Tag Archives: charismatic leaders

Politicians & Voters: The Good, the Bad and the Stupid

Less than 50% of people voted in BC’s provincial election. Less than half, which means that everything could have changed had more people voted. I’ve always said, if you don’t vote, you can’t complain. And really, an apathetic acceptance of whatever is thrown at you is no way to foment change. There are countries where not everyone has the vote or where they’re even losing the right to vote. People should not treat the liberties we have so lightly.

Granted some people are disenfranchised because these days one politician is like another, just in a different suit. What matter be it Liberals or Conservatives or NDP, they will all make the same promises? I’m not saying I believe that completely but it’s obvious some people do. And on top of that, there is the aspect of political campaigning that has got down to name-calling and trying to take down another’s character to change votes, even if it’s obfuscating the truth or the facts.

People are becoming tired of politicians denigrating each other, and it is a very important element in negating voter turnout. This week the federal Conservatives have taken out ads to discredit Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff. Not ads on what they’re doing, nor on concerns for our country but just another smear campaign against the enemy. That’s money well spent. Politics has gotten down to this. Don’t talk about what you can do but talk about what the other guy is not doing. I’m very tired of that.

Voters also see a lack of charisma in our potential leaders. Where is our Barack Obama? The truth is that there are few completely charismatic leaders. It takes a special blend of hubris and confidence, intelligence and eloquence, theatrics and honesty. I’ve mentioned this before but some notable orators (the one element a charismatic leader must have) have been Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Pierre Trudeau, Barack Obama, Brian Mulroney.

Brian Mulroney, you say? Yes. I don’t like him, never liked him as a PM and I believe he took the Conservatives to overwhelming defeat (and stuck Kim Campbell in as the fall guy/girl). But in recent years as Mulroney has been investigated for the airbus scandal and the Hans Schreiber affair (receiving envelopes of cash and storing them in safety deposit boxes, making them untraceable, which somehow the lawyer side of him just didn’t think looked suspicious), I’ve heard his voice on the radio. The man has a deep and well modulated tone.

I’m sure he was/is a very good lawyer because it is obvious in the way he speaks that he understands the drama of words and how to stress particular words and concepts. Were his tears real or alligator tears this week when he broke down in giving testimony, I don’t know. And I must be careful of what I accuse or Mulroney will make a pre-emptive strike on me too and sue as he did in the airbus scandal. No person is without a range of emotions, nor are they completely good or evil. I’m sure he does care deeply for his family but I also believe he would pull on anything to manipulate a situation, being a good lawyer and all. And his spokesman (publicist for a retired prime minister) was there at the inquiry to jump up and accuse two big bad journalists for making him cry. Poor Brian. Sounds like he’s getting his money’s worth from his publicist.

Without knowing the end of this inquiry I can predict accurately that Mulroney will get off scott-free, whether he is innocent or not. And why, because he is a great speaker and actor. He’s a master manipulator and will use that to his advantage. Besides, it’s his word against Schreiber’s, a guy trying to avoid extradition to Germany (for fraud and bribery) by any means possible, and it’s two men forgetting a lot of things so in the end, conclusions will be…inconclusive even if Mulroney hid his money in safes, didn’t record receiving it and didn’t consult his accountant, even though he claims everything was on the up and up, in receiving those fat cash envelopes. Can I conduct affairs like this and what about tagging him for income tax evasion?

Were voters swayed by his voice to vote for Mulroney when he ran? Yes, just as each of those other men I have mentioned gained popularity at one point because they could put thoughts together well, speak them with conviction and relate to the crowd (and they had great speech writers). So, voters want charisma and drama and maybe not so much honesty.

But voters, as I’ve said before, are fickle and have short memories. They believe the promises too easily, yet also cynically believe nothing at all. Here are two comments I heard in regards to our recent provinicial election. One person said, “They gave me a hip, I have no complaints.” Although it’s been many years since this person received a hip and the government (and the issues) have changed a great deal since then. It was naive to think everything is the same and that even the government is the same so that this person didn’t have to vote. Someone else called into CBC and said they didn’t vote because they were dissatisfied and until every vote counted there was no point in voting. So, why didn’t that guy get out and vote for the single transferable vote, which would have made every vote count?

I can begin to understand why there are dictators. I did put the good into the title but I’m not sure why. What’s good with a situation where people don’t care enough to vote or try to bring about change. Everyone should writer their MLA and MP if they have a concern. Change is never all-sweeping at first but incremental, by very small steps. But voters will continue to be disenfranchised and moreso if they continue not to vote and have no say or concern in what happens. So, what are you going to do about it?

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Conform or Die

I would say we live in a society of conformity but it may go deeper than that. Perhaps, we as human beings have always been this way. After all, we are social animals. We work and gather in groups, for safety, for economy, for interactions.

As humans formed these groups that became villages and cities, they had to get people to work together, to agree to the same rules and beliefs.We can see in the world today probably moreso even than the world of five thousand years ago, or maybe not, what happens when someone doesn’t agree with the status quo.

It can be as mild as “I don’t agree with you,” to as severe as being put to death or incarcerated for going against the norm. The Taleban kills people for not following their way. The Canadian government sways from Conservative to Liberal if people don’t think their leaders are representing their views. It’s a broad spectrum.

On a purely social level you have the cool kids, those with natural charisma (before they learn to bribe their way to the top) who attract others to them. It is often ephemeral what gives a person this elusive charisma. Sometimes it is physical looks. Who can deny the power of stars and their amazing good looks that give them millions of bucks, not always correlating with their acting ability?

