Power, greed and their singular ability to corrupt absolutely

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Many years ago an elder mentor said something to me that was perhaps a proverb: “Be careful following old men because they may not care where they are going.”

Certainly, my mentor, who was chief executive of a substantive international fund investment company, was not being facetious about old men, but rather giving a piece of wisdom that can best be seen as an example in the life of persons such as Sir Winston Churchill who at the age of 80 became Prime Minister at a precarious and defining moment in British history — the Second World War.

I remember, too, commenting on my cricket hero Sheridan Raynor once, saying why not just go for the runs — you have proven yourself now, so why not just have some fun? It becomes an interesting phenomenon when life experiences bring persons to that “age of wisdom” where truth is clearer. When the question of to whom am I responsible becomes pertinent. I suppose in Sheridan’s case he always felt responsible for the fate of the team and therefore remained a composed batsman to the bitter end.

When you look at the decisions of Churchill, you will find he clung to the deeper convictions of the British spirit with a stubbornness that refused to be defeated, and would rally everyone to fight to the bitter end, even if it meant with their blood splattered on the streets rather than capitulate to a death by a negotiated peace. There were many of his contemporaries who for the sake of peace, and to spare the lives of many young men, would have chosen peace under the premise or guise of being conciliatory, diplomatic or rational and even humane. However, to Churchill being diplomatic with a tyrant itself was obscene, considering yielding to the forces of bigotry and the cruel tendencies of a tyranny was even more so inhumane.

I remember admiring the wisdom of my next-door neighbour, a 74-year-old, hoping one day I, too, could be fortunate to be as old and hopefully as inclined towards wisdom. Suddenly, that age is not too far away and another’s cycle is about to become full circle. Being truthful is one thing one should always hold on to. However, being judicious with that truth is another matter that requires prudence. Notwithstanding speaking truth to power should never be compromised for favour, sacrificed for personal interest or tempered to remain in the good graces of those with power.

There is the common welfare of society or the greater good, which is not an absolute but a rational consideration. Hence, the concept belying the words “what should it profit a man should he gain the world but lose his soul” could be easily be rephrased to ask whether the goal of economic prosperity is of its own holding any integrity, or whether honesty and principle conduct is the nobler.

If one can have both simultaneously, great, but if one comes at the expense of the other, which should we choose?

Political leadership from either party has always been a mixed bag of persons with genuine assets to pawns who have gained access simply because the system facilitated. The range of humanity in the political spheres goes from sublime, which is the rarest of cases, to the vile, which sadly, often seems more common to occur. The enduring challenge for political administrations is to create the framework where the good and humanitarian influences prevail.

The problem with those who are truly detractors is their evil is veiled from them where they cannot see their negativity. Not even Hitler thought of himself as an evil man; somewhere in the depths of his being, he believed he was doing the right thing, perhaps even divinely so, and he went about his work with force and charisma, bringing millions along with him.

Germany is and was not the sole breeding ground for that type of evil. Idi Amin is another who can compete for the title of “Most Evil Leader”, but again he, too, is just a personality type that is present almost everywhere that if given the fuel will be equally evil. Who would have thought that in our part of the world in Grenada, in a coup d’état as told to me by eyewitnesses, that innocent citizens mown down by revolutionaries would be picked up by trucks like trash off the streets and would be buried alive? The so-called pursuit of liberation can be blind.

Now we would not expect absolute savagery in friendly Bermuda, but the sum of ignorance and belligerence, when quantified, can often be measured and seen in the poverty, violence and misery that engulfs our population. When individuals in leadership cannot see the greater good and allow their hatred or narrow self-interest to be the deciding factor in determining policy, they take the wealth even out of unborn children’s hands and the old suffer benign neglect while the present generation of youth slaughters itself.

The roles of the intellectual and the free press are the same: they both should be there to serve those governed and not become as surrogates for the governors. The role of a true leader is to serve the public good and preserve the administration by protecting it from those who would corrupt the process for personal gain.

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Published Jan 25, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated Jan 25, 2018 at 7:43 am)

Power, greed and their singular ability to corrupt absolutely

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