What is Next for the West ?

Y. B. Karasik
Thoughts Guiding Systems Corp.,
Ottawa, Canada.
e-mail:karasik@sympatico.ca

According to Hegel, evolution of society passed through the following stages:

The first stage is characteristic of the ancient despotic states of the Orient where all but one person were slaves. The second stage was attained in Rome. But "it was first the Germanic peoples, through Christianity, who came to the awareness that every human is free by virtue of being human" [1].

Now when the Germanic idea of the universal freedom got adopted in all western countries, it is time to ask: what is next for the West ?

It is not difficult to notice that nowadays people are subdivided not into free and slaves but into brains and muscles. There are just a few people in any organization that are allowed to thinks of themselves as of being "brains". The others have to play the role of "muscles".

May be in the past "brains" were really brains of organizations. But nowadays I more often than not meet such "brains" that know only one thing: to demand from subordinates "to make that which I do not know what".

Over the course of XX century the mediocrity gradually realized that to be a boss is very easy. You do not have to be an ideas generator, you do not have to be a leader charting the course of a company. Just yell at subordinates: "What are you working on ?" - if you yourself is incapable of generating ideas and setting clear objectives, and fire those who does not do it for you. In most cases it turns out to be enough to somehow move organization forward.

Can you imagine a general that runs after soldiers and yell: "Give me a battle plan, otherwise shoot you !" If army had such generals it would be defeated right away. But civilian organizations are full of such generals. They have in peace times the rights of "shooting" (i.e. firing) people at ease, which military generals have only in war times !

It is no longer enough for "muscles" to work as muscles. They have to work as brains but behave as "muscles". Heaven forbid they say: "I have an idea". They have to say: "The idea of Mr. Boss is like this: ..."

Once I happened to work at an Institute that was set up to generate ideas of new products for some industry. By the time I was hired it has existed already for quite some time but generated nothing. I was told that I was being hired for my brains ... but in the contract they wrote down that they wanted to utilize me as a software engineer.

From the first day I started generating ideas. The vice-president of R&D immediately ran out of the meetng room. The others also turned their faces away. After a few weeks, I came to a conclusion that they did not need my ideas. And I decided to focus on implementing the ideas by others, whatever mediocre they were.

My conclusion was very soon proved to be wrong because the vice-president started chasing me and yelling: "What are you doing ???!!! What are you working on ???!!!" My replies that I implement the ideas of Mr. X, the acknowledged "brains" of the Institute to whom he himself assigned me, fell on the deaf ears. Mr. X was also puzzled: he liked that I was assigned to him by the vice-president and also did not understand what he now wanted.

That was the first time that I faced the following contradictions:

I was unable to resolve these contradictions at the time and the vice-president decided to resort to the ultimate measure of all good for nothing managers to give me a hint: bring me up to speed. But I did not understand the hint anyway and the Institute eventually collapsed.

Only over time I came to a realization that he probably wanted the following resolution of the contradictions: I had to generate ideas but not present them as mine ... Unfortunately it was (and still is) against my nature because I was brought up on the Germanic ideas of dignity and freedom.

Thus, if one wants to expand the Hegel's theory, he has to conclude that the world passes through the following stages of evolution:

  1. Only one is the brains of organization. The rest are muscles.
  2. Only some are brains of organization. The rest are muscles.
  3. Only some are "brains". The rest are "muscles" that have to covertly work as brains and at the same time function as muscles.
  4. All employees of organization are both its brains and muscles working on implementation of their own ideas.

The latter stage is still not attained. The world has stuck at stage #3 where fat very often occupies the position of brains. Putting brains into the brains' place and fat into the fat's is the next challenge for the West (if it does not want to become East).


R E F E R E N C E S:

[1] G. W. F. Hegel, "The Philosophy of History", 1837.