Moral chains and civic leadership; do they matter and do they exist?

November 22, 2013


By Pepper Parr


BURLINGTON, ON.  There is on the wall of my office a quote from Edmund Burke that goes:

Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion

to their disposition to put moral chains upon their appetites.

Those words stuck with me – for we read again and again of the nationally and internationally prominent men who live lives that are public, who seem to feel that the way they treat the women in their lives is of no concern to the rest of us.

I take the view that the way men treat the woman in their lives is probably the most critical indicator of their personality and character – and it is character that matters most in the men that lead us.  Think of a major political leader and it is easy to find one that has some salacious gossip attached to their relationships with women they are not married to.  Call me old-fashioned, a prude if you like – but the way you treat the people nearest to you is an indication of how you will treat those not as near.

I think Edmund Burke had it right.  I remember the images of that young American President standing before the Brandenburg  Gates in Berlin and declaring:  Ich bin ein Berliner”, while a massive crowd roared their approval and we saw how he identified with their hopes and their longings.

Marilyn Monro singing Happy Birthday to President John Kennedy in 1962

And then there is that image of that same President sitting in a ballroom looking smug while the sex queen of the time sang Happy Birthday, while his wife must have been at home cringing with shame.

The current American President doesn’t have so much as a whiff of the philanderer about him; Canada’s Lester Pearson slept in his own bed with his wife every night.

To have the charisma that the public loves to see, to be dashing and  glamorous certainly does things for the ego – but if the ego needs that level of massaging,  then politics and public service should perhaps not be your first choice.

Have we grown as a society in North America where the morals of the men who lead us are part of the equation we use to evaluate their worth to society?

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2 comments to Moral chains and civic leadership; do they matter and do they exist?

  • Fishin' Civil

    How often do men and women in politics have “moral chains”? It takes a certain “personality type” to be accomplished in high power business and politics. I do not think personality has changed I think technology and media has changed; and the world has been made more aware. Media is now everywhere, paparazzi is everywhere… would America have elected FDR in a wheelchair if it was televised in 1932?

    The countries stigma over his disability in 1932 would have never resulted in a victory. Today, everything is about visuals, buzzwords, style not substance.

    Look at Rob Ford. He was the peoples choice, and when council wanted him out they mounted a media campaign against him. Once council got what they wanted the media stopped. Ford has done no more than any other politician around the world, although he made world headlines. Instead of offering an addict help from their EAP under AODA guidelines as addiction is a disability they broadcast his impulsive nature (addict behaviour) across the world. Would they have done this to another employee of City Hall, NO! Another councillor, NO! Another politician, probably not to the extent they did to Rob Ford. Politicians use media and technology for their own purposes and their own agendas in todays world. Technology has given people in these professions new ways of manipulation and control.

    The persons you both remember are now what we call Advocates against this.

  • Joan Gallagher-bell

    Perhaps today is a reflection of today’s values rather than what present day maure adults were shown. You and I have lived in the best of times with President Kennedy then the worst the shooting. That started a dreadful down turn in society’s politicians on both sides of the border.
    Now for positive with persons like yourself and your writers for Gazette there is a light of facts mixed with copious amounts of truth. God Bless.