We live in a time of awareness. We’re aware of inequalities and we’re aware of poverty. To put it more generally, we’re aware of the struggles of the less fortunate in society, those who lack some of the privileges that others do have. That is incredibly important, because throughout all of history, it has been those people whose voice was ignored, whose opinions and struggles were seen as irrelevant. But as great as that change might be, perhaps we’ve taken it too far.
In the Middle Ages, people greatly respected their kings and emperors. Not a bad word was said about them, something that is still the case in certain countries in modern times. Still, as much as that might be a bad thing in certain ways, partly because it’s unfair but most importantly because it leaves too much power in one person’s hands and leaves the majority completely powerless, that system does have some advantages. It gives the regime the chance to complete their tasks effectively, without having to explain every word to the public.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that such a system is desirable, but neither is the system we have today. Politicians are no longer respected, and regardless of what they do, they will receive a barrage of criticism from people who believe that they know things better. And usually, that criticism is unfair. Political decisions often don’t have a right and a wrong option. In fact, they usually have only wrongs, and if there is some positive side to it, then that is usually ignored, because it is so much easier to just watch and criticise without having to take that responsibility yourself.
But the truth is that responsibility is tough, no matter how privileged a person might be to have obtained such a position. When a plane originating from your country suddenly vanishes, then there is no way you can do things right. The media wants juicy stories, relatives are so panicked and distressed they lose their rationality, and you end up getting demands that nobody can ever supply. People want all the information as quickly as possible, but at the same time, they don’t want any wrong information. Facts have to be checked without taking the time to actually check facts, and if you even hold on to a piece of information for one day because you’re not sure whether it’s accurate, the media will find out and they will criticise you for withholding information. But if you do share information and it turns out to be wrong… same problem.
In the meantime, there are thousands of people scattered about in various places, trying to make sense of a disaster that is so huge that it is impossible to oversee. Real life isn’t like rollercoaster tycoon where you can scroll around the map, oversee everything and occasionally pick someone up with a giant hook to make them do whatever you want them to do. Real life is a mess. Real life is complicated. And real life doesn’t provide answers on a golden plate just when we demand them.
The same goes for the ferry in Korea. Everyone is blamed for it, but how can we possibly judge when we haven’t been in their shoes? The Prime Minister resigns, but what exactly did he do wrong in the end? The ship sank, mistakes were made, but can we blame the Prime Minister? Can we blame the crew of the ship? Have you ever been on a sinking ship and had the responsibility for hundreds of people? Have you ever had a moment when you realised that not only were you going to die yourself, but so were a few hundred people you were personally responsible for? It isn’t so easy.
And those are just the disasters. The same goes for regular decisions. Whatever a politician does, there will always be people who disagree, and there will always be times when they make the wrong decision. If a politician doesn’t know what to do and is honest about that, the headlines will condemn him. Old US president Jimmy Carter will agree: being honest seems to be the worst thing a politician can do. Yet still, dishonesty is just as bad, so no matter what, there is no right solution unless things just happen to fall into place. Had the rescue workers found the Malaysia Airlines plane, something the outward communication of the Malaysian government has pretty much no influence on, nobody would have criticised them. It all seems to come down to luck.
As much as we have to be aware of those who are not so privileged, we also have to be aware of those who are. We need people to take responsibilities, and we also have to give them a chance to do what they should do. We need to see people in positions of power as humans, because at the end of the day, that is all they are: humans, trying to do what they think is best. Perhaps it’s not what you think is best, and perhaps it’s not what’s best at all, but if we keep throwing people out over things they cannot change, then we will never find that stability we need to properly grow as a people. Being critical is vital, but we also need some respect and understanding for those who take up the responsibilities the rest of us cannot bear.
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