Often charisma rests on personality, which can be a greater tour de force than beauty. Coupled, they can be unstoppable.  The third area that attracts cronies is that of beliefs. Political parties and religions work on this but they often team up with personality. In essence, those are the three bases of charisma: physical beauty, personality, beliefs. You can gain popularity through riches but charisma is slightly different and really the realm of beliefs fall more to popularity but can gain heights with a charismatic leader.

It’s a well-known fact that good looking people get farther and get away with more in the world. As a child I was pudgy and shy, not good combos for charisma. You don’t get shy, charismatic people. I was never one of the cool kids. No one ever flocked to me because of my beliefs, nor my riches. The cruelty of children is untempered by the later skills that we learn of double speak, backstabbing and passive aggressive tolerance. Luckily children are also more resilient to the taunts and ostracization, sort of. Sometimes we bear the scars for life.

I was picked on some, because I was easy pickings. I didn’t fight back. I was vulnerable and like sharks in bloodied waters, everyone knew. So I changed. I grew a tough shell, I made myself more outward going. It wasn’t easy, still isn’t easy. Being one of the cool kids matters less as an adult unless you’re trying to win in politics or take over the world.

We all have our social groups, and probably have some charisma. We are blends or normal people. But we can still suffer the fear of being nonconformist. I never mastered conformity and it’s caused me much grief. Try and act normal, think like everyone else, dress like them. Fit into the crowd and you won’t be singled out. Stand out too much, in the wrong, unpopular way and people won’t talk to you or associate with you. We may not be shot in our social groups for not fitting in but we may die nonetheless.

Today I don’t feel that humans are so great at being civilized. We suck at communication, yet use a variety of forms. Unfortunately, one person’s body language means something different to someone else. The same words can mean many things and silence can mean many more. If you conform, you’ll have less to worry about, until someone decides you offended them or that they dislike you for some other reason. Then you may not even know you should apologize or that you have to watch your back.

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US Election: Hope for a New America

Well, like everyone else, I’m weighing in on the recent US election of the president elect and hopeful, Barack Obama. There is more than one factor that makes him the new hope. He will be the first black president with a very non-American sounding name. He is relatively young, the same age as Clinton when he took office. Only Roosevelt and Kennedy were younger. He inherits one of the worst messes in recent history from the worst president. Really, anyone who did half a job better than Bush would probably shine. You could almost say he’s the messiah to Bush’s anti-christ but let’s not bring religion into it. There’s been enough already.

But it’s a tough job ahead. The US economy, and world economy is a mess, Bush has brought the world too close to World War III, troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are causing divisive views and is as tumultuous as the Vietnam war. The Vietnam war lasted through several presidencies. Interestingly enough it was escalated by Democrats Kennedy and Johnson and Republican Richard Nixon was not only the one to remove troops in Vietnam but brought about some thawing of the Cold War.

This time it’s reversed and Republican Bush brought troops into Iraq and Afghanistan. Will Obama remove them? Although Iraq was the misguided invasion of a deluded president, Afghanistan is a different story. Albeit Bush invaded for his “war against terror” and “axis of evil” blatherings, the fact that Afghanistan was under a fundamentalist, totalitarian regime that subjugated its citizens, especially women, could not be denied. The world needed to help. And yes, the World Trade Center was decimated by a terrorist attack…by Saudi Arabians, the country studiously ignored because they can be a bigger bully than the US.

But back to presidents and chaos. There have been charismatic leaders in the past. John F. Kennedy was one. Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister from 1968-79 and 1980-84. He was immensely popular, young and avant garde, coining the term “fuddle duddle,” which was a euphemism for what he was presumed to have actually said. And although Martin Luther King never ran for president, at a time when blacks were still considered second class citizens, he too galvanized a nation. Had he lived longer, he might have run as president but like Kennedy he was assassinated.

What these four men (Kennedy, King, Trudeau, Obama) have in common is youth. This is not the youth of age though they were all in their 30’s or 40’s when coming to prominence, but a youthful demeanor and way of thinking. Trudeau and Kennedy made mistakes but after they were leaders their legacies lived on. Trudeau’s influence colored politics for many years after he retired.

The other common thread is that these men were all great orators. Obama speaks well, bringing passion and belief to his words. The background speechwriters should be given accolades for the skills they put into such famous speeches. Obama also has something that was lacking in the McCain/Palin campaign: integrity. When others stooped to trying to mar his name, he did not fall to the same low standards. When it was discovered that Palin had a pregnant, teenage daughter, Obama replied, “I have said before and I will repeat again, I think people’s families are off limits.” When was the last time we saw any politician stop slinging dirt at the others? That alone would have gained my vote, had he run here.

Obama has a heavy burden on his shoulders. If he cannot affect the change that is so desperately needed and clean up some of Bush’s mess, then people will leave him. But if anyone can, he is the man to do it. Of mixed heritage, he represents the world of today. He’s intelligent in a way Bush is too dull to even dream of and he will hopefully keep a level head.

Charisma goes a long way and people will forgive a lot of sins because of it. Being young enough to remember there are young people bridges the generation gap and it showed in the number of younger people who voted for Obama. Being intelligent can make a difference but it is wisdom and the use of knowledge that can bring the greatest, beneficial change.

We’ll have to see if Barack Obama can bring change. All we have to do is keep him alive long enough. Here’s hoping he relies on more than the fallible CIA to keep him safe. (Speaking of which, at the college where I work in Canada, the IT guy checked an IP address that was trying to break through Finance’s firewall. It was the CIA. The next day that same IP address showed as unregistered.)

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