Marcus M. Mottley Ph.D
Tuesday, 08 March 2011 06:55
By Marcus M. Mottley, Ph.D.
Antigua, St John's- Whether it is Mubarack of Egypt, Ben Ali of Tunisia, or Gaddafi of Libya, the spotlight is now clearly focused on politicians and leaders everywhere – particularly those whose arrogant behaviors are now under scrutiny.
As I write this article, the Japanese Prime Minister is fighting calls for his resignation. The corruption trial of former French President Chirac has just started. Prime Minister Berlusconi of Italy is facing charges of sexual impropriety with a minor. In Germany, Defence Minister Guttenberg resigned over charges of plagiarism.
In China, the railways minister was recently sacked and is now under investigation for allegedly embezzling money. Those are just but a few global leaders who have recently fallen as a result of public outrage.
And there are plenty of other arrogant leaders around the world in governments, public institutions, and private sector organizations who should and will come face-to-face with the harsh spotlight of public scrutiny and the resultant outrage.
First, what do I mean by arrogant? Haughty; giving oneself an inflated and undue degree of importance; believing that one has all the answers; not listening to advice from worthy and proven sources of wisdom; diminishing and belittling others while inflating one’s own importance; flaunting one's authority and "thumbing one’s nose" at established protocols, rules or laws; believing that one is "untouchable"; blatantly lying even in the face of truth and facts. I could go on, but I hope you get the picture. Do you know any political, corporate, or organizational leader like that?
Although arrogant leaders are everywhere, my focus here is on political representatives. History is replete with arrogant politicians. And according to Dr Marvin Folkertsma, history is also replete with politicians whose “colossal arrogance led to colossal horrors” for their administrations and/or countries.
Here in Antigua and Barbuda, there is evidence of political arrogance both historically and currently. One glaring case in point is the Stanford financial debacle where supporters on both sides of the political aisle were both whispering and shouting that our leaders should proceed cautiously. Recently, I heard a legal member of the current administration pleading ignorance of the dangers that pirate of the Caribbean posed for our country. He pleaded that no one in these islands could know that that finagling pirate was not legit. Well… my 96-year-old mother was one of those who could and did see the danger. I and many others spoke and wrote and warned of the dangers. But our arrogant leaders – past and present – could only see the couple pieces of tarnished silver from the pirate’s booty that were cast on the ground for them to pick up.
And even if they heard the cautions of hundreds of Antiguans and Barbudans, they were in no mood to listen because of one other facet of arrogant politicians.
That facet is a tendency of such politicians to identify their personal fortunes with the destiny of their country, and the habit of identifying their personal fortunes with the decisions they make. Hence, Mubarak in Egypt led his country into an arrangement with Israel and its surrogate, the United States, such that he (and his inner circle) reaped the personal benefits of billions of dollars. There is a claim that he has over $70 Billion stashed away. This would make him richer than Bill Gates. True or not, he is a very, very, very, very rich man whose public salary was reportedly less than US$100,000 per year.
Well, suffice it to say that we allegedly have some of those types right here in Antigua. Their fortunes: their fleet of cars, their houses, their lands, their swimming pools, their foreign investments, their foreign bank accounts – cannot be explained by their nice Antiguan salary. And before you jump to the conclusion that I am only referring to those who ran the country for 30 years, please take a look at some of those who have been in office for six years and are already millionaires – several times over… and shamelessly peacocking around the island.
The irony of it all is that these –particularly the new political millionaires– are some of the most arrogant ones. And, to be honest, they are newly arrogant.
Think back seven years when they were begging for a chance… arrogant? Far from it! They had a puppy dog demeanor, bowing and scraping and saying the right things to the people. They pleaded and they promised. And they were rewarded with political power.
Today, they have taken that reward and turned it into financial award over and over. Not all – but many. And some of those who have not really reaped the benefit by raping the public trust have still exhibited signs of arrogance. They have adopted this stance of being overly important to the degree that you can’t talk to them, and they are not approachable. And when you are thinking you have their ear, it is so stuffed with pompousness that they either can hear or they don’t listen.
In a blog “the Real World,” one writer, in talking about some American politicians, contends that some elected officials believe that they know better than the people they represent. This is another sign of arrogance.
Here in Antigua and Barbuda, after they are elected, some politicians seem to take the people in their constituencies for granted. They make decisions that in some cases may not be in the best interest of the people. They ram home their decisions without consultations, without educating the people, and without making (and winning) their case to the electorate. The common notion among some of these politicians is that “the people put us here to govern”.
That to them means that they have a free hand to do as they will with the people’s enterprise, the people’s future, and the people’s resources. We saw this with the last "bunch" (projects such as those involving Dato Tan and Stanford, and a plethora of other examples). We see this now with the current "bunch" – (IMF, State Insurance, purchasing deadbeat real estate properties at ridiculously high prices, etc). Who knows the backgrounds of some these deals?
Arrogantly taking the people for granted also involves being deadbeat parliamentary representatives for their constituencies. Some have totally neglected the people who put them there. Unemployment and under-employment are still high (maybe higher); crime is still high (maybe higher); school dropout is still high (maybe higher); the public debt is still high (some say it is higher)…
But the politicians who represent the people are doing well: their bank accounts are fat (and getting fatter); their investments are great (and getting greater). There is no downturn in their personal economy…
To hear these arrogant politicians tell it… they are doing the best they can. I agree. The best they can for themselves… not for their constituents.
Let me be clear… in these sunny isles, dark arrogance is on both sides of the aisle.
Recently, I heard one of the leaders in the opposing "bunch" ministering that a certain unelected member of the current administration should resign because of alleged past improprieties. Well that is nothing new… at least not to me. I have long claimed that those who jump fences cannot be trusted. However, that aside, the leader who was clamoring for his former colleague, the fence jumper, to resign from the current administration, is also alleged to have issues of impropriety leveled against him. His strenuous criticism of his former colleague does not come from a place of enlightened change… it comes from a place of enshrined arrogance: “How dare you make one million dollars when I only got $100,000?”
So what are we to do?
I don’t think that arrogance among the elected will ever go away. So what we, the electorate, must do is rigorously and unapologetically hold their feet to the fire.
This means that we cannot accept illicit or unethical behavior from any politician. This means that we must demand and get total transparency from elected representatives. This means that those who seek public office must agree to have their private dealings made totally transparent. This means that political leaders must demonstrate that they are employed by all the people – including those who did not vote for them. This means that politicians must get the people’s acquiescence on important matters such as those that impact our daily lives and the future lives of our children.
We must develop strong and stringent legal practices with institutions that have teeth so that we can investigate and hold potential political criminals accountable.
We, all Antiguans and Barbudans, must put every representative of the public trust under public scrutiny. And if their behaviors do not stand up to the ethical standards that we set and they agree to, then they must feel the weight of the people’s outrage.
We can no longer allow any politician – beloved or respected – to take us for granted. Those days are gone.
Dr Marcus M Mottley is a Clinical Psychologist, author and organizational consultant. His latest book “Radical Thoughts – Empowering Perspectives” has just been released and is available at Best of Books or online at Amazon.com. Dr Mottley can be reached at