HUMAN DIGNITY AND THE COMMON GOOD FOR A NEW BUSINESS ETHICS
“We need a generation to plow the horizon, to shake history at its roots and thought from its depth”. What the Syrian writer Nizar Qabbani wrote in Marginalia on the notebook of the disaster reverberates today, at a time of widespread spiritual crisis, as an invitation to focus on the inescapable need to give space and form to a regenerative thinking.
If we have the future of humanity at heart, we cannot let our thinking deteriorate. We cannot stop participating in the powerful and incessant creative process shaping the history of the world, involving every aspect of reality and regulating the progress of the communities and the social development of nations.
Every thought precedes the representation of reality. And thoughts are always a premise of reality, its inspiration, its representation, its destiny, but also what animates, transforms and innovates reality. “It is the ability to think that makes human greatness. All our dignity consists in thought”. (Blaise Pascal, “Thoughts”). And: “faith in God, if not thought, is nothing (Saint Augustin, De Predestinatione).
If, as Johann Wolfgang Goethe states in one of his famous aphorisms, “All truly wise thoughts have been thought already, we just need to think them over again” today is the time to “re-think” the human being, his integral dignity and his transcendence. We need to re-think the human being and the promotion of his native rights, of his wellbeing, of his irrepressible yearning for happiness.
Our world needs vision, creative genius, good ideas that can be shared and give new life to the idea of common good. We need leaders, men and women, capable of vision. Nations die for lack of vision. If our scientific power has outrun or will outrun our spiritual power, Martin Luther King predicted, we will have “guided missiles and misguided men”.
We need a new love for the human being. His future can only flourish from the historical present that together we want and are “capable of” building. Yes, doing is not enough, we need to “be capable” of doing it. A wise doing that begins with the human being and not regardless of him. “The real generosity toward the future consists in donating everything to the present” (Albert Camus, The Rebel). It is a big challenge, one that involves every expression of the political, economic and social power.
This year is the 70th anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human rights. Article 1 says: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in spirit of brotherhood.”
I am increasingly convinced we need to urgently create a global ethos, shared and integrative, able to set forth a new alliance in defense of this universal principle. A global ethos acting as the foundation of the globalization of the economy, of technology and communication. These are global phenomena now accompanied by an increasing demand for “social justice” as a consequence of poverty and impoverishment, increasing discomfort among communities and lack of trust.
We really need a “globalization of human ethos”; not a supplementary ethos, but an essential, vital one, sprouting from a new and un-ideological dialogue, one that puts the human being at its heart, the issue of his native rights and of his life, not his mere survival. No human right is safe if we do not commit to the defense of them all.
The human being will increasingly be at the center of the international process of development and cooperation, as a result of complex historical factors emerging from an unprecedented interaction of the geopolitical and socio-economic dimensions with the religious and cultural ones.
The power of a performative initiative will be increasingly connected to some successful elements: virtue, diligence, industriousness, ability to take on risks, reliability in the interpersonal relations, the strength to execute difficult and painful decisions. These “principles”, if correctly honored and conjugated, will determine “generative processes” of new and good practices within companies and firms and will contribute to the social progress and the wellbeing of the single individuals and the community alike.
There is a connection – both practical and theoretical - between political freedom, the inalienable rights of the human being and democratic capitalism. To be at the service of the needs and interests of the civil communities, of the families and of the individuals, means, after all, to serve freedom and human dignity. Businesses can, therefore, be an instrument of redemption and partners in achieving the universal goals of humanity.
Today we need more and more intercultural and interreligious dynamics to promote the “culture of the encounter” (Pope Francis) in view of a wider and reciprocal understanding of identities, traditions, and the creative potential existing in countries, in people, in societies. This could represent, today, one of the element of innovation at international level to identify new models of political and entrepreneurial leadership on an ethical-religious basis, capable of promoting an economic progress focused on the respect of the integral dignity of the human being and the environment in which he lives.
Max Weber loved to say that a company “is the expression of many virtues and many competences”. The philosopher Aristotle, in his Nicomachean Ethics, stated that “a good entrepreneur of the polis has to be virtuous, he has to have good habits”. And added: “ An experienced entrepreneur, both in the administration of his own goods and those of the polis, is someone who has the ability to discern what is good not just for himself, but for humanity”.
In the first and highly celebrated Greek democracy, a dishonest citizen, an entrepreneur with bad habits would have had neither reputation nor success. “Habitus”, for the Greeks, was the character, the internal quality of a businessman, with a will to learn, the patience required to elaborate “actions and emotions” in his profession. It is therefore necessary for the economic enterprise to be “inhabited” by principles and practices with universal values, human virtues and authentic inter-human relations at heart.
The recent events in Genoa induce to reconsider the idea of common good as the foundation upon which to build social peace. When in fact, at every level, we cultivate the common good, we strengthen security and peace, since the common good permeates every expression of human sociality: the family, the groups, the associations, the cities, the regions, the nations, and the community of nations.
Saint Thomas Aquinas, as to the use of goods, writes: “Man ought to possess external things, not as his own, but as common, so that he is ready to communicate them to others in their need”. (Summa Theologica)
Reductive conceptions of human reality turn the common good in just mere economic welfare, without any authentic connection with the promotion of the human being, of equality and solidarity and the protection of his dignity and his security.
Today new goods derive and depend upon the scientific knowledge and the technological progress. These too should be put at the service of the primary needs of men. Appropriate international initiatives can help bring into reality the principle of the universal destination of goods, especially the “public goods”, available to all – individuals and nations – laying down the conditions for everybody to have a part in development. There are more and more goods in the world with a global character: the judiciary system, the defense system, a road or railway network, a bridge or the technological advance of a community.
To consider an enterprise as devoted to the common good, as an entity with the goal to realize a precise ethical and social order, is today one of the most noble, exciting and satisfying challenges we can dedicate ourselves to!