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Friday, 10 April 2015

Gripped by election fever

While we are all gripped by election fever... we are gripped by it aren’t we? Hanging on to every word?

Oh well, maybe not but it is still worth reminding ourselves about glib tongues and what they tell us. Confucius expressed it well.

Sz-ma Niu asked the like question. The answer he received was this: "The words of the man who has a proper regard for his fellows are uttered with difficulty."

"'His words—uttered with difficulty?'" he [Sz-ma Niu] echoed, in surprise. "Is that what is meant by proper regard for one's fellow-creatures?"

"Where there is difficulty in doing," the Master replied, "will there not be some difficulty in utterance?"

It’s an interesting quote, quite apart from its relevance to the electoral games we currently have to endure. Confucius is saying that if a chap has a proper regard for his fellows, then he or she takes them into account in what is said so there is always some difficulty, some need to find most appropriate words. 

By implication, the glib speaker doesn’t have the same level of regard for his or her auditors so the words come more easily. They are more formulaic. Admittedly this is a common enough experience, but as with many bits and pieces of practical wisdom it gets lost in the clamour of glib debate.

TV only seems to make the problem worse, creating an immediacy favouring the slick riposte over the considered, often more hesitant answer. We fall for it though - or too many of us do.

4 comments:

Sam Vega said...

Interesting stuff, AKH. The way in which truth (or at least genuine heartfelt belief) morphs into glib formulaic phrases and tropes is very interesting. It has a strong connection with another theme which you raise here from time to time - the natural desire to avoid shocks and trouble for ourselves. I'm very aware that the best teaching I have done was when I had barely grasped the subject myself. Once I felt really confident, I couldn't really be bothered...

The medium is also very important. A friend and neighbour from long ago met John Major at a formal function. She swore that in the flesh he was immensely charismatic - a truly distinctive and witty individual. Maybe it was TV that made him come across as a dreary bank manager. Maybe it encourages false intimacy when what we really need is a proper distance and rational analysis.

Roger said...

I try to avoid watching. They all became over exposed after the first two weeks, all said by then. Now all we see is glibness and promises like chip paper - binned by May 8th.

Demetrius said...

A basic human problem is that people do not like to be told that things are difficult or uncertain or in some cases all options have drawbacks.

A K Haart said...

Sam - I'm not surprised to hear that John Major was charismatic. I imagine they mostly are in person.

I once read a piece where Tony Blair had given his support for some cause. The writer was amazed at the way he entered a room full of people and set about "working the room". It sounded electrifying, even though the guy is a spiv when seem from a safe distance.

Roger - I suspect nobody is really interested either, apart from the faithful. It's as if the whole show has been put on for somebody else but nobody knows who.

Demetrius - I think there is a certain hunger for honesty but if anyone provides it they are ripped apart by the media.