TUMBY BAY – It happened when we were still absorbing dire warnings in the latest report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and reeling from the latest Covid-19 outbreaks in NSW and Victoria.
That’s when the Taliban strolled into Kabul and took Afghanistan back after 20 years of occupation by the Americans and their allies, including Australia.
Among other things, the combination of these major events brought into stark relief the dismal quality of our leaders, their utter ineptitude and, worst of all, their apparent indifference to the suffering they are overseeing in the world.
Any pretence they are in any sense the good guys must surely be laid to rest.
They are nothing but abject villains and, as such, they are the real enemies when it comes to creating a better world for our children and those who come after us.
As journalist and activist Patrick Mazza says:
“We cannot trust the people who run this world. They rose to their high positions in institutions buying into the power and profit assumptions which drive those institutions. If they are not sociopaths going in, the institutions make them into sociopaths in order to rise in the ranks.”
The callous manipulation of people’s beliefs has been an age old tactic of so-called leaders, be it through the invention of gods and religions, political ideologies or other far out fairy tales.
And their motives have always been the same, a lust for power and insatiable greed.
Try as you might it is impossible to find any leader, past or present, no matter how supposedly great, who has not been tainted by one or both of these elements.
What were accepted as innocent foibles turned out to be serious and dangerous character flaws.
Winston Churchill was a grotesque racist and a stubborn imperialist. As a young man Ghandi said that black people "are troublesome, very dirty and live like animals." The current prime ministers of Papua New Guinea and Australia are religious crackpots. The list goes on.
What seems to have changed now is the scale of our leaders’ flaws and malfeasances.
They have abandoned all pretence of higher motives and reached such an unprecedented state of control over the media and other sources of information that virtue has become irrelevant.
People have always craved leadership. It is a basic principle, an overriding element of human social behaviour and organisation.
The irony is that the world, more than at any other time in the last one hundred years, desperately needs good leaders but they are nowhere to be found.
Poor leadership in good times can be hidden, but poor leadership in bad times, such as the world is now experiencing, is a recipe for disaster, which we are reaping right now.
The trade-off that people require when they invest their trust in leaders is that leaders will act in what is perceived as the common good.
That common good is now largely being ignored by the current crop of leaders. In its place are their personal interests of them and their supporters.
Consistent with this is an apparent shift in public tolerance and apathy. Actions that once might have seen a misbehaving leader sacked are now not only seen as acceptable but something to be expected.
Such complacency is a sign not only of the decline in the quality of leadership but the general intellectual and moral decline of our times.
Where this might lead if we continue to blithely accept and follow our corrupted leaders is frightening to contemplate.