Fantasy and reality

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By His Eminence Archbishop Stylianos of Australia

Due to current developments in leadership issues worldwide, the VEMA deemed it appropriate to publish an article written by His Eminence Archbishop Stylianos on this subject back in November 2000 (Voice of Orthodoxy, and the Athens newspaper Kyriakatiki Eleftherotypia 12-11-2000). It is as timely now as it was then.

Concerning administration and responsibility.
There is much talk nowadays, both officially and unofficially, about a "crisis of leadership" among peoples and nations. More specifically, we speak about a crisis of leadership in various institutions and organisations, according to their corresponding hierarchies. The crisis of leadership is therefore denounced in all places as a common symptom of the modern world, in which no one can hide from others, for the simple reason that technology allows no room for complete seclusion.

Our modern world is becoming even more transparent through international organisations, multinational companies and general global co-operation, such that it has recently been described in terms of a "mutual embolism" between individuals, groups and nations. And the situation becomes even more "critical" through the systematic attempts of some people to call this chaos "globalisation".

Just who is behind the claims that this is for "everybody's benefit", and what power is concealed behind their actions, most of us do not know. At any rate, the word "critical" does not only mean that it can bring forth danger. In Greek, this word also literally signifies that "it can be judged". However, to speak of a "crisis of leadership" in general (which is a serious accusation that could be interpreted as the most irresponsible "scare-mongering" in such a complex, interconnected and interdependent world) is in fact unacceptably generalised and dangerously irresponsible.

In evaluating responsibly, we must underline the substantial content of the crisis in question, so that it may be circumscribed and dealt with accordingly. This is what we shall try to do here briefly, and with a realistic analysis, without troubling the average reader with technical terms and profundities.

There can be no doubt that, when we speak of "crisis", we mean a certain irregularity or anomaly, which must of course be due to some deficiency, or in other words a vacuum. Only when a vacuum is created, and a deficiency appears, does the balance become upset, giving rise to the crisis.

We must turn our attention to the analysis of two terms and concepts if we are to realize the fundamental problem - a problem which is the root of all "dysfunction" of obligations in each "link" of the chain of hierarchy in governments, organisations and institutions. The terms are "responsibility" and "administration".

a) "Responsibility": We often speak of responsible people, irresponsible people or people who are afraid of responsibility, taking their relevant actions or omissions as a yardstick, both in the private and public sector.
Yet we have not made the effort to ask ourselves the original meaning of the word "responsibility". The root of the Greek equivalent of this word actually means that which is correct, just and true. Therefore, responsibility is "the sense of duty towards that which is correct, just and true".
We have written about the sacredness of this term on past occasions. Moreover, we attempted a comparison between the Greek term "euthuni" and corresponding terms in European languages (re-sponsibilitas, Ver-antwortung), thereby showing the far greater meaning signified by the former term. In addition, we looked at standard phrases taken from Biblical writings and the overall vocabulary of the Church, in order to highlight the direct relationship between "responsibility" and the "divine will".

We could cite here the call of awakening spoken by the Forerunner: "Prepare the ways of the Lord, make His paths straight (eutheias)" (Mat.3, 3). We also have the verse of the Psalms which the Bishop recites before celebrating a service, as he puts the heart-shaped engolpion upon his chest: "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right (euthes) spirit within me " (Psalm 51).

There is one further fundamental difference between the use of the term in the languages mentioned above. While the three European terms clearly include the prefix "re" and operate horizontally as a "re-action" (in which case we are dealing with a "re-flexive" mechanical process), the Greek term expresses the "alignment" and adaptation to an ethical necessity imposed from above. This always remains the normative factor, regardless of horizontal actions and reactions, which in any case are of dubious motivation.

Accordingly, the notion of one's responsibility, regardless of rank, should not be determined by the legal or social context. Nor by possible series of events, but primarily by the sensitivity and vigilance of one's conscience. And this of course is not always "protestantism"! Likewise, it is not essential for one to be inspired by faith in transcendent values in order to have a vigilant conscience and a sense of responsibility. Yet the criterion must still be above and beyond the ego.

