Julius Caesar was a man of action. His impetuous rise in popularity and influence is a testament to his resilience and willingness to do the legwork.
His bitter enemy, Cato thought long and hard. Too long and too hard. He opposed Ceasar’s every move in the senate when the latter was consul. Not for pragmatic, well reasons, but to spite him. He wanted to stop Caesar’s every move by being a strictly static man who wasn’t lotj to share his thoughts in long and winding speeches he used as filibuster. He thought it might achieve something.
Meanwhile, the would-be dictator just moved past him, stepped out of the static chamber of the senate, and went to convince masses rather than the spiteful few.
Caesar went to conquer Gaul while Cato was thinking hard how to stop him. While he thought, Caesar’s power and popularity went way beyond the scope of his cognition.
Caesar won in the end and changed all Cato though dear. Caesar’s actions are still touted today. What would Cato think of that?
“[…] [T]hink but not make thoughts your aim”, to quote Kipling. Thinking is important, but if it is not followed by action, ideas will forever wander aimlessly in the cerebral labyrinth of neuron paths. Why then do we still have think tanks and not more do tanks?
How much of the thoughts they tanked up on was actioned? Today writing papers, research and recommendations simply don’t cut it anymore. The responsibility to put their thoughts to use falls on the civic sector.
Think tanks are stuck at what should be done, and what would be ideal. Ideally democratic values will not be threatened in any country. Ideally, politicians would act for the people not for their own benefits. In an ideal world we wouldn’t need think tanks at all.
The reality is that in the 2016 Republican primaries, while the heads of candidates were full of ideas, and date itching to burts it in a debate, Trump didn’t bother to show up, but rather went out to rally people. He didn’t have to lose the intellectual clash of views, but won the hearts of people through populistic pragmatism.
In reality, populists (such as Orbán in Hungary) have set aside the adherence to principles and morals. Their opposition bickers over what is just and what is proper in their own ideological framework. Populists act. Why don’t we?
Granted more and more civic organizations have a hands-on approach, they do the research, and act on it, but still much more such do tanks are needed. We can’t wait for others to action our ideas. We must take matters into our own hands. Lead by example and others might follow you.
Think tanks must evolve into do tanks, while not neglecting thinking. Don’t just think about it, act!