Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Tale of the Bigot: Seven Virtues

A politician meets a member of the public, and after a friendly discussion about politics surrounded by media cameras, he gets into his car. Not realizing his microphone is still on, he proclaims the impromptu meeting a disaster, questions who put him up to it, and calls the lady he talked to "bigoted" because the question she’d asked him about immigration had piqued his annoyance. A bigot is "someone unreasonable attached to a particular creed, belief or party". Ironic, eh? That politician was our poor prime minister in the United Kingdom, Gordon Brown. He swiftly apologized, but let’s look over the seven heavenly virtues and see how in a blink of an eye he broke every single one of them, not to pore over his particular "gaffe", but because they are instructive of the flaws in politics generally. And moreover, as we look over them, we see how they are not merely surface flaws, but endemic to the political consciousness.
Lack of Faith
(Inauthentic Self-Consciousness) Judging how we are perceived by others instead of acting authentically. The lady he had met was satisfied, but he was worried... how would the press pick up on it?

Lack of Hope
(Negativity) Imagining that something is a disaster, aware of the sound-bites that the media might pick up on, the inauthentic politician who has lost faith in himself then takes on the media mindset as validating who he is, self-critical of every flaw in a quest for the appearance of polished perfection, breeding a culture of negativity. “It was a disaster.” The positive person, on the other hand takes away the positive in every situation, the light at the end of the tunnel, the point of agreement in any controversy, and from this starting point works towards the good.

Lack of Love
(Fake Friendliness) The politician pretends to listen, to care, to treat each person as real, asking about their lives and their dreams, but behind this façade of friendliness is often a complete disinterest, an unwillingness to engage at a deeper level. The only desire is to put forward the candy-coated slogans and arguments of party propaganda and to get the party or oneself elected.

Lack of Fortitude
(Lack of Responsibility) Blaming circumstances on others. “You should never have put me with that woman. Whose idea was that? It's Sue I think.”

Lack of Justice
(Dishonesty) Depending on the audience, we may well need to change our mode of delivery, but the underlying message should be the same. The politicians however goes out of their way to feign consensus, and where they cannot, they feel uncomfortable. “It's very nice to see you”, but behind the scenes he felt quite differently.

Lack of Temperence
(Bad Etiquette) Insulting someone behind their back, calling them “bigoted”. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Few are the great leaders who can keep their temper and don’t let power go to their head.

Lack of Prudence
(Name-Calling) To isolate an experience or thing we don’t like, to exaggerate it, to associate it with some other known object of dislike, a “bigot”. This is the disease of the mind, setting up likes and dislikes, constructing categories of good and evil, instead of seeing things for what they are. It is a false ethics born of a false logic of association. And arguably, it’s precisely what I’ve done in this blog! :^)


  1. Seems in politics this is business as usual.
    No matter where we are.

  2. Sigh--sad

    Seems everywhere we are Adrift in a Sea of Changing VALUES. Going no-where-just drifting. Hoping nothing more will come.

    Our last election here -many were saying they weren't voting for best man but which they disliked the least. And many take that as normal.

    Seems history saw it too.
    A popular legend says that he walked about in broad daylight with a lantern in a determined but vain search for a virtuous man. His name was Diogenes, a philosopher who lived in Athens in the fourth century B.C.E.

    Whether that legend is accurate cannot be confirmed. Still, if Diogenes were alive today, he might be forgiven if he had to look even harder to discover moral individuals. Many seem to reject the belief that people should embrace any fixed ethical values. Time and again the media call our attention to moral lapses—in private life, in government, in the professions, in sports, in the business community, and in other areas. Many of the cherished values of past generations are no longer respected. Established standards are being reevaluated and often rejected. Other values are revered in theory but not in practice.

    The day of shared moral standards is almost gone

    ALL human societies espouse some moral code. Do we not agree that such qualities as honesty, kindness, compassion, and altruism are cherished around the globe and are appealing to most of us. Most say they do. Yet most seem to accept much less.

