WANTED: More Hypocritical Politicians
By Liam Fox
NEWS JUNKIE POSTSep 18, 2011 at 2:21 pm
First, before the vocabulary Nazis skip to the comment section and start furiously hammering away on their keyboards, the title of this article misuses the word ‘hypocritical’ purposely. A hypocrite is someone who says one thing and does another, or professes beliefs and values that they don’t actually hold. Certainly something politicians do, though not something that we actually want. But, like the word ironic, which is often used incorrectly to describe bad luck (as in Alanis Morissette’s song ‘Ironic’ and the line in it “like rain on your wedding day” as a supposed example of irony), it’s misuse is so common that I decided to grant myself artistic license. Why? Because I like the way it sounds. It’s sort of ironic.
What the title refers to as ‘hypocritical’ is actually in reference to the lack of room to grow that we give politicians, and, very often, each other. It’s a much more common phenomenon with public figures than with those we know intimately. And, it’s most certainly a double standard that we require of others while granting ourselves much greater latitude, and often immunity.
The greater our degree of separation is from another, the less understanding we are of the changes they may go through. The intermittent exposure we have to public figures lacks the daily, or at least more frequent, exposure we have to those close to us. That exposure allows us to see, and therefore understand, the learning process that takes them from one opinion, or paradigm, to another. With public figures, who we may see only every few months, or years, we tend to disregard the time that has elapsed and judge them as if their apparent change is immediate, or, simply because we lack the perspective of the elapsed time, that it isn’t really a change or process at all, but rather that they are hypocritical and disingenuous, saying two different things that, from a distorted perspective, seem simultaneous.
While personally we are often adamant that to be held to our past opinions is completely unreasonable, and unjust, we are often reticent, if not completely opposed, to granting the same to others. We allow ourselves room to grow, and to learn, but we tend to hold others in a state of arrested development.
This is certainly not intended as the ridiculous proposition that politicians are simply misunderstood rather than hypocritical. Not hardly. I’m not even sure that could be presented sardonically with any amusement value. We’ve all been victimized by those who can, all too easily, speak out of both sides of their mouths without even a hint of guilt in their eye. It’s a sociopathic trait all to common with those in government.
What I am suggesting is that we may be excluding the valuable contributions of some individuals, for all the wrong reasons, while allowing the wrong people to be in positions of leadership by perpetuating the same faulty logic. Is having a change of opinion after two decades really a flip-flop and the sign of someone who can’t be trusted? And, conversely, is a mindset that has remained stagnant for a quarter century really what we want leading us into the future?
Does a stupid college prank in 1980 constitute proof of poor judgment in someone now more than fifty years old? Should the misguided musings of an undergrad, published in a student newspaper in 1965, be considered the defining evidence of a now senior citizen’s world view? None would want this done to them, and, if a close friend or family member attempted to do so, they would be ridiculed and considered a little wrong in the head. Yet we do it to our politicians all the time.
Isn’t it more disturbing that someone seems to have remained unchanged since their late teens? Isn’t it a little scary when there seems to be no trace of passion, impulsiveness, or human fallibility in someone’s background? Where do these Stepford people come from?
Most people in their thirties would find it completely unreasonable to be held accountable for their opinions, or the immature level of understanding they had achieved only a few years earlier in their late twenties. But, the picture of a brilliant young person taking a hit off a bong can end a political career two decades later. Lets not even consider the ramifications for the unfortunate student that happened to attended the same antiwar demonstration as a bunch of pinko commies back in the 70′s and then attempted to run for public office in the 90′s. That’s a triple fault. Antiwar, commies, and an innocent event that can be spun into a ‘history of political radicalism’ twenty years after the fact.
We need to learn to tell the difference between individuals that continue to learn and grow, and actual hypocrites. For the most part I think we’ve had it ass-backwards for far too long. We want the brilliant kid with innovative ideas and potential solutions for the incredible challenges we face that took a hit off a bong and goes on to graduate with honors. We may not want the kid that started wearing business suits in middle school, and who never completely grasped the deeper concepts and transferable knowledge of the lessons they were taught, but parlayed their solid B- into advantageous positions through extended family, well connected friends, and good hair.
In the same way that we need a new political paradigm to replace the obsolete ideologies and unsustainable economic models of both our past and present, perhaps we need a new kind of politician as well… one that is allowed to learn and grow. Lets not put people in boxes and stifle their potential for growth, especially those we elect to positions of leadership.
If a former denier of the obvious and measurable change we are experiencing in the earth’s climate comes to understand and accept the empirical data that points to an imminent crisis if it is not immediately addressed in a comprehensive manner, lets applaud the milestone achieved rather than waste time deriding prior delusions.
If those charged with the education of our next generation come to realize that the earth is in fact more than six thousand years old, and that earthquakes, tornadoes, and tsunamis are natural events rather than the actions of an angry deity upset with health care for all and same sex marriage, lets forgive previous nonsense and welcome their personal evolution as well.
Changing our minds isn’t a bad thing. Not knowing our own mind while changing what we say depending on who, or what constituency, we are talking to is. Knowing the difference between the two is key. One we need, and the other we have far too much of already.
Past errors do not have to define a person; but what a person does to correct those errors can. Please note that I say errors and mistakes and not anything so egregious as purposeful and prolonged torture, or crimes against humanity. I don’t think a sophistical debate about the potential rehabilitation of Heinrich Himmler or Dick Cheney will serve any worthwhile purpose.
Individually, and as a global society, our past is filled with failed experiments. Some horrible failures and some learning experiences, but failures nonetheless. Equality, justice, emancipation and sustainability are no more a part of our past than responsible, accountable and transparent government, or real democracy.
If we’re going to manage the necessary, profound, and fundamental change required to meet the challenges of our future, we are going to have to encourage it in ourselves and from each other as well. We can not move forward if we insist on conserving our failed policies of the past. So, if, with every new election cycle a politician learns something (dare to dream), and then incorporates this new information and understanding into their platform, they may not actually be a hypocrite at all… they may just be starting to evolve into Cooperative Libertarians or Federated Anarchists.