What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
photo credit: khae_276
A common way to disarm your opponent is to speak favorably of his stance on an issue you’re discussing. This softens the blow when you advance your own position by making your opponent think that you understand and generally agree with their position, but given the added insight or experience you may claim to have, you think that in a specific scenario the implemented policy should differ.
One recent example of this practice is when President Bush discussed the $700 billion bailout on television, in an attempt to convince the American people of the necessity of its implementation. Praising free market capitalism, he then advocated it be stabbed in the back:
I’m a strong believer in free enterprise, so my natural instinct is to oppose government intervention. I believe companies that make bad decisions should be allowed to go out of business.
Under normal circumstances, I would have followed this course. But these are not normal circumstances. The market is not functioning properly. There has been a widespread loss of confidence, and major sectors of America’s financial system are at risk of shutting down.
The government’s top economic experts warn that, without immediate action by Congress, America could slip into a financial panic and a distressing scenario would unfold. (George Bush, Sep. 24, 2008)
Note that those who claim to believe one thing, yet openly advocate the opposite, do not believe what they claim to. This is akin to claiming to believe in God, yet openly disavowing his existence; claiming to believe that children should obey their parents, yet not enforcing the rules you’ve set for your own children; claiming to believe that we should help the poor, yet refusing to donate time and money to do so.
Belief without corresponding action is nothing but empty rhetoric designed to flatter and deceive.
Thus did Jesus admonish us to look at people’s fruits—the byproduct of their beliefs. Those who divorce politics from principle favor a self-indulgent practicality that advances their own power or fortune.
Few individuals seem immune to the deceit, thus trusting their leaders when they argue that “this time is an exception”. Principled leaders, however, stand their ground regardless of the consequences. It’s not surprising, then, that scarcely any politicians truly put principle into practice.