May 7, 2012
The British parliament culture committee said that Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corp (which owns the Wall Street Journal) is not fit to run the company that he created because he has shown “willful blindness” in the management (or mismanagement) of his company. In other words, the parliamentarians do not believe that Murdoch’s claim of ignorance in the phone hacking and other malfeasance is acceptable.
The concept of “willful blindness” is not new but dates to Victorian times. According to Ken LaMance, attorney and managing editor of Legal Match Law Library “it describes a situation where a person intentionally avoid learning of facts or occurrences so to avoid criminal or civil liability.”
Margaret Heffernan, author of Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at our Peril believes that “willful blindness is not just a character flaw; it is a structural trap that lies in wait for anyone in power. She has observed in her rich corporate and academic life that people in power have a tendency to surround themselves with people who “tell them what they want to hear and hide from them what they imagine they don’t want to hear.” She says: “the truth is that it takes individuals of terrific integrity and fortitude to resist the willful blindness that comes with power.”
I believe that we all have a tendency to avoid facing reality particularly when we think that the reality we are avoiding could be detrimental to our well being.
Per Segerdahl, editor of the Ethics Blog and Associate Professor of Philosophy at the Center for Research Ethics & Bioethics of Uppsala University says that “our ethical challenges are more typically about thinking well; about understanding complex facts properly; about avoiding tempting oversimplifications in our descriptions of reality. In short, our ethical challenges are very much about facing reality well.”
Facing reality sometimes takes courage but it is worth it. Let me list two of its many benefits:
Facing reality may prevent a disaster because situations do deteriorate with time and a remedy is sometime possible and it will save time because sooner or later, that reality we tried to avoid will face us!
Melody Beattie believes that gratitude can be a remedy to denial. I like this intriguing idea.
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.“
Sadly, gratitude is not the most common emotion among people of power and wealth!
As the Roman historian Sallust once said:
“Ambition forgets the obligation of gratitude.”