It’s increasingly becoming difficult to trust and believe any word coming out of a Zambian politician’s mouth. Lies, hypocrisy, saying things they don’t mean seems to be the political culture of our politicians. Today they criticise, repudiate, denounce or insult this and that, tomorrow they are in bed with the same this or that.
Today they resign or are expelled from this or that political party and start their own or join another and start insulting, denouncing, accusing their former colleagues of all sorts of crimes and evils. A few months later they are apologising, seeking forgiveness and reconciliation. They are taken back, but we don’t know if they are really forgiven and they start denouncing, insulting those who a few months ago had welcomed them when they were in political limbo.
It’s sickening. It’s making politics unattractive and seeming to be for scoundrels, liars, crooks, hypocrites. How can one work with such politicians, enter into alliances or pacts with them? This is certainly not a recipe for winning people’s trust. The credibility of our politicians is in continuous decline. Credibility is very difficult to find in our politicians today. But credibility is supposed to be the cornerstone of our people’s political life and of our multiparty political dispensation.
But do we still even know what credibility means? Who is credible and why? What are the roots and forms of political credibility? How does it circulate within society? What risks is it subject to and what pathologies do they derive from? What can be called upon to restore credibility to our politics?
We need clear, concise and compendious answers to these questions. We need to find credible ways to overcome the current crisis of credibility, which some even consider irreversible. At the basis of all this is the problem of accelerating the process of circulation of political crooks, of the real consumption of leadership, which leads us to ask: what is credibility really? And what does it mean to be credible?
I will pull the string a little bit and go back a little bit to Aristotle’s Rhetoric, in which he claims that we believe more easily in honest people, adding that this is even more so regarding questions that do not involve certainty, but doubt – recall how, both for the Philosopher and in the common feeling, credibility appears as a personal quality. In reality one is not credible in general and in the abstract, but for someone. It can be a few people or millions of people, but always someone and not in the abstract. Credibility is therefore a relationship, a risky bet, which leads us to ask ourselves what is credible and what are the characteristics and virtues that are preferably associated with a political entity perceived as credible.
There’s a difference between credibility of the role and credibility in the role; someone is believed because he knows and for what he knows. This is typically the credibility of the expert, that is one who has a well-founded knowledge of the facts and problems, which means that he can speak with good reason or with knowledge of the facts.
In politics it is crucial both to know how to and to be able to act. It is even more more necessary to know how to communicate well the decisions taken.In this necessary fiduciary relationship between those who claim to be credible and those who are considered as such, in which personal values can be summarised in the concepts of ‘virtue’ or ‘integrity’ and include honesty, seriousness, self-control, ability to assume responsibility and to respect commitments, politics must be understood as a service.
To govern means to serve, because “In the house of the just”, as St. Augustine observes, “those who command are at the service of those who seem the commanded. Indeed, it is not out of passion for domination that they command, but out of desire to give oneself; not out of pride in being leaders, but out of concern to provide for everyone.
“Credibility therefore no longer concerns only political competence or discursive ability, but the totality of the personal characteristics of the politician, in creating an affective/emotional relationship between leaders and citizens: why should I vote for him? The old Hegelian principle, which says that nobody is a great man for his waiter, returns, so that political leaders, accepting and often seeking the challenge of politics, must be aware of being at the mercy of millions of waiters, the electors.
Political credibility is possible but in a community of shared values, standards and common aims. Political credibility is not just an analysis of credibility in politics. After almost three decades of personal political parties and those formed around a leader, there has been a break-up and rapid consumption of intermittent leadership, which may last only one morning. These are leaderships gained, more and more frequently, on social networks, with an eternal return to oscillating and cyclical dynamics. In the age of permanent election campaigns, that format is intertwined with the processes of personalisation – for which the strong man is also a brand – and of mediatisation.
Mutual recognition assumes a fundamental importance where it is seen as the ability to guide and govern others by assuming all the responsibilities and risks that this entails, while encouraging and promoting real processes of listening, participation and active involvement of citizens at all the levels and in all phases of democratic political life.