By Garry M. Spotts, M.Div.,
The real failure of leadership in our generation as in previous generations is the failure of followers. One of my favorite movies is a Neo-Futuristic Action/Drama plucked from the pages of a graphic novel, “V” for Vendetta. In the film, the main character, named “V,” utters one of the most profound lines in movie history as he says talking to a woman named “Evie.”
“People should not fear their government; the government should fear the people!”
As is the case with many movies, it wants to set you to thinking. So, I did think, most notably about the above quote. What is the function of government, when you distill it down to its most potent essence?
Ayn Rand writes in For The New Intellectual
The only proper purpose of a government is to protect man’s rights, which means: to protect him from physical violence. A proper government is only a policeman, acting as an agent of man’s self-defense, and, as such, may resort to force only against those who start the use of force. The only proper functions of a government are: the police, to protect you from criminals; the army, to protect you from foreign invaders; and the courts, to protect your property and contracts from breach or fraud by others, to settle disputes by rational rules, according to objective law.
But a government that initiates the employment of force against men who had forced no one, the employment of armed compulsion against disarmed victims, is a nightmare infernal machine designed to annihilate morality: such a government reverses its only moral purpose and switches from the role of protector to the role of man’s deadliest enemy, from the role of policeman to the role of a criminal vested with the right to the wielding of violence against victims deprived of the right of self-defense. Such a government substitutes for morality the following rule of social conduct: you may do whatever you please to your neighbor, provided your gang is bigger than his.
Thomas Paine said,
Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; 'tis dearness only that gives everything its value… (The Political Works of Thomas Paine pg 55)
The real crisis in leadership is that the followers feel that their freedom was won too cheaply. Those coming of age today have no abiding sense of the price paid for the freedoms and opportunities they now enjoy. It necessarily follows that if you don’t know the price, you don’t respect the cost. If you don’t respect the cost, you can not properly value the sacrifices made and those that will be made to preserve the future freedom of our children.
Fear is a powerful tool. It has the power to evoke a strong physiological response, specifically paralysis. Fear of leadership is rampant in our world. From the Church House to the statehouse to the White House, people fear those whom they elected to serve.
We are all victims so long as we assume that posture. Every person who can not or will not see themselves as leaders first of themselves and only secondly of others will continue to play the victim.
The Crisis of Leadership begins with a Crisis among Followers
The demand for real leadership will never be realized by celebrity status, sound bites, political manipulation, flaccid political slogans, or a brazen flaunting of power and military might. We will overcome the real challenge of leadership when followers demand authentic, trustworthy service from those elected to lead.
The rule of law, reason, and conscience appear to have collapsed under the weight of malicious and divisive demagoguery, sycophantic accommodation, bootlicking puppetry, and every detestable “ism known to humanity.
Fear is the muzzle of the masses. It causes people to suffer silently, with only hushed grumblings of mutual misgivings within the fraternity of the oppressed. How might we hold others accountable and prize our personal safety and peace? It is likely impossible. What will you stand against, so that others might stand? The Rule of Law under which all must live is the only standard.
Indeed, we ought to hold those charged with protecting and serving us through legislation, enforcement, and the administration of justice to a higher standard. Therefore, they must pay a higher price for violating the tenets they swore to uphold. Any abuse of power is an abuse of those who granted the power, the governed.
The idea of “Government of the people, for the people and by the people” is only rhetorical and has never been the most dependable guiding principle of governance for our nation.