Thursday, December 4, 2014

WINNING THE HUMAN RACE ~ by Dean Johns

I wasn't going to do any blogging today (just plowing through all the shit on the news portals exhausts me) but I was so chuffed with Dean Johns's well-considered piece in Malaysiakini, I simply had to clone it for the Magick River blog as a special tribute to an inspired humorist I'd like to meet one day. Dean Johns is definitely among my favorite columnists after Steve Bhaerman aka Swami Beyondananda and the late Art Buchwald.

Winning the human race
Dean Johns | Aug 13, 08 1:01pm | Malaysiakini

It seems ridiculous to me that, as members of the species that calls itself Homo sapiens, we’re not wise enough to realise that it’s enough of a struggle to survive the one short lifetime we’re individually allotted without wasting our energies striving for superiority over each other.

But it’s hardly surprising, I suppose, that our intellects still have so far to go in achieving ascendancy over our instincts. After all, it’s only a relatively few thousand years since our cortexes enabled us to transcend nature’s tooth-and-claw law of the survival of the fittest.

So, as ‘civilised’ as we fancy ourselves to be, and as aware that co-operation makes more sense than competition, it’s no wonder that primitive emotions still prevail over reason in our relationships with our fellow humans.

Not that we haven’t made a great deal of progress. Most of us are committed, at least in principle, to caring for the less physically, mentally and financially fit among us. Many of us believe passionately in equal rights and opportunity for all.

'Annunciation' by Mati Klarwein (1961)

We fight for the rights of our weak or victimised brothers and sisters, fund charities to go to their aid, beg the UN to protect them with sanctions and peace-keepers and even, as a final resort, fight wars on their behalf.

But many of us are also, it seems, still our neighbours’ worst enemies. We are driven to squander our own and everyone else’s time and energies in fatuous and ultimately futile attempts to show that we’re the biggest, baddest, fastest, strongest, meanest, richest, luckiest, sexiest, holiest or somehow the most superior people on the planet.

Not that I’m against striving for excellence, just as long as we keep a sense of proportion and stop short of pathological displays of domination and triumphalism.

The Olympic Games are a classic case in point. Purportedly a celebration of fraternity through sportsmanship, they've been subverted in the century of their modern existence into a sort of symbolic four-yearly world war.

Qualities like sportsmanship, grace and courage still survive, thanks to the indomitable spirit of many of the athletes, but such values are increasingly replaced by hysterical official and media expressions of ‘patriotism’ in which nothing counts but medal tallies.

As debased, commercialised and ridiculously expensive as it is, however, the ritual warfare of the Olympics is of course vastly preferable to the real thing. Communist China’s drive to demonstrate its superiority over the US – or vice versa – beats the heck out of staging the contest with nuclear weapons.

But warfare persists nonetheless. In Darfur, for example, where China supports the Sudanese government with arms and munitions, while the US fights on in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And no sooner had the Olympics started than US and NATO ally Georgia up and invaded South Ossetia, provoking Russia into a massive counter-strike.

Judicial gymnastics and synchronised spinning


Meanwhile, the usual suspects elsewhere are up to their customary fun and games. The Generals in Burma are still sporting the medals they’ve awarded themselves for their defeat of democracy, Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party are still claiming victory in Zimbabwe, and Barisan Nasional continues to treat Malaysia to world-class performances in judicial gymnastics and synchronised spinning.

Skullduggery will be in vain sooner or later, of course, as history shows that nobody wins the human race forever, or even leads it for long.

History is nothing if not a long, long litany of ‘winners’ who once dominated the world, at least as they knew it, and today are nothing but losers or even almost lost to memory.

Whatever became of, to name just a few in no particular order, to the Etruscans, Spartans, Macedonians, Romans, Hittites, Huns, Mongols, Vikings, Aztecs and Incas?

Whatever became of the British, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires, or the Greater Asian co-prosperity sphere, or the thousand-year Reich or the USSR?

We all originated in Africa, or so science confidently informs us. Africans and people of African descent are still winning the human race in a great many sports, from distance-running to basketball. And the world’s top golfer, Tiger Woods, an American Afro-Asian.

Asians are winning the human race in sheer numbers these days, and soon may be pre-eminent economically too if India and China sustain their current rates of growth.

Of course who’s winning the human race right at this moment depends entirely on your point-of-view.

In my book it’s the Scandinavian nations for their combination of prosperity, social consciousness, environmentalism and good governance. And for some of the same reasons, I rate Canada and New Zealand right up there too.

