Mark of a 'natural aristocrat'

I recently came across the term "natural aristocracy", used by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong ("Political Links: What's buzzing online in political news"; ST Online, July 8).

The term was first used by former US president Thomas Jefferson, and the gist is: Men of virtue and talents are natural aristocrats, while men of wealth and birth are artificial or pseudo-aristocrats.

The term has been making the rounds in social media because the word "aristocrat" is loaded with unsavoury connotations and does not sit well with a socialist democratic republic such as ours.

By his use of the term, PM Lee can only mean that people must solemnly respect their country's elected leaders and the dignity of the executive offices whose occupants have worked hard to earn their spots in government.

If this small courtesy is freely upset, then anarchy will ensue and the system we call a nation will not work.

But there is one proviso. A true leader of men is a selfless, altruistic person whose innate abilities to galvanise a community invariably inspire the respect and trust of men who are equally virtuous and talented. He naturally emerges as the first among equals.

Men (and also women) can get to be talented by industry and practice. They must want to work tirelessly to uplift their fellow men to be virtuous. This is the mark of a natural aristocrat.

David Lam Yan Choon