Our social institutions run on power. Politics, business, religion, science, and law all operate according to strong, top-down hierarchies and embedded authority. Participants in these institutions seek power to control, power to influence, and power to change. We are told that our intrinsic value is measured in our level of social power, and in our ability to make it ‘to the top.’
What if this model is wrong?
The people that inspire me in my life are not necessarily powerful in a social sense. Some are, but they do not prioritise prestige, status and wealth. Rather, they are inspiring because they possess deep awareness. They have insight into their own behaviour and the behaviour of others. They understand that the truly important things in life are relationships, personal development and community bonding. They are wise. For these people, social power is secondary to awareness and the path of life.
What if our social institutions operated according to the model of deep awareness rather than power? What if our leaders were chosen for their ability to reject the ladders of power and to pursue deep inner awareness? Plato asked this same question in c. 400 BC. He called for a wiser model of leadership in The Republic, saying “philosophers [must] become kings…or those now called kings [must]…genuinely and adequately philosophize.” This means that leaders must have deep internal awareness so that they are able to make wise decisions that will affect the people that they lead. We must be wary of the leaders that seek power simply because it means that they have risen to the top, or leaders that seek power because of the prestige and status they will be afforded in the limelight.
Our other alternative is that, as a society, we transform the system so that it reveals the wise ones naturally. What kind of system would do this?
An open forum system is one gentle option to shift the system forward. In this system, which can apply in a variety of organisations, every voice is heard and considered in a regular open forum. Every participant in the organisation is seen as a vital member who can, and indeed must, offer their views for the organisation to thrive, sustain and retain its members. In this system, hierarchies are flatter, or do not exist. Communication is valued above efficiency, and authenticity is valued above scandal.
Imagine a system that favoured the wise. Perhaps life already does.