Public service missing among politicians

By PAT WATSON

Critics aplenty have been jumping on the bandwagon to excoriate the Nobel Peace Prize committee’s decision to choose U.S. president Barrack Obama as this year’s recipient. For so many reasons, they argue, he should not have been the one. As if to bolster their premise they add that he himself was surprised at being chosen.

It would be characteristic of Obama to be surprised, given the kind of attitude the man presents to the world. One of the striking aspects of this U.S. president’s character is that he appears to have a keen sense that his tenure is, for all intents and purposes, an act of public service. He presents himself as keenly aware that he is a public servant.

Which current Western political leader is similarly affecting? Who was the last political leader that anyone can recall who gave that distinct impression? Did Pierre Trudeau, who for all the veneration he had merited, don the mantle as humble public servant? Trudeau has even been called a ‘philosopher king’. One would have to go decades back in time to perhaps Lester B. Pearson.

But this isn’t about Obama; it is really about the dearth of humility and the seeming demise of integrity among those who single themselves out, and are then elected, as our political leaders.

When you have, for example, the posse now responsible for our federal government playing political games – using taxpayers’ money mind you – to cart out a dog-and-pony show in an effort to bedazzle the citizenry with that group’s largesse, then it is time to mourn the passing away of probity.

What does it mean that the Harper government has spent over $100,000 to make a one-hour media presentation on what it has done for the country to offset the recession? How is that an action that serves the public good – outside of the few who were paid that $100,000?

The real message: This is a group whose members mandate as public servants is not uppermost, rather they appear to be guided by the motivation for power at any cost. As such, it is an abuse of their position and an insult to the intelligence and lives of the struggling masses of Canadians. This absence of humility – this loss of perspective as to their true role – and the accompanying condescension on the part of political leaders, not just here but across the globe, is a disquieting paradigm.

In Africa where power madness among leaders is widespread, the annual five-million dollar award to be given to a democratically elected leader from sub-Saharan Africa who has served his or her term and then left office, will not be awarded this year. Sudan-born billionaire Mo Ibrahim instituted the award three years ago.

BBC reports that one of the award panel members, former president of Ireland and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, said that if there had been a comparable award for good governance for former European leaders this year there might have similarly been no winner.

It is practically impossible for the rest of us who hand over the responsibility of managing national matters to the very few in so-called democratic countries to appreciate the magnitude of the sphere such individuals then inhabit. Yet we need them to establish a new code of conduct. We need a renewed interest and commitment to principles of unshakable honour, humility and service.

In the interest of a better future we need elected members of society to bind themselves to an unreserved dedication to true public service and to break away from stale and all too commonplace ego-feeding intentions. If the notion of public service as a high calling -similar to being a soldier whose life is given for the good of the whole – could be the standard rather than the current sense of entitlement to power, we would all be living in a different world.

Governance is a complex business that is charged with the vast range of great and mundane concerns of any given nation. Evidently, without a strong ethical dedication to service, once handed the reins of such power, the corrupting influence of egoism is a given.

On a note of the money grab…

The cable companies and TV conglomerates are both making arguments about how the other is trying to get consumers to pay a tax that is these business giants’ responsibility. They ought to work it out between themselves and stop trying to drag consumers into paying this tax. Don’t we already pay too much for mostly boring content as it is?

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