The Best and the Worst
By Peter Neville Lewis, Jun 19 2018 08:54AM
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.....it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.
Charles Dickens’ opening lines from A Tale of Two Cities (1859) have a familiar (and ominous?) ring about them today. The Age of Enlightenment had triggered the French and American Revolutions and in England the Great Reform Bill of 1832. 1848 saw further upheavals across Europe as individual states sought national identities. The Industrial Revolution and scientific advances were changing the nature of economies away from a land based agrarian model. But the dark side of all this was Blake’s ”satanic mills”, appalling conditions for the poor in the new fast growing cities, child labour exploitation and the excesses of imperial expansion. And yet we still applaud the Victorians for their boldness, imagination and discipline as they re-invented the post 18th century model.
Today we have similar trends as the internet, social media, e-commerce, AI and global travel etc dis-intermediate the status quo – the best of times (for the winners) and the worst of times (for the losers). Wealth has been created on an unimaginable scale. The “haves”, the elite, the winners prosper but look around and the seeds of social disintegration are sprouting. Cyber attacks, abuse of private data, fundamentalism (to the right as well as the left), human trafficking, the refugee crisis, falling levels of trust etc etc.
Despite our technical advances, the best of times are being slowly swamped by what could turn out to be the very worst of times.The signs are there for all to see that the fabric of society has started to fray and in some places rot. Humankind cannot bear too much reality wrote another literary great, T S Eliot. Perhaps that is why we are getting so much fake news?
What has happened to moral progress though? Or religious and family values? How can humans regain their humanity, decency and respect? We desperately need some world leaders who can lead us to a better place – but do we have them?
Let us all hope that some great men and women (perhaps the key lies here?) emerge soon or Dickens’ winter of despair may start to take its toll.
Pedro the Jester
Let us not forget that the backdrop to all this is media feeds 24/7 which always dwell on the worst aspects which are then sensationalised. There may be a lack of leadership but who wants it when you have to put up with continual hate from all quarters!
Despite the worst of times, according to Hans Rosling's new book Factfulness, we are living in the best of times. All the researched stats show that the world is greatly better than we think it is. In the last 20 years, the number of people living in extreme poverty has halved; Global hunger has declined from 28 per cent in 1970 to 11 per cent in 2015; smallpox has been eradicated and polio exists in only two countries; girls in primary school have increased from 66 per cent in 1970 to 90 per cent in 2015; and a range of other positive indicators. Bill Gates says that Hans Rosling's book is "one of the most important books I've ever read--an indispensable guide to thinking clearly about the world."
Why The Corporate Jester?
Because there is always a need to “call it out”, point out the emperor’s clothes may not be quite so fancy as he thinks (or others are telling him) and boldly say what others dare not!
The role of court jester was well known centuries ago and they had the licence to attack pomposity or stupidity in their betters without fear of retribution. (Well nearly!) Many of Shakespeare’s plays have a fool who is the commentator on human foibles – the most famous probably being in King Lear, the architect of his own downfall through his wilfulness. Familiar?
May not an ass know when the cart draws the horse? (Fool – King Lear, Act 1 scene 4)