Marlene Engelhorn, a 21 year old Viennese student, publicly refuses to keep her double digit million inheritance. She publicly uses her good fortune to point out the inequality and unfairness in the taxation of income and wealth. She also publicly goes against her family’s values by taking a stand for her own values.
When asked why she refuses to become a philanthropist by dedicating the money to a good cause of her choice, she answers that it is undemocratic if rich people have the power to impact decisions for whole societies, like Bill Gates or Warren Buffett or Mackenzie Scott.
Therefore she supports the initiative “Tax Me Now”, created by a group of millionaires that challenges German speaking governments to change their taxation policies.
Marlene Engelhorn criticizes that the Austrian government taxes people from an annual salary of €11,000 onwards, while taxing the inherited wealth of the super rich at 0%.
How is this relevant for grounded visionaries and changemakers around the world?
Marlene Engelhorn shows great courage in calling democracy out, in demanding fair treatment for rich and poor people, and the many many in the middle. Why? Because this gets her into conflict with her whole family, first and foremost with her grandmother, who gifts her the fortune and by doing so demonstrates fundamentally different values when it comes to the right to get money one has not worked for.
The young student’s situation made me think of the challenges faced by grounded visionaries, because they also have a lot to lose: They too are part of the system they have grown wary of. They too have benefited from the status quo while they were rising to the top in their industry or even in just one organisation. And while they might not have been born into status and privilege, they too have been socialised into that system on their way up.
Over decades, grounded visionaries have built relationships, and these relationship are as much at stake as their status and position when they go against the grain.
To turn around and stand for transformation for the greater good requires courage. It requires all the more courage when someone is part of the system they seek to transform.
To publicly call for a dramatic shift in their organisation or industry, or indeed our whole society, naturally causes conflict and perhaps ends relationships. The cost can be the loss of status and public recognition. It takes guts and great commitment to swim against the stream.
I believe that the fear of losing relationship and financial security is the number one reason why many great visions never get seen or heard.
I don’t believe for a moment that our world is suffering from a lack of vision. Like great ideas, plenty of great visions are out there.
What we do lack are people who bring their visions into reality.
It takes courage to master the fear of falling out of grace. It takes courage to risk offending those who benefit from the status quo. It takes courage to challenge greed and ignorance.
That’s why it needs the backbone of a strong community: a community of like minded people who have each others’ backs and support each other in publicly declaring what they stand for and what they think is possible in this world.
Together we can transform outdated, exploitative and discriminatory systems so that we and our children’s children can live in peace in this world. Do you look for a community of grounded visionaries? Then you’re in the right place. Get in touch!