There are so many countries in our planet, where the very few govern the many. So many countries, even advanced ones, where the very few have found a way to impose their will on the many.
In those instances, something has happened in the many that they were willing to surrender their will.
Hierarchies, natural ones, are needed so things can run better and more is accomplished. They are needed for efficiency.
Knowledge, know how, wealth, power establish hierarchies.
Take a company, for instance. The founder has developed expertise in an area or has invented a product that they have taken to market. When we choose to join that effort we are assigned a place within the hierarchy and we are paid for our work.
It makes sense that the founder get the most of the profits. Without their expertise or product, the company would not have existed. But it is essential that the worker be treated fairly.
If this can be done without unions, so much the better, since unions bring their own hierarchies and bureaucracy. But the fact that unions exist is evidence that often the company’s hierarchies do not deal squarely with the workers.
One of the problems of any hierarchy, be it in business or government, is a gradual tendency for those on top to overrate their own capacity while devaluing that of those beneath them. The more distance between those at the top and those in the lower ranks, the more likely the devaluing.
It happens everywhere. The task is to find ways to prevent it.
One way is to keep an open conversation.
This allows people at any level in the hierarchy to remind others of the role they play within the organization.
When there is a real conversation between those at the top and those beneath them, there is less of a chance of devaluing everyone’s contribution. Even down to the janitorial staff that, working the night shift, ensure that those coming in the morning will find a clean office.
When the conversation between top and bottom is genuine, then there is a sense that everyone’s contribution is acknowledged. And the lesser the likelihood of devaluing to occur.
Open conversation creates the opportunities for people to improve their skills and so aspire to move up the organization as jobs become available.
There is a similarity between the organization of business and the organization of governments.
In totalitarian or autocratic governments, the conversation between the top and the lower ranks is limited or non existent. Conversation understood as a two way exchange, where contrary views can be aired. Conversation understood as free speech.
Today in our world, in some powerful countries, there is none or little conversation between the upper and lower ranks. That is a problem because it shrinks the human spirit.
Those at the top do not want to listen to those at the bottom. The ruling elite has found a way to block the conversation and prefers to punish those who wish to start one.
The ruling elite wants to prevent challenges to its privileges.
But something happens to those who are consistently devalued and not allowed their views to be heard. Something that should have been developed is not. And the longer the suppression of those voices the greater the existential poverty that follows.
Today, China and Russia – Cuba and Venezuela in the Americas – are examples of such damage.
The opportunity to express one’s ideas is essential to the spiritual health of the individual and thus of the nation. It enhances creative possibilities. Not having it is a clear sign of oppression.
Chinese and Russian citizens may find comfort in the economic and military might of their respective countries but without freedom, human beings slowly degrade and contract. They become less than they could otherwise.
Chinese or Russian citizens may be entranced by their leaders but if freedom of speech is not available, they forsake the chance of achieving full development as human beings.
Here in the United States we are going through a difficult period, with opposing sides hardening and little effective effort made to establish a conversation between the two.
Bridges must be built.
Or the poorer our existences will be.
For those interested, Freedom House does an excellent job of mapping the distribution of democracies around the world.
Oscar Valdes. Oscarvaldes.net. Available as a podcast in anchor.fm, apple and google podcasts, buzzsprout.