Saturday, March 04, 2006

Liar, liar

Commenter, Bo asks: "But Bill..... Although performance demands I must agree with you about all this Republican lying, surely you're not suggesting the presence of Democrats in power would stifle lying? .....are you?"

First of all, it was ReddHedd who was recommending that Americans vote for Democrats but I do agree with her. Voting out of office those who have betrayed our trust by lying (and worse) and voting in others who promise to do better, would be preferrable to re-electing the offenders IHMO. But I harbour no illusions that only Republicans lie and Democrats only tell the truth.

As I have said before, lying or corruption (or whatever vice we're discussing) are "equal-opportunity employers". I have learned that most people lie sometimes, some people lie most of the time or, as I think it was Malcolm Muggeridge who wrote, "the line that separates good and evil runs through people not between people". I heartily agree and that precludes my membership in the fundamentalist fold (see below). However, at the risk of quoting MM again, he also said that one of the few things the people in a democracy can do is "to throw the incumbents out".

So, when facing the situation where the gang in power is not performing the way that one wants them to, but the alternative(s) may turn out not to be any better, what does one do? This is an old debate and there may be as many right answers as there are debaters.

But to begin with, I am not a gang member. It doesn't matter to me which "gang" does the right thing, so long as it's the "right thing". I'm not against Republicans nor "for" Democrats. I'm against corruption, cronyism, lying and incompetence wherever it is. I'm for equality under the law, universal health care, protecting the environment, fiscal responsibility, separation of church & state and tolerance of diversity, to name a few. The fact is that the current crop of people who make up the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of government seem to embody the traits that I am "against" and lack those traits which I am "for" and they are Republicans. However, it is not the fact of their "Republican-ness" that I abhor. For example, I would vote against Joe Lieberman too.

Unfortunately, the gang in charge are (in the words of Jimmy Carter) "fundamentalists", that is, they believe that, because they are the "good guys", whatever they do is "good" and whatever is done by those they oppose is "bad" because they are the "bad guys". For fundamentalists, it's that simple. For us, the non-fundamentalists ( the rationalists), it's the deeds, not the doers, that determine "goodness" and "badness".

So, count me as being against lying, whether the liars are Republicans, Democrats or whether I am doing the lying myself. It's not about who does it; it's about what gets done. As I wrote earlier:
One of the things that separates "us" and "them" is the notion of being a nation of laws. "We" think that the idea is that we are all equally constrained and protected by laws and these laws are enforced blindly i.e. it doesn't matter to whom the laws are being applied. "They" think of laws as tools to be used selectively to benefit themselves and to "get" others (those whom they consider to be their enemies).

For fundamentalists like BushCo, have us all play by one set of rules (rather than one set for us and another for them) is absurd. They are quite comfortable criticizing people for doing something that they themselves do -- IOKIARDI*. For us, it's the behaviour that is evaluated (not the behaver) i.e. if it's wrong, then it's wrong whether you or I do it. I hate their hypocrisy.
So, to get back to Bo's question, I think that voting in some Democrats because you're fed up with the current liars, might make the newly elected officials less likely to lie so much. In other words, the electorate needs to hold government accountable. I will quote again from somethings I wrote before the 2004 election:
I am motivated by what I think will help to make the world a better place. So, when it comes to voting there are, as I see it, four choices: vote for Bush, vote for Kerry, vote for Nader or don't vote. You accurately predict how I would vote. I would choose bad over worse, but I can certainly respect abstainers.


I can respect people with whom I am in disagreement. I am open to reason i.e. as I believe J.M. Keynes said: I change my opinion when the facts change. I see no conflict there. I don't need to provide a reason for abstaining as I am not abstaining.
However, I am quite prepared to provide a reason for respecting people with whom I disagree and for being open to reason.

If someone has given the issue some thought and concluded that the best thing for them to do is to abstain from voting, what would you have me do? Other than say: if I was in that position, I would do things differently. I think that it's tolerance and mutual respect that enable us to get along when we are in disagreement.
I have a dear friend who chose not to vote in the 2004 election. I would have chosen to vote for Kerry if I had been in her situation (an American living in Canada), not because I thought that things would be "happy ever after" if Kerry won, but because it seemed to me to be the best of the options open to me. As my friend Geoff wrote:
But I would also probably vote for Kerry. Like Naomi Klein, I would cast the vote with the expectation that I would be out protesting the next day, or Inauguration Day at the latest. But are the Dems as bad as the Republicans, or worse, according to John Pilger?

Marilyn said something that helps me answer this: "The democrats NEVER respond to inside pressure, but ONLY to movements outside." For me that makes them one notch better than Republicans, because the GOP won't even respond to mass movements outside!
In conclusion, I recommend voting for the best candidate and if that means the one who lies least, so be it.


Blogger Bo said...

Hey Bill!... So many ways to consider.. So many avenues to wander up and down... So much behaviour to monitor all the while knowing less than the truth will guide us. Many years ago I had occasion to go to Sinop Turkey where the Philosopher Diogenes is said to be from, and who spent his life looking for but one honest man, and died a failure. While there I bought a copper kettle from a Turkish tinsmith and when I got to my quarters found the lid wasn't in the sack. Returning to the tinsmith to retrieve what I felt should have been in the sack, the tinsmith demanded a price higher for the lid than what the kettle cost, saying that each piece of everything was separate. I never was certain but I think he told a lie in there somewhere because he could. Unfortunately that's how it is with politicians, they lie because they can, and we let 'em. The rare individuals to whom truth is paramount cannot overcome the masses who may feel a small measure of dishonesty is acceptable, which is why voting can be such an ordeal. I do believe Americans will respond to truth as long as it's accompanied by style and charisma which is why a third party candidate could be in order. How's your schedule looking for '08?

12:22 AM  
Blogger Bill said...

Sadly, the history of third party candidates has been to suck support from one of the traditional party candidates. The effect seems to help elect president less like the one they voted for e.g. Nader votes came primarily from Democractic voters rather than Republicans. So, Nader's candidacy "helped" elect Bush.

I still think that a candidate with the right personal qualities to get elected (what you refer to as "style and charisma") could also be a fundamentally honest person. I think that you need a team that is competent, works hard but plays fair. I don't believe to you need to cheat to win nor do I believe that it's worth it. It should be about the public good, not personal gain. If you're not better than the other guy, why *should* you win?

6:25 PM  

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