When the Worst Won

Read in Dutch on The Fire Online

In a kakistocracy the worst of all people are in charge. This Greek word can be applied to any governed entity, a country, an institution, a company, et cetera, and it reflects a situation that is inherently harmful. Leaders are incapable of doing their jobs, either morally, practically or both. The reasons behind their failing are highly relevant, although never as relevant as the primary, tragic fact that the job is being failed. There has been a lot of needless suffering – in all walks of life, in all layers of society, affecting everyone directly or indirectly, visibly but most often invisibly. I do believe something is fundamentally changing.

There are three categories of causes for, or reasons behind, kakistocracies. Firstly, there can be individual reasons like stupidity, mental and emotional problems or the relentless pursuit of money and power. Secondly, there can be institutional, systemic reasons, including nepotism, cowardice, power games, lies, secrets, conflicts of interests and more. These are primarily fueled by environmental conditions and facilitated by individual weaknesses.

The third and last category, evil, means people are not failing at their jobs – although it seems that way – instead they have hijacked their positions to cause harm for its own sake. This is always facilitated by both institutional conditions and individual reasons. The evil factor can not succeed without the other two categories. Writers like Hannah Arendt and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn have tried to remind humanity of the capacity for evil behavior within each human being.

I have written about human suffering in most of my articles, covering addiction, mental illness and homelessness, and I will continue to focus on this. Last week I met people who work in Dutch healthcare, nurses who care for the mentally ill elderly. I heard their stories of their management being replaced during the past five to ten years, in a relatively short amount of time. They saw good, capable people leaving, without explanations, while unscrupulous, unintelligent and desinterested people took their places. The ‘kakistocracy’ was gradually and silently established. Until this day, it is causing a lot of needless suffering for the healthcare workers and their vulnerable patients, and resistance is steadily growing.

We are coming from an age in which the worst people were promoted over and over again. A time in which the worst won. The last few decades have shown this pattern, even the entire last century shows it in many instances, depending on the industry and geographic region. Yet the title of this blog is written in the past tense, because I believe that much of what we are witnessing these days comes from demoting the people who used to be promoted. Yesterday’s winners are today’s losers. Initially this means that ‘the worst’ are losing popularity, credibility, respect, recognition, and later on a wider variety of losses. It is an intense 180-degree turn that so, so many resent so, so much. Life used to come easily to the unscrupulous, but not anymore. The tide is turning and ‘the kakistocrats’ are holding on for dear life.

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