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Sunday , January 29 2023

O Leadership … Are we in need of Chinese Prince Tai?

This post has been read 53639 times!

WHEN a ruler isolates himself from people, routine becomes a norm, and tradition becomes sanctified … That is when the state begins to descend into chaos.

This was why the ancient kings and leaders were keen to qualify generations of the ruling house, and taught them how to become close to their people and hear their groanings before they turn into cries.

In the past decades, most Arab countries, including some Gulf countries, almost reached the level of sanctity of tradition. They hence did not pay any attention to creativity in governance, and most of them led to chaos, allowing the military to organize coups, form quasi states, and create systems based on repression, isolation, and suspicion of anything, and killing people’s initiative.

It is unfortunate that the harsh lessons witnessed by the Arab world from 1952 until today did not change the reality of some regimes that continued on their first course.

That is why matters were left to the wrong people. Ministers were chosen for positions greater than them, and cosmetic media played its role in marketing them, but with their departure from office, ruin appeared.

This is due to the fact that a weak official used the help of friends, loved ones, and close associates to cover up, while he closed his doors to the public, and saw in the position an ivory tower that kept him away from accountability.

Kuwait was not far from this reality, which is why we saw a rate of corruption that “cannot be carried by two camels,” as described by the late Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad during an occasion. The picture can be generalized to most institutions.

In this regard, I will refer to a story from Chinese literature about the importance of training leaders.

Back in the third century A.D., the Chinese king sent his son Prince Tai to receive education from one of the great masters at that time. Prince Tai was to succeed his father as king, and the master was to teach the boy the basics of a good ruler.

When the Prince arrived at the temple, the master sent him alone to the forest with the advice to meditate and discover the various sounds in the forest. The Prince was to return after one year to the temple to submit his findings of the sounds to the great master.

When Prince Tai returned, the great master asked the boy to describe all that he had seen or heard during his stay in the forest.

The Prince said, “Respected Master, I could hear the cuckoos’ song, the leaves’ rustle, the humming birds’ hum, the crickets’ chirp, the bees’ buzz and the winds’ whisper”.

When the Prince had narrated all that he had experienced, the master ordered him to go back to the forest again. He told him to stay for another year to listen to what more he could hear.

The Prince was puzzled by the master’s new order. The Prince thought to himself, “Had I not discerned every sound and explained everything to the master already?” He went back to the forest again for one more year with the advice to meditate and discern the various sounds in the forest.

For days and nights, the young prince sat alone in the forest listening to the sounds more attentively. But he heard no sounds other than those he had already heard. Then, one morning as the prince sat silently beneath the trees, he started to discern faint sounds unlike those he had ever heard before.

The more closely he listened, the more audible and clearer the sounds became. The feeling of enlightenment enveloped the boy. “These must be the sounds the master wished me to discern!”, he reflected.

When Prince Tai returned, the master asked him what more he had heard.

The Prince responded reverently, “Respected Master, when I listened more closely, I could hear the unheard sound of flowers opening, the sounds of the sun warming the earth, and the sound of the grass with the morning dew.” The master nodded approvingly and said, “To hear the unheard is a necessary discipline to be a good ruler. For when a ruler has learned to listen closely to the people’s heart, and hear their uncommunicated feelings, unexpressed pains and unspoken complaints, only then can he hope to inspire confidence in his people. He can understand when something is wrong, and meet the true needs of his people.

The demise of states comes when leaders listen only to superficial words and do not go deeply into the souls of the people to hear their true opinions, feelings and desires.” There is no doubt that some of our countries currently need wise men and leaders such as the Chinese Prince Tai. Because the persistence of the situation as it is will undoubtedly lead to what was proven by Abdul-Rahman bin Khaldun 700 years ago, who appears through his thoughts as though he is still reading the reality of some countries in the region in terms of sectarianism and tribalism at the expense of the homeland.

People currently seek refuge in their sects, not in their homelands. Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Libya, and Yemen are only some examples of what has become of the methods of governance based on routine and imitation. Wars, conspiracies, intrigues, and alliances abound when the enemy becomes a friend, and the friend becomes an enemy.

When the ruler hears the groaning of his people, he has come halfway to remedy, so his decision is firm, and his vision is clear without being disturbed by the confusion of the advisors… Thus his state rises. We have examples in the region of what the ruler can sense, because he is a human being first, and therefore what hurts his nation must hurt him.

By Ahmed Al-Jarallah

Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times

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