You know, we really don’t need to cover this. We all know what’s coming. It’s so frightfully obvious when a politician gets caught. They get that wonderful ‘deer in the headlights’ look in their eyes that would usually elicit a feeling of pity, but considering how often these buggers screw us it just makes you feel gleeful. Then again I am known for being a bit of a jerk so maybe it’s just me that loves seeing politicians getting nailed.
Just so we’re all on the same page, here’s the top three things politicians can never do!
- Can’t admit they were wrong.
- Can’t agree with their opponents.
- Can’t give the answer “I don’t know”.
And just to clarify, I’m an Aussie (Australian), so my point of view is skewed towards our politics. But from what I’ve seen it seems to be pretty universal.
1. Can’t admit they’re wrong:
I’m going to give politicians the benefit of the doubt and assume they actually do know they’re wrong sometimes, and not just in theory, but in practice. It is possible some of them are so deluded they genuinely think they aren’t wrong, but I’m referring to the majority here. They wouldn’t get that deer in the headlights look if they truly believed they were right. And I’ve seen people spouting absolute crap without that fearful look, truly believing every word they say. Seriously, just watch any episode of ‘Bullshit‘.
So, let’s start with the assumption they know they’re full of crap and that they’re just trying to put the right ‘spin’ on it. Now I’m not a political analysis, a journalist or even a psychologist so this is purely my own conjecture, but I’d like to explore why this is.
The best way to learn is (sadly) by making mistakes. We usually get hurt a little in this process so it’s more likely the lesson will stick in our heads. Making mistakes is essential.
Now when you’re running a country with millions of people depending on you making good choices I can understand the pressure might be stacked a little higher than whether to drink the week old milk.
The problem is the perception that if a politician makes an error they are unfit to govern. Now we in Australia are pretty tough on our politician (well, on everyone really) and we give them a lot of cheek and a lot of crap. But I’m not sure we expect them to be perfect. And therein I think lies the problem. At some point in history it was decided that our leaders need to display perfection in everything. And not just their leading abilities, but in their social and family lives too. I’m not sure who decided this; whether it was the populous or the leaders themselves, believing that if it they were thought of as perfect they would win out over their adversaries.
But this is the modern era! We should know better than that by now. We don’t expect perfection from anyone and there’s no reason we should expect it from our leaders.
So the question is, does this expectation come from within the leaders themselves, or from the public? Are our leaders just so arse-backwards they think displaying themselves as perfect beings makes them the superior choice, or is it something we push them towards?
I can’t wait until society grows up enough that politicians can openly say “Yeah, we cocked up. This is how we intend to fix it”. First politician to say that gets my next vote.
2. Can’t agree with their opponents.
Heaven forbid your opponents might have a good idea! The problem is that the two major parties pretty much can’t agree on anything! (Ironically one of the few things they do seem to agree on is the continued banning of same-sex marriage, something the majority of the public is against!) The minute one party makes a statement or policy the opposition is immediately up disagreeing with it. Often they don’t appear to be genuinely against the policy, it just seems to be a childish notion that they can’t be seen to be in agreement. Because admitting your opponent is right is of course an excuse for all your voters to ditch you and go with the other guys.
Look, I can kind of understand this. I mean, we have different parties because we want opposing views. But the fact of the matter is eventually we’re going to find a ‘best’ way of governing (odds are we’ll probably find several) and that over time different governments should streamline into similar structures, not unlike how most cars these days look pretty similar because there’s a ‘best’ way to be aerodynamic.
Having to always oppose your opponent on every issue has an immediate benefit to your party, but in the long term it’s doing damage and is slowing us down from getting closer to that ‘best’ model. Stop disagreeing for the sake of it. Disagree on things that you actually disagree on and start agreeing on the rest of it.
3. Can’t give the answer “I don’t know”.
This I assume is for the same reason that politicians can’t admit they’re wrong. At some point it was agreed that the best leaders are those that have all the answers. And that would be true if they actually had all the answers. But they’re not omniscient. They can’t possibly be expected to know everything.
The problem with these issues is a bit of a catch 22. People still have the mindset that their leaders should be infallible, so that’s a standard they try to live up to. They even employ ‘Spin Doctors’ to make this part of their job easier. The problem is that society is now smart enough we can pick up when a story is being spun and we bludgeon our leaders for it. Despite that, we still want this mythical perfect leader. So the poor politician is stuck trying to spin everything to appear perfect to a public that asks for it, but then gets trampled if they get caught trying to spin.
