When you watch politicians, especially through media (tv, radio, and social media particularly) you will get the impression sometimes that with what they say they look and sound invincible and immortal. But if you are able to talk with them up close and personal, they are really just human beings, real human beings just like anyone of us. They have problems, pains, sickness, worries, challenges and fears, too.
In fact, according to social psychologists, the worst ones, those who say “I will kill you”, “I will put you in jail”, etc., leaders who are violent and who rule violently by threatening their opponents and constituents; they are said to be the most afraid. Johan Galtung of the Peace Research Institute of Norway had this to say: “Violence is a testament of human inadequacy”. Human beings become violent when they are unable to handle their own worst fears.
If a few of our dearest friends who have become addicted to politics, specifically traditional politics that require you to cheat, lie, beg, steal or borrow in order to win elections, were to ask for our unsolicited advice, we would offer this: “Quit while you are still rich, famous, and respected”. But, of course,they will have none of that. Addiction is addiction. You need rehabilitation for that. And it takes time to become sober.
Pedro Castillo is a different kind of human being altogether. The kind that we desperately need all over the world, more so, in Third World countries like ours. He was born to a very poor family of two illiterate farmers in a country famous for its gold mines.
During his childhood, Pedro often had to balance his schooling with farm work at home. He completed his elementary and high school education involving a daily trek to and from school along steep cliffside paths for two hours,wearing just ananimal’s skin coat and straw hat.
As a teenager and young adult, Castillo traveled throughout his country to earn funds for his studies. Beginning at the age oftwelve, he and his father would walk 140 kilometers fortwo to three days to work for a few months in the coffee plantations. With his sister, Castillotraveled through thick forests to work with rice crops and sell ice cream in order to pay for studies. In the city, he sold newspapers and cleaned hotel rooms. He earned a bachelor’sdegree in education and a master’s degree in Educational Psychology after much hard work.
He even worked in his youth as a patrolman todefend his community against Maoist rebels. But his neighbors kept saying that Castillo “was always trying to help people, if we hadto build a road, he was there, if we had to do some task or errand,he was there, and if we had to help a sick person who didn’t have money, he was there”.
In 1995, Castillo worked as a primary school teacher and principal in a town where he was responsible for cooking, cleaning, and teaching for the students in his classroom.According to Castillo, the community constructed the school after receiving nogovernment assistance. Castillo’s career of teaching involved receiving low pay, with the vocational statusof his work being highly respected and influential in the rural areas, prompting Castillo to beinvolved with teachers’ unions.
Without any political ambition, Pedro was thrust to the public’s consciousness when teachers went on national strike due to very low pay. Teachers looked to him for leadership. They did not want to stop the strike unless Castillo said so. They got only some of their demands. But that was enough to inspire the teachers to push for Castillo’s candidacy for town mayor in 2002.
Not being a politician, Castillo got only 102 votes. He lost miserably. 19 years later (this year, 2021) he ran for President and won with a slim but clean and honest majority. He will be inaugurated as the next President of Peru on July 28. We need a Pedro Castillo in this country. No saad, bahad or balikas. No paid social media trolls. Just plain and selfless public service. But he or she will only win if we support real competence, honesty, sacrifice and dedication. It is possible.