Friday, 19 November 2010

Saturday Photo: Pombal, Enlightened Leaders, and Democracy

I'm off this weekend to the biennial convention of the Quebec section of the NDP in Ottawa. There are a couple of resolutions that I'd like to see past concerning health care and the role of government in social programs. Whether reason will prevail remains to be seen.

But in the meantime, I've been thinking a lot about the fundamental tension between leadership and democracy. The statue at the left is of the Marquês de Pombal, a martinet who transformed Portugal in the late 18th century when a weak king handed over to him the reins of power. In Making Waves,
I spend considerable space talking about all he accomplished--rebuilding Lisbon and outlawing slavery in the home country, to mention only two--and wondering just where the border is between being strong and being a tyrant.

We're lacking strong leadership on the left in Canada and the US at the moment. How to get it, how to channel dissatisfaction with the state of things into action, how to protect our right to choose: those are difficult questions about which I'd like to think there will some serious talk this weekend.

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