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A lamentable campaign

A lamentable campaign

A lamentable campaign

As Hans Christian Andersen wrote, so many, many years ago the Emperor is naked, yet you bow and scrape before him admiring his ‘new clothes’

As a ‘people’ professional, I am always intrigued by people’s behaviour. Politicians, in particular, are very interesting to observe. Over the years, there have been many theories about what it is that attracts people to positions of power. Why is it, in our western democracies, that we always seem to be so critical of those whom we elect?

The lesser of two evils

The recent US election is an interesting case in point. Here we had two highly unpopular candidates vying for what is widely seen as the most powerful position in the world. So what does it say about a democratic system when an electorate is presented with a choice which can, I suspect, be summed up by most voters as the choice of ‘the lesser of two evils’?

Here in the UK, one of these candidates has been widely condemned as being a wholly unworthy candidate for this top office. What is evident to me, is that this person has become so used to wielding power that he has become a bully. Viewed through the lens of a playground, it is easy to understand why he has been allowed to get away with so much, for so long. The school bully gathers vulnerable people around him. These people cleave to the bully so that he won’t hurt them.  This may explain why it is that so many of the top ‘movers and shakers’ in his own party have not taken a stand against some of his more outrageous policies.

The lessons of the playground

This also explains why it is that this election campaign, policy debate has given way to personal abuse. When a child does something it knows to be bad, it turns on the tears to protect itself from getting into trouble. And this is what we have seen in this campaign. ‘Look at that person, they should be in jail’, and so on. Why is it that we look up to and respect certain individuals? It’s often because these people demonstrate virtues or heroic behaviour to which we can aspire. They are examples to us. But with the aforementioned politicians, the opposite is true. These people are not more fully human. They are less fully human because of what is missing in them. And what is missing in this instance, is conscience.

We must be on our guard against the morally insane

If an individual is missing this vital moral weathervane, it can enable them to go far, because there is nothing within them to stop them doing what they consider necessary to achieve their objective. The objective in this instance is the US Presidency, but it is all too clear what past objectives have been. When past President Richard Nixon was impeached following the Watergate scandal, it was interesting to observe this phenomenon. His address the nation sense of conscience implied an external, rather than an internal conscience. He had done something bad, because he was caught. And we observe the same kind of approach today.

Without empathy, we lose our humanity. The human story is littered with moral outrages perpetrated by those without conscience. As present and past history teaches us only too clearly, society is highly vulnerable to people like this. These are the people for whom mass killing is a means to an end. So we must always be on our guard. As the old saying has it, ‘the price of peace is eternal vigilance’. My concern is that we are not being vigilant – we all know the story of The Emperor’s New Clothes, where most everyone is admiring the new clothes that do not exist, we are doing that right now. We must keep our eyes wide open, we should stand up for what is right, we should laud the good, decent people and shun the bullies.