Taste for wisdom
It is frustrating that if I write in French, only French-speakers (mostly) will understand me, and if I write in English I will get a broader audience but rather outside my country. Willing to address “anyone interested” would require translations in hundredths of languages, a job that has a serious cost and make sense only when essential. Therefore I find more efficient (cheaper) to write in English and have a little hope some motivated people will be keen to relay my words locally.
On the other hand who do I want to listen to me? And do I want to be heard? The broader the audience is, the higher on the podium you must be. Such highness can be reached by election, achievement, success, power, all means that confirm you reached your ambition. Ambitio in Latin means “the process that candidates use to get votes”. Consequently highest people lead lowest, they listen to them, and sometimes follow them if they are convincing.
We would then think that getting ballots needs to show your greatness, the skills you have that permitted the success of your ambition, including the master of the speech to convince voters. But doesn't it sound like the skills of a salesperson? Do we want to be lead by salespeople? Doesn't it remember the discussions between Socrates and Protagoras? That ambition isn't what we want from leaders, but definitively wisdom instead?
Because what qualifies the difference between the wise and the unwise? Why do we say sometimes to our playful and turbulent kids “be wise”? What differs between a parent, a person we like to listen to, we like to follow, and a young friend that has exciting ideas? This is not authority, this is wisdom. The wise parent exposes causes, principles, needs, expectations, purposes, and methods. His/her explanations make sense. And we love what makes sense because the rest is folly. Except if we haven't yet understood that folly generally drives to unwanted consequences, accidents, pains, wars, destruction.
But then the kid questions if s/he wouldn't prefer folly because this sounds more fun. This is when he needs to find out how he can get together pleasure of life and safety. That wisdom doesn't mean boredom, but rather pleasure to understand how the things go, how he can efficiently make the best of them, and possibly build an ambition out of it, getting his friends listening and following him.
The alternative, taught by the sophists, is to see the surroundings, the City, as some wild society with preys and predators, weak and strong people, looser and winner, dominated and dominant. That having a coherent society requires a government, leaders that ensure the prosperity and safety of the city. This is where Plato proposed those people, leaders should have a love for wisdom, and as such they would be called φιλόσοφοι, philosophers.
But unfortunately the philosophers miss a skill needed for such role: Making quick decisions when time is missing and it is hard to ponder all aspects and evaluate various consequences. Which means leaders are rather drivers, people trained to react properly to unexpected situations. And as their passengers, we like to know the driver is skilled, knows where the community wants to go, or stay, and what road people are happy to take, but also which ones we don't want. This is where comes the choice of the leader, who shall decides who drives? And who choose the road? Do we want a despotic tyrant or a benevolent king? What do we want for ourselves? Simplicity?
There have been a time, around first half of XXth Century, with some company leaders being paternalistic, wanting to have the sense of the good for the people. They were trying to be kings, and like old kings, they were blamed as tyrants by those who preferred democracy, namely unions and socialists. But when we want to judge someone we must consider his motives together with his acts. The fact is their motives were positive but their acts questionable because they dismissed the possibility for people to know what would be best for them, what they would choose to live.
But what was really wrong? Weren't most people enjoying the lifestyle they contributed to put in place? Housing for workers, schools, jobs? Wasn't the problem a conflict of ambition? And divergences in term of wisdom? Which means everyone shall agree what wisdom is: the articulation of knowledge, experience, reasoning, and... two words existing in French with self-understanding but more unclear in English, plus criticized by ambitious people, of course.
The French words bienveillance and bienfaisance are respectively translated into benevolence and charity in English. Literally they mean good-caring and good-doing. Which is typically what we expect from a supplier, and hope from our leaders, plus our parents. I then question if there isn't some translation issue. I understand from some English-speaking voices they don't want managers to be benevolent and charitable, that would upset the shareholders who worship Milton Friedman.
But don't you see then the conflict of interest between shareholders, workers, and customers? Aren't the final customers, the ones who pay full cost of VAT, as well workers or shareholders? Does it make sense that they compete instead of collaborating? Do you compete with your neighbors, your friends, your fellow citizen, your colleagues? Does some have to beat unfortunate others, the weakest? Are we each others predators, even cannibals perhaps?
Wouldn't some wisdom help to reconcile all stakeholders expectations? Shouldn't companies and government hire people demonstrating wisdom on their CV? Wouldn't that be a valuable skill for business? Shouldn't they get a room on the podium to be heard? Even though they don't have a real ambition, they don't want a leading power, they love wisdom (philosophy) and that's supposed to be enough for their full happiness, as Aristotle wrote.
Have you been educated by tyrants to become another one? What ambition do you have?
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International Business Controller. Chercheur en Sciences de Gestion. Ingénieur Systèmes d'Informations.