Sep 28, 2009

Political discourse and respect

September 14/2009

I’m neither left nor right, so I sit in the middle, dodging dogma and personal attack potshots, and watching badly behaved people spout vicious lies and destructive intimation at each other over the heads of, us, the confounded centrist majority.

Politics is a very dirty game. Destroy your opponent and take the country so it benefits you. Tell the worst lies about an idea or an opponent, make yourself look good and bring the other guy or gal down, no matter what. This is rhetorical warfare at it’s worst. No more intelligent debate, wise political maneuvers or even cleaver ideas, just screaming from the sidelines. For what? To win the next election? Power? Greed?

Unfortunately, all this works on an apathetic, numbed-down population who don’t have the desire or perhaps curiosity to do the research and find the real truth. The Vox populi (voice of the people) who go about their own daily business oblivious of how their country is being ruled or ruined. And there are enough of them to swing votes. Just tell them that the other party will raise taxes, let the terrorists in, break up the country or that you are religious, and they will automatically vote against their own self interest. Rule by lies, and fright wins the day every time.

I remember when political parties were inhabited by intellectuals. It was fun to see them and their ideas in full swing, trying to grab the hearts and minds of an electorate for them to become the next government. Yes, to be in public service. We'd watch the people we didn't agree with and still admire them. Political discourse was an intriguing thing to watch, listen or read, especially when political adversaries would head off for a beer or dinner together and talk football or hockey after a heated debate. They were political opposites, but human beings first. These people had grace, style and substance; with a little wit thrown in for good measure.

British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, a Conservative, had a fierce political rivalry with Liberal leader, William Gladstone, who also became Prime Minister. They were opposites in thinking and in their approach to life and ruling. However, they highly respected each other with a wicked sense of humour. When Gladstone’s followers called him GOM (Grand Old Man), Disraeli changed it to God's Only Mistake. When Disraeli died and Gladstone proposed a state funeral for his opponent, Disraeli’s wishes came to light; he would like to be buried with his wife. Gladstone replied, "As Disraeli lived, so he died, all display, without reality or genuineness." They loved the great debate, as did my favorite politician, Winston Churchill. He could be brutal, but respectful.

Today, it seems, elected politicians have no manners, training, education or even a sense of humour. The opposition becomes the enemy, so the debate turns sour and personal. Personal attack ads on television have become the normal way of doing business. It really is drama, theatre and dumb enough to be a little Shakespeare. Now if they could only stick some pizzaz in there, sprinkle it with a sense of humour, and of course a dash of good ideas and respect, they might win the hearts and minds again.

In the United States it’s all out in the open, and it’s ugly. It’s also happening in Canada. Parties who I once supported have become mean and nasty parties of small thinking men and women who follow each other like sheep. Gone is the intelligent discourse and the great ideas that built the country. All this is replaced by Luddite, immature thinking and acting, and smear campaigns aiming to destroy opposition.

So here I am, in the center, watching the world unfold; perhaps as it should. Political opposition and discourse will come and go, as will all things “this too must pass.” Sooner or later the next party will take over as the governing block and the little people, the pretenders, will move on, having almost destroyed the soul of a country in the process. May we just hope and pray that the voting public at large will see above the blatant lies, wake up, become less lethargic, less apathetic and less numbed down by politics. They need to Get Involved, listen, learn and vote for good government: Government that benefits everyone, not just the ignorant, the thieves, the greedy and the nasty few with hidden political agendas.

"Men are apt to mistake the strength of their feeling for the strength of their argument. The heated mind resents the chill touch and relentless scrutiny of logic."
William E. Gladstone

"Be amusing: never tell unkind stories; above all, never tell long ones."
Benjamin Disraeli

"I have always felt that a politician is to be judged by the animosities he excites among his opponents."
Sir Winston Churchill