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Archive for the tag “Politician”

A politician can be an idiot

Since the time of Socrates politicians have not been thought of highly. They are considered dishonest, selfish, arrogant, and immoral. Socrates, himself had said that “I was really too honest a man to be a politician and live”. Charlie Chaplin saw himself as a clown, but even that, according to him, placed him
on a far higher plane than any politician”.

Politicians haven’t gained a bad name for no reason.  History has shown that true politicians were remarkably few.  And those who actually care about their people and work to improve their lives can be counted on one hand. “A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar” (H. L. Mencken) and with corruption scandals and embezzlement of public funds being revealed every day, politicians have become perhaps the most hated profession of the modern era. On a daily basis they are insulted by the people who consider them more and more a disgrace, as they no longer see in them their representatives. Politicians are now scorned, despised and slated by the very people who elected them to their posts, for they do not adhere to their mandate, or to any of the electoral promises they ever made, for that matter.

Someone once argued that no politician is an idiot. Because by definition a politician is someone interested in the polis – the city-state and not in his/her own interests, the idiot – the self. It is someone who is involved in influencing public policy and decision-making and puts the good of the people before his own benefits. However, modern definitions of a politician have converted into “a seeker or holder of public office, who is more concerned about winning favour or retaining power than about maintaining principles”. It turns out, after all, that politicians are indeed idiots.

In our contemporary times, politicians appear literally everywhere, at any conference, event, gala, opening, simply to gain exposure and better their image. They either think that this will help them appear as though they are interested in public affairs, or they simply want more than Andy Warhol’s fifteen minutes of fame. It actually appears to be both. Politicians, being the idiots they are, only care about heightening their own image and appearing as though they care, whilst at the same time serving their own selfish purpose.

Press conferences and debates are held sometimes even twice a day, while negotiations and discussions are on-going for days, even months with the sole reason of appearing as though action is being taken and something is actually being done by those in power, when in reality it is all about pleasing their own desire for exposure and publicity.

Statements are made continuously by politicians eager to talk, while hundreds of reports on various policies are published. They all do the same. They outline what needs to be done and when. But no-one ever realistically explains how they propose this to be done. And it turns out it is all about wishful thinking. In the EU, for example, months of discussions pass before the budget is approved and decisions are made as to how much money will be spent for various regions, projects and issues. They never, however, take into account the selfish and greedy nature of human beings. And years after the funds have been disbursed but the projects never happened the European Commission begins investigations on misuse of funds and embezzlement. As if it is surprising that idiots would do exactly what they are by definition known for – serving their own interests at the expense of the public good. And all this selfishness will in the end result in the demise of the polis and the common good. And as Paulo Coelho had described in a short story, the only way for the polis/town/state to survive was to let it drown in its own corruption and then build it anew.

Indeed, the problem with the world today is that so much talk is based on idealised situations. As if corruption and selfishness do not exist. Politicians are so versed in how to paint out exactly what they would like things to be. But they provide solutions to problems that are not realistic or at times even feasible. Instead, politicians are characterised by all talk and no action. They all know all too well how to draw attention to themselves, how to speak without actually saying anything, how to make empty promises, that people seem to forget that nothing substantial is ever occurring. And that is also one of the reasons why it is often argued that people who study politics are so repelled by what they learn that they never want to go into politics. Politics is indeed a dirty game. But what everyone seems to forget is that this very “game” concerns the lives of people who depend on those ruling to secure a better living for them – for the people, not the rulers.

Bertrand Russell had said that “the trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt”. Thing is, it is the cocksure idiots that rise up in the world and end up presiding over the unsure.

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: Viral – The New York Times is going to feature your blog on its home page, and you’ve been asked to publish a new post — it’ll be the first thing tens of thousands of new readers see. Write it.

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The Elegance of Being Eloquent

Many people know how to talk, but few how to speak. It is incredible how much information can be lost by the mere lack of the ability to say it. Indeed, to quote Ben Johnson, “to speak and to speak well, are two things”.

Politicians and diplomats are people who today are required more than ever to speak. To resolve issues peacefully through discussions and negotiations. But everyone knows all too well how many misunderstandings and how much trouble can be caused by inability to express precisely what it is you mean. And even more so, to do it clearly. And above all enunciate. Being able to speak and being able to get your message through are indeed two different things. And the ability to effectively communicate all that is necessary and nothing more; to inspire things to be done; to paint the thoughts in your mind and convey them to the audience; that is true eloquence.

In its purest form, eloquence is about passion. It lies in saying things simply but gracefully; with enthusiasm and belief; with the underlying force of persuasion. It is about being fluent not only in what you say, but in the way you say it. About convincing your audience of the authenticity and spontaneity of your thoughts. And about conveying it in such a way that your audience becomes mesmerized, gripped by your every word, and ravelled by the feelings emitted from them.

With eloquence, talking becomes not only just uttering words. It is about actually saying something. Reaching into people’s minds and imprinting them in there, so that in any random instant those words come to mind. Great orators can do that. In the popular series CSI, they usually break down the trajectory of a flying bullet into a person, depicting in precise radiography-shots how it reaches the organ it afflicts. That is exactly how eloquent speakers can direct their words straight into the brain cortex. With the precision of the most ardent craftsman.

