Michael Battalio

Friday, December 17, 2010

Serious Conversations (Part 23):

        This series is a continuation of my conversations with an atheist friend of mine. These are my edited responses from that conversation. The twenty-third entry is more on leadership and influence:

I find that those who most want to lead do not deserve our following, but those that have it thrust upon them are the best leaders.  (Modesty is a good quality for a leader, but must be balanced by the passion for the position.)

My friend posed these questions to me: What does this (the dichotomy of leaders needing to influence but also be tolerant of opposing ideas [see previous post]) mean for democracy?  Everyone gets an equal vote, but in reality, most people vote because they have been influenced by some leader or other.  The leaders wield the true power. If you're a democratically-elected leader, presumably your duty is to represent.  Does that mean you must try /not/ to blatantly influence people?

My response: The difference is whether the influence is based off of evidence and logic or simply the desire of the leader to wield power.  If a leader has logic and evidence in support of his argument, then his influence pursues a good end.  A leader should merely articulate the facts, and it is up to an intelligent public to recognize the facts from the opinion.  (This is why I would argue there are so many problems with the world. I am a pessimist, and I believe most people are lazy and dumb.)  Also I believe we have to take into account the amount of influence a leader is trying to exert - back to my shades of gray comment.  I don't believe any leader will truly, completely successfully change the mind of a voter.  They are trying to convince those that already have a similar view of an issue that their differences in opinion are small.  Obama would try to convince fellow liberals/democrats that his specific plan on whatever topic is close enough to what they believe in that they should support it.  He isn't trying to change the mind of a staunch conservative/Republican.  [As an aside I'm reading "Billions and Billions" by Carl Sagan, and he makes the point, what exactly are conservatives trying to conserve?  With their drilling and consume first, ask questions later attitude, it certainly isn't the environment.  I found that interesting.]

So, yes, it is the duty of a leader to not blatantly influence the public but instead to present facts in support of their point of view.  The amount of influence a leader wields depends on the intelligence of the populace to weigh the facts presented by their leader against what they perceive (and hopefully investigate) as the truth.

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