Monday, April 30, 2007

"He did little harm"

Malcolm believes it was Jim Hacker who wanted his obituary to read "He did little harm". Most politicians achieve that result: anyone outside those parameters becomes posthumously either a statesman or a disaster. Because most people who enter politics do so out of some altruism or belief that they can, individually or collectively, improve matters, inevitably they feel, in Enoch Powell's maxim, that "All political careers end in failure".

Yet, there are those exceptions: the few who achieve something positive, often from unpromising beginnings. Last Friday's obituary of Boris Yetsin in The Economist marked such an individual. For all of his weaknesses and follies and compromises and admitted mistakes:
He believed in freedom and rejected communism not because he was a libertarian, but because he felt freedom was part of human nature. His hatred of Stalinism was instinctive, not intellectual. He cursed fascism and Stalinism in the same breath, without putting so much as a comma between them.
To merit a page of obituary in The Economist is itself a marker. That short paragraph, a trifle long for a tombstone, is not a bad epitaph. And nicely written, too.

Note: the Economist's leader on Yetsin is also on line, on open access. Sphere: Related Content

No comments:

Subscribe with Bloglines International Affairs Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory
Add to Technorati Favorites