violent means.”

  I wrote down in my  notebook:

  When the smart and independent are impoverished under a capitalist world, a turn towards socialist ideals is inevitable. (Smart as in equally educated, which puts me in mind of Finland and the efforts they made towards making higher education available for all. Is that the reason they have more socialist laws or is it the cause?)

  “What does Capitalism stand for? Creativity and freedom. What does Socialism stand for? Equality. Do these ideals contradict each other?”

  No. I mouthed.

  “Cannot these systems co-exist? I want you to think about this, and not be bogged down by preconceptions of what should be. When we keep fighting for one ideal over another, we must remember what our goal is, and consider both sides.” Okay, I was a little woozy from lack of a nap during this last sentence, so I may be a bit inaccurate here.

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The temptations leaders face

23 Oct

What does it mean to have power? It is to have all things made easy for one to compensate for the heavy responsibility conferred. People strive to please, to rid for you nasty obstacles, to affirm your edicts…etc. No wonder many who have tasted power become egomaniacs.

  And the way one acts as a leader is also dictated by situation. If you were to appear less firm in your decisions, to consult others too frequently, to wish to make life easier for your subordinates, you would be disrespected, giving your power to those whom you consult too frequently, unable to make speedy decisions (counselors may squabble or have goals of their own), and doing everything yourself.

  So leaders are forced to rely on their own imperfect judgments, take a stand in issues where it is wisest to be moderate, be somewhat tyrannical and dictate work to others. Turning to democracy may make the leader aware of his responsibility to the people for a longer period, but also fosters leaders who know how to please but not necessarily to lead, who cannot make long term plans for the country for they cannot be sure that their plans will not be superseded by the next president.

  If these leaders are easily persuaded, then they are not likely to abstain from being authoritative while in office, because the environment is so eager to please.

  Leader are human. Good leaders may be deserving of credit, but in general leaders will fail us if we worship them (or at least the group about him worships him). They are expected to see a panoramic view of the nation’s wants, but that would be wishing for too much.

  Everyone would like to believe they are special. Being a leader puts you at risk for believing that you are a cut above the normal breed and exempt from faulty decisions.

  Taiwan’s leadership faces a cultural challenge that makes it extremely difficult for leaders to keep their environment free of fawning subjects. We must treat those who have done us favors with kindness. So even if our secretary is a little too agreeable, we cannot fire them on the grounds that they work for us without judgement. The vice is the virtue. The virtue must be rewarded, however little good it does to our future ability to keep on our toes.

Chosing a leader

  A democracy is the expendition of greater resources in the political process in order to foster a sense of equality. For this generation, it is handed to us on a golden platter. We, who have never shed a drop of blood for its deliverance. Some of us, knowing that we must choose wisely, neglect to vote simply because the task is too daunting – politics had become a complex affair, and it’s hard work trying to look past all those campaign tricks to see true competence. We neglect to vote, while those more naive stand in line to pick one who has once shook their hand, smiled into their eyes, or promised a retirement pension the government couldn’t possibly afford.

  Politics has become a matter of charisma over ability, money over integrity. We are dazzled by fine choices and crippled by no choices; Plagued by the question: Which is the lesser evil?

  For myself, I have a few rules in choosing a candidate:

1. If he/she gives you money, take it and vote for the other guy.

2. Do not vote for candidates who attack their opponents more than they talk about their own policies.

3. Do not vote for candidates who are unrealistically idealistic.

4. Do not vote for candidates who throw money at every policy – it’s your money.

5. Do not vote for candidates whose supporters act like rabid animals.

6. Do not vote for candidates who allow their supporters to act like rabid animals.

7. Do not vote for candidates who focus a great deal on their own disadvantaged upbringing. Poverty does not equal virtue.

Values and Vice

17 Oct

Those who hate atheists tend to believe that people who do not believe in God lack a collective consciousness and little care for humanity. Though this may be true for a few atheists, it is not true for all.

  On the other hand, there are many in religious institutes who like to appear devote for the honor it confers on them, and condemn others for lack of piety. I find these people far more despicable than those who accept and admit their disconnection from God and not attempt to pretend otherwise.

  However, I do not think that the atheists who spend their days attacking those with beliefs much more respectable in character than those who fake devotion.

Most people now have the sense not to make jokes about the traditions (a lot of which is tied in with religion) of natives in other nations, this is called respect. So why attack your own countrymen?

The Merchant of Venice

5 Oct

To what do we owe allegiance?
our promises, I fear
can only be constitutions
if our souls could tear
If our pledges were a kite-string strong
that bears ourselves only so long
and then be rolled in or snapt in two
and fearing to meet it’s maker,away blew
never to return to earth except graced
with mud and snarled in branches twisted
I do not think we truly can
quite keep the vows we swore to tend
unless our hearts are bond and we
wear our conscience on our sleeves
And pray never give your word to one
who loves you not, for how much stronger
the kite-string, and how much more frail
you shall be, within those hands that little care for thee.