Tuesday, February 24, 2015
The Bully Pulpit
Did you know that Emerson's saying is "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," not, as I had heard for many years (and found very confusing), 'Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.'
I understand that rigid adherence to consistency can be problematic—following the letter Vs the spirit of a law or requirement can be absurd.
But in general some level of consistency seems like a good thing. Inconsistency can be unfair. It's untrustworthy, can be arbitrary and impossible to work with or depend on.
So when someone is strongly endorsing some belief and presenting the profound rightness of their opinion and the unbelievable wrongness of alternative positions—when they demand that others change their minds and believe whatever the speaker believes, it begs the question whether that declared "truth" is adhered to consistently across the board by its passionate advocate.
That only seems fair, right?
Some people are convinced that their belief trumps all others. And that everyone that believes differently is wrong, bad, indeed evil. They believe that any action to convert or convince others of the error of their ways is justified, and if unconvinced, exterminating the unbelievers is a justifiable solution (figuratively or literally).
Unfortunately, that applies to many early versions of present religions—I'm thinking the Crusades and the Inquisition, for example—and for some, this attitude remains true to this day.
Bullies and bullying are not just in playgrounds or schools, they are all around us. And like those bullied children, we rarely have the courage to stand up to them or call them out. In fact, we can be complicit. For even as we cheer at watching a triumph-of-the-underdog story, we delightedly click on some over-the-top hate-filled rant, or pillory someone for a politically incorrect faux pas.
Indeed bullies seeking the public eye often gravitate towards a position that is on the moral high ground, so they are given a pass on their bullying behavior. They are "saving" some unarguably sympathetic element that cannot speak for itself—and thus cannot reject its self-appointed "savior" as a self-serving, manipulative bully (e.g. animals, children, environment, etc.). Their statements of caring are specious and inconsistent—they talk and talk, but do not walk the walk.
If they truly cared about what they so passionately claim, what other behaviors might we reasonably expect them to exhibit? What are they actually doing to meaningfully help those they are the alleged advocates and supporters of?
For the most part they just like to dictate to others how to live their lives. But no matter how many flags they wrap themselves in, or selfie halos they snap on, they are bullies, and there is no practice to their preaching.
Just how consistent are they? Really, that's not a foolish question.