The Cape Times (Cape Town) published an edited version of this as “If we are cynical about our politicians, we will get the leaders we deserve”, 1 November 2010
Against the horizon of the media tribunal disputes here, I have been thinking about how we chatterers create the conditions for the political leadership we get, and wondering if we couldn’t do it better.
Politicians must be the last group of people that can be maligned in polite society with impunity, or even relish. A bunch of crooks, fat cats at the trough, only out for themselves, inept, corrupt. Right? You hear it on the train, in the coffee shop, at the golf course. You read it in the papers. It’s not uncommon. But it’s a big problem.
In fact, it’s misguided on every level. One: it’s bad logic, a flawed thought that assumes what it sets out to prove. Two: it’s toxic to democracy. This kind of cynicism tears down, but builds nothing. It offers us only the tools of suspicion, manipulation and regulation. That’s not freedom. Three: it’s a disservice. A good leader is just someone who hasn’t been caught yet and a great leader can only appear as an exception to the rule – incomprehensible, miraculous, messianic – which is neither helpful nor true. Four: it’s nasty. It’s unpleasant, ugly and mean.
The very worst thing about this politicophobia is that it promotes more and more corrupt politicians. Continue reading