EDITORIAL: SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER
Societies, communities, families and businesses all have power structures which accord greater power to some than to others. Persons may command political power, economic power, financial power or administrative power. The exercise of such power, if unchecked, can be a very dangerous thing. In recognition of this, structures are usually established which require or afford other persons or institutions an opportunity to influence those who possess greater power. Additionally, persons at the pinnacle of power usually solicit the input of subordinates before making decisions, or subordinates by virtue of existing structures are required to provide input. The quality of the input provided can have a significant impact, with resulting long-term implications, on the decision of the person exercising power.
The motivation of persons, who are privileged to be able to influence the decisions of those in authority, can play a vital role in the nature of the advice or input they provide. Will genuine and well thought out advice be offered or will the advice offered simply be what it is assumed the authority figure wants to hear? Very often the answer to this question will depend on the nature of the relationship between the players. Is the subordinate or the institution dependent on the authority figure for their place in the organisational structure? It might also be that there is the belief that favours will be accorded to those who support the viewpoint of the authority figure? The answers to these questions can determine how subordinates or institutions respond to the opportunity or the need to speak truth to power.
In Anguilla today, there is the general perception that all vocal views are divided along political lines. Without reviewing the substantive points of any position adopted or promoted by a political party, party affiliates or supporters are believed to simply align themselves with that position. Then there appears to be a significant silent majority who offer no viewpoint. It is believed that this is for fear of incurring the ire of those currently in authority or those who can potentially assume authority, whose favour they might have to seek on a future occasion, in relation to a current or future business venture.
The circumstances set out above have relevance to both the public and private sector, and speak to the potential for self-serving motivations to limit the likelihood of persons and institutions, with some influential power, speaking truth to power. In such situations the checks and balances on the power accorded to those in authority go unchecked to the detriment of the institution, society or country over which authority is being exercised. A desire to put country above self, rather than a self-serving spirit, must exist in persons if the principle of speaking truth to power is to be effectively exercised.
The exercise of this principle is essential to the effective and proper functioning of individuals and institutions holding authority in Anguilla. To keep quiet or to actively support an obviously wrong viewpoint, decision or policy, which has the potential to negatively affect Anguilla, just to preserve a privileged position, is not only wrong – it is patently unpatriotic.
Speaking truth to power is not an easy or a pleasant exercise but is a very necessary one for those who occupy influential positions or those who aspire to occupy such positions. There is the very real possibility for authority figures, left unchallenged, to become tyrants. This is a possibility that Anguilla does not need and no one, especially an Anguillian, should be willing to sacrifice Anguilla for his or her secured place in a regime where decisions or policies are likely to negatively impact our national development.
As Martin Luther King Jr. observed, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” Many Anguillians aspire to positions of influence and such ambition is to be admired. However, persons will be judged by their conduct once they achieve such positions, because we should rightly expect such persons to exercise their influence to promote the advancement of Anguilla and not to be solely concerned with maintaining their privileged position in relation to the balance of power.