The US is bigger, richer, more populous and has a far more powerful militarily than any of the above. However, it is too arrogant and overbearing, in my opinion, for its own and the rest of the world’s good.

China is big and powerful too, and fast overtaking the US economically, but far too corrupt, unprincipled and undemocratic to be a credible contender for leading the human race anytime soon.

But in any event, the struggle for supremacy, be it military, political, economic, technological or athletic, is ultimately a losing proposition. Whatever tribes, sects, ethnic groups, parties or nationalities we’re born into or choose to join, we’re all in this human race together.


So the sooner we can relinquish our primitive urge to win at all costs, and rid ourselves of leaders who treat us like losers, the better off we’ll all be.

[First posted 13 August 2008]


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We the Rakyat, should evaluate and determine the kind of Leaders we want for our beloved country, Malaysia


Here are the Top 10 Qualities of a Good Leader

By David Hakala


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Leadership can be defined as one's ability to get others to willingly follow. Every organization needs leaders at every level. Leaders can be found and nurtured if you look for the following character traits:

A leader with vision has a clear, vivid picture of where to go, as well as a firm grasp on what success looks like and how to achieve it. But it’s not enough to have a vision; leaders must also share it and act upon it. Jack Welch, former chairman and CEO of General Electric Co., said, "Good leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision and relentlessly drive it to completion."

A leader must be able to communicate his or her vision in terms that cause followers to buy into it. He or she must communicate clearly and passionately, as passion is contagious.

A good leader must have the discipline to work toward his or her vision single-mindedly, as well as to direct his or her actions and those of the team toward the goal. Action is the mark of a leader. A leader does not suffer “analysis paralysis” but is always doing something in pursuit of the vision, inspiring others to do the same.

Integrity is the integration of outward actions and inner values. A person of integrity is the same on the outside and on the inside. Such an individual can be trusted because he or she never veers from inner values, even when it might be expeditious to do so. A leader must have the trust of followers and therefore must display integrity.

Honest dealings, predictable reactions, well-controlled emotions, and an absence of tantrums and harsh outbursts are all signs of integrity. A leader who is centered in integrity will be more approachable by followers.

Dedication means spending whatever time or energy is necessary to accomplish the task at hand. A leader inspires dedication by example, doing whatever it takes to complete the next step toward the vision. By setting an excellent example, leaders can show followers that there are no nine-to-five jobs on the team, only opportunities to achieve something great.

Magnanimity means giving credit where it is due. A magnanimous leader ensures that credit for successes is spread as widely as possible throughout the organization. Conversely, a good leader takes personal responsibility for failures. This sort of reverse magnanimity helps other people feel good about themselves and draws the team closer together. To spread the fame and take the blame is a hallmark of effective leadership.

Leaders with humility recognize that they are no better or worse than other members of the team. A humble leader is not self-effacing but rather tries to elevate everyone. Leaders with humility also understand that their status does not make them a god. Mahatma Gandhi is a role model for Indian leaders, and he pursued a “follower-centric” leadership role.

Openness means being able to listen to new ideas, even if they do not conform to the usual way of thinking. Good leaders are able to suspend judgment while listening to others’ ideas, as well as accept new ways of doing things that someone else thought of. Openness builds mutual respect and trust between leaders and followers, and it also keeps the team well supplied with new ideas that can further its vision.

Creativity is the ability to think differently, to get outside of the box that constrains solutions. Creativity gives leaders the ability to see things that others have not seen and thus lead followers in new directions. The most important question that a leader can ask is, “What if … ?” Possibly the worst thing a leader can say is, “I know this is a dumb question ... ”

Fairness means dealing with others consistently and justly. A leader must check all the facts and hear everyone out before passing judgment. He or she must avoid leaping to conclusions based on incomplete evidence. When people feel they that are being treated fairly, they reward a leader with loyalty and dedication.

Assertiveness is not the same as aggressiveness. Rather, it is the ability to clearly state what one expects so that there will be no misunderstandings. A leader must be assertive to get the desired results. Along with assertiveness comes the responsibility to clearly understand what followers expect from their leader.

Many leaders have difficulty striking the right amount of assertiveness, according to a study in the February 2007 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, published by the APA (American Psychological Association). It seems that being underassertive or overassertive may be the most common weakness among aspiring leaders.

A sense of humor is vital to relieve tension and boredom, as well as to defuse hostility. Effective leaders know how to use humor to energize followers. Humor is a form of power that provides some control over the work environment. And simply put, humor fosters good camaraderie.

Intrinsic traits such as intelligence, good looks, height and so on are not necessary to become a leader. Anyone can cultivate these leadership qualities.


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