IN the election season of intense and heightened emotions, there are great opportunities to look at those who would make good leaders and those who are poor leaders, those who would serve the people well and those who would serve themselves well.
This is a time for soul searching, for the examination of individual and public attitudes, for personal conscience review, and for the deeper understanding of the common good.
The idea of common good exists in politics, ethics and in religion. All religions and world philosophies refer to the common good which is just, which creates fair and liberal social infrastructure.
Promoting the common good allows the practice of democracy and the pursuit of virtues. In Judaism, Christianity, Islam (maslahah umum), and in other faiths, the virtues and requirements of moral and ethical political leadership character include truthfulness, honesty, fairness, temperance, good faith, sincerity and no ill will.
The principle across all faiths is that one does not wish or do unto others and their families what one does not want to be done unto or to befall one's own family.
Ethnic, religious, linguistic and other forms of discrimination, deculturalisation and alienation are not regarded as right political action. The reflective, thinking and enlightened leader exercises thought, moral choice and action on what is "right" and not what is "might".
Nomination Day for the Tenang by-election in January 2011. Voters should evaluate who
would serve the people well and who would serve themselves well. Pic by Rosdan Wahid
Power is exercised for good, for inspiration, for creating a better world for all, and not just for a select group.
There is no valid excuse for local or global leaders not to work to promote the pursuit of virtue and create the common good. The salient political message by religious, political and civil leaders as well as non-partisan advocacy groups is to support and champion the creation of "public wealth", the collective good, peace, security and social harmony. People who design to create disharmony, discord and oppression are evil leaders.
"We the people" want to be the best of people -- the ummatun wassatun -- and therefore, we deserve the best of leaders. The best of leaders are those who understand the true meaning of the common good.
The best of leaders contribute to the enhancement and betterment of the common good of the majority and the minorities. The good leader is not about the amassing of common wealth for self, family and cliques, or in-groups.
The marks of sane and good leaders include the following:
To struggle to be the person with the best character in good times as well as in times of crises, in situations of political glory or political fall.
The good leader is humbly pious, learned and truthful, caring and fearful of god and retribution now or in the future, in the here and hereafter.
Selfish, arrogant, patronising leaders, those who are merchants of hate, those who do not read the signs, those not able to negotiate with others, those who demand that others conform to their will and views of the world and their fancies, and those who lack finesse, really shortchange the people.
If we nurture and live with hatred, we create circles of evil, engender hearts of darkness and lose our humanity. If every leader in the milieu is discredited at every turn, then the people do not have any more leaders to respect or to trust.
Surely, we still have good people and good, just, fair leaders in our midst, those who could be respected and trusted?
Who are the people? The people are all people, not just voters. The people are from all kinds of backgrounds, women and men, urban and rural, poor and rich, old and young, powerful and less powerful, party people and nonpartisans.
In a good state, the people deserve the best of the leaders. And the best of the leaders are those with the purest of hearts, the most stable of minds and the humblest among the people.
The best of leaders champion the ethic of common good which are tangible and intangible. Good leaders champion commonness of virtues, common goodwill, common sense, common values, common vision, common mission and common destiny of Malaysians and of mankind.
Malaysians do make modest personal sacrifices to achieve the common good. The common good includes the social systems, institutions and environments that create conditions to everyone's advantage.
The ethics of common good provide decency and dignity for all, and check the tide of materialism, self-interest, and blatant unethical behaviour by those in pursuit of power and wealth.
With the ethic of common good, people can one day write the moral narrative that politics can indeed be clean.
Datuk Dr Ibrahim Ahmad Bajunid | email@example.com is a deputy vice-chancellor, INTI Laureate International University. New Straits Times Columnist 18 January 2013