Time to Vote - When you reach the end of what you should know
Our society has deep feelings, seemingly conflicting sometimes, about knowledge. Surely you have heard, “A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing,” and “What you don’t know won’t hurt you.” Jack-of-all-trades Benjamin Franklin gave us, “If a man empties his purse into his head, no man can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” And from the prescient poet T. S. Eliot: “Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”
Political careers have gone down in flames because of what this or that person knew and when this or that person knew it. When North Korea reportedly detonated a nuclear device on Oct. 9, the angst it unleashed in many nations stemmed not so much from the fact that this tiny nation once again had defied those bigger, bolder and mightier than itself, as from the potential for other “wayward” nations to share in Pyongyang’s nuclear know-how. “[North Korea] has never developed a weapons system it did not ultimately sell on the world market, and it has periodically threatened to sell its nuclear technology. So the end of ambiguity about its nuclear capacity foreshadows a very different era, in which the concern may not be where a nation’s warheads are aimed, but in whose hands its weapons and skill end up,” New York Times reporter David Sanger wrote in the newspaper’s Oct. 10 editions.
Does anyone care these days about Sir Winston Churchill’s exhortation, “If you have knowledge, let others light their candles with it.” That’s a frightening notion for many when it comes to such things as nuclear knowledge and governance. Too often it is unthinkable in business, especially in the small business community.
What is it about knowledge that its pursuit evokes fear and respect at the same time? The answer has to do with what happens when one acquires knowledge, with the fact that knowledge does not necessarily lead to wise action. The chemist, Frank “Rocky” Whitmore, said, “The biggest difficulty with mankind today is that our knowledge has increased so much faster than our wisdom.” Someone else told us: “Knowledge is a process of piling up facts; wisdom lies in their simplification.”
At the annual World Economic Forum in 1999, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan challenged business leaders to join the Global Compact, an initiative to bring together companies, U.N. agencies, labor and civil organizations to support universal environmental and social principles. It is compact, born of Annan’s vast knowledge of the way the world works, championing 10 universal principles in the areas of human rights, labor, the environment and anti-corruption. Today, hundreds of companies from every region in the world, including countries that possess nuclear weapons knowledge, are engaged in advancing those principles. Annan’s vision is to create a more sustainable and inclusive global economy by promoting responsible corporate citizenship. Business, he contends, should be part of the solution to the challenges of globalization.
Which brings me to this jewel from the late Lebanese poet and philosopher, Kahlil Gibran: “When you reach the end of what you should know, you will be at the beginning of what you should sense.”
It’s time to vote, America. Vote knowledgeably, vote wisely.
By Rosalind McLymont