Monday, August 27, 2012

"I’m Not a Politician" ?! We're all politicians, sometimes ... often.

Faith is believing what you know ain't true. -- Puddinhead Wilson
Everyone’s a politician to some extent. If you need no one’s help to get what you want, then all your problems are technical. This doesn’t mean they are easy or honest. As soon as you need to involve someone else, then you must be political, that is, take into consideration what they want to do that might conflict with your goals. And you’ve got to talk to them so as not to scare them off. You must give up forthrightness for effectiveness. This is politics. And it doesn’t mean that what you are trying to get done is either technically difficult or underhanded.

Situation A: Who gets up in front of a crowd of people at a political rally and says. “I’m am not a politician”? Who believes it? Many political aspirants, it seems, like to say such things. And no one really believes it. And yet lthe audience goes along with what the speaker proposes. The speaker’s lie is politically productive.

Situation B: Suppose that same person had gotten up in front of the same crowd and said, “I’m a politician.” Most in that crowd would think, “Yeah, we know that already,” and boo him or her for saying it out loud. And few would go along with what the speaker would have to say. So it would be stupid to start off a speech saying, “I’m a politician” for this audience. The speaker’s forthrightness is politically unproductive.

Situation C: There is a third possibility. The speaker does not say anything about being a politician. He or she just gets up and says, “I want you to help me get elected so I can do something for you.” Doesn't this seem more honest and direct? Isn’t it better to ask for help without requiring people to first swallow a lie in order to do so? Would it be less productive?

It depends. Are these people who expect some kind of stroking, who demand some kind of emotional bribe to compensate their paying attention? Even more, do these people need to be lied to, placated, flattered, cajoled, made to "feel good" with what they know is less than true? Are they consciously aware that they are involved in a falsehood, a hypocrisy, before they are willing to be productive? It is for the sake of group solidarity, or just a tradition of good manners? A faith that overwhelms all veracity?

What kind of moral upbringing brings people to prefer hypocrisy? What kind of situation evokes this preference?

To examine these issues further, see Productivity, Politics and Hypocrisy in American Public Education

--- EGR