I have so much more respect for someone, whether they be a politician, teacher, parent or friend who says “You know what, I don’t know. I’ll try to find out for you”.
And now to throw my spin on things. You see, politics isn’t the only place you see this kind of attitude. It’s also really prominent in…you guessed it, religion! And we should hardly be surprised, modern government is a spin off from religion. Way back in time the religions were the government. It’s only in more recent times when we have communities made up from multiple religions that a more impartial government has become necessary.
1. Can’t admit they’re wrong:
You see this all the time in religion. Whether it be taking over 350 years to pardon Galileo, lying to 3rd world countries about the effectiveness of condoms or sticking to crazy-arse stories about the age of the Earth and talking snakes, the Catholic church is absolutely terrible at admitting they’re wrong, even in the face of overwhelming evidence. And this kind of stupidity is prominent in most religions, particularly the major ones.
People allow themselves to become too invested in their belief systems that trying to tell them they’re wrong becomes a personal insult rather than a simple sharing of ideas.
2. Can’t agree with their opponents.
Most religions start with a strict following. Everyone for the most part agrees, and what they don’t agree on they either happily debate or put to the side as unimportant. Then a few generations later you find splits or schism where a religions followers part ways and become two or more religions. Over time this happens again and again and again, eventually leading to the multitude of belief sets we have today.
Heaven forbid these different sects should ever agree with each other. It becomes even worse when they’re different religions rather than just different sects. Then again, are Islam, Jewdaism and Christianity different religions, or just different sects? They all share a common history.
There is however, always an exception to the rules. There are religions out there that are starting to agree with each other and form singlular groups. I’ve only recently learned of the Baha’i through a blog I’ve been reading.
A good blog with good writers. Even if we don’t see eye to eye on the facts they’re good topics and good people. Worthy of a read and even a comment if you’re that way enclined.
I don’t know enough of the Baha’i faith to really comment on it just yet. To me it seems to be the next stage in the death throws of religion whereby the different religions are grouping together to preserve their teachings. An interesting idea though, and one I hope to learn a lot more about in the future.
Look, I really don’t like religion in general and I wish the world were ready to move on from dismally disappointing gods. But the fact is there are a thousand possibilities for how the universe came into existence and the only way we’re going to find the answer is to explore the possibilities. As a species we’re slowly exploring all the ideas and over time rejecting the less effective ones. It’s actually rather scientific. I just wish people would treat it as a mass experiment, rather than getting so personally and emotionally involved in their own little idea that they can’t move on from it, even in the face of overwhelmingly contradictory evidence. It’s one thing to be actively exploring ideas, it’s another to be so invested in a single idea.
3. Can’t give the answer “I don’t know”.
This isn’t so much something that religions do as it is the reason for religions. A long time ago someone looked up at the stars and wondered aloud “I wonder what’s up there?” Rather than giving the honest answer of “I don’t know”, others came up with explanations for these types of questions and thus were gods and religions born.
You even get this kind of evading with the typical response “God’s ways are a mystery”. It’s just a cleverly worded way of saying “I don’t know”. You know what, it’s spin.
But here’s the real head fake. This isn’t really just a problem with politics or religion. It’s a problem with society and people in general. We’re terrible at admitting when we’re wrong. If there’s an idea or a person we don’t like we often can’t see any good in them. And given the option of saying “I don’t know” or making up stories we’ll often choose the latter as this beautiful advertisement by Telstra demonstrates.
A little over the top maybe, but a demonstration of what I’m sure happens every day.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s politics, religion, business or any other form of human interaction these are ideals we need to get past.
Admitting you’re wrong about something takes great courage but will ultimately make you more enjoyable to be around and a better, more informed person in general.
Disagreeing with people is the cornerstone of good democracy, but often I see people who are unable to dissect the good ideas out of people they don’t like. A good idea is a good idea, no matter who says it.
And my personal favourite, let’s start admitting when we don’t know something. We’re all ignorant of many things and the sooner we can suck it up and admit that the sooner we’ll start filling those gaps in our knowledge. Let’s stop thinking of ‘ignorant’ as an insult but as a fact of life that can be overcome.
Ignorance may not be bliss, but getting over our ignorance can be. Searching to fill those gaps in our knowledge can be wonderful. It can also be a painful process if we’re too invested in our own ignorance. Regardless of the pain though it’s almost always worthwhile to push through it and overcome that ignorance.
-Ignorance is not bliss. Stay inquisitive.