Mohamedarif Suleman (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)
The famous scientist Albert Einstein once said “Too many of us look at Americans as dollar chasers. This is a cruel libel even if it is reiterated thoughtlessly by the Americans
themselves”. If he was alive today, he would probably have wanted to edit what he said and replace the word Americans with “people”. And I say this because whether we think Americans are responsible for the exportation of their own money culture to the rest of the world, or that the lustful need for money is a common Satanic infection of our times, the truth does remain that we have dollar chasers all around.
And whereas money, otherwise Allah (SWT)’s bounty as well as tool of test to humankind, has immense positive use for those in need, virtually every aspect of life is being surrounded by a malicious need to grab dollars so that this can then become a means to tread upon the others in society. In my solitary view, as much as the above saying is validated by what we now see around us, the classical English proverb that states “The responsibility rests with the government” is equally weighty.
This is where the whole problem starts and ends. It is people with money who have power socially, economically, politically…And when in positions of power (read leadership), they create a glass wall around them to work towards the preservation of that power. For many people, the quest to get rich is a sure means to be respected in society. in part, this notion is heavily fuelled by how we listen to, look at and talk to the rich. We give them some benefit of doubt even when their argument stands questioned. Money, it is believed, provides the pedestal towards social success.
A good example is the power of right-wing fundamentalist Christianity in the US. The leaders of the religious movements use the money donated by followers, in hope of placating their deity, to influence the political process. In some cases these preachers run for office directly. This has led to political control in some areas. Nationwide, it has caused issues such as abortion and gay marriage, which are settled matters in other liberal democracies, to remain controversial in the US.
It becomes extremely critical that money and the newly acquired social respect also becomes a qualification to leadership. After all, none of the attributes we have learnt through the generations connect the concept of leadership to money. Let us look at it through the use of a very rudimentary example. If we needed an aircraft fixed, would we look for a doctor? Nay, that would be fallacious as the qualifications prerequisite for
one to repair an aircraft do not rhyme with those of a doctor. So, when this example is flipped around, it is similarly abject to consider a moneyed-person (symbolic of success in business, enterprise or profession) to be though of as an automatic candidate for leadership.
Again, let us keep in mind that the term leadership is not referred to only those formal positions of leadership (a la caliphate), but the sheer status > that we enjoy amongst families or informal social groups, where our word would rule not because of our genius but simply because of our purse power.
We have commendably weathered tough times and emerged better off than yesterday. Those who have been left behind must naturally be wondering why their leader has abandoned them or at best subjected them to a life of welfare. In part, this could be because of the fact that I as a leader am more enterprising than I am a leader. My business credentials may be remarkable and my skills to communicate may rank high as well but my level of consience where I would be able to empathise with the plight of another is low.
The relationship between money and power (leadership) is evident in all walks of life today. Those who have economic power have a greater say as people listen to them with reverence as if their own individual success will lend any success to a completely different scenario. Basically, economic success is not a result of compassion, complete honesty, sharing, and the free willing spirit to give away. Quite the opposite, we get rich by cutting costs, by holding on to money and by “bargaining for the best deal” (denying others’ rights?). So how do oppositely qualifying attributes suddenly be perceived as capable of yielding one result. The more entrepreneurs we will have for leaders, the greater our institutional bank accounts will get and the more our assets will rise. And since that is a capitalist system in nature, it will without doubt have the effect of creating income and social gaps between the haves and the have nots. Then the offshoot will also be that for every good deed we commit – like build a mosque or dig a well or help an orphan, we will expect publicity. Our well meaning action becomes devoid of any divine reward when we start seeking mundane applause. The chain is endless. The leader gets pressured by his
philanthrophic donors into actions that the people do not stand for so as to ensure that he does not loose economic support.
For as long as people choose not to recognise that the true qualification of a leader does not match the CV of a very wealthy man, the world will continue suffering in many ways. This of course should not be cunningly misinterpreted to mean that a businessman or a doctor should not become a leaders, but just as a doctor and a father, a person interchanges roles with respect to his environment, a leader/professional/businessman must then learn to appreciate that the rules that make him successful in a corporate setup, if applied to to public service will render him ineffective and make his work null and void.