SOLAR PLEXUS - A site devoted to to understanding the world we live in and to making a difference.
A site devoted to to understanding the world we live in and to making a difference.
When all the bluster and rhetoric is over the implacable verdict of history is announced. The trick is not to wait until the final catastrophic verdict is in before adjusting (and regretting) but to read history as it unfolds and try to look cautiously ahead. These thoughts are occasioned by the fascinating recent events in the Middle East, but before we go there let’s continue with the idea that history has a message for us as it unfolds which we need to pay careful attention to.
I ask myself what attributes are required by a people or a nation to be “successful”. By that I mean to overcome potentially existential challenges, to be relatively stable and prosperous and to provide life opportunities for the vast majority of its citizens. For better or worse I will set out very briefly my thoughts on the main determinants of a successful nation. Interestingly enough, every virtue has its limits and carried to excess, virtues become vices. Thus one attribute balances another.
Firstly, I always put courage at the top. And along with it comes tenacity – the courage to hang on and to persist even when the going gets hard.
To balance that we need adaptability – otherwise courage just becomes obstinacy or stupid recklessness. But even adaptability requires a measure of courage – the willingness to modify, to change tactics or strategy or even, very much more rarely, direction.
While, theoretically, authoritarian systems may demonstrate adaptability but it tends to be limited in nature and dictated by the ideas, psychology and agendas of a single individual or small group. That is why democracies for all their abrasiveness and unpredictability are preferable. Given good communication and flow of information and an informed electorate, genuine democracies with their freedoms and life opportunities and the cumulative wisdom of well-informed crowds (not mobs) almost always out-perform autocracies.
Ethical values based on the virtues of honesty, justice, respect for others and kindness: these are the prime virtues which make all others possible and the world bearable.
Finally a ragbag of attributes which go under the name of commonsense. It is commonsense which tells one that a certain idea is crazy, or too risky, or impracticable. It is commonsense which tells us when nuance and subtlety is required or whether it is better to be assertive and simple. It is commonsense which tells us to look at something more carefully before dismissing it or embracing it. It is commonsense which informs us whether a virtue is being overdone to the point where it becomes a liability. Commonsense is thus the most difficult and complex of the attributes required for success, but possibly the most important
So what is the current unfolding of events in the Middle East telling us?
I urge readers to go to the original articles linked to this blog. Your comments and views would be most welcome.