Leviathan: In Search of Quality Political Leadership
"The dominant doctrines of the 19th century, if not dead, are so battered that they will not serve us any longer as our main props. We are, indeed, living in a vacuum of faith. But the trouble about a vacuum is that it gets filled. And if there are no angels available to fill it, fools or worse rush in."
~Geoffrey Crowther, editor of The Economist (1938-1956)
"Fools rush in where angels fear to tread."
~Alexander Pope, 18th c. English poet
Has anyone noticed that there seems to be a shortage of good, credible, quality leadership in the world? What should concern us is not only global leaders' not being able to address the number of very serious socio-economic issues facing the world, but also the growing disconnect between government and the governed.
Just as the value of any global commodity can rise, it would appear that demand for good leadership around the globe is rising. At a time when the world is trying to deal with phenomena ranging from water scarcity to climate change to overpopulation, it's as if the world finds itself looking for new global leadership to guide the world out of a social and economic wilderness. That being said, one cannot help but notice that there would appear to be few leaders rising to historical levels of strong leadership.
The world would ominously appear to be without strong leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan, et al. Even on a historical level, when you think about historical global leaders, contemporary personalities do not seem to rise to such heights. Our contemporary world appears to be without a figure serving as "history on horseback". Of course, one could make comparisons between various leaders today and yesterday's leaders, but such comparisons may seem unfair and not match up, e.g., comparing Hugo Chavez to Simon Bolivar.
One of the last global leaders that appeared to command a quality, credible leadership was Pope John Paul II. On the topic of Pope Benedict XVI's perceived "frailty", Reuters recently mentioned how John Paul II was "immensely popular" with a voice that would be listened to on a global level. Even then, John Paul II's reign was not without issues, disagreement, and scandal. The crux here is leadership. In the prism of leadership, John Paul II was one of the world's most influential leaders. And in some ways, what troubles me (and what may trouble many) is the fact that when it comes to our contemporary period, I cannot precisely think of any comparable leaders that command such levels of influence and leadership as some historical figures.
Of course, hindsight is 20/20, nostalgia could come into play, and part of the problem of global leadership could be owing to global access to information through the Internet and the media. No longer do leaders' personal lives remain unseen by the public. As such, the mainstream media could be seen as having taken some of the reins of leadership away from political figures. In other ways, the media could be seen as having stripped the veil of decency off of political leadership; the media has removed the mystique from political leaders. Even further, owing to the media's reporting of negative news, the voices of good leaders may be drowned out.
That being said, I'm not sure that we can completely blame the Internet and the media; the media reports if there are stories to report. And though the media may have stripped some of the mystique off of global leaders, there have to be some good leaders out there, right? There must be some voices of peace, justice, and truth out there left in the world, right? The issue is that even if one concedes that there are good leaders out in the world, the world still appears to be ripe for good, credible, quality global leadership -- especially now given the gravity of global problems. Our planet needs leadership. And if there are good leaders out there, now would be the time for some of them to step up and make their voices heard on the global stage; any silence in this sense is deafening.
Given our global problems, demand for good global leadership is emerging. This growing demand for good leaders comes with the backdrop of a frustrated global populace, struggling with declining economic and social conditions. In particular, youth unemployment comes to mind as youth unemployment is now a global issue.
In terms of having a frustrated American populace, I want to address the sentiments of conservative commentator Mark Levin on his April 16, 2012 episode. Whereas Levin may not speak for all Americans, I think his commentary can be useful in putting current issues with leadership into perspective. On the April 16 episode, Levin offered some interesting criticisms of not only Pres. Obama's record, but also criticisms and concerns of GOP contender Mitt Romney. What was interesting about Levin's commentary is that it would appear that some conservatives (to be blunt) simply do not like Romney and may not trust that he will take action to remedy the nation's socio-economic problems. Levin commented that the Republican leaders seem "feckless" and how the Romney campaign seems "very odd". Levin: "[Romney] has been running for president for years and years and can't seem to put a useful paragraph together." Whether or not one agrees with Levin's conservative perspective, his discussion raises questions regarding credibility and legitimacy in government -- government's ability to play by its own established rules.
Levin commented that the American people are inheriting a "leviathan" of a government from current leadership. In speech directed toward Pres. Obama, Levin said, "The American people are inheriting from you the most disastrous attack on the private economy...ever, actually. The American people are inheriting from you a massive debt, tens of trillions of dollars... The American people are inheriting from you a weaker dollar ... gas prices going through the roof, food prices going through the roof ... a big, bloated federal leviathan, with tentacles everywhere." Whereas Levin proffered harsh criticism against Obama, he also did not have the kindest words for Romney.
As I have written previously, "for some conservatives, the 2012 election will be less about electing Mitt Romney and more about voting Pres. Obama out of office." What is problematic about this is that if Romney wins, it's as if the nation will be left with a national political leader that most do not particularly care for; this cuts into questions of pragmatic legitimacy and one's ability to lead in such circumstances. Of course, arguably, this has happened before in American history, but the difference now rests in a sensitive state of debilitating socio-economic and political polarization in a weak economy struggling to recover -- within a global context. And as Levin discussed, there are economic ramifications in terms of who will win the presidential election. For what is being called the most important election of our lifetime, it's a bit odd to think that many Americans on both sides of the political aisle may find themselves voting for someone they do not like and/or do not agree with.
As I have previously written regarding the "demand for social justice", as societal demand for social justice increases, "like any other commodity for individuals and countries, at some point the pent-up demand begins to be the focal point of the individual's or the country's [or the planet's] very existence -- an obsession." In a similar vein, if demand for quality national and/or global leadership works in a similar way, we could very well find ourselves living in interesting times. At a time where many individuals are looking for political leaders who sincerely care and who proceed in the spirit of honesty, integrity, and responsibility, any perceived void in credible leadership could very well open the door for some charismatic leader or leaders to arrive on the stage -- possibly leading to even more problematic circumstances.
In other words, as economic adversity continues while political leadership becomes discredited owing to character flaws, the world would appear ripe for some charismatic leader offering unity, honesty, and prosperity to step in and take the world by storm. It's reasonably foreseeable that in light of global economic collapse, some political figure could rise up on the global stage in the midst of the void of a unifying voice for the planet's multitude. What such developments would entail, heaven only knows. Depending on how you look at such developments, the implications could either be very bullish or very bearish. Contemplating on such issues leads to the realization that the political and the economic are intertwined.
In this way, given the gravity of the world's problems, any prolonged lack in good leadership on national and global levels is indeed ominous. And as demand for some form of unifying, beneficent global leadership increases, so too the potential rises for fools or worse to step in to fill the void -- potentially intensifying and worsening an already precarious global economic situation. And if the global economic situation intensifies, I expect that we will hear more on the emerging issue of credible, quality leadership on national and global levels in the months and years to come.
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