Rolling out the Red Carpet

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Publicity hungry politicians

The prsident, prime minster, cabinet ministers, legislators and politicians visit victims of crimes only to take the prize of cheap publicity. These unpopular leaders are in the running for photo sessions and disaster tourism. Pictures, indubitably, speak a thousand words, but when the picture is of something awful, it can speak a thousand curses. Unconscious from the cynicism and self-respect imbalance, which they are causing thus, it is a nasty bit of work that visibly demonstrates subjacency of humanist ethics and obstruction in relief work and medical care.

This is, of course, empty leadership, and it marks a sad decline. Such leaders fail to apt to become household names because they failed to accomplish something great, something galvanizing. Now, these leaders know that they can achieve this perch by pumping us full of vitriol about how all the problems we face as the result of their unskillful leadership. Their publicity smokescreen attempts people to paying attention. They do not talk about the complex problems that confront us today. Instead they distill these complex issues into sound bites that get their swollen faces on TV.

These talentless celebrities get a recognition boost from fronting situations. It's the way of the world today. They think, and irrationally so, that there is no such thing as a catastrophe so dire that it can't be turned into an opportunity for self-promotion.

Publicity-hungry opportunists bank on the acts of inhumanity or calamity to boost their own image. People have a pretty feeble grasp of commercial reality and the mechanics of marketing. If they were good Muslims and true leaders, they would have gone about doing good anonymously, trusting that God would know what they were up to and would reward them in His own good time and in due course.

The pseudo-leader is a parasite. He nourishes himself on others suffering. He exists by satisfying the mob’s voracious appetite for excuses and easy solutions. If there is no easy solution for the complex problems in our country, the pseudo-leader creates one. In a calm baritone he talks about reparations. Such leadership guides only how to lead for its own interests are not leaders of the people. Such leaders need to be led.

So much have several organizations grown publicity hungry that they do not hesitate to send a press note to newspaper offices for even routine activities. They fail to mention that by so doing, they only fulfill their social responsibilities by doing some social work. Would it not be better if such organizations did a few things without a desire for the media publicity?

The selfish leaders attempt to lead others for their own gain and detriment of others. They believe that life is a point driven, zero-sum game, with winners and losers. They encourage others to be losers in the game of life so that they can collect all the spoils for themselves. Selfish leaders are the opposite of true leaders, who are driven by integrity.

In Islam, when we give alms, we ought not sound any trumpet. The hypocrites do this so that they may be praised forgetting that when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.

Contemporary leaders in Pakistan today, both at the national and local levels, lack characteristics associated with great leaders. Our society grievously suffers from a leadership crisis. This is having a disastrous effect on the society. It just keeps us stuck on a dead-end street of self-righteous indignation.

Muhammad (pbuh) and his companions, who inspired a reverence for life; Quaid-e-Azam, who lead a nation to freedom; Allama Iqbal, who demanded blood, sweat and tears from his people; and Abdul Sattar Edhi and Imran Khan, who rallied their people to great and humane causes.

Where are their successors? Why have we not had any true leaders in the government in generations? Why are there no potential presidents, prime ministers and ministers who inspire or even excite us? Where, for God's sake, have all the leaders gone?

It is absolutely necessary that elected though, the self-centered leaders be removed from any leadership positions as soon as possible. No member is performing in the best interest of the people for lacking necessary leadership qualities.

If today’s leaders failed to become good leaders, their impact is getting disastrous. Just as polluted water is as bad, or worse, than no water, so selfish leadership is as bad, or worse, than no leadership The great need of the day is for intelligent leadership. We need to explore how we can discover if and where we are called to lead as well as how we can begin developing our leadership ability.

It is imperative to replace gossips, rhetoric and speculations with substantive discussions and innovative ideas to build a pluralistic democratic society. Such discussions need to be led by political scientists, economists, sociologists and scholars who are willing to build consensus based on a scientific framework. To arrive at this stage, we need to first nurture a new generation of great leaders at the community level.

Recognizing the fundamental need for regime change in Pakistan, it is imperative to identify the next generation of great leaders at a young age, nurture their talents and provide them with open access to educational and career opportunities. To this end, the current generation of leaders needs to embrace change and retire with grace. This particularly applies to the leadership level of political incumbents and the opposition. Asif J. Mir, Organizational Transformation