Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Right Leader

People & Politics

A nation which has forgotten the quality of courage which in the past has been brought to public life is not as likely to insist upon or regard that quality in its chosen leaders today — and in fact we have forgotten.
President John F. Kennedy

A good leader can make all the difference to a nation. More so than a bad leader. A good leader, with vision, courage and moral acuity can change a nation's direction, from one mired in poverty, corruption and cronyism to one that delights in all of the advantages of democracy, including a booming middle class, transparency and equal opportunity for all. Many persons in the United States and Canada, for example, feel that this is not the case, deep in despair and feeling that things are grim. Sadly, they are not wrong.

A good leader can help make a nation optimistic, which is not the same as patriotic or nationalistic. A good leader not only understand the virtue of justice, but rightly applies it, moderating self-interest with the needs of others. The Great Divide in the U.S., for example, is not between Republican and Democrat, but between the elites and everyone else, including a shrinking middle-class that has lost much of its power in the last 30 years.

Some conservative columnists call this "class envy." They, however, miss the mark, intentionally or otherwise: it's class survival pure and simple. A good leader would acknowledge this and start addressing this unfairness. Such needs to be explored and developed further; it takes a leader with a mature moral vision, one who is disinterested and courageous. Such leaders are rare, which explains why they are so little evident.

So, now we come to the crux of the matter, the heart of the issue. It's campaign season once again in the United States, and it's an uninspiring field. We see few such people today who are speaking for the majority, namely, the middle-class, the working class and the working poor. Although many people running for office today attempt to project the image of understanding and caring, they do a poor job of it and are not believed.

It's often viewed as a fraud, a sham, a performance with the aim to get elected. The candidates need the votes of the "little people." Afterwards, they generally become unimportant, that is, until the next election and the process begins once again. Such is the feelings of many on the street, who are shunted aside after the election. That greatly explains why voter turnout percentages in U.S. presidential elections have been below 60% since 1972. Other industrialized nations, including Canada, Britain, France and Germany have seen a corresponding decrease in voter participation in the democratic process.

When you consider it takes a lot of money to run a campaign, leaving the field to the wealthy millionaires, who become consummate fund-raisers, it is easy to see why the candidates start looking alike. One is left with the impression that the average person on the street does not have a voice, or at least not a very strong one in government. Assuredly, it's a necessity to believe and have faith in politics. Without it, you are lost, wandering around aimlessly.

After spending so many years in politics, such people become what some originally dreaded—a career politician. These are by no means morally evil men or women. They are all too human, and fall within the statistical norms of humanity, some good, some bad, most average. But they are not great men and women. Yet, in the history of humanity, few have been great. Most have been average leaders, somehow muddling through and waiting to write their memoirs. How wonderful and smart they are, how they met such and such a leader and outshone him or her. Ad nauseam

Such is the mettle of today's politician, self-interest the ruling characteristic, oblivious to everything and everybody else. Many political elites understand this, and accept it, and want only the mantle of power and prestige of high office, unashamedly so. Where's the courage that leads to justice and fairness? So, we are left with people running for office who generally look, act and appear the same, saying the same blandishments, appealing to the same parties, and ensuring the faithful, notably the power brokers and monied class, that nothing important will change.

And, they're right. Little does.