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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Friday 14 August 2015

The Heart of Nigel Wright

By all accounts, Nigel Wright is a stand-up, ethical, Christian values kind of guy.   You could see that when he went to work, when he went to church, when he paid his taxes.  

There was no way, the in-the-know chattering classes said, that a man like that would do something unethical.  

Yet as evidence emerges at the Duffy trial, even Wright has admitted his actions were not particularly well thought out.  

Which is why his quoting of scripture fascinates me. 

To many commentators on the trial, the impression is that Wright is trying to place himself on moral high ground by quoting the Bible, or worse, using scripture to further his spin.

All that may be part and parcel of his presentation, but again - from what we've heard, Wright's the kinda guy who believes scripture and probably tries to live his life by it's code of conduct.  

From a strictly messaging stand-point, Wright is smart enough to know that a US-style reliance on Bible quotes won't help his reputation among the majority up here. If the purpose of quoting ‎Matthew et al was to create a positive, moral persona for himself in the eyes of the public, it was poorly conceived. 

What if his Bible-quoting ‎wasn't for our benefit? What if he was saying it outloud more for reasons of internal validation?

If Wright sees himself as a religious, ethical man, you see, there would be something wrong with him acting against the public interest in order to protect his political boss and party.   That would be contrary to his ethics, and none of us like to think we're hypocrites. 

Yet we are, aren't we? We demand from others what we're not willing to do ourselves and validate in ourselves what we giddily criticize in those around us. It's especially true in politics, and egregiously so in campaigns. 

Most of the time we can live as hypocrites in unchallenged manner; instead of accepting fault, we can simply lash out at others. (oh yeah? Well YOU are doing THIS)! Sometimes, however, the personas of how we view ourselves and how we actually are‎ come into unavoidable collision. 

The term for this is cognitive dissonance. 

Human beings have a hard time balancing perception of self with reality of self - when these things some into conflict, we are prone to justify these disparities rather than correct them.  

A floor-crosser, for instance, isn't abandoning their principles for some kind of personal advantage; it's more like their party has left them and the opposing one has started to align with their world view.  

They didn't change, you see, nor were they being hypocritical.  

In Wright's case, the message he seems to be telling himself (and us) is that his conduct was aligned with the Biblical values he lives by; it wasn't egregiously partisan and immoral.  

Of course, that argument doesn't hold up much once you scratch the surface. As we've already read countless times, Duffy was a wealthy man, in no need of alms.  

And if Wright is so committed to giving alms to the poor, why would he be writing a cheque for $90K to someone who doesn't need it instead of one who does?

 Matthew 19:21

20The young man said to Him, "All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?"21Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."

Yet here's Wright, easily dropping more than many Canadian households bring in all year on one cheque for a partisan crony.   Can he be that wealthy and narrow-minded with his wealth and ‎still feel that Jesus would approve?

Is Wright wilfully deceiving himself and us, using scripture as validation? How ethical is that?

Nigel Wright, by all accounts, is an ethical man - except here he is, by even his own account, leaning in an unethical direction.  

Let's not hastily cast stones in Wright's direction.  There's more to this story than personal hypocrisy.

Wright is no doubt familiar with the concept of original sin - the first people were sinful and now, sin is coded into humanity's DNA.  

From a metaphorical perspective, one could say the core concept is that, as Rob Ford might argue, we're only human - we're not super heroes, not saints, and therefore prone to reactive, short-sighted and influenced decisions.  
Political attack ads are bred from this notion.

If we accept this - that we are not entirely rational, bur rather largely limbic-driven creatures that are responsive to our environments, then consider: Wright could have been a saint, but working under the conditions that the House of Commons create, he slid from generalized ethics to a more nuanced, more political variation thereof.

That, to me, is the real problem - that scandals have become routine in politics and even those who in other conditions might behave to the highest standards can still find themselves mired in the muck.

A culture that cultivates a war-room mentality, selfish pursuit, secrecy, absolutist power and the rest of it is not one that's conducive to the highest standards of democracy.

That's the heart of the matter; the culture of our politics is a mess and needs to change.

Until it does, the horrors will only increase.

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