An Unacknowledged Double Standard

There are many “double standards,” and I’ve written about some of them, many involving gender, such as the fact that the behavior that men – and even some women – describe as tough and strong when performed by a man is regarded as “bitchy” and controlling when a woman’s the one who does it. Blunt and honest comments by a child are charming candor, but unacceptable when uttered by adults, particularly subordinate adults. When crooks kidnap someone and demand a huge ransom for that life, it’s criminal extortion, sometimes punishable by death, but when pharmaceutical companies essentially do the same thing, it’s justified as “the cost of doing business.”

In an oldish movie – The Big Chill – when one character rationalizes a decision he made, another calls him on it, and the first character objects, to which the second character replies with words to the effect that, “Have you ever been able to get through a day without a rationalization? Have any of us?”

We all rationalize, some far more than others, and, like it or not, most people throw in a few lies along the way, lies like “it won’t make any difference” or “who really will know?” All that’s human nature.

At the same time, none of us like being lied to… but we also want to hear what we want to hear, and we tune out, or disagree with people who tell us what we don’t want to hear.

Politicians are people, too. In this country, we elect them, and we don’t want to elect people who don’t think the way we do. But one of the problems with human nature is that we feel more strongly about negatives. So… if a politician disagrees with us on a few issues, even if we agree with him or her on most issues, we tend to oppose that politician. And there are scores of issues about which some groups feel strongly, which means that no politician can please anyone on everything, and negatives impact voters much more than positives.

Politicians know this. That’s why they waffle on hot-button issues, or try to word their stance in ways that don’t rile people.

Then people really get upset. “He [or she] led us on… lied to us…”

Voters don’t want honesty; they want agreement… on everything they think is important.

But there’s never enough money for everything everyone wants, and no way to satisfy a majority on all the issues people feel strongly about. But politicians want to keep their jobs. So what do they do? They behave exactly the way their constituents do; they rationalize, with occasional lies.

Under those circumstances, exactly what else should we expect? Except we expect the politicians we elect because we identify with them to be so much better than we are, and we get angry when they aren’t.

6 thoughts on “An Unacknowledged Double Standard”

  1. Tom says:

    A King should behave like a monarch when he becomes King no matter if this happens because of chance of birth or whether he is elected.

    This is not an unreasonable expectation of his subjects.

    Those who work to become King and succeed; must expect to behave as expected of a king even if they were not born and bred as a king.

    This expectation would not be a “double standard”.

    1. Ryan Jackson says:

      Cool. Now define in an objective sense what a monarch should behave like. Should they be tolerant? Some would argue yes, others view tolerance in a very different light. What should their views be regarding religion? Which single set of views will make everyone happy?

      Personal Morals? Some might care if a monarch sleeps around, but so long as they’re doing a good job in the actual position others wouldn’t care.

      Your point unfortunately loses all meaning because for it to have weight there needs to be a singular and universal standard of behavior for the job.

      1. Tom says:

        Stepping into the minefield I would say that there are a number of confluent examples that a leader might use to guide their ethical behavior:

        Religious examples such as “ten commandments”

        Professional examples such as the physicians “first do no harm”

        Philosophical examples such as “do unto others as you wish them to do unto you”

        … but all are really dependent on the balancing of pros and cons within the envelopes of short term and long term costs and benefits for those who are dependent on the individual’s actions.

        This will include not only societal actions but also moral (ethical) actions of the individual as well as with respect to the effect upon the group. If this is followed then the extra-personal group behavior of the individual ‘monarch’ will also need framed ethical rules to guide their behavior eg. for judgement purposes.

        The larger the group surrounding the individual the more likely rules and regulations will need to be formulated to meet “a singular and universal standard of behavior for the (specific) job.” But we all need to meet our own best standard of behavior and that after all determines who we are and relatively it also determines our level of ethos.

  2. Keegan says:

    This is a very thought provoking post, and something I’ve thought about quite a bit lately with the current political climate. How do you feel one should approach this double standard?
    It seems like the best idea for those in leadership is to focus on what’s best for the country as a whole, but individuals like that will never be elected because they will not fulfill the desires of those with wealth and power. So, what do we do in a world where there is no beneficent power that will force the government to behave reasonably with those with different view points?

  3. Wine Guy says:

    Mr. Modesitt, you’ve found one of my favorite quotes of all time which is the one about rationalizations from the Big Chill. Absolute honesty will make one more of a social pariah than the occasional white lie, the big whopping lie, or even whatever the “Continuous-Gigantic-Lies-Trump-Tells” will be called once Trump is gone.

    People will forgive the lies. They won’t forgive being told the truth.

    I see it every day in the ED.

    Examples from this past week that got me yelled/cursed at or where the person or family members became so irate they left the ED rather than get treated/continued to stay with their loved one:

    1. “No, those are not spider bites, they are cutaneous abscesses from where you’ve been injecting methamphetamines.”
    2. “How did your son die? He died of an overdose of heroin. I am very sorry.”
    3. “Ma’am, these bruises on your daughter’s face are clearly the hand-mark of an adult. How did they get there?”

    Truth hurts. Perhaps that is why we shy away from it.

  4. Guy says:

    I feel one of the most telling statements from this blog entry is: “That’s human nature.”

    I imagine that at a very fundamental level of the evolutionary development of the human psyche, around the time modern humans developed consciousness as we understand it, our thought processes became inextricably entwined with the ability to rationalize not only our own actions, but the actions of fellow band/tribe members and by extension, the actions more broadly of the tribe as a whole.

    This was probably quite necessary for sheer survival purposes and unfortunately, while we are thinking beings, we are also bound in many aspects by our evolutionary upbringing. (Which by the way is itself a rationalization of many basic human behaviors!) The philosophies exploring right and wrong have consumed people from the earliest written records of almost any society.

    The conflict created by true honesty on the part of an individual to realize the motivation/rationalization behind personal choices and behaviors is one of the most significant aspects of character development in many if not most of Mr. Modesitt’s works that I admire greatly. They inspire me to examine myself as well.

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