The original article by Michaela Bakala, which was prepared for the online edition of Vogue Leaders CS and was published on March 8, 2021.
THE WORLD HAS NOT GONE MAD, WE OCCASIONALLY HAVE DOUBT AND MAKE MISTAKES
Never in my life do I recall a time when it seemed the whole world did not know what to do or how to defend itself against an invisible but ubiquitous enemy. My parents and grandparents experienced war, a communist regime, the divided world during the Cold War, and the rebirth of democracy. The world and society have always been more or less divided. We have always faced challenges and conflicts, various dictatorships, natural disasters, pandemics. So why are we so taken aback in 2021?
Perhaps because we weren’t expecting something like this, thus far, everything had been developing in the right direction for us. Thirty years ago, we experienced an incredible speed in technological progress. Values such as democracy, security, international cooperation, prosperity, and social responsibility were being fulfilled. Our society has become objectively more prosperous; we live to an older age. But are we reasonably happier and wiser as we do so? I’m not sure. We consume more medicines, drugs, and antidepressants; we have fewer marriages and fewer children. We reject elections and require more help from psychiatrists, psychologists.
Thru history, I have learned that social and political changes are brought about by technological development. If so, then we are flying towards the unknown. Our way of communication, transport, access to information, and the use of energy has changed. Cryptocurrencies have been mixed into our money. We make children in laboratories; cars can drive themselves, and artificial intelligence is replacing many professions.
At the same time, we are also undermining our rapidly changing world. We’ve stopped respecting nature, the democratic system, long-standing social institutions, the media, and science. Many abandon their Christianity or any faith; meanwhile, we devour social media causing fake news and conspiracy theories to proliferate. Everything can be questioned and relativized. We’ve stopped listening and looking for common ground. In the flood of information and opinions, context and essence are being lost. Everyone wants to win and enforce their truth. This attitude makes it very difficult to resolve conflict. The attack on the Capitol and Donald Trump’s second impeachment are significant examples of this.
Despite all the technological possibilities, we are still human, living on one planet and dependent on nature. One unknown virus was enough to show the world its vulnerabilities and weaknesses. More than ever, we need to rebuild the community, find wise and empathetic leaders with values such as not only freedom but also humility and respect, education, responsibility and justice.
Experience has taught me that a good leader (manager, politician, teacher, or parent) should be able to listen empathetically and have the courage to act and make decisions or speak when needed. They must also be able to communicate difficult or unpopular messages at the right time. However, courage and strength should not be confused with arrogance and aggression.
For example, in today’s situation, I consider not wearing a mask to be stupidity. I do not see any heroism or freedom fighting in it. Even freedom of speech does not mean that we can say what we want without consequences or responsibility. A leader should be responsible not only for their actions but also for their words. They are a powerful weapon and must be handled responsibly. The things a person says can help and encourage, or they can hurt, mislead, divide, and ignite hatred and conflict.
In my life, I have had to come to terms with the fact that it is impossible to please everyone. Instead, it is about understanding and learning to live with the fact that the majority may not always be right. So how do you not doubt and lose yourself and just conform? We must keep searching for the truth, seeking to educate ourselves, and being honest with ourselves and others. In this way we can remain strong and internally free. Difficult? Complicated? Extremely. But worth the endeavor.