Otherwise, everything becomes subjective self-interest, or a state of decay. True courage, at least for the leader, is to stand above these things. The example of some people to call themselves "atheists" out of modesty, even in the 20th century, shows that the person of so-called "personal ethics" can sometimes be closer to the proclaimed "divine will" of the Bible than the trumpeted "morality of the many", which Nietzsche, Kazantzakis and Camus made fun of.
The sense of responsibility, however, which is not easily measured in the individuality of each citizen (and is practically never even an issue in the case of a "hermit", who is judged constantly and directly by God alone!) can be more clearly seen in relationship to others. At any rate, what is certain is that it is impossible for the "private" affairs not to affect to some extent the "public" affairs as well, even though the "private life" is not the primary aim here.

Thus, the "crisis of leadership" in terms of interpersonal relationships, results in the formation of a disorientated person, a victim of circumstance and the environment. If the crisis is felt in social relationships, it may perhaps allow the tolerance of others for a while. In the end, it makes the person more or less a social outcast.

However, when the crisis of leadership relates to a public office, then the lack of necessary sense of responsibility can border on being a crime.
b) "Administration": One cannot possibly know how many of those who have positions of responsibility in society realize that this very term in Greek contains the word "oikos" (house), which appears as "eco" in words such as eco-nomy and eco-logy. When we consider that the first duty of the administrator is to familiarize him or herself with the "house" which must be governed, so that the fellow citizens can then be accordingly familiarized with it, then the duties at hand become more realistic, and therefore more specific.

The "house", whether it is the "house of God" (the Church) or the "ecosystem of the world" (the State), must have three aspects securely in place: the foundations, the rooftop and the doors/windows.

If the housekeeper, namely the person who has the greatest responsibility, does not give due care to each of these three simultaneously, it is inevitable that the whole building will collapse, or be turned into a "family tomb" (!), or in other words collective bankruptcy. The responsibility is even more tragic when that which is being governed is a ship, a vessel and, especially, an "ark"! The English, traditionally a people who ruled the seas, always said "one ship, one captain". This is because the seas are constantly fluctuating and require a single, decisive hand to steer the rudder, not quarrels. The notion of democracy in no way abolishes the need for the one person who is in the front line of responsibility.
On the contrary, it presupposes him or her as an essential factor and guarantor of democracy. Provided that this person realizes that he or she must unshakably remain the "umbilical chord" and constituent of the whole, so as not to degrade into a faction leader.

The true character of the "first" person becomes evident in time of difficulty. At such times, he or she acts as a "lightning rod", or even as a Jonah! The potential ambition of the leader to remain "popular" or "indisputable", which in turn forces him to load his or her responsibilities onto others, are features which by definition are prohibitive for the position held. Being a leader, that person is obliged not only to call upon others when in a difficult position, but also to punish the guilty, if they can be accused. Otherwise, it would be just as inexcusable as a "steam engine" which would dare to place the blame for a derailment on the wagons that it was pulling!

People are not a uniform mass who cannot be distinguished from each other, which is why the leader should not be deluded in thinking that he will always remain invulnerable and popular. In general terms, people are discernible as being either good or vicious. If the leader is good, he will be opposed by the vicious. If, on the other hand, he is vicious himself, he will have to confront those who are good.

It is very indicative that Christ addressed the most severe "woes" not to the individual who is a failure or malicious, but rather to the leader who seeks general acceptance and popularity.

In closing, we could quote an older poem, which perhaps underlines concisely the questions that we have tried to outline above.

“Woe to you when all speak well of you”

(Luke 6, 26)

Woe to those

who have never been doubted,

for this means that they have become identified

with all people.

Woe to those

who have not been persecuted,

for this means that they never fought

not even with shadows.

Woe to those

who were not put to death,

for this means that they did not pay

the tax of life in full.

(Thessaloniki 17-10-69)

This Article was published in the Greek Australian newspaper

TO VEMA October 2003

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