Where are the leaders of yesterday

A crisis is often also a wake-up call. The blaring alarm clock shaking us from the comfort of our daily sleep, the metaphorical arms taking us up by the collar, white or blue, and stirring us into lucidity. As we are vigorously roused into wakefulness, the gentle illusions of slumber evaporate like mist on the mountaintops.

As we wake up, we realise that the leaders we once looked up to and poured accolades on have grown silent, also like the wind on the mountain after a snowstorm. We look them up but find them no more. They are nowhere because they have nothing to teach us in this moment of need. They retreat into irrelevance because their instruction is dead. They cannot lead because they are going nowhere.

Instead, we find silent leaders emerging from behind the curtain of fog, unsung heroes, unacknowledged men and women who have everything to teach us from the humility of their daily sacrifice—the kind of sacrifice which leaves no trace in high-profile magazines, paid-subscriptions and peacetime channels.

And their sacrifice, silent and unnoticed, is the genuine leader of this time. The kind that gently conscripts us into action, washing our dizzy heads with spring water, recalibrating our compass and showing the way forward.

Some political leaders have called for economies of war during these disjointed times. They have looked back to the nearest-known enemy to template our response to this new crisis. But perhaps we don’t need economies of war, those which bracket our normal state for a little while, only to re-welcome our old ways back once the danger is over. Perhaps we don’t need antibodies shutting down the regular operation of the body for as long as the pathogens are fought and defeated, but returning the system to the status quo ante. To paraphrase Pope Francis, what we need, I think, is a new immune system, one which would not allow us to ‘deprive ourselves of the antibodies we need to confront adversity’.

The alarm clock keeps buzzing. And we are still in bed.

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