The alarming trend towards a vulnerable society

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(Part 1)

Are we reaching the stage of a leaderless society, where leadership has lost relevance and necessity? The present state of national affairs in our country gives the impression that pilots are on leave and the plane of national governance is flying on an automatic mode. 

Introduction

Let us assume that the leaderless situation of today is not just an impression but a stark reality. The analysis will not be limited to the political arena. It will consider wider interest and concerns that matters for Mauritius in all walks of life. 

The power of individualism has become so rampant, encroaching and uncontrollable, aided by the influences of globalization, that it has become extremely difficult and an ordeal to deal with social, cultural and human concerns that would benefit public and wider interests rather than limited personal interests. These are some of the reasons why traditional parties, long-established federal organisations of trade unions, religious authorities of all ilk, and once-dominant social organisations face an ever-lasting decline and dwindling of their followership, support and loyalty. 

Their leaders are like pilots with chained hands, feet and blind-folded eyes sitting on supposed positions of authority, responsibility and control. They are obliged to make false promises and pretend to be delivering leadership and performance results, when in fact they know deep inside in their conscience and heart that they will do too little or barely at all from their positions of governance, leadership or management.

Leaders, centuries ago, derived their strength from themselves to combat against colonialism, underdevelopment, slavery, bogus gurus and human exploitation. Leaders, today, derive their strength from outer values and beliefs dictated, planned and decided by others for meeting selfish, individual, or illicit interests and gains. Losses, poor results and austerities remain the lot or heritage of the poor, ignorant, uneducated, untrained, down-trodden or unprivileged category of people.

How can we explain a country getting awarded and praised for good governance and leadership when it perpetuates systems and structures (political, economic, social and religious) that tolerate and accept large chunks of its workers gaining wages and salaries below minimum wages? How do we explain official statistics stating advances in human and social development when a significant size of our population does not obtain the right education, the right parental guidance, the right guidance from superiors, managers, leaders and the right inspiration to formulate authentic ambitions and dreams for themselves, their families, their villages and towns and for the society in general? Who are the people behind this situation of incapable and lost leadership? (…)

It is my contention that all those ‘miraculous’ or ‘hard worked’ achievements and realisations are the making of both leaders and followers of past generations of the last 50 years after independence or the last 150 years after the coming of colonial masters or powers working in dominance and exploitation of cheap labour, represented by slaves and indentured labourers brought by force or manipulation from other countries bordering mainly the Indian Ocean.

The Conspiracy

Let us come back to the earlier question ‘Who are the people behind this situation of lost leadership? But this begs another question first: ‘Is there a conspiracy somewhere?’ If yes, where is it? One way or another, directly or indirectly, we are all pawns to bigger games that are unknown to us. We are so consciously active and busy in much smaller games that we are blinded and led to ignore the existence of much bigger games played by bigger and more influential players. 

Let me illustrate. As employees, we play the game of doing our job well and to the satisfaction of employers who compensate us in the form of wages and related benefits. We are generally happy with the format and quantum of wages paid to us as it conforms to the labour contract. That small game stops there. The other bigger games are those of the employees’ bosses. The latter are compensated by way of salaries and related benefits, but for playing games that carry more risks and responsibility than the lower level employees. 

These bosses (forming part of the management team up to the CEO) play their own tricks of trade in their games. At a much higher level in the hierarchy, the owner-cum-shareholders, with the delegated assistance of the board of directors play much bigger games with very high stakes: investment of funds, dealing with other financing partners or agencies, insisting on a level of performance from employees and management that will yield a satisfactory level of profits that thereby earn them dividends and assurance of sustainability of their business and its stream of profits.

So, as you can observe it, employees are the pawns of bosses, and the latter are the pawns of owner-shareholders. A chain of pawns operates with the blessing of the ultimate beneficiaries, the latter being the owners and providers of capital and of employment opportunities for incumbent and prospective workers. The preliminary and intermediate beneficiaries are the employees and the management executives. (…)

As each party in the chain of pawns gets its share of a compensation for its services, they end up becoming the associates of an established conspiracy of employees-Management-owners. Each one of us thus becomes an active member of the conspiracy. So, each company or business enterprise operates a conspiracy system that allows it to make profits that can then maintain jobs for employees and maintain profit streams for Management and Shareholders. Finally, we have a world of conspiracy of conspiracies.

The Quality of Leadership

Let us remind ourselves that conspiracies have always existed. There were other forms of conspiracies before the coming of imperial powers. They got amplified with the growth in strength of imperialism, where slaves and indentured labourers were the easy, cheap and submissive pawns of owners of capital, lands and armies. 

Today, in a largely democratic world, with greater respect for and acceptance of human liberties and rights of all ilk, conspiracies are still there, but in different forms: transnational bodies (UNDP, World Bank, IMF, OAU, etc.), elected governments, multinational corporations, global systems of trade and commerce and finance. (…)

I believe it is a deep human urge to become powerful or more powerful than other people (be they foreigners, enemies, friends, relatives, neighbours or even closed ones). The search and greed for power will never stop. There will, therefore, never be a final victor, as the power game is endless. But there will always be losers; losers are the non-elite who stay as far as possible away from the game or chain of conspiracy of dominion. The ruling elite has been doing this under the system of imperialism. They are still doing so under the system of democracy. They will also do it under any new system(s) that will follow. 

So, what do we do? Cross our arms, wait and see? Or join the party of conspiracies. This is what the negative side of our human nature seeks and finds it easy to do. This is why most people are actually manipulated and influenced as pawns in pursuit of the interests of the ruling elite. (…)

What about the quality of leadership by the ruling elite? People scream and cry about the defects in their leadership style and performance. But in the end, they accept being subject to the dominion, rule and game. Simultaneously, they hope for and actually do take a minuscule share of the benefits. This the conspiracy: both the ruling elite (political, economic and social) and a large category of non-elite people join together and enjoy the game of conspiracy. The minority of the non-elite end up being in the category named “poverty”. We have in Mauritius our category of poor people. At the world level, we know and see and hear it every day in the news that there are millions of people who live as slaves, migrants, hungry and starving for food and happiness and struggling below minimum wages.

Leaders are expected to shoulder their responsibility at various levels: as individuals for their own personal life, as parents or elders in the family, as corporate leaders in business or other organisations, as social leaders of different sections in a society, as country leaders of national organisations, or as leaders of international and global organisations. You and me, each one of us, we know by conscience and heart where we stand in that game of conspiracy led by the ruling elite, and how we support it and contribute to maintain it. 

We have all conspired to leave and lose the responsibility of leadership to the power-hungry elite leaders. Yet, today’s contemporary leaders lack the length of tenure, the depth of character and the width of vision. 


Geeanduth GOPEE 
(Former Director of Management Audit Bureau and former Director-General of Office of Public Sector Governance)

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