The Oxford English Dictionary recently released 100 new words that are being added to the English language. Most of these were film related, including the word Idiocracy from the film by the same name. The word means “a form of government in which a country or territory is run by fools”, it can also mean personal acts of stupidity too. I have to say I cannot think of a more fitting time to have this word added to the dictionary. I have written before about British and American politics, and about leadership. I have been deliberately avoiding doing so again for months. But the party conference season in the UK and the bitter nature of American politics has irritated old wounds. I cannot hold my tongue any longer. Maybe I’m getting old, but as I look at Western political leadership today I am left scratching my head and muttering under my breath “Is it just me… Or are all these people just totally bonkers!”
Politicians have exited the middle ground and set up camp in the fringes. Through this process there has been a harsh fracturing of opinion, and a dumbing down of what was already a fairly low brow debate. Even I, an avid consumer of news, hardly even watch television news today. Trivial topics are covered, whilst major issues are not thoroughly addressed. And I for one cannot see a political leader with any charisma, not matter how far I look, and no matter how much I squint my eyes. The saddest part of this for me is that I think that our politicians are a reflection of the people. If so what is that we are doing, or not doing, that means that this bunch is the best that we can come up with?
I believe that what we are seeing on the surface, through both the mainstream media and our politicians is a symptom of a deeper malaise in society. In a coaching setting a client will often present with a problem, but the coach needs to check whether or not there is a deeper underlying problem too. Unless you deal with this deeper problem, if there is one, you will not be able to deal with the presenting problem either. In my opinion the deeper root of the problem is that our Western capitalist democratic society is failing. Since the industrial revolution the power of competition and risk capital has effectively allocated resources and created wealth. Well in the West, and for most people, it has. An alternative, of centralised governmental allocation of resources, often referred to as communism, proved to be an inferior model. But unfortunately our capitalist system is now running out of control. The gaps between the haves and the have-nots have become gapping. Young people struggle to buy houses, and both parents need to work to be able to afford to bring up children. Graduates leave university with a mountain of debt. The smartest minds are being drawn into banking and finance in the pursuit of a pot of gold. But what is it that banking and finance are actually adding to our society? This sector should be an enabler of commerce, not an end in itself. Worst still our vaunted capitalist system has privatised the profits and socialised the risk. This was clearly demonstrated in the previous financial crisis. For years financial corporations raked in profits and paid bonuses, and when they failed, due to their excessive risk taking activates, the people (via governments) had to step in and clear up the mess. And I say ‘previous’, because some commentators are already beginning to predict another financial crisis…At the same time democracy is suffocating under uninspiring, inept leadership, and a party system that serves the parties involved and not the people they are supposed to represent.
So what are we to do? You cannot help someone overcome a problem that they do not think that they have. The first step is to realise that we have a problem and what the root cause of this problem really is. As a collective we need to put down our smart phones, peel our eyes away from reality TV shows, and sports programmes. If our media and politicians are not being grown up, then we the people need to be the responsible adults. Educate yourself and share what you know with others. Become an example of leadership for our leaders to follow.
“I don’t know any other way to lead but by example.” Don Shula