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.