It’s a good thing I’m a pessimist; I’m rarely disappointed, and often pleasantly surprised by how things turn out. I don’t believe that “Good” wins out in the end. But it’s not usually the Big E, “Evil”, that triumphs. Often, it’s just banal mediocrity: leaders’ lack of vision outside of “What’s good for me is good for the country”. This narrow, self-serving attitude of so-called “Enlightened Self-Interest” can be just as destructive of a nation’s soul in the end.
<p>No, I’m not talking about America, particularly, though it could be the model for this phenomenon if we substitute Wall Street as its leader in place of the president. The worst, self-seeking leaders often rule virtually unopposed with their people in a viselike grip for 40 years. Look at history, and recently in the case of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi having to be hunted down by foreign powers. Assad of Syria could be the next one — condemned by callousness and utter cruelty he shows towards his own people. Robert Mugabe has only had 32 years in rule so far, still going strong with a life expectancy into his 90s. Of course, it could take every bit of this time and more to overthrow Wall Street as the de facto dictator of the world. And when it all finally ends after decades of oppression, even if only for a breathing space before the next despot takes over, the truly stupid among us say, “See, good wins out in the end!”<p>
The idealist in me — after all I’m American born, brought up on Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger — likes to think if the bad guy isn’t outright evil then at least he started out as a disillusioned good guy. Too often, this isn’t the case at all. <p>
Look at the prime minister of New Zealand, John Key, whose finest moment came when he was ribbed mercilessly about his country a couple of years ago on The David Letterman Show. He took it in great spirit, probably because he agreed with all the disparaging ‘jokes’ about his own country. He paints himself as a role model, having been raised in a heavily subsidised state house rental by a solo mother (Jewish, which is hardly ever mentioned because of the old prejudices here) — but then growing up tall and strong as a sharebroker buying and selling US dollars. $50 million was the last estimate of his personal fortune — and growing. Doesn’t it always?<p>
Filthy rich people through history have usually said that wealth reaches a point where the numbers don’t mean much anymore. Like a grand game of Monopoly, it’s just so rewarding to beat out your competitors and take more tens of millions (today: read billions) out of circulation so that others can’t have it. John D Rockefeller, the first ever billionaire in history living in a time when he could have bought and sold governments, thought he was a very fine fellow walking the streets of New York City and giving away nice shiny nickels to street urchins. Today, the superwealthy like the Bill Gates & Mrs Foundation belatedly do the same with a fraction of their accumulation and are held up as role models.<p>
So, New Zealand having traditionally followed America’s lead a generation of 20-30 years later, this prime minister is the ideal of this country — reelected three months ago for another three years. The government term is so short because Kiwis, cynical enough to know they’re voting in self-seeking careerists, are also cunning enough to limit the damage done by any administration: Politicians can’t completely destroy a nation in three years. Unfortunately, they can, given enough terms together pushing the same ideological goals, cumulatively change the whole tenor of a small country — as has been done to this country over the past quarter century or so. Even a big country. As seen with Obama — Even when a supposedly good guy comes along, he doesn’t want to rock the boat by reversing a longstanding trend. And among economically developed nations (OPEC), NZ might well be second only to the US in widening the gulf between rich and poor.<p>
Prime Minister John Key has a vacation home in Hawaii through which he has a bolt-hole to upwardly mobilise and organise his crowning career after this term ends in 2014. Previous prime minister Helen Clark (glamorised beyond all reason in her phantom appearance on the Letterman Show), now third ranked at the United Nations, is another in a lengthening line to strut her stuff on the world stage (before her, Mike Moore, head of the World Trade Organisation). Asked by a journalist last year if she missed her country she said she was too busy to.