Sometimes I just find stories inspiring. This is one.
Jose Mujica is the President of Uruguay. I don’t know all his policies. I doubt I would agree with everything he stands for – he would be the first politician ever to achieve that trick.
But what I’m inspired by is that this president doesn’t live in the kind of luxury house assigned for Uruguay’s leaders. He lives on a run-down farm – owned by his wife – and gives away 90% of his monthly salary to charity. His income is effectively the same as an average person in Uruguay.
You may recall my anger when Iain Duncan Smith made his idiotic statement a few months back about how easy it is to live on 50 quid a week. There I shared just how ‘fabulously wealthy’ the UK politicians are and, therefore, how equally fabulously out of touch they are as a result. We can’t say that of Jose Mujica.
Quite honestly I think he is a model of how other politicians around the world should work and it is quite right to hold him up as a mirror to their own lavish lifestyles. I’m not suggesting we should force or emotionally compel politicians to give up 90% of their wages. I’m not even opposed to a certain amount of wealth. If you earn it, I believe you have a right to at least some of it.
I do think though, that politicians should be morally obliged to demonstrate just why they should represent the (common) people. How they live their lives and the money they spend doing so should reflect something of the lifestyle of the nation – in whatever country they live in.
I’ve worked full-time in three schools as a teacher over the last 20+ years and in each one the common consensus of opinion about the Heads or Principals was that unless they are committing a fairly large portion of their time to teaching, they cannot possible run a school well and meet the needs of both teachers and students. Only in my last school did I see real commitment from the Head to do this. I’ve watched Heads who only teach a handful of classes each week in action in the classroom. Normally, they’re appalling. Simply, no matter how much experience you have, if you don’t keep teaching, you can’t understand what the school needs.
Similarly with politics. It doesn’t matter if you have a ‘rags to riches’ story which wins you the votes of people who identify with you. If you enjoy a lifestyle out of proportion to that of the people you serve then, quite honestly, I don’t believe you serve them.
I don’t know how good Jose Mujica is as a politician but I like him for how he lives as a human being. It isn’t just that he drives a 1987 VW Beetle (our car, before selling it and coming to Bangladesh, was a 1973 Beetle and one of the hardest things to give up) – though that helps – it is his philosophy of life.
“Poor people are those who only work to try to keep an expensive lifestyle, and always want more and more,” he says. “This is a matter of freedom. If you don’t have many possessions then you don’t need to work all your life like a slave to sustain them, and therefore you have more time for yourself.” (Source: BBC News)
I wonder how many Presidents, Prime Ministers and politicians in general are taking note of him. I suspect, I could count the number on one hand…