Plato believed that philosophers should be kings. He believed that only those who had gone through extensive education could be good leaders. He proposed an elaborate scheme of education where the brightest youngsters were to receive education to become leaders.
His scheme never saw implementation, but history largely proves his point. The leaders who have added to the richness of civilisation have all been those who had vast knowledge about different aspects of human life.
Many such leaders emerged in the last century and left a lasting impression on the world, not only with the organisations and nations that they built but also with their prolific writings full of new ideas.
Vladimir Lenin was a revolutionary. He built a party and overthrew the Czar after a long struggle. But during this struggle, he also managed to write on capitalism and imperialism, philosophy, and literary criticism.
The imprint Lenin left on the world will never be erased. He changed the world forever. If not for him, the Das Kapital of Karl Marx would have been like Plato’s Republic. Although the system he built failed to continue, but it did force the capitalist world to alter itself.
Winston Churchill was not only an army officer and statesman but also artist and historian. He led Great Britain during the Second World War and spent a busy political life. But he managed to write several books and to paint. His works on history added a great deal to the richness of English literature.
Jawaharlal Nehru was one of the chief architects of India’s independence. Together with Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, he mobilised the Indian public for the country’s freedom from the British. This was a task that left little time. But since he had a penchant for writing, he wrote The Discovery of India when he was jailed in the Quit India Movement. In the book, he traces the history of India and writes about the effects of the mingling of outsiders with Indians.
From prison, where he had little to read, he wrote letters to his daughter Indira about the histories and cultures of different parts of the world. The collection titled, Glimpses of World History, is of such high standard that it was compared to the works of H G Wells.
Maulana Maudoodi continued writing even after founding the Jamaat-e-Islami in 1941. He went on to produce several dozen books, including his magnum opus, the six-volume Tafheemul Quran, despite his increasing political engagements.
Unfortunately, today’s world is devoid of such leadership. Everywhere, the quality of leaders has plummeted. The Western world doesn’t have any leader who can match the genius of Churchill. Barack Obama, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, comes across as a dwarf in comparison to Churchill, who was given the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953, long after he had played the most important role in fighting the Nazi onslaught.
Russia, the homeland of Lenin, is today led by Vladimir Putin, who has more interest in the martial arts than world-changing ideas, and who is more concerned with his appearance than his country’s standing in the world.
Nehru’s India is led today by Sonia Gandhi whose only qualification for being the leader of the Indian National Congress is that she is the widow of Rajiv Gandhi, who himself became prime minister just because he was the son of Indira Gandhi.
Maudoodi’s Jamaat-e-Islami is led by Munawar Hasan today, who is just a political orator, not a scholar.
This decline in the quality of leadership has occurred because the leaders of today have no great ideal to attain. They have set themselves limited goals. Great leaders are those who have great aspirations, which spur them to strive hard and provide the world with revolutionary ideas. For that they study world history, observe the contemporary world and then give their own ideas of what the world should be like. Plato sought to produce such leaders.
But today’s leaders are interested in winning elections only. For that they don’t have to study anything because their rivals are equally worthless. They raise hollow slogans of better life standard and manage to fool the masses.
But the world must not go on like this. It must change. We deserve better leaders who can make people realise their true potential and create new, better world.
The writer is a staffer at The News.