The Arrogance of Leadership
by Brian Risman, Publisher and Founder, The Law Journal UK and Consultant in International Law
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Western Civilisation is experiencing a Pandemic -- a Pandemic of the Arrogance of Political Leadership, no matter what country, or political ideology. This arrogance results in the disillusionment and disgust of the populations of these countries. This situation is very dangerous to civilisation, for there are too many precedents of the fall of societies simply because the populace no longer believed in them, or their value. Until the political classes realise they -- and not others -- are the problem, the malaise of society will continue.
What is arrogance in leadership?
We see a great deal of arrogance, not just here in the United Kingdom, but in nations worldwide.
It would seem that the political classes of the nations, even ostensibly democratic ones, are suffering from a pandemic of hubris.
Leaders ignore the populace, and engage in policies that have little or no public support at home. John Howard of Australia, for example, travels to other countries, promoting obedience to policies and beliefs that opinion polls in his own country show have little support. Should I mention Tony Blair in the same vein? It is not the policies per se – it is the fact that their populations do not support these policies -- and yet it does not matter to these leaders.
They do not speak to the people – yes, they speak to people of the political or other elite classes – but no, rarely do they deign to speak to the average person.
Politics has become a marketing package. Do you support the right-wing – or the left-wing package? It makes little difference when neither speaks to the needs of individuals.
This alienation by the political classes has become so severe that at a conference with the theme of Engaging People in the Political Process, an academic with a strong political and media pedigree stated that ‘we only speak to groups such as NGOs – never do we, or should we, speak to people’. None of the attendees voiced an objection to this statement, which incidentally was not the only one negating the stated goal of the conference of finding ways to increase public participation.
I refer above to the ‘political classes’. The reality of western civilisation today is that all countries have a ‘political class’, no matter what the political party. As is the case with the old landed classes in England, ability is eclipsed all too often by pedigree in these closed political classes. For example, in Canada a cabinet minister in the recently elected administration was hailed as ‘a natural for government’ – not from ability, but rather because his great-uncle had been in politics many decades ago.
The arrogance of putting pedigree ahead of ability is much greater than simply alienating the public – it results in the mediocrity of society. Society becomes a poor shadow of the past. We see this phenomenon in other areas of society as well – in the corporate scandals, in the degradation of culture into an orgy of infantile gossip. Examples of this mediocrity abound in all areas of society.
William Shakespeare defined the essence of arrogant leadership back in the early seventeenth century. In his longest play, Coriolanus, (based loosely on Lives by Plutarch) Act III, Scene 3, war hero Caius Martius, awarded the surname Coriolanus, is presented by the Tribunes to the people whom they represent, the Plebeians, for their approval as Consul, the leader of Rome. The upper-class Patrician Caius Martius instead insults the masses, prompting this reaction:
JUNIUS BRUTUS, Tribune of the People, opposed to Coriolanus:
There’s no more to be said, but he is banished
As enemy to the people and his country.
It shall be so.
It shall be so, it shall be so!
CAIUS MARTIUS CORIOLANUS:
You common cry of curs, whose breath I hate
As reek o’th’rotten fens, whose loves I prize
As the dead carcasses of unburied men
That do corrupt my air – I banish YOU.
Ah yes, the arrogance of leadership – the proposed leader, far too honest, banishes the people. The key point of the play is that the arrogant leadership candidate is instead banished by the people, for in the final analysis, the people rule.
Or do they? Voters the world over have time and time again banished arrogant leaders – only to find the replacement to be equally as arrogant. No wonder voter dissatisfaction is at an all-time high, and participation in the political process is at an all-time low.
We can suggest that the political classes of all countries derive their arrogance from the imperial view of government and law in works such as Hobbes’s Leviathan, or the legal positivist views of Austin. However, the same arrogance seems to emanate from those supporting opposing views, such as natural law proponents of human rights. This arrogance is easy to see – do any members of these classes ever admit any doubts as to the omnipotence of their dogmas? The dogma, and their position, is clearly more important than what people think or want.
Many will point to current neo-conservative leaders in different countries as examples of arrogance – and they are quite correct. However, these leaders do not, unfortunately, have a monopoly on arrogance. Witness the last Democratic Party Convention in the United States in 2004. The Convention was an obviously scripted media show – a multi-day political commercial. There was no real discussion or dissention on platform issues – an almost impossible occurrence in a large country’s political party. Public intelligence was insulted, for example, with the presentation of a so-called grass-roots support group from children, “Kids for Kerry”, referring to the candidate, John Kerry. These comments are not a reflection on one country, one party or a particular political stance – it is simply to point out that the current political trend of attacking the arrogance of the neo-conservative leaders may be off the mark, when their political opponents are just as arrogant.
Therein lays the step-child of political arrogance – the ‘dummying-down’ of political discourse to the population with groups such as ‘Kids for Kerry’. The good old days were when politicians simply lied to the voters at election time. Now, they do not even deign to speak to voters – even to lie to them.
Why should those of the political classes – the closed groups of people with political pedigrees in many countries – care about what they do not care about, namely the disgust of the people?
Ignoring the people will repeat a historic reality. As with Coriolanus, banishment can go beyond the person – it can result in people bringing in changes in civilisation far beyond the misfortune of one arrogant politician. We have seen this phenomenon in history before. Many empires fell before others not just because of the military might of the invaders, but because of the political decay of the old regime -- and the fact that the population no longer found any value in the old ways. That was the case of the Roman Empire a thousand years after the time of Coriolanus.
We are facing threats to our Western civilisation. Yet we have leaders that are far from up to the task of defending or building the society. In fact, the only skill they seem to possess is an uncanny ability to alienate the people with their arrogance. If that energy and ability could be channelled into positive political changes and growth, we would not be mired in the current doldrums. Instead, we would have a flowering society of real potential and success.
Brian Risman, Publisher and Founder, The Law Journal UK and Consultant in International Law
Reader's Comments on this Article:
From 'ALP', UK:
I am sick to my back teeth of unelected, self proclaiming unelected insignificants actually undermining democracy, whereby they use it to promote their own extremely short-sightedness and undermine the public as a whole. No doubt to fill a void in their own insignificant little lives.
It’s all very well for them to sit on their backsides, in their armchairs from the security of their own insignificant positions whereby they express desire to defend what they personally deem to be appropriate, however short-sighted their considerations may be.
They are obviously not merely insignificants, but a very dangerous undermining fourth column.
This is not merely an observation from one mere member of the UK, but is fast becoming the general consensus of opinion.
I am 62 years of age and watched our once important and respected country be turned into a grubby unimportant country totally devoid of moral standard.
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