THE EDITOR: Politics as originally envisaged was a noble endeavour, yet its practice leaves a lot to be desired. The ancient Greeks sought to define this nobility by interaction and debate between men of honour and intellect. Since Machiavelli, however, the nobility of that political endeavour has been lost in favour of the crass and the corrupt.
To restore the nobility to this art form will take serious reflection by not only our politicians and parties, but in particular the citizens the world over (global citizenry) who today are reeling from the ravages of their democracies.
Restoring nobility must by necessity begin at the party level and will be determined by how the party conducts its business. For example, does it operate in a closed and sterile environment or an inclusive and open one? How does it communicate with its membership, meaning does it encourage debate, does it strive for consensus or is it autocratic and elitist? What is the governing ideology with respect to service? And last but by no means the least, what are the requirements (conditions) that its members are expected to meet before they are chosen as candidates for an election. Choosing one’s representatives is a sacred duty. I say choosing, as opposed to electing, because while we the people elect our representatives our political parties have the responsibility of choosing who we elect. To that extent, the average citizen is at the mercy of the hierarchy of the parties and if they do not discharge their duty effectively the people can hardly expect to elect honourable men.
In TT, we often confuse personality with character. So when we are assessing a politician’s worth we often do so on the basis of what we perceive to be their character but what in reality is their personality.
This is also a discussion about form versus substance because form is (often) about personality, and substance is about character. So we are attracted to individuals who appear to be warm and outgoing, who seem approachable, who are not aloof and who have a high likeability factor, often forgetting that personality traits such as these often hide major character flaws.
So when we focus on personality, the candidates’ likeability/popularity may cloud one’s perception of the individual’s character and invariably cause one to choose someone of flawed character. The converse may also be true – the “unlikeability” of a person may cause one to overlook sterling character and competence.
The Greek philosophers also delved into the power of virtue and its role in forming the ethical basis of a man’s character. Virtues such as wisdom, courage, humanity, justice and temperance were described as qualities of a good ruler.
The challenge for all our political parties is to produce men and women of good character who are a measure of all things and who possess the virtues consistent with the ancient Greek philosopher-king. Until then form will continue to triumph over substance in the selection of those who would lead us.
SATU-ANN I RAMCHARAN, Maraval