What is a statesman?
“To Err is Human”- Alexander Pope, poet of the Enlightenment, lent a famous line from his 1711 treatise An Essay on Criticism to the US Institutes of Medicine’s report on patient safety.
Humans, even doctors are humans, but an author should strive not to err.
So I dug deep to find the meaning of the word statesman, as it means different things to different people. Some people give it a hallowed pedestal of a person who is above board, some see him as a person who can do no wrong and some simply look up to him in awe, a messiah, a savior of sorts with a healing touch. I feel Prime Minister Modi is all this rolled into one- ‘The statesman’
To my dismay the definition given in the Collins dictionary was much simpler yet precise. It is “A statesman is an important and experienced male politician, especially one who is widely known and respected”. I feel PM Modi has risen above this definition.
There is a more elaborate definition which goes like this – A statesman or stateswoman is a respected, skilled and experienced political leader or figure. In most respects a statesman is the opposite of a politician. Politicians are thought of as people who will say or do anything to get elected or to gain power. A statesman is someone who does everything for the common good of the people he or she represents. To call a person a statesman is a mark of high regard for that person’s integrity. To call someone a politician usually implies the person is worthy of very little esteem. For example, George Washington is almost always called a statesman. An elder statesman is a term often defined as an older politician or advisor who is thought to be above normal politics.
Cicero gives a more vivid description. The dialog he delivered was about what made a true statesman. It was about the virtues and ideals such a leader must have.
Cicero wrote that a great statesman did not have to descend from aristocrats. But he must have virtus (Virtues), justitia (a sense of justice) and wisdom. He must also have dignitas (roughly translated as dignity), temperance (control of your own behavior, such as not drinking or eating too much) and must show generosity and be magnanimous.
This sounds more like it and satisfies my perception of a statesman. The first criterion as per Cicero (Who is a 51 B.C philosopher who we all respect is that he may not descend from any aristocratic lineage. Narendra Modi is from a humble background, some label him as a chaiwala which he happily accepts. He is not Oxford or Harvard or Ivy League returned. He was even denied Visa by the US for some silly reason which now rolls out a brand new red carpet every time he visits them.
Modi Modi Modi goes the Chant and the chorus
Wherever he goes Indian soil or Abroad Not only the Indian Diaspora but even people of those nations stand up and clap. He gets several standing ovations- yes several- by the high and mighty of America. In a single session of Joint US Congress meet he got a record nine standing ovations. World leaders hug him and most importantly – listen to him.
He definitely has virtues of a great leader (books having been written on this). Of course he demonstrates a sense of justice. Wisdom (which stems out of experience and common sense) is plentiful. He thinks out of the box and a risk taker- which is the most important trait according to my understanding.
Matching up to Cicero yet again he looks not only dignified but powerfully impressive as a leader of a 1.4 billion people. He dresses up well for every occasion and why not? He pays for his own clothes as per RTI query (for those who do not like it).
As far as temperance goes, he does not lose his cool-ever- though he has very good reasons to do it. He is a pure vegetarian and Western countries cater to his tastes and requirements during state banquets.
He fasts for days on during Hindu festivities like Navratras, yet does his work with same vigor and energy, has a frugal diet otherwise, sleeps only a few hours in a day, travels across continents constantly to meet world leaders. Has the capacity to hold dozens of meetings in a week. Last but not the least he is magnanimous, large hearted and thinks big, dreams big. He would speak to the President of US and also to a winner of an Olympic gold medal winner over a phone call – he is Omni present as far as the nation is concerned.
Above petty politics
PM Modi has gradually moved beyond the normal ruckus and political rants. Opposition which needs to get its act together keeps shouting, abusing him, using foul language, rampant lies against a man who does no favors to his kin, needs no favors for himself.
‘The saint who sold his striped-suite’ – gets his old mother just for a few days to his official residence, goes to her simple home in Gujarat to take her blessing on every happy occasion.
Yet the left of what is left and the opposition keeps scheming and fuming every day. One is reminded of the song ‘Kuchch to log kahengey…’
PM is grounded and the nation is on cloud nine
He fights elections very seriously but it is evident that he keeps nation first always and every time. We the people have started respecting ourselves- self-esteem starts with the word self.
The world has started looking at us differently. We are no more meek spectators of a culture of ‘my baap’. He is trying to give dignity to the lowest common denominator and has reached out to the poorest of the poor. Nationalism- may mean different things to different people but everyone knows what it means.
He is Miles ahead of his detractors, left them way behind. He is now first amongst equals. I am sure his detractors in private may be envious of him- they are still hard core politicians- can’t digest a statesman.
But do you need anything more? Not me.