The state of affairs in the US presidential election, the extent of Europe’s understated demonstrations of leadership, and the short-term focus of Belgian political leaders raises the question of what these respective leaders are actually concerned about and how this serves society’s interests or any higher purpose. And we haven’t even touched on the lack of inspiration or coherence yet!
What are these politicians focusing on? Is it the short-term interest of winning the next election, or the long-term interest of positively transforming society for the benefit of future generations? Naturally it should be the latter!
How did we get to a place where the US election has become a crazed, coarse reality television circus with candidates trading insults, airing each other’s dirty laundry and shouting down any opposing views? Why are American elections no longer a paragon of statesmanship, with candidates showcasing visionary approaches and plans to benefit society as a whole? Should not a potential representative of the highest office in the USA be obliged to rise above the racket and even set the tone for a new political culture by personifying this new political culture? A political culture which marries authenticity and respect, clarity and commitment, long-term vision and collective interests?
And what to make of the utter lack of a sense of urgency among European leaders who, months after the British made their radical decision, have yet to come up with an inspiring plan and a strong approach to engender more of a sense of Europe, more solidarity, civil society, and more of a sense of “us”? Instead, we have seen Europe claim it will teach the UK a lesson; a lot of posturing and tough talk with a great show of arrogance, but at the end of the day no sustainable action to be taken emerges. How inspiring is this listless and excruciatingly slow response to current events and Europe’s changing context to the average European in search and in need of a much clearer European identity and sense of community?
Alas, Belgian politics offers equally little inspiration and hope. One-upmanship, broken promises, leaking confidential information, or changing direction and tactics willy-nilly because it suits you – just some examples of the current fashion here. Repeatedly questioning existing alliances or even abruptly jeopardising them shows precious little respect for people and society. So does putting your own interests above the common good. Instead, leaders should have the courage to make decisions that do not necessarily benefit the short-term political interests of the party, but rather the long-term interests of society.
Where is the political vision – on the local, regional, national and international level? Does the political establishment live on another planet? Or do they simply lack authentic leadership? Are we not in urgent need of leaders; men and women who practice politics with a pragmatic approach instead of party-ocratic ideological self-gratification? I expect politicians to elevate people and society, to improve their station and help them move forward. To offer hope and perspective. To show that they have the courage to crack the hard nuts that truly matter and make the world better for everyone.
Brussels, 10 October 2016
Olivier Onghena-’t Hooft – vice chairman of LEAD-IN