Leadership and power – not authoritarian rule and legalized force

I am more comfortable knowing that Barack Obama will be president of the US of America for another four years. Not that I doubt that Mitt Romney and his team have equal abilities to govern that big country. What makes the difference for me is the perceived difference in attitude about governance.

My impression is that Obama wants to be a leader. He radiates a vision of a nation – even if he is not immune to hints of global supremacy. On the other hand, the Republican rhetoric sounds to me like they want to be in power. The conservative notion seems to dictate to be in charge of the whole world, to dominate. For me there is a very clear difference and important distinction between leadership and power: One is to unleash the inner motivation of the people, of society and polity as a whole, to do the best they can for a common purpose; the other one is to force one particular set of beliefs and actions on everyone like the emperors and popes did in centuries past.

I wrote some notes about government. Unfortunately I lost them. If they were on paper, I have not carried them around with me; and if they were in an electronic document, I did not save them or filed them in a obscure spot. They were thoughts on various definitions on government that I found online in preparation for an assignment in the MAHSP program.

What I clearly remember about the one definition that stood out for me is that it said nothing about power. It stated the idea that government is the entity that people form to undertake projects and solve challenges that are too big or too complex for the individual, the family, the neighbourhood or tribe, or for a commercial enterprise. Period. And the second relevant part of the definition stated clearly that government’s purpose is to serve the common good.

To me that definition sounded very much like the idea of the local co-op. And this made perfect sense to me. It is not meant to be a self-serving apparatus, a state within a state, that self-perpetuates like the Canadian government today is being portrayed:

…15 per cent of cuts will be to what’s termed “internal services,” meaning departmental overhead. The remaining 85 per cent of savings will come from programs and services that will affect the people who rely on them. (Leslie McKinnon/CBC News)

Power is meant to be with the people, the intentional human beings; that is where decisions for well-being ought to be made. And every being (not just human beings) has needs that have to be met; but it is not apparent to me that each individual’s task is to meet all its own needs. We look out for each other and support the common good. We are created with a unique and diverse set of abilities. As intentional beings, we take responsibility for the collective and the resources that allow us to exist in this world. Every human being associates with others: in families, in local, ethnic, social, and spiritual groups. Within the universe, we are all interconnected and our individual and unique potentials can only flourish and grow in a supportive environment.

Government is one possible form of organizing a supportive environment – especially in a world where states and nations span across continents and commerce is globalized. Leadership is necessary and natural; however, we all have to engage in the world around us beyond our immediate needs and wants to make the quest for a common good a successful one. I will be keenly following Obama’s second term in office for signs of leadership that will support a more peaceful society and global interaction through reduction of authoritarian rule and legalized force.

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