Politics As Memory

By Chandrashekar (Chandra) Tamirisa, (On Twitter) @c_tamirisa

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Rule of, for and by the people has always been a rhetorical abstraction since Demosthenes and Cicero.

The cultivation of leaders to run the affairs of the state had separated the mob, ordinary citizens, from the senate and its military heroes during the Roman Republic.

Elitism acquired through education in the arts and the military arts qualified citizens by birth in Rome to care for its interests. The people were kept happy because all roads and the wealth riding on them had led to Rome.

Popular unrest is a distraction at best and a danger at worst for the cultivated elites.

The purpose of education in the political arts was to understand expediency to quell discontent while quietly addressing its root causes to sustain and perpetuate the state. To this end, rhetoric, both misleading and profound was seen as an indispensable skill.

A wayward republic, its roots in the Socratic critique of Athens which was not a republic, veered toward expediency through misleading rhetoric more than it did to lead by resolving the challenges faced by the state.

The recognition that expediency has compromised the interests of the state requires, of necessity, the capacity in a well meaning and competent leader to convince the people, in the face of competing ideologies and opinions, to change course without necessarily accepting that mistakes were made or conceding defeat except when absolutely required. Executing such a turn in the exercise of power is a skill any leader who wishes to stay in power cannot live without in the practice of politics.

Memories of leaders about the affairs of the state must be long because those of their peoples about the same are short. People lead their lives but not the state. The worst leaders kill again and again, the best liberate and exalt.

In the American republic which has forgotten how to keep it, the connected elites bred for power and wealth have turned the Jeffersonian farmers into the Marxian masses and the Roman mobs.

Great leadership is, therefore, not a consequence of perfection of judgment but is a gift of memory and intellect as much as it is of character.

Mistakes corrected are mistakes forgiven.


About Chandrashekar (Chandra) Tamirisa

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