Forbes' World's Most Powerful List: a reflection.
Forbes has produced a list of the world's most powerful people. Now, I suppose there is nothing particularly wrong - or particularly novel - about such a task. However, I took exception to how Forbes defined their effort. Forbes said of its inaugural ranking, that it had narrowed the list to 67 people: "a number based on the conceit that one can reduce the world's 6.7 billion people to the one in every 100 million that matter."
Wow. So, Forbes thinks the rest of us don't matter. They are, rather crassly, defining their list as the only 67 people "who matter". Well, pardon me for a moment, for having an opinion of my own...but I don't think much of what - and whom - Forbes thinks "matters".
According to Forbes, a person matters if they are rich, powerful or both. Power is defined in terms of the ability to influence people or events. That is it. No other ingredients appear to be necessary. They completely omit all qualities of character, mind, personality, intelligence, creativity...apparently, these things just don't "matter".
Let us look at the Top 10 on Forbes' World's Most Powerful List:
1. U.S. President Barack Obama
2. Chinese President Hu Jintao
3. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin
4. U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke
5. Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page
6. Carlos Slim, Chief Executive of Mexico's Telmex
7. Rupert Murdoch, chairman of media group News Corp.
8. Michael T. Duke, Chief executive, Wal-Mart Stores
9. Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz
10. Bill Gates, co-chairman, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
It is a list of people most of whom are familiar, yes. It is also notable that everyone on the list is, by most people's standards, wealthy. Many of them, are billionaires...all of them are, at least, millionaires. That Forbes...a magazine most obsessed with wealth, should compile a list of wealthy people to define those that "matter", should be no surprise. Yet, in my view, only two people on this list actually matter...the rest shall largely be unregarded by history.
Those two people are the founders of Google: Sergey Brin and Larry Page. They matter for a very simple reason: they had an idea. They created something. They contributed something new and useful to the world. Now, Bill Gates also started a company...but I don't really consider him to be a creative person - his software was bought from others, his ideas were all secondhand, observed from others. No: Bill Gates is not a great creator, but he is a great business person. However, in my view, being a great business person does not constitute someone who "matters".
The most important people in the world, the people who really "matter" are not the rich; not the powerful, nor necessarily the influential: the people who matter are those who create something new. Everyone else is dependent on these creative people - everything else is derived from their efforts. Thus, the people above, in that Forbes list are SECONDARY, to others who created that which those people are working with. They are not the key people. They are not the key drivers. They are not, contrary to what the rather shallow thinkers at Forbes "think"...at all people who matter. They are, in fact, people of no real consequence at all.
Think about it: Barack Obama, did not create the United States. He appears to have no real personal creative powers. He brings nothing new to the world. The same applies to all the other world leaders and Kings: Hu Jintao, did not create China; Vladimir Putin did not create Russia; the Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz did not create Saudi Arabia - nor does any of them exhibit much true creativity. They are decision makers, yes...but creators, no.
Then again it should be pointed out that the role that these Presidents and Kings perform exists apart from them. They did not create the role of President or King. Anyone could be President or King...it is only a series of accidents and blessings of fortune (and perhaps in the case of Obama and the like, a personal hunger), that makes them President or King. It could easily have been someone else (though, in the case of a King, it was determined at birth). What they do, would be done anyway, by someone else, by some other blessed person. Their role is not unique, not self-created. It is simply a POSITION that they occupy. They did not create the position. All they are doing is occupying a position. To my mind, that does not mean that they matter. The position is simply a placeholder for a function in society, that any person could be chosen to perform. Being chosen to perform that function does not mean that the person who performs matters in particular...because they did not create the position that they perform. There was no creative step involved, at any stage...nor need there be at any stage of the performance of their duties. Their roles are not creative roles, they are roles of decision and power. They do, however, nothing new. They subsist on worlds created by a host of others. They are not, therefore, themselves of much significance, by this measure of significance. They do not "matter".
Apart from Ben Bernanke, all the others are business people...but like I said, in general, business people do not create that which they do business with and in: they merely sell, promote and package the creative work of others. The business people are not, therefore, in themselves, significant, by this definition of significant.
