Wednesday, April 05, 2017

The Way Of All Gurus

Gurus had clearly existed prior to the Maharishi, but he introduced the concept of gurudom to a generation of pop stars and indeed to an entire generation. When he died nine years ago, The Guardian referred to him as the "groovy charlatan". A man of peace, spiritualism and meditation, there was always the suspicion that behind the flower garlands lay an acute business brain and a cosmic vendor of snake oil.

The Maharishi did more than most, however, to gift the global lexicon the word guru. And somewhat in keeping with that perhaps entrepreneurial streak, a new type of guru was to emerge some ten or so years after John Lennon had the sense to see through him. This was the management guru and also the "excellence" guru.

Management became weirdly hip, courtesy of gurus who suggested that attaining business excellence merely required following the examples of other businesses which had already done so - in their opinion. Thus was bred an entire industry which embraced publishing, consultancy and the conference circuit. There was good money to be made from gurudom, and senior management attached themselves to the outpourings of Harvard, McKinsey and various business schools, consultancies and individual gurus with a spiritualist fervour akin to Mike Love or others hanging off the every word of the Maharishi.

Politics obligingly followed the lead of business cultures that were vainly believing they were pursuing higher states of managerial consciousness. As a consequence, management-speak entered the vocabularies of politicians and political parties and became more mangled and more jargonised than it already was. Coincidental to this latest quackery was the emergence of the political guru. No self-respecting political party could be seen without one. Or several.

Jaume Garau sounds like he should be a guru. The surname is one vowel too many and one substituted vowel away from being guru. Which is how he has been referred to. In fact, and according to Catalan onomastics, Garau is a descendant of the German Gerard, which has morphed, variously, into Giralt and Grau. Given this Germanic origin, Garau means something like brave warrior.

Garau has found himself surplus to requirements, one of those who hastily needed to be dispensed with once the contracts he had with Més ministries became public knowledge. The brave warrior has been struck down. He might actually find it hard to get up again.

What was it that elevated him to guru status? Principally, it would appear, because he helped mastermind the Més election campaign in 2015. So successful was this that Més ended up with the government vice-presidency, a goodie bag's worth of ministries, and the presidency of the Council of Mallorca. This success was predicated on gaining six deputies out of 59 in the Balearic parliament and 13.8% of the vote. By such minor successes is great success measured.

In addition, and according to Palma's Antoni Noguera, who can't wait until June to get both hands on the mayoral wand (so much so that one hand is already gripping it), Garau assisted in supervising Malta's entry into the European Union in 2004. Noguera was responsible for one of the contracts going to Garau. It cost 15,000 euros (plus IVA, VAT), says Noguera, in return for securing 25 million euros of European funding. This, Brussels benevolence, is a speciality of Garau's. As also is tourism.

His doctoral thesis for the University of the Balearic Islands was to do with tourist satisfaction. Given this, given the fact that he had held a senior position during the 2007-2011 government (for European funding), and also given his help in getting Barceló into the ministry, he was apparently offered the post of tourism director-general. He declined the offer, preferring to carry on with some lucrative consultancy work. Which brings us to the contracts.

The amounts involved in these are not vast. Taken individually, there doesn't seem anything necessarily wrong with them. But the anti-corruption prosecution must sense something to have opened an investigation. There clearly is something suspicious in that there is the appearance of potentially organised favouritism, while the prosecution will want to check that the amounts involved were valid.

Garau certainly has benefited from his close association with Més, but it has been pointed out that this hasn't worked entirely in his favour. The Council of Mallorca, presided over by Miquel Ensenyat of Més, has not given any contract. Moreover, it is said that he has offered his services to other parties (he did work worth more than the Més contracts for the Bauzá administration), but got nowhere. That's because the brave warrior was so successful in getting Més into power.

As gurus go, he has substance, certainly if one accepts what Noguera has said. The problem with gurus, though, is that they can seem too good to be true. Paul McCartney said that of the Maharishi. Garau is learning the harsh lesson of gurudom.

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