Thursday, February 7, 2013

World Leaders

Recently I was pouring through an old public address by C.S. Lewis where he was expressing himself through the equivalent of a literary sigh. In the shadows of the mid-twentieth century, just after the end of World War II, he was lamenting the membership of the society of world leaders. With familiar names like Roosevelt, Churchill, Mussolini, Hitler, DeGaulle, Hirohito and a host of others floating about in the public consciousness, Lewis noted that the term "leader" is really a modern term. He suggested that this was a deeply significant change of vocabulary compared to the old-world term "ruler".

Lewis noted that with this change, our demand upon these individuals changed no less than their demands on us. For of a ruler one asks justice, incorruption, diligence, and perhaps clemency; of a leader, dash, initiative, and what people called 'magnetism' or 'personality' (or I would add 'electability' or 're-electability'). Today, more than 60 years after Lewis made his observation, I think his words ring truer than ever.

With all of the posturing and pandering that goes on in today's world of politics, the word politician (i.e. leader) has become synonomous with a slick, slimy, criminal mafioso. Gone is the trust of a figure who possesses altruism and a servant's heart. Today, good-looking puppets seek to beat out their opponents in a sort of beauty and/or popularity contest. Election periods are cut-throat and ruthless. All too often there is absolutely no focus on issues, no sense of decorum or decency. It is about spin and photo-ops, about lies and innuendo, about looking strong and courageous in front of the camera. It is about pulling the wool over the people's eyes at every opportunity. I have seen too much over the years, with reinforcements of my attitudes coming every day with the world news, to ever label me as merely cynical.