Is being good and being effective somehow related?
I was reading the NY Times article about Congressman Anthony Wiener, who resigned his congressional seat because of the twitter pics that , I am sure, everyone in continental US has seen by now. There is nothing surprising about a politician doing sleazy things and then getting caught and forcibly removed from his position. Nor it would be surprising when the said politician, inevitably, becomes an industry lobbyist or a prominent political advisor or , at the very least, a TV personality who can comment on absolutely anything in the world that he is barely qualified to talk about. But the one thing that almost always intrigues me is the expectation that the person in public eye was supposed to be good. There is huge uproar that a politician turned out to be a douche bag and immediately the call is that he should quit. How is his, uh..questionable, pictures in in social media count as a scale for his effectiveness as a congressman. Its as if one should be all good or all bad. For some reason, it is assumed that, if a person is not good in some aspect of his/her life then he/she cannot be trusted with anything, at all. Doesn’t matter if it is related to their profession or not, they must exit.
You see this all the time in India, too. Any athlete, actor or any other public figure who does anything that does not fit our collective imaginary box of good things is immediately branded as a bad person. It seems to me that we are expecting, rather unjustly, that these public figures must uphold an high level of holiness that we, as the common public, let slip whenever we find it convenient. This more starkly visible comparing people in similar situation but different stature in the public eye. This, almost narcissistic, treatment is more targeted at people who are famous and more accomplished. Higher a person gets in social status, holier is the person expected to be.
But don’t you see the complete lack of purpose in this practice. For example, if I am a brilliant inventor who comes up with ingenious things, does it matter if I cheat on my wife or don’t care for my children? Sure, I am a bad care giver, and probably a bad person too, but that has nothing to do as far as my profession is concerned. If a record breaking athlete gets busted for using steroids then it makes sense to ban him from playing since he was unfair to his fellow athletes. But to expel him for smoking pot or getting involved in domestic abuse is pointless, and more importantly not useful, for anyone. This only satisfies our inflated ego and makes it even worse. And I don’t totally buy the notion that they are role models and thus should exhibit higher morals. One is supposed to be inspired by role models, not mimic their every action.
Coming back to the congressman, from what I have seen about him on TV and news articles, Mr. Wiener seems to be a very good politician. He seemed to be less about rhetoric, compared to many of his colleagues in Congress, and more about getting things done like passing bills and getting votes. And now with this scandal, his career as an elected official is over. From his own admittance, he has been engaging in these sexually promiscuous activities for a long time, but this is the first time it became public. And suddenly all of his skills and accomplishments as a law maker are irrelevant. Whether he was a good representative of his constituency is blatantly brushed aside and, it seems as if, all that matters is whether the public and the media’s emotional demands are satisfied. People tend to be complex creatures with different dimensions to their life, and its not fair to anybody to judge them by any singular aspect of them.
Just to be clear I am not saying what he did was not wrong. I just don’t understand how his personal issues conflict with his commitment to his profession. To me it seems like we just want a reason, any reason, to wag our condescending fingers at people more prominent than us and say ‘You are not that great. You are just bad, like us”.
This is kind of like the Joker’s philosophy for fighting Batman – He just wants to prove that Batman is crazy; crazy like the rest of us. Remember, Joker was the villain.
What do you think? Do you think we should cut the crap and accept the fact these celebrities are just people like us? Or am I wildly wrong here?
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