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TIME TO CALL BS

You cannot change the world by staying quiet about the things that truly matter.

Trust is one of life’s non-negotiables.


It underpins and enables all of human endeavour. We trust in our economic system, our democracy, and in the rule of law – even when so much in our society is unequal, unfair and unsafe.

We trust in science, in technology, and in the basic humanity of others – because only anarchy can exist outside of these parameters.


And yet.


Ours is a society of deep, palpable mistrust. Battered by an onslaught of conflicting narratives and opposing agendas, we have come to doubt what we read, what we hear, even what we have witnessed ourselves.


We discount the promises of our politicians – with good reason – and the predictions of our economists – from bitter experience.


We fear the worst, and suspect that virtually nothing is objectively true or fundamentally trustworthy anymore.


And with each new news cycle, our suspicion and mistrust only deepen. Because all around, the truth we need in order to build the trust we cannot operate without, is being brutally and relentlessly betrayed.


Every. Single. Day.

Every day, every headline, is a new reminder that we are being failed in the most egregious way imaginable by people elected and appointed to serve our best interests. To serve us.


People whom we cannot believe, and in whom we have lost all trust.


This is the dichotomy of modern life: Our society – including our business and economic environments – cannot function in the absence of trust. And yet, trust has become the scarcest of commodities, and truth the rarest of traits.


Politicians lie to stay in power, to remain relevant, or simply habitually. CEOs lie to their Boards, to their stakeholders, to their auditors. Even auditors lie, we’ve come to realise, as has been the case with Steinhoff, VBS, Tongaat, and countless others, whether to protect their cash flows or their reputations.


Which begs the question: If you cannot trust the audited balance sheets of some of the biggest and most reputable organisations in the country, who and what can you trust?


South Africa faces colossal problems. A disheartening web of social, economic, political and systemic challenges threaten to undermine all we have achieved as a people, and all we know we are capable of as a country.


We simply cannot allow this to happen. We have to, in the words of civil rights leader Ida B. Wells, turn the light of truth upon the many wrongs.


And it falls with us, as business leaders, to lead the way by making a principled and unwavering decision to speak truth to power. To challenge the lies and the halftruths and the national gaslighting.


To call BS.

We can’t opt out.


We have to step up and take seriously our responsibility to engage, to help shape the debate, and to use our resources and expertise to make a positive contribution to the issues that matter to us all.


Because, as Apple CEO Tim Cook so powerfully challenges:


“You cannot change the world by staying quiet on things that matter.”

Our country and our corporations need hard, honest conversations that show zero deference to the holy cows of our prevailing political discourse.


We need corporate leaders who are brave enough to call BS. Who will challenge the lies, omissions, and distortions used to gaslight us, no matter the level of office from which they emanate. And who will begin to push back, no matter the blowback; who will demand accountability, despite the punitive financial consequences that so come from speaking truth to

power.


Leaders who are courageous enough to say, unequivocally:


ENOUGH.


As Bill Ford, Executive Chair of the Ford Motor Company, says: This is our moment to lead from the front.


Will we seize it?


© Natalie Maroun



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