Saturday, July 12, 2008

Candidate Qualities - The Search For The Grail

Well for those of you who have followed me in my quest for the qualities that should be needful or desirable in a political candidate or office holder, my heartfelt congratulations (and my sympathies). You have participated in a journey seemingly as long, as difficult (and almost as fruitless) as that King Arthur's knights made for the Holy Grail (Monty Python version, of course).

Like the knights in that tale, you have had to deal with everything in the world from the sublime to the ridiculous. You have braved the twisted paths of logic and reason created by the vagaries of the English language and faced the abuse of that mode of communication with the stout hearts shown by those fearless knights as they faced everything from vicious rabbits to French tormentors. (OK, they did run away in the end ... but so what.)

Be now of good cheer however, for though this cup may yet remain beyond our our grasp, we have discovered some of what we seek. Take rest now, and let us review this remarkable expedition so that we can all move on with the rest of our lives (and about time, eh).

In this search for the qualities that both we, and the candidates themselves seem to place the greatest importance on, we have explored: character, honesty, morals (and with it, ethics), and the ability to be a leader.
Character: Unfortunately, this appears to have been a rather elusive quality. We were told that this was a symbol or a role for an actor which we knew wouldn't work, and the only hint of something of substance pointed towards moral excellence. As we later discovered, this can be a rather fluid concept.

Honesty: This trait seemed an obvious one, and proved less so. Our search here left us with "an adherence to the facts". Unfortunately for our search, the "facts" in politics often seem to be subject to interpretation (and sometimes some serious spinning).

Leadership: This led us to a definition of "a person of commanding authority or influence". While seemingly good on the surface, this definition left no room for the direction of this leadership, and the world has too often been led down the wrong path by people of commanding authority.

Moral: This was our most slippery term, though we did find, "
Sanctioned by or operative on one's conscience or ethical judgment". Unfortunately for this search, counting on the conscience and judgement of a politician is often an exercise in futility. In the end, we were left with the fact that 'moral' may have been the wrong word, and that we needed to move on in order to reach our goal.

Wisdom: Here for the first time, we saw some light at the end of the tunnel, when we found, "Marked by deep understanding, keen discernment, and a capacity for sound judgment". There is little doubt that this would be something that we would like to see in politics and candidates (and far too rarely do).

Ethics: Here again, we found something to sink our teeth into with, "The principles of conduct governing an individual or a group". A candidate should have an abiding sense of principles that act as a guide for their actions. For myself, I would prefer that they drew these principles from the Founding Fathers, The Declaration of Independence, and The Constitution of the United States.

Perhaps the very elusiveness of these qualities is what makes choosing a candidate or a leader so difficult. Perhaps the problem is the "profession of politics", with a group of potential power seekers using professional speech writers, political handlers, and spin masters to further confuse us and make these choices even more difficult. Perhaps even when we can agree that the qualities of both Wisdom and Ethics are necessary for a candidate or leader, being able to recognize these qualities through the cult of personality built around candidates these days is extremely difficult. Then again, nobody ever said that democracy was going to be easy (OK, Representative Republic). It took the Founding Fathers 3 years to come up with the system of government that now gets abused after the Revolutionary War ended, and only after having abandoned the Articles of Confederation that they had originally come up with. I suppose that if the people wise enough to design a form of government that has lasted for over 200 years in this country struggled with it, that we can cut ourselves a little slack over the process.

I have to tell you though, that this Quest has worn me out. Exhausted, road weary and sore at heart, I think that I will seek instead that most desired by the Knights of Ni:

"Bring me a shrubbery!"

1 comment:

Roland Hansen said...

Some years ago I was inducted into both Pi Alpha Alpha and Pi Sigma Alpha. With that in mind, I find that the elusive qualities of which you and indeed all of us desire in candidates and holders of elective office are almost impossible to procur.
I dare say, however, that I am not sure that the absence of candidates with those qualities is a reflection of officeseekers or the consequence of an electorate that sucumbs to presentation over substance. Packaging rather than contents appear to win the public attention (and vote) time after time.