    Is it enough, however, for us to be directed only “by natural instinct” when we try to decide what is right and what is wrong? Like the animals? As we may have observed, human history is studded with the failures of individuals and groups. This should convinced many that we need direction from an order of standard virtues to establish the best values by which to live. Society benefits when there is such virtue. Faith, hope, love, fortitude, temperance, prudence, honesty, JUSTICE (and that word justice- I do emphasize--without justice--there is no peace)

    Your right these are not surface flaws or errors

  3. Good example in Mr. Brown. But is he not under attack by many political enemies at present? That would make a person more like this in the extreme.

  4. Excellent observations hadenough.

    At least we are awake. I'd rather be awake
    than go along with the so easily swayed throng.

    Our virtues are flying on the window.
    We have lost the conviction to be honorable,
    or to appreciate it in others, be examples of it
    to one another. It's just as if we were purposefully
    being 'directed,' into chaos...doesn't it?

  5. And what is there to expect... other than... 'that'?.............. maybe dots?
    Mr. Brown -- with the 7 virtues lacking. i like him -- as a coffee brand.

  6. Why is that I wonder? Is it the system itself that brings this out in people, or is it the people themselves? If the former, what would make for a better system?

  7. I like the idea of focusing on Values.

    They need to be somehow grown from within. I don't think they should be imposed or ordered from above. Justice must be something positive... order, honesty, efficiency... and the negative must come after. Good is not the absence of Evil... Evil is the absence of Good... that's how I'm thinking at the moment. And this is contrary to how religious institutions tend to find commonality... they agree on things to forbid, because they find it so much easier than agreeing on the positive things that need to be done.

  8. As well as the positive virtues in the above blog, there are also the seven contrary virtues first found in the epic poem Psychomachia, meaning “Battle of the Soul”, written by Prudentius around 410 A.D.. These correspond to the seven deadly sins, and each virtue wards off the corresponding sin following the principle that one cannot simultaneously experience opposite emotions towards an object or person. They are humility against pride, kindness against envy, abstinence against gluttony, chastity against lust, patience against anger, generosity against greed, and diligence against sloth.

    So do you prefer the positive ones above or these contrary ones? Hmmmm....

    Buddhism incidentally has a more transcendent notion of staying with any emotion, whether good or bad, and just by being compassionately mindful of it, we may observe as it dissolves like a cloud. We don’t give our emotions power or they will rule us, but maintain “sky-like” mind.

    I think both approaches are valuable and powerful.

  9. You are right to be sympathetic to the poor Mr. Brown, lol. In many ways he's the complete opposite of Mr. Bush, who never took himself too seriously and was pretty laid back and friendly, yet they both made terrible leaders. If Brown symbolizes angry self-consciousness, then Bush was a figure of lazy incompetence. Does leadership just magnify people's faults, or can it be traced to some fault in the system itself, say "greed for votes"? But Bush didn't seem to suffer much from any "need to be liked".

  10. Lol @ Jach. I didn't know Mr. Brown was a coffee brand. Maybe that's an advertising job for him that he can do on the side! :^)

    Rose, yes! To try to be awake... the purpose of this thread is not political, despite appearances... I was wondering what we could learn from where others go wrong, so we don't fall blindly into the same mistakes.

  11. I think those faults are lack of strong value that are already deep in the person--Just being tested brings them out more. No mater what those tests maybe.

    Easy to say we don't have those faults if we aren't tested in them, isn't it?

    Temptation comes in many forms. We all face temptations, and it may seem that some the pressure just won’t let up. Temptation can seem like a continuous knock at our door that ignores the Do Not Disturb sign. I think it helps to recognize what’s behind temptation. (Greed? Selfishness? Ego?) Temptation is everywhere you look. At school and at work, at home, even on the net. Often, a simple, confident refusal is all that’s needed. But many don't want to do that. For all sorts of reasons, they don't want to, they gain from it, it pleases them in other ways, they might upset someone, they might go against the group or their peers, it won't make them popular with others, It will look bad,,.................ect,

    It's not that they can't say no--even if in a leadership position. It's how much of a slave they are to wrongful desires. And how much instilled are good values in them--how deep are they in one's heart---deep enough to resist temptation when tested?

