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The tragedy of missing leadership

Published at: 09-04-2022

Posted on: April 9th, 2022 by RaduC No Comments

The greatest military victories in history would not have been achieved without the leaders of those times. People of sound mind do not willingly sign their death warrant; instead, they protect their lives and avoid evil. So what drove them to sacrifice their lives by the hundreds of thousands in the great battles they fought? One of the most valuable ingredients was the ability of the leaders – be them military or political – to inspire them, encourage them to embrace ideals they would wish to reach at any cost, arouse their profound emotions and channel them into such powerful courage and determination that they were willing to accept the soldierly austerity, the risks of the front and, eventually, the ultimate sacrifice.

Aside from all the definitions you will find in the literature, this might be the quintessence of leadership: channeling the energies and emotions of people around you, inspiring them to follow you by accepting temporary, short-term sacrifices, only to reach a long-term economic, political or ethical goal.

In the light of the above definition, the developed world today seems to be in deep pain, virtually incapable of steering the society’s emotions towards declared, yet only partially assumed goals.

Let us take a look at the purely declarative fight against global warming. As I explained in the Failure to avert global warming – uncomfortable truths, the lack of efficient leadership in an area of such relevance has taken the decarbonization of the global economy off the fast track, despite the tens of conferences and protocols signed in 1992, 1997, 2009 or 2015. It actually kept a steady, yet entirely insufficient linear downward trend. True leaders should have done exactly what I mentioned in the first paragraph: channel the emotions and the growing concerns about climate change in such a way that the population from the developed economies accept the related costs and should stop selling the illusion of exclusively technological solutions. Changes thus induced will in fact be much too slow and will come too late. Results with truly significant impact require, first and foremost, a change in the lifestyle of developed societies.

Here are two key facts:

I. 20 countries are responsible for 80% of the greenhouse gas emissions.

II. A survey conducted in 43 countries on 5 continents and published by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology indicates that consumers are responsible for 60% of the carbon emissions and 80% of water consumption worldwide.

So an actual acceleration of the decarbonization would require the existence of sufficiently brave leaders in the developed societies to show the clear connection between the consumerist behavior and global warming. The existence of sufficiently honest leaders that say: planting trees and installing solar panels is a step forward, but it is way too small compared to what is needed. The existence of sufficiently brave leaders that urge the population to change their lifestyle by validating their emotions about changing the planet, by explaining that neither rallies, nor pointing fingers at others will solve the problem.

The war against global warming cannot be won unless we give up certain privileges: whether it is the size, power or speed of the cars we use, the price of the energy we consume, the excessive lighting of the cities (how many passersby look at the ads in Picadilly Circus or Times Square between 1 am and 6 am?), the airplanes shipping tulips from Africa to the Netherlands or the constant shortening of the lifespan of consumer goods. And the list of examples could go on and on.

Such leaders stand no chance of winning the war against global warming, because they are not leaders. They are unable to create that emotion, then channel it by steering the masses in a direction that will only come with costs, on short-term, in exchange for a long-term victory. They are not capable of such feat, do not know how to do it or are simply afraid of it. Under such circumstances, they are bound to fail.

And when it comes to a military face-off, the same lack of leadership causes really tragic consequences. I explained in The Rouble bounced back. Why? that, with the onset of the war in Ukraine and the enforcement of the partial Western sanctions, the gap between Russian exports and imports, the hard currency surplus, will double compared to the  pre-conflict situation. Which means that, within one year, Russia will replace the hard currency reserves that were frozen abroad. The explanation is simple. According to the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Europe transfers to Russia almost 1 billion euros per day for imported hydrocarbons (while the military aid totaled 1 billion euros).

Such a state of play should have prompted any true European leader to come before the people and say:

This is outrageous and unacceptable! Dear citizens, your rallies by the tens of thousands in the public squares are impressive, your empathy towards the Ukrainian people is worthy of respect, the fact that we light up the buildings in yellow and blue or that we wear the Ukrainian on lapels, place it on cars or on Facebook pages is absolutely remarkable. But the bad news is that your emotions and energy, thus expressed, save absolutely no life in Ukraine and stop no Russian tank. The massacre will continue as long as we keep leading our routine life, thus massively financing Russia’s aggression. The Ukrainians are killed on your money!

But the silence reigns… Again, no European leader has tried to channel the people’s emotion and indignation towards an action with effective impact. Quite the opposite! Paradoxically, the “leader’s” actions were the exact opposite, meaning deterring the population. And this was done by knowingly invoking extreme examples, to make sure the message is dissuasive enough.

The narrative cultivated by the European “leaders” has always been about completely shutting off Russian gas supplies. Why completely? Why not only partially? Maybe so that they can later claim that cutting off Russian gas would “throw the streets into darkness”? Or that the European economy would be driven to recession? Yes, these were the “mobilization” messages of the European “leaders” for a population outraged by what happened in Ukraine. And such manipulative messages can only make me wonder which was their real objective afer all.

While they expressed their “leadership” through such declarations, a president, a leader, of course, became a “partenaire de negotiation” of Putin. Negotiations that were so beneficial that the Russian army continued to shell towns and slaughter civilians. And the honorable president could not have wasted the opportunity of being an… “amplificateur utile” of Putin’s messages when, from the height of its position, after each “negotiation”, he would boost the morale of Ukrainians and Europeans by gravely declaring that “the worst is yet to come”. Maybe it’s no surprise that his run for presidency is ending in photo-finish with the representative of the extreme right-wing party.

The Europeans are deeply disturbed by the tragedies in Ukraine. The absence of leaders that could channel these emotions towards accepting to bear the economic costs that would drain Russia of its resources is a tragedy in itself, given its consequences. The fact that only now, in the aftermath of the massacre found in the freed towns, the Western leaders dare to come up with bold proposals of energy restrictions, trying to mobilize the population, may be a predictor of how they will demonstrate their “leadership” in climate change matters, too.

They will build the courage to present the population with unpopular proposals only when the “green massacre” on the planet will be sufficiently large. Too late, that is.

Have a nice weekend!

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