In essence, eloquence is an art. Not everyone can do it. And it requires a mixture of talent and skill. From Mark Anthony’s famous opening line in William Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’, “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears“, to JF Kennedy to Winston Churchill to Martin Luther King to Barack Obama, eloquent speakers are an integral part of politics. And those who are mostly remembered are precisely those who knew how to address their audience. Who knew what to say, when to say it, and more importantly, how to say it. Great speakers are reminiscent of Ancient Greek orators who were able to influence and change the emotions of their listeners, not just inform them. In their time, public speaking occurred in a structured, deliberate manner intended to inform, influence, or entertain listeners. Speaking happened for a reason and not simply for the sake of talking. Good orators are filled with passion for what they are saying and are able to transmit to their audience that very feeling. They are able to convince their listeners that they know what they are talking about. Even if they disagree with what the speaker is saying, if expressed well, that won’t matter. The essence is conveying an opinion and persuading people to listen and accept it, no matter how different it may be.

In current times, everyone considers himself to be a speaker. But few actually have what it takes to be characterized as an orator. Today, politicians so often appear making speeches here and there, without actually saying anything. Some cannot even read scripts placed in front of them, while others simply talk as if they are addressing customers in a shop. Politicians more than any other should be able to speak. Unfortunately though, what we so often see today is quite the contrary. They appear improper, crude, uncivilized and even uneducated. Exactly the opposite of what is expected of the representatives of the people. They should be able to address the people’s concerns, and demonstrate that they share the people’s problems. They should appear passionate about solving them and about involving the people in this process. After all they are simply representing popular will, even though many seem to forget that once in power. Instead, what we daily see are politicians disinterested in the problems of the lower straits of society and only serving the interests of the wealthy. Politicians who instead of fighting to improve the lives of their citizens, appear to only be improving their own at the expense of the citizens. And politicians who do not even have the fluency to speak in their own native language, let alone another, in order to communicate.

Eloquence is a dying art. And when – in glimpses – it appears, it is more than welcome. US President Obama is perhaps one of the most eloquent speakers of our time. He knows how to address his audience, how to use examples of their own lives, values and beliefs, in making his argument; how to draw their attention and keep it throughout a 40-minute speech. He knows what to say and what words, similes, metaphors and idioms to use to express it. It is no wonder how many thousands of people gather each time he makes a speech. Obama is an orator. And he can actually convince his listeners that he believes in what he says, that he is trying to do what he proposes, and that he will eventually accomplish all that he promises. He even has the ability to reach into people’s feelings, to touch them, and to inspire them. People often end up in tears, after his speeches. But they are all so passionate, so motivated, so inspired. And that is exactly the objective of eloquence. Of convincing, inspiring, motivating, affecting. With dignity, fervour, and grace.

If it is true that flattery won’t get you anywhere, then eloquence probably will. All you need is the courage to be able to say what you want, the fluency to express your thoughts, and the judgement to know what to say, when to say it, and to whom.

Also part of Daily Prompt: Naked with Black Socks

Also part of Daily Prompt: Elegant

We’ve paid for politicians’ dreams and lost our own

Everyday the only thing we hear about on television is how the economy worsens, how EU or other high-ranking officials are calling for more measures, how another austerity package is to be adopted, how spreads rise, stocks fall and credit rating agencies downgrade one economy after another. To an ordinary citizen none of this makes sense. About a year ago, it is doubtful whether people knew what a spread is, or that credit rating agencies even existed. And now, this has become part of our daily lives, of our everyday news and most of all, of our most dreaded fears and concerns. “What if this gets worse, how will I be able to pay my bills?” – this is the most frequent question the citizen of today is called to answer. Because, given the situation, things don’t seem to be getting any better. Only worse. By the minute. And yet one thing no one seems to be able to answer, or at least answer in a satisfactory way, is how on earth did those elected officials, that earn more money in a month than an entire household earns in a year, manage to get our countries into such a terrible mess?  And why is there no better way to get out of it, than depriving citizens of hard-worked money? Of taking away the jobs they worked years to get, the education they spent to get there and the sacrifices they made to create a descent life. And all this, while at the same time, shattering the very dreams they built in the process.

The vision of a European integration was for Europeans to be united as one. And contrary to what it appears, or what Eurosceptics and others seem to think, Europe does work. It does. All of Europe is currently suffering a state of no money, no jobs, and lots of worries. It’s just those high ranking officials at the top – the very same making statements every so often about how bad this crisis is, how it is spreading across the Eurozone like a plague with no remedy, and how further tougher measures need to be taken in response – that seem to be the ones better off. Because a millionaire is still a millionaire, even if he loses a few thousands. But a low-paid worker is on the brink of poverty when he loses a few tens. So does anyone realize that by continuing to cut wages, reduce subsidies, and increase taxes, the ordinary citizen is suffering?  How is all that supposed to help exit this crisis? A crisis for which the ordinary citizen is not to blame. Why is it the hard-working shop owner’s fault if the people representing him have abused their power and misused public finances for their own gain? How is it our fault if their dreams have been realized on our expense, leaving absolutely nothing for us? And now, it is our dreams that have been taken away from us, not theirs.

An ancient Chinese curse wished that “we may live in interesting times”. Our times are anything but interesting. And the rapid succession of dramatic events seems to be simply aggravating an already exasperated people that take the streets in their thousands in order to avoid another known saying, that when you stop dreaming, you stop living.

(04 December 2011)

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