‛By their fruits yea shall know them’
“How long? Not long”, a speech by the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr made on the steps of the State Capitol of Montgomery after the Selma to Montgomery march. Since that speech, how many times has that question borne relevance? Do we see an end to the question or was the reply — “not long” — a hope at best, but more rhetorical in reality.
That era unleashed a plethora of movements and leaders related to the civil rights and empowerment movements. Coinciding with these were political and independent movements all over the world, including places such as Bermuda.
It would be hard to imagine such movements without leaders. There was certainly the need for genuine leadership almost of a messianic nature when one considers all the developmental issues aside from those of rights. Like the days of Jesus of Jerusalem and Nazareth, there where many false prophets as well.
It would make an interesting book and study to document and portray the numbers of well-intended initiatives that ended in ruin simply because their zealous and even charismatic leaders put their hands in the pot.
The list of initiatives is long, but the most classic of them happens to occur within religion and politics. Almost all the religious movements can trace their origins to an ascetic as its founder — a selfless soul who believed in God and helped humanity find a path towards peace and harmony. Too often these founders were killed or persecuted for their truth, but as often we will find they invariably never amassed personal wealth. Not to suggest having wealth is a crime; it was not their aim in life.
All that certainly changed with religion as we have come to know it today, where the preachers become rich off their flock and congregation as a goal. People have made it a status where the reverend looks good, even while the congregation looks poor.
Sadly, politics becomes another arena where leaders using the credibility of the movements they inherited, to gain personal wealth. How many times and in how many cases have we not seen individuals who as we say "day before yesterday“ were proverbially as poor as a church mouse, but a little while after becoming a political leader become as fat as a pig. Yes, in debt one day then suddenly multimillionaire or from a studio apartment to Beverly Hills.
The sad concomitant cofactor is they are allowed and, in some cases, celebrated for doing this to their own people in the name of advancement. This is not the equivalent of the nobles in England stealing the Roman Crown possessions and calling themselves king; this is the equivalent of a peasant stealing the livelihood of a nation to make themselves king. I know of two banks locally that failed before they even surfaced because of the trusted leaders, leaving the defrauded investors who did not prosecute for fear the reputation would hamper others from trying.
Most of us know this phenomenon of corruption or false prophets is repetitious, and has been a blot that has hampered the trust and prosperity of the beleaguered masses all over the world, including Bermuda. Yet we persist and bury it under a false pride, trying to protect the integrity of the organisations. Whether they are religious or political, it’s the same tribalism inculcated.
When will we have messianic leaders who put self last, and God and humanity first before all other considerations? One way of answering that question is to say, with respect to political leaders, that as long as party comes before integrity, we will get much of the same.
As for the churches, “by their fruits yea shall know them”. You don’t need to follow persons who continuously ask for charity for the mission but who rarely ever give of themselves. A silent public is too often enablers; the inescapable cost of having a democracy is vigilance.
We can’t sit on our couches and expect good because time has shown we will be taken. How long will it take? Not long? Or ...