Byzantium and Leadership in a Crisis
As I write we are on the eve of the G20 summit. Some time ago I finished reading John Julius Norwich’s excellent three volume history of Byzantium. It includes many quotes which may have some relevance for today, but one in particular struck me so here is my first blog …
As the world collectively awaits the protests, blaring sirens and statements of unanimity from the G20 summit, the outlook is hardly inspiring. In Britain we are led by a man who is on a self-appointed mission to save the world and his own reputation, whilst the Germans squabble amongst themselves, and the French President does what the French always do best; say one thing (to the EU) and do another (to Slovak car workers). The twinkle of ‘Hope’ seems to have left the eyes of the weary President Obama, who is babysitting his Treasury Secretary, as he approaches his first one hundred days having achieved little.
We the people have to suffer during this crisis whist our political leaders are cushioned with their public sector salaries, ingenious allowances, and their gilt-edged pensions. Where are the leaders who will take us out of this depression? This crisis began over two years ago, yet still we lack firm plans and leadership. This dearth of quality at the top brings to mind the words of the Grand Domestic of the Court in Byzantium (and later Emperor), John Cantacuzenus in his letter to the Empress, Anne of Savoy in the 1340’s:
“There is nothing more conducive to the destruction of a nation, whether it be republic or monarchy, than the lack of men of wisdom and intellect. When a republic has many citizens, or a monarchy many ministers, of high quality it quickly recovers from those losses that are brought about by misfortune. When such men are lacking, it falls into the very depths of disgrace. That is why I deplore the present state of the Empire which, having produced so many excellent men in the past, has now been reduced to such a level of sterility that today’s governors possess nothing to elevate them above those whom they govern.”
Who will step up to this task, and when?