Publicador de contenidos

Back to Crisis: factor tiempo y sacrificio

Santiago Álvarez de Mon, Professor, IESE, University of Navarra

Crisis: time and sacrifice factor

Wed, 10 Mar 2010 08:54:26 +0000 Published in Expansion (Madrid)

Finding the balance between the short and the long term deadline is one of the most delicate challenges that every person with management responsibilities has to face. In Western societies, immediate and tangible decision-making criteria tend to take precedence, which are often the cause of the problems generated. For example, it is difficult to understand the financial crisis without considering the impact of imprudently short-term incentives on the remuneration of many executives. For the sake of the present value of the share and the current quarter's income statement, other decisive factors were postponed sine die. In this unstable temporal balance, the present often wins out over a silent and discreet future that at best appears timidly. Only the most attentive listen and imagine its presence. As Bertrand Russell warned: "We are passive with regard to what is important and active with regard to trivial things. In the decisive time-crisis equation, noisy and opportunistic urgency prevails over hidden and silent importance. The intelligent and complementary paradox of intensity-serenity, when the winds of squall blow, swings towards the former, propitiating an atmosphere of hyperactivity and tension. Gracián underlined with his proverbial clairvoyance the decisive gap. "The prudent does in time what the fool does out of time. They both do the same thing". Where do we place Papandreou, forced by necessity to take measures? What was said about our crisis two years ago? Did we arrive on time or are we dragging along a self-interested and short-sighted oblivion?

Transcending the specific problem of the economic crisis, the ascendancy of the immediate future over more distant times can also be observed in other places and conflicts. One of the few current politicians capable of thinking for himself, well articulated and with powerful seductive qualities, Obama, can also be trapped in words with the vocation of a near promise. Does setting a date for the withdrawal of the troops stationed in Iraq,financial aid or does it harm his government action? If after deadline he does not fulfill it, how does he explain it? Why does he venture to do so? How does the enemy process this commitment? Is it a sign of strength and resistance, or of weakness and doubt?

The traumatologist, faced with a serious injury, confronts his patient with a long rehabilitation process. He encourages and accompanies him during this period, but it does not occur to him to sell him the idea of a miraculous recovery. Being able to defer gratification, to persevere in the effort, to remain faithful to commitments, to exercise the muscle of the will are unequivocal signs of maturity and character. This is, I fear, the weak flank of our society. Anything that smacks of pain and suffering is minimized or denied. Obama's impressive election campaign lacked reflections on the idea of sacrifice, and now it is difficult to move from euphoria to reality.

Great leaders work for a distant future from an attentive and squeezed past, from a known and assumed past. So do parents who long for the happiness and independence of their children, teachers who work for the maturity and autonomy of their pupils, statesmen who relate to free citizens. One of these leaders who always has the future on his screen is Yunus, founder of Grammeen Bank and award Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2006: "Can we create a world free of poverty? Yes, just as we have created sovereign states, democratic political systems or free market economies. A world without poverty will not be perfect, but it will be the best approximation to an ideal world. We have achieved a world free of slavery, free of polio, a world free of apartheid; creating a world free of poverty will be an even greater achievement. And it will be a world we can be proud to live in." While he pursues such a noble and achievable cause, his mere quest is a triumph per se, improving the present of so many poor people whom he financial aid to regain their dignity and overcome fears and resistances of all kinds subject.

Does Spain have a future if the present corner the dreams and illusions of the new generations, in a climate flooded with electioneering partisanship, lack of solidarity and selfishness?