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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