Anyone who has ever "lost the plot" -- made a wrong turn, got into a messy relationship or simply realized that they are suffering the consequences of making a wrong choice, nearly always finishes up asking the same question. What's it all about? And the answer is always the same. Values!
Now lift the stakes. What happens when a nation loses the plot, as Iceland did in 2008 when the country went bankrupt? Or in May, 2013 in the suburbs of Stockholm, when immigrant led street riots broke out. Not something you would expect in Swedish society. Remember earlier this year, when riots broke out in Venezuela over food shortages; and Brazil, where demonstrators blocked the streets protesting about the vast amounts of money being poured into new football stadiums for the World Cup while millions of people are living in poverty. Go back to the early part of the 20th century when women were demonstrating in the streets so they could get a voice in the governance of their nations. What were all these about? In every case the issue was the same -- making the right value choices in governance.
This is the topic that was discussed at the Spirit of Humanity Forum last week (the Spiritual Equivalent of Davos) when over 200 leaders from around the globe met in Reykjavik. The theme of the conference was the power of love and compassion in governance -- sharing actions for effective change.
Some of the questions posed to the delegates were:
- How can decision-making reflect our core human values?
- What are the underlying principles that guide values-based decision-making?
- How can we apply such principles in our institutions?
Key to this discussion was the how to implement the progression of values that lead to democratic governance: namely, freedom, equality, accountability, fairness, openness, transparency and trust. Whether you are an individual, an organization, a community or a society, living these values is not easy. Even Iceland, which according to the Economic Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index is the most democratic nation on the planet, got it wrong in 2008.
Nor are the other leading democratic nations well advanced on this journey. Yes, they have installed freedom, and most have made a commitment to equality, but how many have fully embraced accountability and fairness? How many can be considered truly open and transparent, and how many have built a society based on trust. The answer is, not many! So why are these questions not being discussed by our world leaders in Davos? The answer is simple -- the majority of our political and finance leaders cannot get their minds off wealth and money. They are mesmerized by the values of power, control and status. At Davos, the self-interest of the elites consistently trumps the common good of humanity.
That is why the Spirit of Humanity Forum is so important for our global future. It provides a much needed counter balance to the limitations of Davos. Its focus is on What are the values we want to live by? What are the values we want to see in our governance systems? And where are love and compassion in this mix?
There is not a single person on the planet who cannot relate to the importance of these values in their lives, so why are our world leaders not talking about them? Why are our national policies not driven and guided by these values? These are just some of the questions Reykjavik 2014 posed.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the Spirit of Humanity Forum, in conjunction with the conference of the same name that took place in Reykjavik, Iceland, last week. For more information on the Spirit of Humanity Forum, read here.