The Politics of Egotism

by David Rambeau

One of the world's greatest books is the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tze, a Chinese philosopher who wrote it two millennia ago. One of the most insightful concepts in it is his statement, the greatest leader is the one who gets the people to say, "We did it ourselves." Given this standard of excellence and achievement we are hard-pressed to find any leadership in Detroit. We have the usual array of elected officials, spokespersons, position holders and community activists, but we don't have on abundance of leaders.

Let's start with the Detroit Public Schools' financial overseer, Robert Bobb, a blatant example of non-leadership. I heard him do an interview recently about the city's schools' debt, budget and direction. Every other word he uttered was I...I did this, I did that, I have the power, I have the right. I, I, my I. In every interview, presentation, press conference, or seminar available he presents himself and no one else. He is the consummate political egotist.

Though Detroit's black students have received poor scores on the NAEP national tests in English and Mathematics, Bobb has never, ever, presented the curriculum directors in these respective disciplines employed by DPS for their explanation of the results and remedies needed to effectuate change. DPS English and Math teachers, individually or collectively, have never had their perspectives brought to the people nor engaged parents or students in the teaching, testing and evaluation process. Ownership of commentary, analysis and change has been totally claimed by the financial overseer. Everyone knows his name; nobody knows anybody else's. The spotlight shines on him and nobody else. That is political arrogance of the highest measure.

Bobb was appointed by Michigan's current governor to balance the books. By his own admission Detroit Public Schools (DPS) are significantly deeper in debt than before he was appointed. He has alienated the teachers, the elected school board, many community activists, droves of parents, administrators and students. After ex-governor John Engler we were $200 million in debt. After Governor Jennifer Granholm we'll be $366 million in debt. This is what the governors from the Republican and Democratic parties and local elitist stakeholders call "progress". It isn't progress, it's lies, deception and exploitation.

Now they, elected officials, specifically Detroit's mayor, and so-called stakeholders, want to take away the people's right to elect a Detroit school board. Again. No surprise there. That's always been their way. First it was slavery and no vote. Then it was the poll tax and no vote. Then the KKK and violent intimidation and no vote, hanging chads in Florida, the New Jim Crow through incarceration and no vote, state appointed superintendents and currently a financial overseer. The more things change, the more they remain the same.

Recent Detroit political events and history have shown, at the first level, that many elected officials are self-centered mediocrats. At the next level, semi-literate alligators, ready to pounce on community prey for votes, donations or adulation. For corporate agents or interests they'll genuflect with either knee or both simultaneosly for a dinner at a downtown restaurant or country club while they cadge for a four-figure gratuity thinly disguised as campaign support. Of late they've gravitated toward establishing non-profit foundations, so-called civic organizations, used to employ relatives and other flacks or provide slush funds for unseemly indulgences. They themselves are the best recommendation for term limits lest they'll never have to work for a living.

The issues they discuss for days should, in ordinary discourse, be settled within the hour with ample time for lunch and a stroll along the river. Their templates for interviews or speeches, circular, repetitive and superficial, would, in printed form be reading material for insomniacs to induce slumber like that of breast-fed babes. And yet they crave to be addressed as "honorable", a prefix as laughable as those of English royalty. Worst of all is the appelelation, "leader".

In a democracy the people empower elected officials, then elected officials should empower the people. But they don't; they empower each other. They talk and argue, they puff, preen and pout, but do they listen to the people? Do they enlighten the people? Do they empower the people? You be the judge.

The Politics of Egotism by David Rambeau

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