Politicians, They’re Just like us
For those of us that will admit to have at some point scanned the pages of a celebrity gossip magazine will know that there are often a few pages that are dedicated to mundane shots of some of the best know pop culture icons. Entitled ‘Stars, They’re Just like Us,’ or something similar, the images are designed in part to allow the reader to feel closer to those they idolize.
In today’s world, especially in America, we are deeply entrenched in what has become known to some as the ‘pyramid culture’. The majority of the population are born at the bottom of the pyramid, and throughout their lives, those at the top are paraded before their eyes through a myriad of different media outlets. In ‘the land of opportunity,’ the culture tells them that they have the potential to ‘make it,’ and all they need is to be is a person of exceptional character and ability, work hard and serve the ruling TV screen elite, and then one day they may be welcomed into the club.
As we near the end of election season, we may sit back and survey the results; watching victorious politicians deliver glorious acceptance speeches, and promise to change the world. However, while the doting and adoring crowds applaud, we should be mindful that this culture of worship is in fact largely misguided, as politicians are really just like us, even the successful ones.
Malcom Gladwell puts it well in his pop anthropological bestseller ‘Outliers,’ delivering a convincing argument that when we try to understand ‘success’ we normally start with the wrong question. We ask ‘what is this person like?’ when we should really be asking ‘where are they from?’ The real secret of ‘success’ turns out to be surprisingly simple, and it hinges on a few crucial twists of opportunity in a person’s life- on the culture they grew up in and the way they spent their time.
Of course there are many exceptional individuals that have entered the world of politics with a vision, courage and a dream. Once in a rare while a true leader of men emerges, but for the most part, politicians simply serve the people as legislative representatives. Perhaps their success was achieved through making the right moves, being in the right place at an opportune time, inheriting their family connections or from being groomed at an early age to work the political circuit, but at the end of the day politicians are really just like us, some smart, some less so, some likeable and some abrasive. If you took all of congress and put them in a room, you would find a motley crew of individuals with less common denominators than the crowd at your local synagogue.
In reading Yehuda Avner’s highly acclaimed autobiography, ‘The Prime Ministers,’ a historical insiders reckoning of Israeli politics, one notices something striking. Whilst many of those documented in his account include some of the greatest leaders our generation has known, the conversations that took place in the most hallowed of halls often contained the very same content as those shared at dinner tables around the world. Many of the accounts and anecdotes are remarkably mundane and some of the characters, at times, are quite ill-informed.
Because many political leaders are placed on a pedestal, we are led to believe that decisions are made based on insider knowledge and with access to information that is not available to the public. How often have we heard the resigning phrase, ‘well I’m sure they must know what they are doing’; after all they have a vast array of resources and informative agencies at their disposal.
Let us keep in mind that our political representatives work for us, just as our lawyer, doctor or accountant. We should choose someone trustworthy, that comes recommended by those in the know, and give them the space and support to do their work. But let us not make the mistake of getting caught up in the cult of personality or in a media frenzy of idolization. We should remain level-headed and always remember that even a politician who has ‘made it’ is just one of us.
The Author is the director of the Algemeiner Journal and the GJCF and can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org