School your politician or face the fallout

Obviously my friend immediately watched a TED talk on the subject.

Obviously my friend immediately watched a TED talk on the subject.


They grow up so fast. One day you’re asking them to set a better example and, before you know it, you’re dropping them off in suburbia to get leadership lessons from an old-timer.

Not that that’s even necessary these days. A new trend among millennial voters is to send their politicians to a top school of thought – somewhere with a more current approach – and drop the leadership lessons altogether.
The thinking being, by saving on extra tuition, you’ll be able to afford the cost of a better school. There’s a good chance you’ll be able to cancel therapy too, at which point it really starts to make sense.

I have a friend who wants to put her politician in a better school. She tells me it’s the only thing to do because the politician, well, he’s not coping. His electorate even wrote to her, saying he seems detached and uninterested. Apparently he likes to do his own thing.

The electorate said it appears the politician missed out on what she called “crucial development phases”.

Obviously my friend immediately watched a TED talk on the subject, which revealed there are three major stages every politician must go through to adapt to public life.

First up is the Piaget Stage, characterised by concrete operational development. During this stage the politician should learn to interrupt the speaker of the House by screaming over her and get into the habit of swindling money.

After this stage, Bruner’s Mentalities rolls around – by which time the politician would have survived a major scandal. Bruner’s Mentalities also instils values such as nepotism and egoism.

Finally, the politician will go through Kay’s Interface Design. Here wisdom is fostered and basic human traits such as compassion and love take root. Politicians seldom reach this stage. According to TED, Kay’s Interface Design is considered something of a holy grail, mostly forged during times of war or, regrettably, long after retirement.

TED says at least two development stages are required for a politician to adapt, otherwise they might turn to corruption or become dependent on power to sustain their careers. And that’s a no-win situation for everyone. Politicians with corruption problems can affect as many as eight million people around them.

The best thing to do with a politician in this state is to let them make the decision to help themselves. Detach with love, as they say. That could be hard on voters because politicians invariably bring themselves to the brink of destruction.

In most cases the politician becomes so obsessed with power and corruption, the only sane thing to do is chain them and spray them with cold water. But not even that is guaranteed to have any effect.

Eventually, the politician will succumb to their obsession and end up in prison or an institution, which, under the circumstances, is the best outcome for everyone involved.

It’s an outcome that could have been avoided had the politician been enrolled in the right school of thought right from the very start.

Hansie Smit is a freelance writer

JS Smit

JS Smit

JS Smit is a Cape Town-based freelance writer. Formally trained as a copywriter, he took a break from ads in 2010 to write a blog for the Mail & Guardian's Thought Leader and since 2015 has written for the Mail & Guardian. Read more from JS Smit

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