Peace on earth. A very appropriate wish for this season of reconnecting and giving. And yet, for our entire lives, not a year has gone by without the conflict of war somewhere in the world. The analogy of war has also been often used to describe the world of business. We speak of campaigns, the battle for market share, a successful CEO’s killer instinct, a dog eat dog world and, frankly, the practical reality of business, short of physically harming one’s competitors, is not on a vastly higher plane.
What possesses dog, a naturally loving animal, to eat dog? Fear of being eaten, I suppose. Such is what drives all the above warlike attitudes which eventually leads to–you guessed it–war. How may we break this cycle? The master whose birthday we celebrate this time of year, the christlike one, had some excellent ideas in this regard: Treat others as you would want to be treated. Forgive them for they know not what they do.
Knowing not what we do is endemic to acting out of our reptilian brain’s survival impulse. Every act of aggression, so driven, is internally justified as an act of self-protection. Russia fears being hemmed in by its Cold War enemy, NATO, and thus considers invading Ukraine. The United States fears the economic and social decline coming out of losing its petrodollar status and thus (arguably) invades Iraq and later Libya. China fears (arguably) losing control of its shipping lanes and considers dominating the South China Sea and invading Taiwan. At some point, war starts and then aggression drives revenge, which drives counter-revenge. We all know the story. It’s an oldie, but baddy.
Like that loving dog, human babies are born loving and innocent. Our world, and its dog eat dog scenario manages to corrupt all but a few to get with the program. So we can continue to get with the program or get with our own core program, the one we are born with. Which shall we choose? For this holiday season, it is my deep wish for all that we find the magnanimity to think not of revenge, however deserved, and worry not about self-protection to the degree that we do. That inner-child in all of us wants to reciprocate love and generosity as naturally as breathing in and out. That magnanimity, that love and generosity doesn’t have to start with the other. It could start with you. There are billions of people in this world and too many of its young men and women become the casualties of war every year. If these core attitudes become widespread and no one is willing to bear arms, the handful of people empowered to start wars will have no choice but to get with that program.