Thursday, October 30, 2014

Our Intellectually Challenged Leaders

“My government will behave as grownups!” declares the likely new premier of Victoria, after next month’s election. Polls have the Napthine (Liberal/National) government being annihilated after just one term. The same claim was made by Tony Abbott in the lead up to the last federal election. The political flavour might seem different but the claim the same.

 I personally find this trend unsettling; we are after all choosing people to run the complex machinery of modern government, not the school captain or president of the student representative body. Forgive me, but it seems the mere fact these political leaders are moved to assert their ‘grownup’ status leads one to have serious doubts.

So we need to ask the question, why are our (Australian) current crop of political leaders so doubtful of their intellectual maturity? The one constant I can find is ‘religious education’. Inverted commas because it is more probably training or indoctrination, as opposed to broad education; and the religious is a side issue in the process. It seems leadership and compliance to direction are the primary goals of training.

In the words of the legendary Professor Julius Sumner Miller, WHY IS IT SO? I posit two distinct, underlying motivations of ‘religious education’. The first is that religion, based as it is on faith and belief, abhors the teaching of knowledge. The second is even more powerful and compelling, the support and defense of capital.

To the latter issue, it should be recognised that the church (the roman church in particular) is possibly the wealthiest and doubtless the longest running corporation in history. Religion per se is at best a control tool, capital s the motivation. Certainly from the Medici period, but more likely as early as Constantine, the church has been an economic force, with much wealth to protect.

On the issue of knowledge we are already seeing the worst fears of religion being realised. As secular education increasingly produces people who are able to think, able to question and seek sustainable answers, religious power is waning. So our current crop of ‘Jesuit trained’ leaders are in fact intellectually immature. Conversely, the intellectually mature are open to attack, purely because they are aware of doubt, the need to question and accept error and consequent change.

I suspect many who might make the very best leaders are repelled by their own constant self-questioning. Yet we need leaders who doubt, who seek truths and better ways. Perhaps the current, grand battle, between capital and the rest, will spawn a new crop of real leaders with demonstrable intellectual maturity. Meanwhile, I feel extremely disenfranchised as the Jesuit  leaders hold the advantage or rigged electoral systems which lock out real challenge.

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