31 Jul 1/3 – Crisis? The model of society that has governed us for more than two millennia.
May I share with you what I consider the most realistic, pragmatic and accurate description of the current model of society sustaining our collective behaviour and our economy?
I did not discover this text at school, in an economics book or at Wall Street, but during a wedding mass in September 2008, right in the middle of the financial crisis. The priest was reading the gospel according to St. Matthew (25, 14-30):
Jesus told this parable:
“A man, who was leaving on a journey, gathered his servants and entrusted his wealth to them.
To one, he gave five talents, to another, two talents, and to the third, a single talent; each according to his abilities.
Then he left.
The man who had received five talents went at once and put his money to work, and gained five more. Likewise, the man who received two talents gained two more. But he who had received one went and dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master’s money.
After a long time, the master returned and reckoned with them.
The man who had received five talents brought forth the five other talents and said: ‘Master, you entrusted me with five talents; behold, I have gained five more.’
The master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s joy.’
The man who had received two talents stepped forward and said: ‘Master, you entrusted me with two talents; behold, I have gained two more.’
‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s joy.’
The man who had received a single talent stepped forward and said: ‘Master, I knew that you are a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. I was afraid, and I went and buried your talent in the ground. Here, you have what belongs to you.’
His master replied: ‘You wicked and lazy servant! You knew that I harvest where I have not sown, and that I gather where I have not scattered seed. Well then you should have put my money in the bank and, upon my return, I would have received it back with interest.
Take, then, the talent from him and give it to he who has ten. For whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. And he who does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that good-for-nothing servant outside into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth!”
Beyond the many interpretations that each will make of this text depending on their cultural background – or interests –, this text has gone through the ages without being adapted. Like subliminal images, like repetitive advertising, it has stamped on our brains from generation to generation the idea of a single model of relations between individuals: “master-servant”.
As a result, it reflects perfectly the reality of our world today. It’s all right there in this text – the money, the speculation, the productivity, the inequality, the machismo, the exclusion, the violence, the bank, and the master’s “Do What You’re Told”. It is the fundamental model of our society.
It illustrates the components of two millennia of conditioning in Judeo-Christian culture which serve as our basic model in the West: the master (the dominant), the servant (the dominated), and the bank (the exploiter and owner of the world).
With such a model, there is no chance to hear “Be yourself” at school; no chance to see the other introduced as a potential partner; no chance to be given a global understanding of our world. To preserve his privileges, the “master” fears the emancipation of the “servant” and maintains him in isolation and ignorance. The approach is divide and rule.
Under the influence of this same conditioning, it would be easy to take the plunge and declare a war between the master and the servant. But that would be a grave error because this model is pernicious and perverse. We are all at the same time the master and the servant of another; when the master wants to suffocate the servant, he suffocates himself, with only the bank profiting from the situation. That’s why this model carries malaise within it and spares no one, rich or poor, dominant or dominated. It’s all the more pernicious because with its diktat of “Do What You’re Told”, it snuffs out not only our critical instinct, but also our imagination and our creativity, thereby limiting our ability to adapt to change. If I put this alongside Darwin’s assertion that: “The species that survive are not the strongest, nor the smartest, but the ones which best adapt to change,” I think it would perhaps be wise to switch model.
It is possible if we stop referring to ancient texts written when slavery was the rule. The “master – servant” model has at least one alternative, the “partner – partner” model capitalising on respect for the identity of the individuals. This is the basis of the Collaborative Leadership that I have practised for more than 30 years in organisations of all sizes. Introducing reciprocity between individuals favours not only a much more productive collaboration between them, but also “a fresh approach to living together” and the well-being of the individual.
From the same author:
- Essay “Tomahawk or Non-Evolution, Towards a New Vision”
- Article “2/3 – Crisis? We apply ourselves to produce it everyday!”