Question: Should leaders follow their own convictions or submit to public opinion?
An ideal leader must be represented as strong in the face of dire situations, but not strong enough to stifle his or her subjects. A leader must be willing to “open up” to his or her subjects, otherwise dire consequences may creep forward as exemplified in Antigone, the French Revolution and the theories of John Locke.
Antigone not only illustrated the precarious consequences of stubborn leadership, but also did it in a way to effectively instill fear. Creon, who was the stubborn king, refused to heed to his subject’s desires. He event went as far to dismiss the revered priest Tiresias, who had never given false advice. As a result of this, Creon was tragically punished by the gods in a way that makes his most vehement adversaries share sympathy towards him. His son and wife both committed suicide, blaming Creon for their troubles. Creon’s stubborn ruling to the demise of his son and his wife and eventually himself as he exiled himself from Thebes.
One of the most reverberating events in history, the French Revolution, can also be seen as a lesson for all leaders. Th French peasents, who constituted a majority of France, were hungry, yet all of their requests were dismissively ignored by the crown, Louis XVI. Finally, the King called a meeting of the 3 estates, the nobles, clergy, and everyone else to decide the future state of things. Siding with the clergy and nobles, who represented the minority of France, Louis XVI literally closed the doors of the other voices of France. As a result, one of the most violent revolutions ocurred, which destroyed many lives, including the king himself, who was among the first to be decapitated as a result of not following his subjects.
A leader must be willing to submit to public opinion because of natural law. John Locke invented the notion of natural laws, which were the right to liberty, life, and property. Furthemore, Locke advocated the notion that if the government or ruler infringed on these laws, the people have the right to rebel. Locked imagined the relationship between ruler and subject as a contract, which required mutual negotiation or concessions between the two parties, not a total domination of one party against another, which is what a ruler ignoring his subjects would resemble.
As the events of Antigone, the destruction of the French Revolution, and the notions of John Locke illustrate the dire consequences of stubbornly ignoring one’s subjects, it is indeed wiser for one to rethink the relationship of ruler to subject as not a parasitic one, but one of mutual benefit.