In my last blog post I began an exploration of intention, the underlying driving force that is deeper than values, and is driven by two forces: the self-interest that is ignited when we live in ego-mode, and the deeper, more insightful awareness that arises naturally when we are living consciously and seeing from multiple perspectives rather than just our own agenda.
The quote by Lord Action, 19th Century British historian, is widely known and worth repeating here: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are always bad men.” Viewing life from a partial perspective, we can safely argue, leads often to evil outcomes. That might sound extreme, but remember that evil is live spelt backwards and therefore anti-life. Self-interested leaders make decisions that often block natural, effective interactions between people and situations. At worst, they shut people down and seek to restrict self-determination. There is a lack of broader perspective that inclusively considers the whole picture. These leaders easily fall into the trap of the ends justifying the means as they capitalise on challenging times to promote ideologies and social movements essentially seeking power and control from their own frame of reference. Often with the best of intentions they fail to appreciate their own real agendas. They have a plan, and they will make it happen come hell or high water.
Too often today our leaders in all parts of the globe operate in this mold playing political games, creating imbalance and causing a lot of people grief along the way. John Bright, one of the leaders of the Anti-Corn Law League in Britain in the 1800s said, probably metaphorically, “If the people knew what sort of men statesmen were, they would rise and hang the whole lot of them.” This reminds me of the situation in Australia when Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, having taken the country into unsustainable debt and showing no signs of stopping, was sacked by then Governor General Sir John Kerr.
Around the globe the intentions of our leaders are being tested by the current Covid-19 pandemic. Their actions are graphically on display and their intentions visible for even the blindest eyes to see. Constituents are also being tested. We are being challenged to overcome inertia and engage, to stand up for freedoms that could so easily be taken away.
We vote our leaders into their roles and trust that they and their cohorts will operate for the good of all but often this is not the case. A key question we must ask is: given power, are good, aware people more able than others to act from a foundation of strong moral values and do what is right? Is it power that corrupts, or is it that power heightens pre-existing tendencies?
A classic analogy is to be seen in Galadriel, the elven princess in J.R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings. Frodo asks her to lighten his burden and take the ring. She has a premonition of the immense control she would have should she decide to take it and declines the offer. “I passed the test” she beams, both relieved and proud of herself.
The critical ability we must all develop is the capacity to see and understand the human condition systemically. We are all one part of a greater whole. In your decision-making, look to understand the nature and needs of the larger perspective and welfare of your family, your community, your country and the world beyond. You might be very proud of your pro-choice stance, but is it serving those around you as well as yourself? Does your group’s perspective serve other groups as well, or just your own group?
This broader, community-minded perspective-taking is critical for effective decision-making and outcomes that protect the best of our humanity. Leaders with narrow, self-interested ideological modes of being in the world are not going to get us where we need to be. The current challenges are calling for real, honest and willingness to risk being transparent.
Rather than asking yourself how can I control this situation? Instead ask yourself, what does this situation require of me, and of us? How can we cooperate harmoniously together and safeguard our right to self-determination, the right to work hard for the life we want to live in service to the world at large?
In our organisations, our governments, our businesses, communities and in our families, the ability to surpass one’s own desires and agendas, for the good of all and one’s own higher goodness could not be more important right now.
It is undeniably an amazing experience being a human, far more complex and multi-faceted than we often know. Do we want to waste it with the coarseness of power-seeking and control, or will we work bravely and cooperatively with the Universe to create fulfilling life journeys and successful businesses?
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