faces of anguish and helplessness on the victims of Robert Mugabe's
"urban cleanup" in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, last
June, were like the faces of those seen in Louisiana and Mississippi
this past week. Mugabe's "drive out the rubbish" campaign
left more than 200,000 people homeless as bulldozers turned the
dwellings of Zimbabwe's poorest neighborhoods into piles of rubble.
Human rights groups and the international community condemned
this aggressive behavior by Mugabe aimed at the poor, his biggest
the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, Americans and the international
community were horrified at the human suffering and destruction
caused by this natural disaster. Many condemn the government for
negligent behavior before, during and after the disaster. In a
nation that prides itself as being the most advanced scientifically
and culturally, the lack of preventative measures is a shame if
not a crime.
of neglect, of both the environment and the people, reveal a government
that did not heed the warnings, nor support the solutions offered,
in order to lessen the potential human toll of an immanent catastrophe.
On the contrary, the "no child left behind" president
made excuses for the slowness of response, telling interviewer
Diane Sawyer, "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach
of the levees." Others on his team apparently were not aware
of the desperate, dehydrated, stranded and dying victims of Katrina.
David Brooks, conservative columnist for the New York Times, wrote,
"Leaving the poor in New Orleans was the moral equivalent
of leaving the injured on the battlefield."
compare what a leader of a third world country did out of malice
to what leadership did not do in the United States? Both malice
and neglect equally cause human suffering, and both are caused
by incompetence and selfishness. Both malice and neglect are to
be equally condemned when they are the results of official government
policy negatively impacting the lives of its citizens. A parent
would face criminal prosecution if abuse and endangerment of his
or her children were the result of either malice or negligence.
Both malice and neglect in those who characterize themselves as
"leaders" are dangerous and wrong. They must not be
tolerated. The obligation of leadership is to look out for all
people who depend upon them and to promote their well-being.
become selfish when they are using their positions for the benefit
of a few at the expense of the rest of the people. They act out
of fear, greed and ignorance. These are the bases for malicious
and negligent behavior. Poverty and disaster exist because of
past wrongs. They still exist because the leaders, and the people
who choose them, have failed the test of serving the common good.
Poor people challenge our own sense of security and well-being.
If we can not open our hearts and meet their needs we have failed
as human beings. Our leaders who fail this test do not deserve
to lead. Disasters and poverty show us the fragility of existence.
Unless a society can create a more secure world for all, we may
never feel safe and at peace no matter how wealthy and "advanced"
2005 Richard Sidy
ARTICLES and POEM:
it is easy to find fault with the blunders made by those responsible
for relief, it is better if we learn the lessons revealed about
leadership so that we choose our leaders more wisely in the future.
In keeping with the purpose of "Seeking New Solutions"
the following series of articles give critera for leadership (while
the focus of the series is on diplomats it is relevant for all
series on Leadership
written after the tsunami last December 26th:
Wake of Distaster"
on the following links to read editorial comments about the impact
of Katrina from the New York Times that illustrate
the breakdown of leadership and its wide-reaching effects upon
our culture and lives. (It is possible that you will need to register
in order to read the editorials.) Their opinions do not necessarily
reflect the opinions of SNS Press
Dowd, NY Times, Sept 3, 2005 "The United States of Shame"
Krugman, NY Times, Sept 2, 2005 "The Can't-Do Government"
Times Editorial, September 1, 2005 "Waiting for a Leader"
Brooks, NY Times, September 4, 2005 "The Bursting Point"
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