Deshan’s Dilemma

by Terence Jeyaretnam 

To take to the same trough or not will be Deshan’s dilemma.

The world, on the 6th of July 2011, to a newborn, carries with it the baggage of the past as well as the hopes of the future.  As he opens his eyes to the world, he is pure in spirit – unconditional, unbiased and undaunted. The world’s eyes open to him – and see a life, a human life and cast the world of conditions, unconscious biases and daunting demands that come as a consequence of his place in society.

The 11th of July, a few days after Deshan was born, is commemorated by the United Nations as World population Day, so named in 1987 to mark the 5th billionth person. Indeed, Deshan may well have been the 7th billionth person just twenty four years later (expected to be born later in 2011, but in reality his odds are as good as anyone’s being born this year or next).

Perhaps it’s now an observation at a global scale, and yet was always part of society – we find ourselves singing more and more from the same hymn sheet for our supper.

Regardless of which sector, whether it is politics/government, business or even the third sector, individuals and organisations seem to be connected in a game – a game that means that there is collective cohesion with mutual benefit.  There’s no greater example in recent times than the global financial crisis of 2008, which saw collusion within all parts of economies, and all parts of the globe that led to the creation of a global credit crisis.  While many causes for the financial crisis have been suggested, the United States Senate issuing the Levin–Coburn Report found “that the crisis was not a natural disaster, but the result of high risk, complex financial products; undisclosed conflicts of interest; and the failure of regulators, the credit rating agencies, and the market itself to rein in the excesses of Wall Street”.  Another example is the US sovereign debt - as of June 29, 2011, the Total Public Debt Outstanding of the United States of America was $14.46 trillion and was approximately 98.6% of calendar year 2010's annual gross domestic product (GDP) of $14.66 trillion – or $USD 44,000 for every American man, woman and child! Where has this money disappeared to? And why does the US debt still have a AAA, the highest quality, credit rating?

The examples continue – from rights of the indigenous, the true cost of the environment, the systematic widening of the gap between the haves and the have not’s to business models that are simply built to take and continue taking.  Deshan’s dilemma will be whether to become part of what I call the Oligog (Oligopoly-Cog) or to take the more adventurous path less travelled.

Terence Jeyaretnam is a Director of Net Balance (, 
one of the world’s leading sustainability advisory firms.
Terence is based in Melbourne.