FROM time to time countries go through a period of weakness as a result of weak grip on governance and slackness in imposing the law, and have complacent tendencies, thanks to temporary affluence.
This is followed by absence of oversight and accountability due to which corruption ramps up, bribery becomes prevalent, and people become despondent. However, hope remains on the pioneering leadership that shakes up the situation and remedies the ailments that are killing the country softly.
This is what France witnessed in the 17th century with King Louis XIV, who was crowned at the age of five years, prompting Prime Minister Mazaran and Queen Anne to take care of his upbringing. These two provided the young king with good education and varied knowledge, until he took power after reaching the age of maturity.
Once in power, he immediately removed the majority of the officials over whom suspicions hovered, and he ordered their imprisonment.
It is said that he chose the Palace of Versailles as their residence until he recovered from them all that they looted. It was at that time that he said his famous phrase – “I am the state and the state is me.” He did not hesitate to stop Cardinal de Retz, who was instigating people against his rule.
During the 72 years of his continuous rule, King Louis XIV was able to transform France from a country on the brink of collapse and decay to a great power of its time. This resulted in him receiving the title ‘King of Sun’ due to the reforms he made at home, his expansion in ruling several provinces outside his borders, his launch of industries, and his encouragement of arts and culture.
The achievements of this king were wrecked by his successors a hundred years after his rule, until the French revolted and overthrew the rule of Louis XVI to establish the First Republic. He was executed along with his wife Queen Marie Antoinette, who was quoted as saying, “Let them eat cake” when she learned that the revolution had begun because of shortage of bread.
France still symbolizes the story of a volatile state, and continues to serve as an example for leaders who slack in preserving their basic components.
Another model of reform is the rule of Queen Elizabeth I in the 16th century. She was called the “Virgin Queen” because she chose to devote herself in ruling her country, relying on a team of trusted and loyal advisors.
Immediately after assuming power, Queen Elizabeth I took a series of bold decisions that changed the face of England forever. She abolished the prevailing norms of systematic religious persecution, and began to establish a series of organized formal institutions that formed the first nucleus of the firm rule of institutions in the United Kingdom, which also raised the standard of living for its citizens.
Under her rule, England witnessed economic prosperity and military strength, in addition to the revival of culture and arts. She thus proved to be a persevering and tenacious queen with a strong personality.
Nonetheless, the French king and the English queen are not the only ones who have been immortalized by history for what they provided to their countries. There are many leaders in the world who have pulled their countries out of corruption, weakness, and crises, and made them great powers.
In the United States of America with its 46 presidents since its establishment, history only records few of them leaving their mark on the superpower, starting with George Washington, passing through Lincoln, Herbert Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, all the way to Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr.
Those leaders used to benefit from the media of their era to market their decisions. Today the rulers possess all the technological and media means that qualify them to spread their ideas and projects more quickly. It is the fault of the official to not have a media defending his actions, especially if there is a large number of opinions that spoil the broth.
Therefore, there have been lessons throughout history for rulers to learn from in a bid to transform their countries from the stage of illness and weakness to that of strength and leadership. They are the ones history refers to as “man of the nation”.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times