In years gone by it never bothered me too much who was leading what country or international organisations because there were so many good leaders about who knew how the world worked and how to maintain the peace fought for in two World Wars. When did this end and become somewhat worrying?
I would probably say that as the 20th Century was drawing to a close and the 21st Century was getting underway I began to have concerns about perceived ability in leaders. This concern has grown exponentially since then and has reached a point where pronouncements made by leaders are beginning to make me feel that the future is a great deal more insecure now than it has been since the end of the Second World War. Certain high profile leaders, particularly in the West, are making statements and claims which are clearly, for me anyway, making the world unsafe.
In Great Britain we have Mrs May who seems to live by catchphrases which mean nothing and do little to reassure either the general public, business or other world leaders that we as a country, still have a relevance on the world stage. To repeatedly tell us that Brexit is a good thing whilst the pound slides in value, whilst the NHS is haemorrhaging staff because their immigrant status is unstable, whilst poverty is rising, whilst big businesses are busily relocating to European cities is really not the way to promote this relevance. What exactly does Brexit mean? What exactly is meant when she keeps saying, ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’? Why is it so difficult to tell us what we can expect in a truthful and clear way? It appears to be a rather wishy- washy attempt to be Churchillian. However, Churchill would have told us exactly what was going to happen and offered a realistic way of achieving coherence as a global nation and continuity for businesses.
Leaders seem to be undermined now not by the electorate but by a few rather vocal disgruntled members of their own parties who cannot bear to move forward from their entrenched positions or those on the extreme right who advocate a purist attitude to nationality and decry immigration, assimilation and globalisation in general. There really is no place for a ‘pure’ race in the modern global world and it is naive to think that this kind of racial supremacy should be tolerated. I seem to recall that the second war in Europe had elements of this ideology and it was just as wrong then as it is now.
There is also something discomforting about leaders barely into office, receiving prestigious prizes, such as the Nobel Peace Prize, who go on to cause more deaths through unnecessary wars or drone bombing through notions of purity than previous incumbents. The ‘war on terror’ so beloved of Bush and Blair was declared in the name of promoting peace. Many of our so-called modern icons of hope have fallen into this category of death-monger.
It is not only leaders of nations who have appeared to let ‘us’ down. Many leaders of world organisations designed to maintain the hard won peace of 1945 have also fallen into the clutches of the military complex. NATO, the UN, the EU; all of these were created in order to maintain peace between nations. Sadly, it seems that these have been hijacked over the years by stronger countries promoting their colonial and hegemonic ideology. There is no place for colonialism in our world. As with the ideology of racial purity, there is no place for empire building. Those countries who suffered from these ideologies are no longer willing to simply accept to be plundered of their natural resources to benefit a so-called Mother/Father country elite. The problem is that the ‘elite’ or the super rich have not yet caught up with the general population and its belief that wealth and power inequality must be addressed if there is to be real and sustained peace across the world.
Jo Cox, the young British MP who was brutally murdered in 2016, said: “We have more in common than that which divides us.”
It is therefore incumbent on us to create a peace for all peoples and insist that our elected leaders do not back away from this position by adopting the politics of division. As countries we should not be divided, we should embrace diversity across the board; that we have global businesses and yet insist not only on national borders but closed nationalities too seems ridiculous.
We are global citizens in trade, in travel, in economies and I take umbrage at Teresa May’s statement justifying Brexit by telling us that ‘if you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere.’
How arrogant of a government with no clear majority to make such a sweeping claim with its implication that we are somehow treasonous.
Populism is spreading and along with it the leaders of alternative political parties are embracing fascism in a way which is reminiscent of 1930s Germany. Thus, it is even more important to resist this new nationalism and stop the persecution of the ‘other’. There is no ‘other’. We are all human beings and we all live on and in this world. If we allow the likes of the Le Pens (FN), the Wilders (PVV), the Petrys (AfD) and the Bachmanns (Pegida), the Robinsons (Pegida in the UK) the Franzens (deputy leader of Britain First) and many other extreme right wingers, to continue their policies of division and hatred then our leaders will find it more and more difficult to stop nationalism in its tracks.
I don’t want a world war fought for exactly the same ideological reasons as previous wars were. In fact I don’t want wars of any kind fought. War is very easy to start. Peace should be even easier but sadly this is not the case. Many of today’s leaders appear to be very keen to flex their nationalist muscles to satisfy not only what they believe ‘the people’ want but also their own egos.
In Russia Putin has a strong grip on power but is still facing challenges in terms of how the West views and demonises Russia as a negative influence in America and the UK due to alleged interference in both countries’ elections and Britain’s referendum on European membership. Are these isolated incidents? Do both the USA and Britain indulge in similar processes in other countries? Do other countries with strong lobbies also interfere in the internal workings of other countries’ elections or lawmaking or indeed in any other form of interference? I’m sure if we look hard enough we would find similar cases happening in a variety of countries.
Leaders today often indulge in the cult of personality. Every criticism is taken as a personal attack and retaliation follows. Social media aids and abets this. Some leaders of course use social media to directly speak to the populace making them appear to be more approachable; used well this can be a force for good. Leaders like Macron and Obama whilst he held the presidency are able to harness the media without confrontation and insult. Others are less able to do this and others use it to incite racial hatred and promote violence against groups they would prefer not to have within their borders.
Where now for leadership in this ‘new’ world? It appears to me to be time to change the focus of leadership away from government for the few to government for all in order to create a fairer and more just world across the board. He who shouts loudest from the elite and outrageously wealthy class should not be the one who most benefits from restricted political access. Those elected to represent us are normally called politicians. They are nothing of the sort. They are our representatives – what we used to call “our obedient servants”. We are the true politicians today. They have become the businessmen, agitators, self engrossed operators…
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This post was written by Susan Walpole