Truth about financial mess must be laid bare

By Frank-Jürgen Richter

South China Morning Post, November 25, 2011

Frank-Jürgen Richter says leaders who don´t tell all are stifling the debate needed to find solutions

George Orwell once said that “the great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one´s real and one´s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink.”

Insincerity affects those closest to us: our family, friends, colleagues; and their obfuscating words can ripple outwards to ministers who may incite a nation against others – which thereby affects the globe. To whom may we turn to learn the truth?

Of course we may hope for telepathy with which our whole thought process is open to others – an aspect well-liked in science fiction. Yet, this is not entirely fiction today. John-Dylan Haynes at the Max Planck Institute has identified brain messages before they have become actions: in fact they identify tell-tale brain activity linked to lying, violent behaviour and racial prejudice. As these scientists look ahead to what they may be able to do, they have called for an urgent debate on the ethical issues of the technology: many see a force for good; others envision a world full of intrusive probes.

So perhaps it´s time to ask leaders of all kinds – in the family, in business and in government – to tell the truth. Even if it is to tell us that they do not know, possibly because they have been fed misinformation from fearful assistants, or possibly because they are inept: the former scenario is easy to change if we create a more open society able to inform without fear, the latter can be easily changed in a democracy. If not in a democracy, we will see uprising after uprising until change as achieved – as in Tahrir Square, Egypt. The people are demonstrating for the second time as it is clear that their Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, once seen as “with and for the people”, really hoped to retain power against the democratic wishes of the populace.

If we are collectively better informed of the truth and through discussion of its ramifications, we will be better able to comprehend the proposed solutions. At times, we as individuals may be asked to yield to help the whole: we can´t expect win-win all the time.

If the European financial crisis were better explained to each nation, people would be better able to accept their fate. And, further, we should be looking outwards, and this involves interactions between the US, China and Europe. Agreement must be reached at the financial and commercial levels in order for us to advance globally: we need to support our poor, as well as use our finite resources carefully. Even if we cannot mind-read, we still need to open up our conversations and dialogue.

Frank-Jürgen Richter is founder and chairman of Horasis. Horasis hosts annual meetings to advance solutions to the most critical challenges facing corporations today