Archive for February, 2012

NOPA @ google +!

Sunday, February 5th, 2012

NOPA is now available at google +. This gives the possibility that readers register as followers (you will be updated on all changes at the site). Moreover, you have the possibilty to contact other readers of the forum. Write an e mail to fabel@fws-audit.com  for further information.

https://plus.google.com/108015425787300549441

The balance sheet as a frozen picture

Sunday, February 5th, 2012

I still remember the time when, in my first year as a responsible director, I had to draw up a balance sheet. I still remember this as if this was yesterday. It was not only the figures: It was more the process of calming down, to look into a mirror, and to reflect and think about what you have done in the last year that fascinated me. It was so calm in the office  that was usually boiling at full speed, and so it was in nature. Nature in Europe supports the process of drawing up a balance sheet: If it is below zero, it is easier to create a frozen picture of yourself and your firm. Could it be that the process of drawing up balance sheets as of 1 January is a bit Euro-centric view?

Thus, I would like to ask the readers of the NOPA-blog, to give me the chance to talk a bit about Euro-centric thinking. Just in front of me, I have a book of Michel Foucault, “Le courage de la verite” (“the bravery of the truth”, it should be in English), Paris, 1984. Of course, it is not a book that is written exclusively for auditors. But, I think, it is a good introduction for non-Europeans to understand, which difficulties Europeans have with the truth.

I mean, everybody has difficulties with the truth, not only auditors and not only Europeans. In this book, with a surprisingly understandable language, Mr. Foucault explains under which conditions it is possible to say the truth. And thus he has to go back to Socrates. Here is the story in short: Socrates, a citizen of the city of Athens in ancient Greece, was famous for drawing other citizens into conversations with the aim that his partners in conversation would better understand themselves. Though Socrates stayed away from politics, his behavior was suspicious to the young Greece democracy. The democratic authorities accused him of “attempting the Gods”, of course an accusation that could mean everything and nothing. 

In his famous defense speech, Socrates claimed that in the public there is no possibility to say the truth. The truth is, in his understanding, something that you can say about your partner in conversation that enables him to better understand himself. Why there is no possibility? Because in the public, always the yes-sayers will win. Why it is like this? Because in the public, there is no ethical differentiation. Thus, those who talk in favor of the majority, have always an advantage. This can be very uncomfortable to persons who would try to draw the audience to a different, critical point of view. In other words, Socrates talked about the difficulties, the risk, and the duty to say the truth against the mainstream opinion. To say the truth against the mainstream is, of course, a challenge for the legitimacy of the current order. The result was that Socrates was sentenced to death.

From this shocking event, his pupil Plato made the following conclusions: If it is not possible to say the truth in the public, then the philosopher has to switch to consulting services (in order to bring wisdom into the stupid world). His first consulting engagement was in Syracuse, where he tried to explain the principles of good governance to a dictator, named Dionysus. Dionysus was so offended by hearing the words of Plato, that he immediately decided to punish the consultant. Plato had to flea his client, he escaped on the last Triera (a Greek ship) in the harbor. In commercial terms, his consulting job was not very successful. However, it was the birth of European philosophy. This may serve as a consolation.