Thursday, 5 January 2012

2012: Year of the hard decisions

Business Mirror

IT is almost a week into the New Year so perhaps it is not too early to start some gloom-and-doom or at least some whining and complaining.

While the focus is always on the terrible global economic situation and the tip of the iceberg is the dismal outlook for general financial conditions, the truth is, many things are a mess.

Take political/government leadership, for example. As parents, we may shudder in horror at our children turning out like Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga. But they are only entertainers like circus clowns or dancers in a nightclub. People like that do not have any impact on our daily lives or our futures unless we let them.

However, presidents, prime ministers, and other assorted leaders do have an impact.

Who among them would you like your son or daughter to emulate? Which public figure did your parents tell you to look up to as your role model?

When I was young, one role model was John F. Kennedy. Sure, he came from a very wealthy family, but the man was a war hero. His older brother was killed in the war. For all of his personal weaknesses, which we all have, he was a man whose life could clearly be an example of how to live and what not to do.

Kennedy, like so many of his generation, had what used to be called, the courage of his convictions. Leaders are chosen because they should possess the ability to make difficult decisions. A difficult decision is not choosing between right and wrong, good or evil. A difficult decision is often choosing between two “not-so-goods” in order to create a positive outcome. Parents do that every day.

You want your child to grow their independence while you also must protect them. Yes you can go to the movie but your kuya will come with you to chaperone.

President Kennedy called out the military to run the steel mills when the unions went on strike because it was necessary for the nation. Can you imagine any political leader today going against a labor union?

English writer Hugh Walpole wrote in his novel Fortitude, “’Tisn’t life that matters! ‘Tis the courage you bring to it.”

Not a single government leader in the West for the last 20 years had the courage to stand up to the bankers and say “Hey, you’re bank. You can’t do all these speculative financial things.” The politicians needed the banks to finance their elections.

Likewise, the financial community lacked the courage (in order to gain the profits) to say to governments like Greece, Spain, and even the US, “Hey, you cannot borrow all this money to give away for votes.”

French philosopher Joseph de Maistre wrote, “Every country has the government it deserves.” People around the globe have placed other people in positions of authority unable or unwilling to make hard decisions.

There are some people who should not be listened to because they are evil and wrong. There are some people who should not be listened to because they are ignorant and foolish. And there are some people who should be listened to and then ignored because hard decisions must be made.

Adequate energy is critical and necessary to sustain human life and well-being. But nuclear, although sustainable and cheap is too dangerous. Look at Japan. Coal is cheap and plentiful but it is not 100-percent clean, just 9-percent nonpolluting. Oil is bad because you have to drill a lot of holes in Mother Earth and you might spill some. Hydroelectric is not suitable because you have to dam the river, upsetting the fish and changing the environment. Solar is renewable except it is not efficient on a large scale and is very expensive. Wind turbines only work sometimes, need lots of government money, are ugly and kill the birds.

So what is a poor government leader supposed to do? Make the difficult decision. What do they usually do? Nothing.

Walpole also wrote, “Don’t play for safety. It’s the most dangerous thing in the world.” Political safety is the motto of most governments.

Read the commentaries about what we face in 2012. Almost everyone will end with a comment similar to this, “But the real question is whether or not governments are willing to make the hard choices.”

A great leader doesn’t cower from the enemy. He or she doesn’t fear challenges or obstacles; instead, he or she deals with them head on.

2012 is going to be a year when many hard decisions must be made. Does the world have capable leadership? We will soon find out.

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