Political Column - Deception in Politics

I have been a little surprised at how much people are willing to blatantly lie in politics, even when they know that I know they're lying, and even when I can't figure out how such a lie could benefit them. I think there are five things occurring.

One, people lie for personal advantage. Con games, making or taking money, and such. This is what comes to mind for most people when they think about deception in politics. Oddly enough, I've encountered almost none of this. This may happen to politicians more than by politicians.

Two, people lie out of resentment in an attempt to enact revenge for real or imagined wrongs, against someone specific or against society and existence in general. This is common and frequent. People will even lie to hurt others when it hurts themselves. Cain is the archetype of this type of resentment, revenge, and deception. This happens both by and to politicians.

Three, people lie out of fear. This is sometimes done by omission rather than commission, although I understand the difficulty of balancing transparency and confidentiality. (I just err in the opposite direction of everyone else.) This is immensely common by politicians and staff. Because there are always so many people looking for a weakness to criticize the government over, the government types try to avoid controversy by not making things public, which is a greater error than the initial mistake because it makes it harder to fix the original issue and compounds it by adding more and more mistrust into the society. When I bring problems to the fore I don't know if I can solve them, but it's better for them to be known either way, and increases the likelihood that a solution can be found. A deeper understanding and a more informed discussion of a problem is in itself progress.

Four, it can be surprising to learn that deception in relationships is often because people want to preserve the relationship, and they believe that telling the truth may break them apart. Karen Millar and Abraham Tesser have a good paper on this called 'Deceptive Behavior in Social Relationships: A Consequence of Violated Expectations'. Politicians cater to the crowd. Their relationship is one person to a mass. Many times when told the truth, people in that mass of humanity won't like or support them, so to preserve the relationship they say what they think most people will like to hear, which isn't the truth. (Also, politicians are the only people that are perceived as only partial personalities, which adds even more oddity to the field. There's a good paper on that called 'Politicians' Uniquely Simple Personalities' by Caprara, Barbaranelli, and Zimbardo.)

Five, whether it's politicians lying or people lying to the government there seems to be very little guilt. That paper by Millar and Tesser explains this as well. When people lie they only experience guilt if it's a violation of the person's own expectations, the other person's expectations, and there's a match between both of their expectations. Only one of those doesn't have to exist for the person to not feel guilt. Since people think of politics being so closely associated with lying and deception they don't feel guilty when they lie because it's "politics." Out of a lot of self-destructive tendencies that currently exist in our society, this might be one of the most powerful. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because people know there's lying in politics they feel that they can also lie in politics, and they don't feel guilty about it.

This lack of truthfulness has to be tackled on two levels. First, the individual level, which is what all of society is built from. We must work to overcome our own tendencies toward attachment to reduce our temptation for personal advantage, we must process our emotions and purify our souls to not act out of resentment, we must not fear the controversy that revealing the truth may bring, we must realize that a relationship preserved by deception will only ever be a partial relationship, and we must expect and aim for truthfulness and sincerity in ourselves and in others. Thomas Carlyle points out that one of the defining characteristics of historical heroes is an extreme level of sincerity.

Then there's the question of what I can do to help bring about more truthfulness in the discussions throughout the community surrounding these political issues. Transparency is one. That's why I publicly post the board packets. That's why I record and post the meetings. That's why I write articles about my observations. That's why I've held multiple public sessions inviting people to come criticize me. That's why I post videos directly addressing rumors, of which there are many ranging from small to large, from true to completely fabricated with no basis in reality. I like addressing things directly. If I'm right that's good, if I'm wrong that's good to know. Either way the revelation of greater truth is good. We should not expect revelation to be comfortable. Life doesn't require comfort, life requires meaning. Life requires a conscious pursuit and acceptance of reality, i.e. truth. A hard challenge, a challenge worthy of struggling with and for.



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