Saturday, September 8, 2018

Strange bedfellows

Although the frequency of personal assault or gushing approbation is more common during the run-up to an election cycle, the specific habit is nonetheless illustrative of general principles and important social mores. By what doctrines are we to be guided in our assessment of others?  Are those rules of conduct any different in the immediacy of public debate?  Or are the themes the same for private relationships?  We are for example regularly inclined to condemn politicians for being strictly motivated by their apparent self-interest.  Does the same convention predict our personal associations?  Do the qualifications even apply?  Or are there different rules for different people at different times?

"Alas the storm is come again!  My best way is to creep under his gaberdine; there is no other shelter hereabout: misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows."

The Tempest, Act 2 Scene 2, William Shakespeare (1610)

One such adage of general application is that flattery is a net before another man's feet.  In the political arena this form of mendacity is almost expected. Any connotation of impropriety is normally excused by suggesting it is merely a device to enlarge a greater social advantage. I am not however convinced of the altruistic separation of interest. Rather I am more inclined to accept the universality of opinion.  Remember too that it is just as routine to find voters saying things to incentivize candidates for their own ulterior purposes.

Consider as well the proposition that we see in others what we see in ourselves - or its more incisive cousin that criticism is the best autobiography.  In whatever vernacular that prevails I generally find it wisest to preserve myself from such potentially telling disclosure, not because I want to avoid transparency but rather because it can turn out to be meaningless commentary about others. This promotes what may be interpreted as obsessive purism, exaggerated observance of traditional rules or structures. I maintain there is always value in making a conclusion about the performance of others but I prefer to be guided by meaningful terms; otherwise we are consigned to a life of ambiguity or irrelevance.

One thing I find we often ignore is the willingness to compliment others for the effort they are making, whether we agree with them or not. Acknowledging the mere challenge of running for public office is worthy of approval.  At the same time we are best to remind ourselves that we might not have the strength or wherewithal to do the same.  Sitting on the edges in the shadows is far less convincing of merit than those who willingly endure the scrutiny of public involvement.

In whatever manner we conclude our evaluation of others it is inevitable that we will make such a diagnosis. As ready as we are to dissect the deportment of others we mustn't overlook the ready possibility that it is we who suffer the bulk of inadequacy. Speaking of adages, recall that a sucker is born every day! We may turn out to be the gullible party!  For this reason alone it warrants analysis of motive, talent, capacity and agenda.  You may be on the feeding end of the expedition! In this respect an examination of credentials is of benefit to oneself not merely a way to compartmentalize another.

Unquestionably the repercussions of unpropitious opinion about others is somewhat diminished in the context of public appraisal.  Private relationships usually do not admit to such distant target practice. This is not to imply that the identical principles do not apply. We must still remain scrupulous. But the impact is clearly more competitive.  In personal matters we may not be compelled to vote by a particular day but decision-making is nonetheless imperative.  Without absorption there can be no advancement. As in all matters a judicious decision can take time. We owe it to ourselves to choose but choose wisely.

"The best mask for a treacherous heart is an honest face."

No comments:

Post a Comment