In 2012, Margaret Heffernan wrote here,
[the definition of willful blindness:] “If there is knowledge that you could have had, should have had but chose not to have, you are still responsible.”
Leaders inhabit a bubble of power, and they are both mentally and physically cut off from the reality most people would recognize. Reality is the obligation to tell the truth, “the reality most people would recognize” is the imperative, if they witness improper or unlawful behaviour, to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
... The legal concept of willful blindness originated in the nineteenth century. The judge in Regina v Sleep ruled that an accused could not be convicted for possession of government property unless the jury found that he either knew the goods came from government stores or had “willfully shut his eyes to the fact.” Nowadays, the law is most commonly applied in money laundering and drug trafficking cases – but the behaviour it describes is all around us ...
... Cases of willful blindness aren’t about hindsight. They feature contemporaneous information that was available but ignored. While it’s tempting to pillory individual villains, the causes are more often systemic and cultural ...
... Chief among culprits is power. When Richard Fuld was CEO of Lehman Brothers, he perfected the seamless commute: a limo drove him to a helicopter flying him to Manhattan where another limo whisked him to the bank’s offices. Front and lift doors were timed so that Fuld could ascend to his office without encountering a single employee.
Leaders of organizations inhabit a bubble of power, of which Fuld’s commute is a magnificent physical representation. They’re either isolated or surrounded by those desperate to please. The powerful also communicate differently. Academic analysis of their language shows that, confronted by risky situations, the powerful think in more abstract terms, are more optimistic and more certain that they are right. They’re both mentally and physically cut off from the reality most people would recognize.
Power is a problem, not a perk and it is exacerbated by money.
While not writing from the theological perspective, she makes several valid points from a purely secular view, and there is scriptural confirmation of her observations - i.e., the Biblical warnings about greed, power and willful blindness (especially on the part of leaders and rulers. Jesus cautioned His followers not to seek power like the Gentile rulers (Luke 22:25). In Matthew 23, Jesus unloads both barrels against the religious leaders of the day, calling out their arrogance and hypocrisy. They are blind guides (v. 16 & v. 24), blind fools (v. 17), blind men (v. 18), and blind Pharisees (v. 26).
Scripture pictures the fallen world in darkness, blinded to truth (Rom 2:19). But Jesus came into the world as a light to bring those who believe out of darkness (John 12:46). Peter cautions us that it's possible for a Christian to become blind again, forgetting he has been cleansed from his former sins (2 Pet 1:9).
Willful blindness ignores the painfully obvious and necessarily results in the loss of ability to differentiate between right and wrong. Symptomatic of many ruling elite today, it is a devastating loss of moral clarity.