Monday, January 31, 2011
© 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense
It‘s been said, “Each country gets the leader that it deserves.”
Although we had some difficulty tracking down the original source of this saying, we suspect that the author intended to include any geographical region and leaders in general.
We thought about this over the past few weeks, first in connection with Tunisia, and most recently Egypt.
While observing the Egyptian people express their dissatisfaction, we wondered whether it was really so much about their leader’s rule, as opposed to their disillusionment regarding where they find themselves today.
The notion that a country gets the leader that it deserves suggests responsibility on the part of its citizens, each and every one of them.
A single leader may set the tone, inspire the people, or even oppress and instill fear. However, it is ultimately the masses of people who decide, and who define their nation.
There was a popular saying in the 1970s, that those radical anti-establishment types like the Laughingman used to shout - If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.
Over the past several weeks, we’ve been thinking about how the citizens of so many countries “pass the buck” and abdicate their responsibility for their current state of affairs.
Take the United States for example. We have all sorts of problems here: economic, political, military, immigration, health care, business, education, technology, and simply finding a presidential candidate who was clearly not born in Africa. Despite these, we profess that we are still The Greatest Show on Earth.
In one of our very first posts in 2008, The Triangular Box in Which America Finds Itself Circumscribed, we suggested that we Americans really do not like any of the political candidates who we ultimately elect.
The problem is – quite simply – that we expect far too much of our leaders, and far too little of ourselves as citizens. Our unreasonable expectations of what our elected leaders are supposed to do stem from the fact that we pay folks who simultaneously stick their hands in our hip pockets and feed at the corporate trough.
But a society (or a people) can’t blame opportunists for being opportunistic. (We don’t elect fools. There’s a reason so many of them were snakes in their prior lives.)
While the problems and issues of the average Tunisian or Egyptian can in no way be fully appreciated by the average American, we find ourselves cheering them on to achieve what we think we have – freedom.
But freedom is nothing but having options, a right to choose, and with such rights come responsibilities.
Perhaps “responsibilities” is not the right concept. Perhaps the more appropriate word is consequences.
There are consequences associated with not putting enough of our earnings into savings. There are consequences which flow from leading unhealthy lifestyles. There are consequences which stem from not having enough inventors or scientists amongst our neighbors, and too many entertainers.
And there are consequences associated with trying to work a 40 hour week, or even less, so that we have time to play with all of our recreational toys and gadgets piled in that McMansion large enough to house 4 families.
And a failure to accept or face the consequences essentially amounts to irresponsibility, on a national level.
Quite frankly, the health, vitality, and future of our nation should not depend on the acts of socialist, government types nor should it depend on private enterprise, as the free market folks argue.
It should depend on each individual citizen.
Back during the reign of King Jimmy Carter some 30 years ago, he made a speech which many derisively referred to as his “malaise speech.” In it, he suggested that America was experiencing a crisis in confidence. He suggested that we needed to get back to some basics, and renew our enthusiasm.
What he was really saying, in a political way, was that we were not living up to our responsibilities as citizens, which translated to our responsibilities as a nation.
As we approach this Super Bowl weekend, any member of either team will tell you that, there is no more effective and efficient way for a team to get its ass kicked, than for individual players to abdicate responsibility for their individual jobs.
The criticism heaped on President Carter when he told us the truth suggests a fundamental problem with our political system. Perhaps, as Col. Jessup said, “[We] can’t handle the truth.” Instead of embracing what our President had to say, we effectively told him that he couldn’t hack it as our leader.
Here’s hoping that the Tunisians, and the Egyptians, and the Sudanese, and the ________ can handle the truth, and learn from our example.
P.S. Who woudda thunk that this “revolution” would take place in Africa?
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