‘PEOPLE don’t want to hear the truth, and have their illusions destroyed’, wrote the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.
I have learned, however, the difference between being honest and being truthful. Apparently, they are two different kinds of beast.
I may be a local Councillor in Mijas, but I don’t rate myself as much of a politician, even though I’ve spent much of my working life among them. I also spent these years working in psychological services, but the ability of people to surprise me still comes as an eye opener.
A few weeks ago, I made a fairly major cock up and published information on social media which I believed to be true. It turned out I had got it spectacularly wrong! As I sat in my ‘quiet morning time’ considering how to deal with it, I decided that the simplest solution was the best: I apologised.
‘Sorry folks, I got it wrong!’ I wrote. The response was heartwarming. In short, people were stunned and encouraged to see a local politician being honest, holding his hands up and making no excuses. Apparently, I am a rare breed!
A couple of weeks later, I published something which was 100% true but happened to go against requirements set by the government. Now I was ‘irresponsible’, ‘thoughtless’, ‘inconsiderate’ and ‘reckless’. It certainly brought me down from my comfortable, nicely balanced moral pedestal.
So, work this one out: honesty is laudable but truthfulness is reckless if it happens not to coincide with people’s internal narrative.
I find myself at odds with Abraham Lincoln,who said, “I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.’ Really? I’m more in accord with Nietzsche who claimed that ‘There are no facts, only interpretations’.
So, to get back to where I started, where does that leave me as a politician? Clearly, with no more than 5 out of 10 and a ‘Could do better.’
On reflection, I decided I don’t really care. I am not a career politician planning a life trajectory living from the public purse, dancing a waltz with the voting public and ensuring I don’t step on their toes. Who I am is not defined by other people’s opinion of me.
I will not make a distinction between being honest and telling the truth. If people can’t handle the truth, they can get rid of me at the next elections and vote for someone who will only tell them what they want to hear. Apparently, that would make me a good politician but, in my books, a very insincere human being.
Despite its frustrations I enjoy my work as a councillor. But I refuse to say ‘Yes’ when the answer is clearly ‘No’. I refuse to say ‘I will’ when the reality is ‘I won’t’. If that makes me a mediocre politician, I can live with that. I didn’t go into politics: I had politics thrust upon me, and make no mistake – ‘I will do it my way’!