  12. Yes it does. Very much so............ well put

  13. Yes it does. Very much so............ well put

  14. Dear Had, I agree with you absolutely. As you say, temptation can take many forms, and I would say even subtle forms, like the temptation to over-simplify, to manipulate statistics (as a drunk might use a lampost, for support rather than illumination) or avoid talking about sensitive issues which would put voters off choosing you. In the case of Gordon Brown, it's his temper. He would regard himself as very "ethical", but his temper really brings out his "dark side", his shadow self exposed to the media glare you could say.

    Having said that, the electoral system encourages a kind of dishonest self-consciousness, so it's hard to blame the individual politicians for it. We reward those who play by these rules by electing them. Contrast this with the lady he insulted who whilst being interviewed on tv after the event received a phone call. A politician would apologize to the camera. She just ignored the camera and took the call to the annoyance of the press who were saying lady, you're on live tv!!! hahahaha

    But actually what I'm saying is that talking about temptation contines to phrase the problem negatively, just as the whole political discourse is negative, the fear of suffering... the temptation or wrongful desires (e.g. anger and pride) are only wrongful because they distract from the good. "Do good, Avoid evil, Purify the Heart" Doing good comes first don'tcha think?... it's actually the harder one... yet religious ethics (the idea of man as fallen instead of redeemed), the media and the entire legal system frame the problem in reverse... avoid evil... in other words, as long as it's not against the rules it's fine, as long as no-one gets hurt, or offended. This is ingrained in our psyche, yet which comes first... good or evil? How could evil exist without good. Temptation then is that which tempts away from the good... as Lilith said in an earlier blog, "temptation is opportunity to choose again" :^) And yes, we need to develop a deep deep heart both to recognize it (that can be the real challenge!) and to resist it.

    Recognition is 99% which is what motivated this thread! And we can only recognize, if we are very clear and mindful. Wide awake as Rose said.

  15. We seem to make it harder than I think it really is.

    "How could evil exist without good"--I don't know Okie--I think it can, but for some selfish reasons we don't let it often. Many like to convince themselves it is others and not them.

    I truly think there can be good without evil. Maybe someday.

    "Do good, Avoid evil, Purify the Heart-- -- Is that really that hard as we make it?
    We could do much better, much. Maybe not perfect but a good attempt.

    Recognition is 99% --this thread and life. I so agree. I think than add admitting to that recognition-seeing what it is, even if you don't like what you see. And than changing more to good (be accountable and responsible for our actions) when we do see it.

    A politician faces many temptation--which is why we should look for those strong values you named. Even more so in them. As they are leading the people. Maybe we excuse them to much.
    I think one seeking to be a leader is a fine thing--if he is qualified to so. I don't think we even encourage people what to look for those in office, what makes good leaders.
    Example-Like honesty (we have a few who were given a position this past year when they hadn't paid their taxes in years--not that they couldn't afford too or didn't know better. ) To me that should have eliminated them from the job than. It wasn't like it was long in their past and they corrected it and never did it again. That wasn't the case. They just got caught by another when they were to take office.
    Greed--we see that so much--so much wasted. And they get away with it.
    Lies, cover-ups-right to our public face sometimes--to me that should be cause for dismissal. (Avoid evil) Let them work on their problems not in a leadership position.

    I don't know if this will offend someone--but outside of politics--in the Catholic religion, there have been in the news abusers -priests.And you hear some defending them in a way -saying all sin. That may be true but not all our leading others. I feel they should lose their leadership position than. They can still go to church and worship--but I feel they lost the right to lead than.
    Yet most don't.

    So in both those postions--I feel they should step down or force too.

