Don't be swayed by charisma

Voters waiting in line for their turn at a polling station at Block 555A Hougang Avenue 51.
Voters waiting in line for their turn at a polling station at Block 555A Hougang Avenue 51. PHOTO: ST FILE

I am 62 years old and, for more than 20 years, because of frequent walkovers in the constituencies I have lived in, I have not been able to vote in the general election. 

This time, I finally get the chance, and I cannot wait ("No walkovers, 2.46m to vote on Sept 11"; Wednesday).

When it comes to voting, there is a difference between voting for leaders with good character and voting for leaders based on charisma, which is dangerous.

Voting must be based on clear information and not on hype or popularity.

How many times have we gone to a store to buy something and found the sales staff likeable, but somehow not trustworthy?

There is a difference between charisma and character.

We may like or dislike personalities but it is their character that we trust.

Charisma may open the door, but character keeps it open. 

Electing someone to represent us in our constituency has far greater significance than a retail purchase.

Leaders can change our lives for better or for worse for the next five years and beyond.

The misconduct of salesmen and that of people in power are vastly different in their impact. People in power are much more harmful.

Why? It is because people look up to them. Impressionable people will accept such behaviour as the norm or a justification to do wrong deeds, leading to further moral degradation in society.

Bad governments are elected when good people do not vote or do not vote right.

The word "charisma" is derived from the Greek word "kharisma", referring to the ability to elicit favours from others.

People respond to magnetic personalities. This allows charismatic leaders to have a hypnotising but deceptive influence over their followers. 

The word "character" comes from Greek word "kharakter", which refers to an instrument for marking, like a chisel. This is symbolic, because character is something that is chiselled.

A chisel is a tool used for making a sculpture out of a hard material like granite.

It is also used for scraping away waste material from an object, getting rid of excess, in order to get to what really matters.

Like a sculptor who creates a statue, our pioneer leaders have shaped and moulded our country.

Let us vote for future master sculptors who have the ability to chisel and the courage to scrape out untrue ideologies and bring out the true Singaporean character.

Michael Ang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 04, 2015, with the headline 'Don't be swayed by charisma'. Print Edition | Subscribe