When teenagers assess role models, they have an unfailing ability to call out adults for telling them not to do something those same adults do. Why should teens believe a political leader who says it’s wrong to gang up on someone and attack him publicly for, say, inexperience, when that leader and the back-room strategists are rubbing their hands in glee over the next round of attack ads?
In the long run, these ads degrade the party that creates them, give credence to all-too-popular sentiment that politicians (most of whom spend long hours trying to help constituents) are a shady lot, reduce political debate to who can afford the best attack-ad agency and weaken democracy by robbing Canadians of a chance to assess up-and-coming political leaders on their merits.
Team Harper aren't the only ones who play the "do as I say, not do as I do" game. Politicians of all stripes and at all levels will decry bullying even as they engage in the very essence of bullying behaviour, except directed at their opponents.
That's okay, though - you have to be tough to be in the blood sport of politics. Right?
Wrong. Bully politicians provide terrible role models - and not just for youth. As Political Machines break rules, lie, misrepresent the facts, throw staffers under the bus and occasionally, hire them back when nobody is looking, they're setting the standard for everyone else - the private sector, students, moms and dads at home.
The message is this - anything you can get away with, goes. If you get caught misbehaving, just be extra belligerent and hit someone else to change the focus.
If you truly believe that the ends justify the means, then you're essentially saying poverty, war, street violence, homelessness and that $50 billion mental health crisis don't matter. It's all just collateral damage on the way to power and the deconstruction of society.
That's fine, if you want to live in a Game of Thrones feudalistic society. That, essentially, has been the internal model for Political Parties for ages - and that top-down, my-way-or-the-street approach has trickled down to politics in general. We fundamentally don't live in a democracy any more - we live in a governocracy, where whoever is in charge feels they can shape the rules and even the laws of political nature.
It's all an illusion, though - the non-leaders like Harper are rubbing salt in the nation's wounds and inflaming our social problems. They say they're doing this to strengthen the economy, but even that's not happening. There's a reason for this - "the economy" is the political equivalent of the golden calf; you don't strengthen the financial viability of a nation by cutting off or abandoning its people. The people are the foundation of the economy, not vice-versa.
The single best thing the Harper government has done so far is the creation of a Psychological Safe Workplace initiative. Watch this video and learn - by devaluing people at the expense of the economy, by trying to bully people into behaviour Team Harper feels works best for the economy, they are fuelling the very problem they're trying to solve. They've come to a point where the attempt to engineer a conservative society is negatively impacting the Canadian people.
That's not leadership. That's a blatant disregard of responsibility for selfish gain that encourages others to do the same.
There's only one way to lead - and that's by example. If that example includes casting stones, expect the people to follow.