    I'm not sure what the requirements are listed for politicians--perhaps we should add those values. And ask them to self examined themselves some too. (And that would anger some-hard to believe isn't it? )

    On the man you talk about. He should make corrections--and good ones. And until we see improvement not used as a representive of other

    Yes I do see the problems with that.

    Enjoyed your blog and comments

  16. I'm on the mobile now, so will respond more fully when online, but yes! Good can exist without evil. I was saying though that evil cannot exist without good. Temptation is temptation away from pre-existing good and opportunity to re-affirm the good. Good comes first. Of course, this is just philosophizing and you know what I mean in practice better than me.

    I'm actually shocked by people's indifference as if they expected this behaviour. It hasn't lost him any support in the polls because it just confirmed what people already knew about his temper, about political indifference to real people, and so the worst thing is that he's not likely to change.

  17. Yes, well, those are some of the worst abuses. To be honest, it'd be pretty difficult for people like that you'd think with the amount of news coverage. Quite often though, it's the newspapers in this country who lie and come up with stories to sell papers, or deliberately set out to entrap people. The world number one in snooker was tapped up by a newspaper offering him money to fix individual frames of matches in the future, and he fell for the bait. Very sad that he would, but also sad for newspapers to set him up for it because his career is gone now and it's quite clear he'd never done anything like this before. As for an oath of faith, hope, love, temperance, fortitude, justice and prudence that politicians had to take (and could be summoned by the judiciary and reprimanded on!), I think that'd be an awesome idea. I'm sure the judiciary themselves have to take some such oath, and those who commit crimes can't be judges, so why not politicians also? As for the church, the double standards are obvious. They excommunicate abortionists in a case in Brazil (who doing so saved the life of the child!), but not the one who abused the child.

    But that's not to say that there aren't lots of very good people within the church or within politics. If an organization has failings, that's not to cast a slur on all the individuals within it, but only on those responsible for the failings. For example, the Vatican approved the Brazilian decision, but a prominent Italian Archbishop (Fisichella) wrote an article saying that it was a mistake and the matter should have been handled with more compassion for the girl. This then created confusion, with people asking for clarification, and the Vatican re-affirmed their unequivocal position.

    So despite there being many good people within the church, it is ultimately a political organization, it has to hold a "party line" and just like in party politics, this disempowers the individual. Ultimately, it was a question of morality, of right and wrong, and this came down to commandments or precepts, such as thou shallt not kill, lie, steal or lust, but the commandments themselves come down to the wisdom behind them. Applying that wisdom might sometimes involve abandoning the commandment. The Zen Buddhists have a saying I just came across: "know when the precepts are open and when they are closed; know when to keep them and when to break them." And when is that? This is important, lol! You keep them because it's in the interest of all to keep them, and you break them never for selfish reasons, but only if it's for the greater good of all to break them. (For example, lying to save lives is ok, but lying to cover up your own wrongdoing is not.)

  18. I just realized that the Buddhists have something corresponding to the Virtues, which they call Perfections, or Paramitas. They are:

    Generosity, Morality, Perseverance, Effort, Purity & Wisdom.

    And apparently Confucius spoke of the four virtues innate to man:

    Because of Love, we have grief, and this shows our Humaneness.
    Because of Temperance, we have respect, and this shows our Propriety.
    Because of Justice, we have shame, and this shows our Righteousness.
    Because of Prudence, we have right & wrong, and this shows our Wisdom.

    There's also a nice progression to the list. And just because we have them, doesn't mean we do not need to develop and perfect them. Rather, this is exactly what we must do, to develop our innate humanity. Only Faith, Hope & Fortitude are missing in the above from the Seven Heavenly Virtues, because they are assumed. They tell us to "keep going".

    And for a final analogy Castaneda's Don Juan has 4 qualities of Impeccability (thanks to Deano who posted about these).

    "Ruthlessness but never harsh,
    Cunning but never cruel,
    Patient but never negligent,
    Sweet but never foolish."

    These are a lot like the Buddhist Paramitas, but contracted, and in reverse order.