Politicians and Statesmen

Politicians and Statesmen – a consideration of differences

Forgive me if I use the traditional English usage in this essay. For me the greater issue is the difference in roles, not in gender and I use the term man – as in statesman – in the neuter sense not in that increasingly associated with it today to indicate a particular genital configuration. This is the established English usage, as seen in other Germanic languages including German itself. I acknowledge and do not support the political use of the term as a put down to others who do not share in that gender and do not wish in anyway to imply that through this consideration.

Having said that it does to some extent define this consideration in that a politician is one of limited viewpoint. The politician is a seeker after popularity. In this he or she is a populist who will say what he or she thinks the public want to hear at that time. He or she is a rhetorical speaker. Whether there is any truth in the statement made is irrelevant as long as it keeps favour with the public and ensures a good return of subscriptions and – most importantly – votes at the next, coming, election. For the politician there is always a election coming.

The statesman is a diplomat (another neuter word). He or she is not concerned with the limited horizons of popularity but is more concerned with integrity and ethical stance in the social world. He will achieve on an international stage something more than personal acclaim. There are many politicians who climb the social ladder to hold an important office in a nation’s history for a moment who fail to make the leap to integrity and true international standing. For a few short weeks he or she holds office and makes momentous decisions, but with a weather eye to one faction or another, be it the people, or the corporation lobbyists trying to push some advantageous deal for their businesses. Such a one disappears quickly from view. Rather in the way that a pop star may be made ‘by the machine’ but without genuine talent and artistic insight they fade as swiftly away.

A statesman brings change to a nation and its role in the world, or indeed to the world itself. Such figures as Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev, Martin Luther King, Gandhi are statesmen. We might look at other characters such as Peter Ustinov, an actor by trade but a Statesman by inclination and endeavour, likewise Audrey Hepburn, or Melanie Safka, Bob Geldof. These artists have never the less used their position to effect change in the lives of others for something other than acclaim and personal praise. They have acted to ensure Justice is done for those they feel have been excluded or downtrodden. This takes enormous courage in the face of a world where money tends to blind others to anything but its own accrual.

I hope the distinction that I draw between politicians and statesmen is now clear. Statesmen and women stand head and shoulders above, not only society at large, but also the world of the politician.