Someone said recently that politics is ‘showbusiness for ugly people.’ It made the Badger laugh because the phrase resonates with recent news items like those, for example, covering China’s 20th Communist Party Congress, Putin declaring martial law, and turmoil in the UK government. The latter, in particular, has provided comedic value on a par with old television programmes like Fawlty Towers and Yes, Prime Minister. Unlike the first broadcast of these programmes, however, the internet, social media, and 24-hour news mean we don’t have to wait for the next episode because the comedy unfolds continuously in real-time.
Having no allegiance to any political ideology is probably why ‘showbusiness for ugly people’ seemed to resonate so strongly with these news items. Being playful for a moment, the Badger thinks the phrase supports the thesis that in today’s world dominated by attention-grabbing content, Mr Blobby, Paddington Bear, and Winnie the Pooh would do a better job delivering what matters than anyone groomed by the machinery of political parties.
A television news bulletin showing Mr Putin in the Kremlin prompted a visiting relative to ask a great question, namely, ‘Mr Putin is 70 years old, Xi Jinping is almost 70, Joe Biden is almost 80 (and Nancy Pelosi is 82!), so why haven’t they retired?’. They added that they weren’t ageist but merely pointing out that, in their experience, the leaders of large public sector and commercial organisations never appoint anyone of this age to run major projects, programmes, and business units. Why, therefore, are these elderly individuals credible as superpower leaders when they are in the twilight years of mental and physical prowess?
Initially flummoxed, the Badger paused to think for a moment, and then simply said that while many believe the world is a rational place, the reality is that humans are inherently both rational and irrational, as internet and social media content frequently illustrates. The propensity for irrationality can be seen in all walks of life, and especially in those who are trying to hold onto power regardless of whether it’s good for themselves and those around them. Whether elderly superpower leaders are credible is thus questionable.
The visitor expected more, so the Badger pointed out that Biden, Xi Jinping, and Putin are not from a digital-native generation and that they are all past their country’s standard pension age. Younger, impatient individuals from digital-native generations will be biting at their heels hungry for power and change. In this decade we might thus see events that trigger the replacement of old men as superpower leaders by dynamic individuals from the digital-native generation. Eventually, of course, leaders from the digital-native generation will be corrupted by power too, and the cycle will repeat itself. The visitor looked perplexed and suggested that the Badger needed mind-altering medication…