On A Leader, Part 2

Yeah, I haven't written anything for a while because of my exams. I know I've failed Physics, Biology and RS, but I got my results back for History, French, Latin and Maths today - all quite good, so I'm pleased.

Anyway, they announced the new Praes (prefects for the uninitiated) at school today. Some of the choices were OK, others were a bit...iffy. But that wasn't necessarily what I wanted to talk about here.

You see, they talked about the new Praes being responsible in their roles. They talked about the Praes being able to empathise with the younger students and sort out their problems. They talked about all the things I'd talked about, in fact, and then added more to the list. In short: the leader of dreams and fantasies.

There's nothing wrong with that. Hell, I had a hand in that fantasy too. There's nothing wrong with holding people  to that high standard either - in fact, it should be encouraged. Maybe then we'd get somewhere.

The problems start only when you take that for granted. You see - and this sounds obvious to your ears, yet people still ignore it - every person, even a leader, is fragile and conflicted inside. It doesn't matter if they're male or female, young or old, atheist, Christian, Jew, Muslim...they will have conflicts. They will be weaker than they appear to be; they will tear themselves up over decisions which might look simple to someone not in their place. And they will make mistakes.

Alexander Pope, I believe, once said that to err is human - and that's exactly the problem. We expect our leaders - all of them, from a school prefect to the prime minister - to be more than human, even if we won't admit it to ourselves. We expect them to be perfect, always just and always right, like the good kings and queens in the stories we were told as children. Today, in our developed countries, we have no kings and queens with any real power; instead, we have presidents and prime ministers, chosen by the will of the people. It's a less romantic system, if a far fairer one. The romantic stories still lurk though, I believe, somewhere in our subconscious; and somewhere in our subconscious, perhaps we still want a leader to take care of us, some benevolent king or queen who'll shoulder all our burdens and never once fall from grace. Maybe that's what's behind the idealised image of the leader.

It's an unrealistic image - we all know that - but also a dangerous one. It encourages us to subject ourselves, waiting almost greedily for a perfect leader onto whom we can offload all our troubles and let them be solved, instead of solving our problems ourselves. And then, when our leader falls - as any human will fall - we turn on  them and tear them to pieces with our words. Unless the leader can pull off some clever PR trick, they're doomed, and some new candidate, as worthy and unworthy as the last, is exalted by the media as our new saviour. They win, if not the election then at least the electorate, and the cycle continues...Maybe that's why democracies go through politicians like toilet paper.

The upshot of all this is that we should stop seeing ourselves as subjects and start seeing ourselves as citizens, or better still, as potential leaders. We should not grow lazy and complacent, expecting our slightest problems to be fixed perfectly, nor should we hang back and refuse to challenge our leaders when they go wrong or abuse their power. For they have no mandate to rule, divine, unwritten or otherwise, if they rule badly.