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2004-09-23

Being {insert name of your favourite politician} 

I have always had a strange fascination for the role of the professional politician, viewed as a somewhat abstract concept. I’m most intrigued by the aspect of the 'martyr for society', a rather naive idealisation no doubt, but given that the democratic politician has been handed legitimate power over millions--or only thousands--of other people, clearly that individual should be expected to negate all his petty personal interests, because in balance with the personal interests of so many, they would not matter. (For a laugh, that’s why for me Clinton was a villain over the Lewinsky story back then). There is a stark difference to the business manager, NGO-director etc. here, who can plausibly claim that what they do in their spare time is nobody's business. The 'martyr of society' role is invoked in extremis when the politician is killed by the mafia or by a madman.

Yet I'd also admit that in a specialised society professional politics is a job like any other, where what matters is the performance on the job details rather than the purity of the soul. However in the real world, most of the time voters know too little to judge performance like that, and so they must rely on personality features that are transported by the media to arrive at an opinion. Ultimately, this is the politician as 'entertainer', where physical attractiveness, eloquence and personal charm decide over success or failure.

Of course there are other qualities that matter, such as alliance building skills within a party, handling of journalists and others, but for the average voter, they are observable only after the fact, when one name rather than another ends up on the ballot paper before them.

Martyr - professional - entertainer. And how do politicians themselves see it? Professional first, then entertainer, but what about the martyr role? Dear politicians, let me know what you think in the comments ;-).


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