Monday, July 11, 2011

Those Smooth Young Men in Business Suits

I know the old cliche that looks don't tell the whole story, and understand that it's risky to make judgments based exclusively on face value, but...

I look askance at the clean-cut appearance and the earnest, fresh young faces of these (mostly) men--people like David Cameron, in England, James Murdoch and Andy Coulson, implicated currently in the News Corporation scandal; our own Eric Cantor, Rand Paul and Paul Ryan, guiding spirits in the Republican assault on compassionate government in this country; the current crop of tax-and employee-cutting governors; the Grover Norquists, the Jack Abramoffs--and the Rex Reeds of the pulpit. George W. Bush? It seems to me that they are not intentionally evil, but rather true believers in themselves, their policies, their own rectitude--which makes them doubly scary. They apparently skipped the basic ethics class at college... or perhaps it's just that they were brought up in a culture in which ethical values were routinely trumped by expediency in every aspect of their lives. Their vision is narrowed to the immediate win; it fails to encompass anyone who does not share their social, economic or--dare I say it?--racial status.

I'm coming to believe that such people simply know no better. What is truly worrisome is that they have come to wield so much influence on the lives of virtually every person on this planet. Their bland self-assurance invites no question or discussion, and they are willing to do no matter what to assure their ascendance. For them, it seems, the end always justifies the means, and they believe unfalteringly in the ends that they propose. Reason is not what guides or drives them; indeed, they are impervious to reason when it conflicts with their assumptions. Even science is subordinated to dogma and conviction.

They appear to be entirely unobjectionable, in some cases even charming. To say they are well-spoken is to concede the glibness of their argument, but not its content. If there's an innocent air about them, it's because they are actually guileless; they surely believe that they are toiling for the benefit of humankind because they are blind to the bigger picture of human suffering. Perhaps--is this paternalistic on my part?--they are just too young; perhaps they have been spoiled by the material comfort and the protectedness of the culture in which they were raised. I find it hard to believe that anyone who has experienced or witnessed real suffering at first hand could share their views and policies as ardently as they.

I'm sure they think of themselves as hard-headed realists, in a world that is hungry for their tough, uncompromising discipline. I see them as hard-hearted ideologues. When I write down this indictment, I find myself wondering if to call someone "hard-hearted" is to transgress the Buddhist value of Right Speech; but then I'm surely not far off the mark when I decide that Right Speech requires reasoned judgment, thoughtful deliberation, and the telling of the truth as I am given to see it. What's important is is not to forget the key element of compassion. I suspect that these young men would probably be unimpressed to know that they receive wishes for true happiness from me in my metta practice every day: no matter, may their hearts be softened toward all living beings.


CHI SPHERE said...

The M word here I think. The end justifies the means.

It does seem that the suits have infrequently suffered and he who swept the bar room floor is blinded by the light of the tanning table. The smooth young men are in the business of rolling back the rug and sweeping reason under it.

My hope is that the body politic will stop buying the products that enslave them as the money runs out.

PeterAtLarge said...

Good to have you back after quite a while, Gary! An inimitable voice!

Richard said...

It's good to see that you're keeping an eye in our direction from across the pond Peter!

They certainly look smart, but as a certain Hobbit said "I think a servant of the Enemy would look fairer and feel fouler." That is all too true here.

I've worked for a large corporate and there is a wraithing process that goes on, the things no longer seem wrong or bad. From your perspective as a corporate it all seems quite reasonable after all, you're just doing your job.

From the perspective of a small cog in a big machine, they're no fun either. I felt disposable and, to a degree, dehumanised.

The suits aren't individually bad people, but it's more collective, I highly recommend the film "The Corporation" for more insight. It's available on youtube.

Craig said...

I mostly enjoyed reading your post, which seems like an accurate observation and assessment. However I do find that your words are missing a little kindness; you describe the situation clearly but I don't see any compassion in your observations.

There are vulnerable, hurting, human beings beneath the hardened suits, and their 'hard heartedness' is in fact protecting a lot of pain. They are after all the symbol of everything wrong with our world, the agents of global consumer culture, and everybody knows it, so they are objects of huge amounts of negativity. As people trying to help, let's not add to that.

PeterAtLarge said...

Thanks for the recommendation, Richard. I'll look out for the movie.

And Craig... I thought I was being kind!

roger said...

i think you are too kind. i see them as uncaring, deceitful, servants of the uber-rich, lapping up crumbs from their master's floor. i do not believe they are innocent.

compassion should not blind us to the aggressively uncompassionate actions of the "smooth young men."