Forbes' entire list, apart the Google founders, consists of relatively uncreative men. If what matters is defined as those who are creative, then none of these people actually matter at all. They may be immensely rich; they may be immensely powerful; they may be immensely influential - but their entire lives and essence are secondary to the creators on whom they depend. They are, therefore, of no true significance, themselves. The minds they subsist on, are the significant ones. We would have to know whom they base their life work on; who has formed them; who guides them, from whence "their" ideas come. Then we would know who is of true significance.
I realize that there are those who would argue with my view that it is creative people who really matter...but consider this: everything in the human world, was created by a human mind. Most people do not create anything at all, they simply spend their lives manipulating the creations of others. Who are the most significant, who matters most: those who create and contribute something new to the human world - or those who are best at manipulating that which has already been created? To my mind, the ones who create and contribute to the world of human possibilities, are the ones who matter. The others, those so expert at manipulating this world, that they become stupendously rich, immensely powerful or unbelievably influential, do not matter at all, by comparison - for they do not add anything new to the world, all they do is take control of it. Now, as anyone would know, who has ever worked, the one in charge is often not the best person in an organization...they are just the one best suited to seizing power. So, too, is it with this Forbes list: it is a list of people most adept at "working the system", leveraging power and wealth in their own directions...but not necessarily at creating anything new. Thus, in the ultimate scheme of things, they have no true significance. They do not matter - for they did not create that which they control.
The sad thing about all of this, however, is that those who created the elements of the worlds that these men control, are, generally speaking, not known: they are anonymous inventors, unfeted thinkers, whose names have not been so much lost in time, as never known at all. Our world is one that regards those most unworthy of attention, and ignores those who most deserve our respect. We elevate the administrator, above the creator; the man of state, above the man who changes our state of understanding. In this modern world, those who do again, what has always been done, but do it well and do it loudly, are feted - but those who do, for the very first time, what has never been done before, are too often, hounded for it.
Success is easy if you don't dare to be original. However, if you wish to change the world, in any way at all, though it be for the better, the whole world will be against you. Everyone on that Forbes list, took a relatively easy path to success. By this I mean, that, though they have great power, wealth and influence, that pathways exist for people to tread to their positions. What they have achieved was, in almost all cases, something that already existed. It was a position that needed to be filled, or a product that needed to be sold. They did not create it. However, should anyone ever wish to do anything new, they will find that there is no path to success in that endeavour: there is nothing but a blocked road, with no visible way through. The creator must find their own path....indeed, more accurately, they must build their own road, where no road has gone before.
Though the creator's path is so much more difficult to travel than the politician's, or the businessman's, or the administrator's - for none of the elements exist, and all must be created along the way - our society does not regard the creator as often, or as highly, as it does the President, or the King, or the Tycoon. Oddly, we live in a world that cherishes the worthless, and yet belittles the priceless. A President is no match for a poet; a King no match for an artist; a Tycoon, no match for a writer. The merest scientist is worth more than the greatest administrator. The world was built on the bricks called ideas - and it is those that contribute new bricks to this world, who should be most regarded. It is not those who then use the bricks, to build their wealth, their power and their influence, who should be well-regarded - for not a one of the bricks came from them. They did not fashion the ideas with which their empires are forged.
Forbes is in error, to state that its 67 famous names, are the only people who "matter" in this world. Almost none of their chosen names, really matter. Forbes has chosen money men and powerbrokers, over creators. That tells us nothing of real importance about the world - it just informs us, of Forbes' value system, that is all.
A list of people who really matter, would be a list consisting purely of creative thinkers. It would be a list of scientists, writers, artists, poets, musicians, social innovators, mathematicians, musicians and philosophers. It would not contain a single President, King, powerbroker, businessman or administrator - unless that person was also one of the creative categories mentioned.
It is telling of our times, that Forbes thinks its list of the powerful important. They have completely forgotten what the Greeks learnt so, so long ago: it is the thinkers, who matter, to a civilization most. What does it say of our times, that Forbes doesn't know that?
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