“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty” is a reported statement of Edmund Burke. The statement carries with it a strong element of truth which has been tested repeatedly in ground conditions. Just like in a family, in all social groups there is at times a subtle and not so subtle struggle for contro over the decision making process. Take marriage for instance: in the early years both people in a couple situation are indulging in the same struggle for control but in the first flush of institutionalised physical attraction and an imagined idolisation of each other’s virtues, each of the couple concedes ground to the other member of the couple. It is popularly labelled as ‘love’. It may or may not be ‘love’. It may be just attraction or it may be just a feeling of happiness over yielding control to the other person. Over the years as attraction becomes stale and one’s own habits of early years of growth become more prominent, so called ‘love’ yields ground to a tussle for assertion. In the early years, of this phase, there is more tolerance about each other.
As years pass, assertion on both sides becomes dangerously a habit of expression. Marriage has reached a level of maturity where blinkers have gone and reality of living faces like a mid-day sun. That is another story, varying, as which of the partners have what kind of health, resources, network and of course what kind of the tongue.
Closer to the narrative of this text, it might be worth reminding ourselves that even between a couple ‘liberty’ has to be earned, amongst other things, by character, personality, resources and it may seem old fashioned but also through dedication. Liberty has to be discretely negotiated and sensitively implemented. Otherwise, conflict takes over. It can be subtle and not so subtle. It can be oral and indeed at times even physical. That too is another story. In actual social groups people collect together in quest of power. The elegant way of doing it is to give it a veneer of ideology. The bald truth is, it is an aggrandisement for resources and control over the decision-making process. At a national level it takes the shape of political parties.
The story of Mahabharat, classical as it is, captures many moments of human experience of success, achievement, envy, struggle, conflict and finally nihilism where the loser was wiped out and the winner had to walk to the Himalayas. Conflict feeds on itself, yet the wisdom to realise it in time comes to few.
At an institutional level, there is always a struggle for control over the decision-making process. Even when one is in a minority one has to conduct oneself in a way in which the winner does not run away with everything lock, stock and barrel. On a winning spree, not many have an inbuilt mechanism of discrete judgement and self-control. Self-control is a hallmark of the more evolved. However, too much of faith when put on this element can be risky. Anyone pushed sufficiently hard and long can lose control. There then emerges what is currently the present version in Ukraine. Senselessness is seldom a one-way street. When one party walks this road, it is an invitation to another to do the same thing. And then yet another follows. If it is a dual relationship, both get destroyed. If it a multiple relationship, nihilism takes over. Ultimately, there will be no winners or losers.
The hallmark of a mature society therefore, is to lay down the ground rules and practises of robust sharing of resources and sensible negotiation of power. This does not come easy. It requires a much evolved and mature mind at work. Some learn the hard way, some not even there. The story of Mahabharat, classical as it is, captures many moments of human experience of success, achievement, envy, struggle, conflict and finally nihilism where the loser was wiped out and the winner had to walk to the Himalayas. Conflict feeds on itself, yet the wisdom to realise it in time comes to few.
The art lies in having an inbuilt mechanism to know when enough is enough. The trouble however is, even negotiated settlements don’t work sometimes, because people are weak in redeeming their words. The lurking feeling is that the last attempt to grab failed but the next one will not. This is where maturity becomes the key word. The thing about maturity is, it cannot be given, it comes from within. When in power, one should know what are the limits of endurance and when out of power be willing to pay the price of assertion. Negotiated settlements with the insincere and the ‘uneducated’, as it were, will never be lasting. The ultimate strength is self-reliance and the ability to realise as this author wrote in one of his texts, decades ago; ‘whetherwe like it or not, we need each other’.
Life is a gentle but firm teacher. Nothing comes without a price. And there the business education fundamentals take over.