Alex Jenkins

27 August 2020

Contagious Magazine Issue 64 is out now 

In his introductory column for issue 64 of Contagious Magazine, editorial director Alex Jenkins explains why brands should ponder some ancient Greek philosophy right now

You’re probably thinking that now isn’t the time to be pondering on the provocations of ancient Greek philosophers. 

A vaccine-less virus continues to ravage whole countries and continents. For many, access to schools and workplaces is either severely limited or non-existent. Civil unrest is flaring up around the world, with protests breaking out to draw attention to racial inequality, police brutality, or even just those who refuse to wear a face mask to slow the spread of an infection.  

Unemployment rises, global debt increases and growth declines. The OECD warns that, by the end of 2020, unemployment in the world’s advanced economies will be at its highest rate since the Great Depression. The global debt hit a record high of $258 trillion in Q1 of this year, according to the Institute for International Finance. Meanwhile, The World Economic Forum is projecting negative global growth (-4.9%). And, lest we forget, the global climate crisis stubbornly refuses to solve itself while people turn their attention to other challenges.  

It’s really not the moment, you may well say, for anecdotes from the beard and toga days of southern Europe. The world has bigger fish to fry.  

Fair enough. It’s an opinion that’s shared by many. Now is not the time to sit on the sidelines or ignore these issues – especially if you have the ability to help.

Take Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos as a case in point. On 20 July, he earned a reported $13bn in just 24 hours, increasing his net worth to $189.3 billion. Amid the jokes and snark on social media, the overall sentiment surrounding this news could be summed up as ‘There is so much that needs fixing in the world. If you can help, why aren’t you?’.  

Turning that same question on your own brands or workplace may involve addressing hiring practices, the diversity of your C-suite, your environmental impact, your social impact or any one of a hundred issues. 

And this is why a line of thought from the Greek philosopher Epicurus deserves contemplation. Inquiring into the nature of God in the face of constant suffering and needless death, Epicurus is credited with asking: ‘Is he willing to prevent evil but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able but not willing? Then he is malevolent.’ 

It’s a simple but incisive challenge that can be applied to both billionaires and brands. Given the current state and sentiment of the world, ensuring malevolent and impotent aren’t terms the public associates with your brand has become an unlikely but necessary addition to your to-do list this year. 

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