Springingtiger's Blog

In Respect of Politics

I do not need to agree with my politicians, I certainly do not need to like them, but I would like to be able to respect them. There was a time in my youth when, however much one hated the policies of a party one could at least respect the professionalism of the politicians responsible. It is true that there were occasional lapses like Profumo and, later, Stonehouse, but on the whole politicians were bound by a code of conduct. Back then too, banking was a respectable profession and bankers were held in respect as pillars of the community. Things have changed.

I don’t know whether the failure of politicians and those at the tops of professions to set an example of propriety is the cause of the decline of society or merely a symptom of it. However I am convinced that the transparent contempt for intelligence of the people of Britain displayed by expense fiddling politicians, money grubbing bankers, and perverted charity fund-raisers, actively lowers the standard to which people expect to behave.

A few years ago I visited my old school and was quite horrified when I walked into a room with my wife and none of the young people rose to their feet. Even now I habitually stand when a woman, or someone older than I enters or leaves, it is simple manners. The decline in standards shown by our leaders is present everywhere.

There was once a belief in Britain that work was honourable, but now everyone wants the rewards without earning them. The internet is full of people offering to teach others how to become rich easily. Rather than build a career as an entertainer by hard work and gaining experience around clubs or in pubs, young people expect instant fame via the television talent show.

I suspect every generation locates the start of the decline in standards at a different point in history. For some it is one or other of the World wars, for others it is the Sixties. Personally I am of the opinion that the rot became endemic with Thatcher’s exaltation of selfishness over service. The emphasises on getting rich quickly by any means that marked the eighties, has left us with a society where the only measures of value are money and celebrity.

There was a time when our politicians earned respect, today’s politicians have rarely even earned a living outside politics. Once politicians had to be able to present an argument, we had great speakers like Winston Churchill, Michael Foot, Enoch Powell and Tony Benn; today’s politicians speak in sound bites. I can’t imagine Churchill being able to express an idea in one hundred and forty characters; I suspect some of today’s parliamentarians could express all their original ideas in one hundred and forty characters, the same one hundred and forty!

I cannot pretend to have the answers to how we reverse our decline. Perhaps when we learn to behave in a manner that nourishes our self respect, instead of feeding our self importance, when we apply ourselves to service rather than serving ourselves, we will find within ourselves the authority to call our politicians to account.

“Do nothing you would be ashamed to show to God” (or your mother!)


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