Are we teaching our politicians not to listen?

One of the most fascinating books I’ve read is Sue Gerhardt’s The Selfish Society. The last few days, with political scandal on the front pages here, I’ve thought again of her description of politicians and their behaviour – a must-read, really. Yet another thought struck me:

We don’t hold back one inch when it comes to vilifying and condemning those who hold political office. I for one certainly don’t make any effort to consider their feelings when making comments about them in public, even though those politicians I’ve met in real life have been very decent people. Now, no human being can continuously absorb negative feedback about themselves. It’s a natural defence mechanism to, at some point, shut out those spewing mud at you. At some stage, if people keep throwing poop in your direction, you’re going to turn around and lock yourself away somewhere safe.

Should we be surprised then when we have a constant problem of politicians, especially those at the top, closing ranks and forming veritable echo-chambers, surrounding themselves only with those who agree with them? What would happen if those who disagreed were not no-holds-barred, vicious critics, but people you trust and with whom you can have honest, civil discourse? Would you want to discuss matters in a constructive way if you knew everyone around you was just waiting to pounce on any word which could possibly be twisted to make you look bad?

I just wonder if we don’t in this aspect again get the situation we deserve.


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