Wednesday, May 13, 2009

'Politics Without Principle'

Some time ago, I posted the piece of advice shown quoted below for potential candidates from 'Aunt Nettie's' website: []

At the time I thought is was funny, but now I begin to see how it is also tragic - because it also seems so true.

Has this always been so?

Or has this perception cumulatively grown over the years with the abuses that elected officials and bureaucrats at all levels have accumulated, or merely have been subjected to?

What role has the easier access to instant information -and its associated unsubstantiated rumor - played to influence public opinion?

And, what role has systematic shading of the truth by determined and deliberate partisan interest -or simple ignorance, or mischief - played?

Nothing necessarily illegal, mind you, except maybe just the steady, incremental erosion of the credibility of officials and the public trust that robs us of trust.

Is there any doubt what has helped cause political office, and public service in general to become the object of such widespread distrust?

Dear Aunt Nettie: 

In a recent column, you mentioned that you "should run for office." In my experience, it is a rare occasion where someone with true wisdom will devote themselves to public service. These days, it seems that the elected politicians are either bright, but in it for personal gain, or dim but sincere.... Why don't the truly brilliant sacrifice some personal wealth to serve the electorate?

-- Elective in Elmira
Dear Elective:

Well, it seems to me you've answered your own question. The smart people are in it so they can abuse the system for their own ends and the rest are deluded into thinking they can make a difference. Once the latter learn better, they become the former and run for re-election.

Anyone considering running for office should be presented with a single copy of the Federal Register and a copy of the Congressional Record. After perusing the contents they will have one of two opinions: (a) "Whoa! I can make this work for me!" or, (b) "This is the most insufferable pile of claptrap I have ever laid eyes on!" 

Those of the former opinion should hire a campaign manager. Those of the latter opinion should join a commune.


From another link to 'Aunt Nettie', I found a list of humorous, but also accurate, 'Flame Warriors', one of which is again reprinted below:

There are two distinct varieties of Ideologue, conservative and liberal, but each being smug and self satisfied in his certitudes, they are really flip sides of the same coin. Though Ideologue's "opinions" merely represent a loose collection of intellectual conceits he is nonetheless astonished, bewildered and angered when his views are not immediately embraced as Truth. He regards honest disagreement as a form of cognitive dissonance that can only be cured by relentless propagandizing. The conservative iteration of Ideologue parades himself as a logical, clear thinker, while the liberal version trumpets his higher level of mental, spiritual and social awareness. Troglodyte is the natural ally of conservative Ideologue, and for liberal Ideologue it is Weenie. Whether conservative or liberal, Ideologue is a fierce, but very predictable Warrior.

Mahatma Ghandi's so-called seven sins included one he called 'Politics without Principle'.

Here's a brief excerpt from [] Dr. Stephen R. Covey - one of the world's leading management consultants and author of the best selling book The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People.

Excerpts from Chapter 7 - Seven Deadly Sins:
Mahatma Gandhi said that seven things will destroy us.
Notice that all of them have to do with social and political conditions.
Note also that the antidote of each of these "deadly sins" is an explicit external standard or something that is based on natural principles and laws, not on social values.

Wealth Without Work
Pleasure Without Conscience
Knowledge Without Character
Commerce (Business) Without Morality (Ethics)
Science Without Humanity
Religion Without Sacrifice
Politics Without Principle

On 'Politics without Principle':

If there is no principle, there is no true north, nothing you can depend upon.
The focus on the personality ethic is the instant creation of an image that sells well in the social and economic marketplace.

You see politicians spending millions of dollars to create an image, even though it's superficial, lacking substance, in order to get votes and gain office.
And when it works, it leads to a political system operating independently of the natural laws that should govern - - that are built into the Declaration of Independence : "We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness . . . . "

In other words, they are describing self-evident, external, observable, natural, unarguable, self-evident laws: "We hold these Truths to be self-evident."
The key to a healthy society is to get the social will, the value system, aligned with correct principles.
You then have the compass needle pointing to true north - true north representing the external or the natural law - and the indicator says that is what we are building our value system on : they are aligned.

But if you get a sick social will behind the political will that is independent of principle, you could have a very sick organization or society with distorted values.
For instance, the professed mission and shared values of criminals who rape, rob and plunder might sound very much like many corporate mission statements, using such words as "teamwork," "cooperation," "loyalty," "profitability," "innovation," and "creativity."
The problem is that their value system is not based on a natural law.
Figuratively, inside many corporations with lofty mission statements, many people are being mugged in broad daylight in front of witnesses.
Or they are being robbed of self-esteem, money, or position without due process.
And if there is no social will behind the principles of due process, and if you can't get due process, you have to go to the jury of your peers and engage in counterculture sabotage.

In the movie The Ten Commandments, Moses says to the pharaoh, "We are to be governed by God's law, not by you."
In effect he's saying, "We will not be governed by a person unless that person embodies the law."
In the best societies and organizations, natural laws and principles govern - that's the Constitution - and even the top people must bow to the principle.
No one is above it.
"A person cannot do right in one department whilst attempting to do wrong in another department. Life is one indivisible whole." - Mahatma Gandhi