Saturday, 11 July 2015
Wednesday, 3 June 2015
a leader worthy of the times?
And, rather more quickly than I had anticipated, I found an answer in the cross-hairs of two insights:
"All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership." [my emphasis]
"We have, in my view, reached a position which is potentially of great historical significance. We are witnessing a decline in confidence, and sometimes a growing mistrust, not only in political processes and politicians, but in social institutions such as the media and journalism, the police and religious organisations. Inequality is rising on many crucial dimensions. We have, for many, a confusion or anxiety around moral or social values, and community or individual identity. In my own subject of economics, we have less confidence in our ability to understand processes of growth, employment and change. We must seek growth that is sustainable in relation to our natural environment. And these difficulties are not confined to our own country; they are reflected in many societies, rich and poor, around the world. These difficulties affect us all, from young people looking for work, to older people worried about the future of their healthcare."
I was fortunate enough about a year ago to hear Lord Stern talking about his work on 'Prospering Wisely'. His summation centred on 'anxiety', that most corrosive state of being, gnawing away as we wonder where the money will come from, who will care for us when we are old, whether we will ever be able to have our own home, if the fighting will ever stop... And it stretches, he suggested, to a planetary level: how do we acknowledge and access and then address our anxiety about the planet - the only one we have, the one that we seem hellbent on poisoning?
Anxiety. The spirit of the age.
A leader - the one who can confront that anxiety, who can name it for us, who can stare at it with unflinching gaze. Who can help us to work out what to do.
I can barely imagine such a person emerging from the current panorama of politicians. There are, to be sure, some wonderful, even inspirational individuals among them; and though I subscribe to the proposition that politicians are coming from an ever narrower subset of the population (and may even be members of a 'chumocracy'), I am in general admiring of politicians: most of those I've actually met really are trying to make the world a better place.
Monday, 27 April 2015
but I'm aware that he's very sick
I read his book
a few years ago
and it sits comfortably and permanently
in the satchel I shall be taking to
my desert island
It is an extraordinary achievement,
what is your duty, as a citizen of this world?
I thought at the time I read it
that it was a valedictory text;
and, though he may have had that intent,
he continues years later
to fulfil his duties
When my father was dying
and just a few days before he died
I had the privilege of a conversation with him
in which we confronted the awful horror
of imminent non-being.
Perhaps more than anything else
he wanted to know:
Have I done well?
Have I lived a good life?
I've never met Clive James
but I want to tell him
and hope he knows:
Yes. In full measure.
Tuesday, 7 April 2015
Friday, 27 February 2015
It’s always a little uncomfortable when the chair announces ‘And now it’s time for some questions from the audience’. If you are thinking of asking a question, the discomfort embraces doubt (“Is my question sufficiently insightful that both the panel and the audience will be impressed? Or am I about to make an ass of myself?"), anxiety (“Have I put my hand up with the right mix of enthusiastic interest and disinterested aplomb? Or have I just made an ass of myself?”) and tension (“Should I aim to ask the first question? The last question? How can I ensure I don’t make an ass of myself?”).
- ICT companies, whose products and services have done so much in recent years to facilitate the exposure of the previously hidden workings of corporations, and who seemed so keen to promote ‘open-ness’, turn out to be in the forefront of opaque financial management and tax avoidance.
- Media organisations – whose willingness to use the utterances of politicians in a highly selective manner is such a key feature of the unwillingness of politicians to speak openly – purport to be platforms for open public debate, yet act instead to foster a culture of shrill extremism that serves to deter engagement and thereby preserve their own privileged position of control.
- Government agencies and employees so terrified of the actual consequences of the wonderful Freedom of Information Act (consequences that might include, for example, the embarrassment that might come from publishing government-commissioned research that finds fault in government policy) that an entire culture of cloudy edit, foggy launches and unwritten guidance has come into being.
- a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit
Wikipedia says that entrepreneurship is:
- the process of starting a business or other organization
The Cambridge online dictionaries site defines entrepreneurialism as:
- the skills that you need to start your own business
The 'Small Business Pro' site says that the skills you need to run your own business are:
strategic planning skills
sales and customer relations skills
people management skills
finance and accounting skills
Neither the Small Business Pro site, nor any other, is prepared to say how much of these skills you might require: and that makes sense, of course. Each of these 'skills' is not only qualitative, but arranged on a spectrum: people are more or less good at each of them; and there is no template for what combination of skills, at what 'level', comprises effective entrepreneurialism.
But wait. Just how 'business'-specific are these skills? Imagine specifying the skills required to - say - run a home or household successfully. Or to raise a child, or children, successfully. Or to look after a large garden.
And if you find yourself looking through the list of skills you need 'to run your own business' and thinking "Well, I can't see how that skill is relevant to looking after a large garden", then recall or imagine a business entrepreneur of your acquaintance and ask: is there at least one of these areas where the person I am thinking of is singularly crap?
So I wish to re-cast the notion of entrepreneurialism as:
- the process of deploying finite resources in pursuit of a goal where there is a genuine risk of failure
Which is by way of suggesting that entrepreneurialism is a skill-set universally present in the population, and which, as a result of its compound nature, is distributed in an untidy spectrum from 'low' to 'high'.
And why this might be of any use whatsoever? Two reasons:
- it would signal a broader notion of 'reward' or 'return' or 'success' than merely profit
- it would include and legitimise a much wider set of people within the group upon whose resourcefulness and creativity our collective prosperity depends
If, as I suspect, the concept of 'entrepreneurialism' is a key node in the complex, open system that is our economy (or, to put it another way, it is a particularly important commitment device in the interlocking set of rules determining the operation of capitalism) then a change of this kind has the potential to have far-reaching effects - effects that, I further suspect, would be very much consistent with the notion of sustainability.
So if you've ever thought haughtily about housework, or gardening or parenting - think again.
upon tomorrow's half-sketched barbs;
their names as unknown now
in heartless London
besuited men of money
weave filaments of yesterday into
ensnaring us that they may
steal again the life we call