Saturday, October 03, 2009

Aesop on the importance of having decisive leadership

Living in Italy, in particular working in Italian academia, makes one think frequently of the problem of good government. There are famous frescoes of Lorenzetti in the Comune di Siena called "ALLEGORIA DEL BUONO E CATTIVO GOVERNO".

We are now at a critical point in the University of Insubria in the discussion of University reform. It looks as if we may finally have to implement the 25% reduction in courses proposed by the minister (for universities which until now had the minimum number of teachers) - though Italians tell me that I am naive to imagine such a definite result. Some of us believe that decisive leadership is crucial at this time. I would prefer wise leadership. Maybe even benevolent leadership.

I suppose that is also naive. Consider the following story.


The Frogs were tired of governing themselves. They had so much freedom that it had spoiled them, and they did nothing but sit around croaking in a bored manner and wishing for a government that could entertain them with the pomp and display of royalty, and rule them in a way to make them know they were being ruled. No milk and water government for them, they declared. So they sent a petition to Jupiter asking for a king.

Jupiter saw what simple and foolish creatures they were, but to keep them quiet and make them think they had a king he threw down a huge log, which fell into the water with a great splash. The Frogs hid themselves among the reeds and grasses, thinking the new king to be some fearful giant. But they soon discovered how tame and peaceable King Log was. In a short time the younger Frogs were using him for a diving platform, while the older Frogs made him a meeting place, where they complained loudly to Jupiter about the government.

To teach the Frogs a lesson the ruler of the gods now sent a Crane to be king of Frogland. The Crane proved to be a very different sort of king from old King Log. He gobbled up the poor Frogs right and left and they soon saw what fools they had been. In mournful croaks they begged Jupiter to take away the cruel tyrant before they should all be destroyed.

"How now!" cried Jupiter "Are you not yet content? You have what you asked for and so you have only yourselves to blame for your misfortunes."

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