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Imagine a beautiful ballroom where very happy people, boys and girls, are having fun, dancing and eating at a magnificent buffet; the music is very lively; everyone is imagining plans for the end of the evening, for the night, for the following days, or even more.
One of the participants in this evening, with a slightly more lucid mind than the others, remarks that there are really too many people in the room, some of whom are grumbling because the drinks are too expensive for them; that there is only one exit, very narrow, at the end of a long corridor; that all the windows are closed, and that there is no way to open them; that the heavy curtains that obstruct the openings are next to huge, lit candlesticks, huge, unstable and threatened by the movements of the crowd. He deduced that a fire could break out at any moment. And that many people would die.
This particularly lucid guest then has several solutions: 1. continue to enjoy himself, thinking that after all, nothing has ever happened on previous evenings, and that nothing will happen this evening either. 2. Cautious, having fun and dancing by the door, keeping an eye out, ready to leave at the first sign of trouble. 3. Leave without telling anyone. 4. Take the microphone, ask for silence, describe the situation and invite everyone to get out as quickly as possible, at the risk of provoking a panic which would lead to the death of many people by trampling in the very narrow passage or in the fire which would follow the overturning of the candlesticks on the curtains. 5. Try to unblock the windows, to create new openings, alone or with others, without triggering a panic
Everyone can see that this situation is a metaphor for today’s world: the ballroom is the planet, where we are condemned to live until the end of generations, with almost infinite abundance for some, with nothing for others; and with, for all of us, innumerable geopolitical, sanitary, social, ethical, political and climatic threats. Faced with the same five choices outlined above, from action to resignation, from selfishness to altruism.
Faced with this, most people refuse to see these dangers and continue to live in the moment; others decide to remain on the lookout, to enjoy the world, not resigning themselves to losing a crumb of the pleasures of the present, while preparing to go into isolation if necessary, if the catastrophe becomes more imminent. Still others reveal all these dangers to others, without proposing credible solutions, taking the risk of triggering, by their speeches, a panic and a general moral and spiritual collapse, followed by a major economic, social and political crisis. Others, thinking that all is lost, that we will never get out of this, decide to flee, to go and live in the countryside, or in a very protected place, or even plan to go to another planet or to end their lives; Others finally imagine concrete solutions to all these problems and mobilise others to implement them with them within a reasonable time.
It is also a metaphor for the situation in each of our countries, our businesses, and our families: Think of these communities as threatened ballrooms and you will see that the choices open to each of them are the same as those of the guests at a party. A community can only be saved if all its members share an analysis of what threatens it, and decisively implement the right responses.
Panic and flight are never solutions. Resignation and every man for himself are even less so. Yet this is the most common attitude to today’s threats. The real good leaders are those who will be able to tell the whole truth to everyone, without triggering panic or despair. And who will succeed in involving every member of the community in building, as quickly as possible, a sustainable response to these challenges.