World mourns Nelson Mandela: scene from this week in Pretoria. Photo: Reuters/Yves Herman.
What’s the difference between Rob Ford and Nelson Mandela?
And that’s the problem.
Ford is only this year’s most spectacular example of failure to live up to Mandela’s stellar example of promoting unity, consensus, leadership, honesty, decency, equality and governance in the public interest.
Here’s a shortlist of zeroes on the Mandela scale:
In the U.S., the Tea Party Republicans’ flaws are a titch less conspicuous than Ford’s, but their polarization politics, my-way-or-highway mindset, and poor-bashing policies put them on the bottom rung..
In Italy, former premier Silvio Berlusconi spared the country another few years of braggadocio and bunga-bunga by losing his latest power play when his party split and moved into opposition.He also lost his senate seat. Bravo!
In Ukraine, President Viktor Yanukovich, whose term has been described as a thugocracy, reportedly spent more time enriching his family than the country.
In Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai went through the motions of cleaning up corruption, but ended up spreading it. This year Afghanistan rated lowest on the Transparency International “corruption perception” scale.
In Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe defied all of Mandela’s principles to take the country on a steady plunge into brutality, repression and economic ruin. Worse, the 89-year-old won another (widely disputed) term in office.
In Egypt, Gen. Abdul Fattah al-Sisi vowed to uphold democracy and instead deepened the country's political and religious fault lines by cracking down on anyone who defied his efforts to impose control. No Mandela moments here.
In Belarus, President Alexander Lukashenko gets little attention by virtue of obscurity. It’s his only virtue. Since his 1994 election he’s ruled with an iron fist. No wonder he won the satirical 2013 "Ig Nobel Prize" for making it illegal to applaud in public.
But what about the Western leaders who are paying tribute to Mandela this week?
President Barack Obama rates way less than 10/10 for his ever-expanding spy state, failure to close down Gitmo and hyperactive prosecution of whistleblowers -- not to mention running a drone program that delivers a death sentence without trial.
Nor does Prime Minister Stephen Harper rate top marks on the Mandela scale for his divide-and-conquer politics and “top down” democracy. His policies are reshaping the Canada that Mandela respected -- and not in a good way. The Senate? We won’t even go there.
Olivia Ward has covered conflicts, politics and human rights from the former Soviet Union to the Middle East, South Asia and U.S., winning national and international awards.