Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Seek wisdom, not victory (continued)

William Saletan has commented that his original formulation of "seek wisdom, not just victory" was an attempt to get victory-oriented people to listen, and not a statement of his true feelings. I certainly understand and endorse the need to appeal to one's win-at-all-cost audience. If people won't listen, nothing will change.

The problem is that for most of us it's darn hard to turn our backs on victory as a goal. If we make wisdom -- and solving society's problems -- our goal, then we might have to give something up. We might even lose.

If we're politicians, the real solution to a problem might be unpopular and we could end up losing an election. Even worse for one's ego: What if it turns out that our idea of the perfect solution isn't the right solution?

But it is delicious, isn't it, to consider what society might be like if everyone, all at once, sought wisdom instead of victory.

What would happen in Congress? What about Wall Street? If an investment banker suddenly turned away from making money for himself at all costs and re-focused on benefiting his company and society as a whole, what would the economy look like? Would we even be in the mess we are today?


Mike said...

Tony Judt just wrote a book about many of these themes..

Diane Silver said...

Mike, This looks fascinating. I was hooked on the first sentence.

Something is profoundly wrong with the way we live today.

Thanks for the link!