Updated: Jun 19, 2020
Has the person you are voting for earned the right to have your vote? Really?
Here's a question. Why do we not have a higher over-all calibre of people standing for election to our congress and parliaments?
For the sake of clarity, I am not inferring that every single representative politician is less than we want or deserve. It is just that so many plainly are. So what is the prime reason we are confronted with such dismal leadership options?
Starting with the press; - to stay in business, they have to sell their stories and news - via whatever media they use. But we are the people who pick it up and choose - to read, listen or watch it.
If you suddenly see a naked woman or man walking down the street - do you stare or look away? Whatever your view, it would be difficult not to notice.
With that in mind - we might ask what kind of newspaper do we read? What gets our attention? What bores us? Is it just the sports pages, titillation, factual news, opinions - with or without bias, the crossword puzzle? We in the west have plenty of choices. But what forms our choice? Perhaps we get fed what we ask?
I suppose the obvious argument is that if you have the right to vote - you should be well informed of all the arguments, not just your own bias. Being able to walk in other people's shoes - to try and find empathy with all sides of the case is going to help form a well thought out and reasoned opinion.
President Obama gave a speech in Chicago just before he left office, where he talked about people staying in their bubbles. He was referring to groups of people who all agree and adopt the same thoughts and clone their thoughts around each other - rather than being around people who may hold a different opinion. Birds of a feather stick together - sort of thing.
I tell my children that the big trick of life is to challenge everything, particularly yourself. The trouble with surrounding yourself with like-minded people is that there is little or no challenge because you agree on everything. Having disagreements falses one to listen, into making an argument. It falses you to think. Logic should win, but usually, emotions will over-ride logic and emotion tends to be the basis upon which many, perhaps too many opinions are formed. And as most of us have learned from bitter experience - emotion is not a reliable bedrock - it is not a firm foundation to build anything on. Emotions can be wholly unreliable.
So breaking out of bubbles of comfort is hard. It takes courage and independent thought. Not everyone is up for that.
The media plays on this; they like to find out and know everything about a person in the headlines. For some elements of the press, the more salacious, the better and if they can exaggerate it with innuendo - so be it. Too often, without any real justification - just a suggestion of misbehaviour or a past misdemeanour can be enough to generate a scandalous headline that grabs attention, and this sells newspapers.
The bottom line is, we choose where we get our information from, and that can determine our thought bubble and the people we feel comfortable being around. If we only seek out like-minded people and opinions, It is difficult to alter our views and get to see what is going on around us from different angles. To arrive at facts and the truth, we have to ask hard questions. The media know this, and in essence, that is the power of the press - they know they can play on our emotions.
As human beings, most of us tend to err, fail, fall of the rails, make some bad decisions, use poor judgement etc. at some time in our lives. Understandably, most of us don't want the intrusion of the press - so that might be enough of a deterrent to seeking high office. For that reason, someone who is a good and decent person at heart, but who exercised some poor judgement in the past might well be put off from seeking election.
That said - there are degrees of wrong, and it is often due to dogged and determined investigative journalism that misdeeds are brought to light. You only have to think of Woodward and Bernstein and the unearthing or Nixon hiding Watergate. Would we rather Watergate had not been exposed - or Jimmy Saville was not exposed?
The press is not by any means all bad. The media are a vital filter for the health of any democratic society; they question and hold power to account. You don't have to look very far to see what happens to democracy when the press is stifled.
A free press is usually the difference between democracy and autocracy - but salaciousness, innuendo and exaggeration are the demons of a free society, whether used by a free media or our political class. It is the price we have to pay.
But we choose what we read, watch and listen to, and it is up to us to verify the facts, weigh them and make a choice. In the end - it is our own values that reflect our parliament. Whether we like it or not, our politicians are a reflection of us. We set the standard, and it is up to us to ensure that we do not employ double standards. Tempting as it might be at times, in the end, if we allow that, it is only us - the people who get hurt.
If we want to build trust, we need to cultivate honesty, kindness and integrity. And without trust, we as the people of this world are in a terrible place.
There is not much chance we will change the press, and we won't get rid of all the below-par politicians. But we can decide the values that determine our vote.
Rick - Suffolk - UK - 10th November 2019