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Emotions That Drive Politics

HELP! What can I do to win an election?


There are five  general tips which seldom fail when one is seeking election and running any kind of campaign, whether big or small. They are, in priority order:

1. Your SELF BELIEF. That is your primary requirement.

*If you don't think you're good enough you might as well stop now. 

*If you don't think you are the BEST person for the job, you should stop now and let someone else do it.

* And if you don't think you have a lot of expertise to give, don't go any further. 

There are NO ifs and buts about self belief. You either have it or you don't when you are up against others.  Your self-belief cannot have any doubts attach to it. After all, if YOU don't think you're good enough, who on earth will think so for you?

2. Your REASONS for being elected.

a. Why do you want the post? 
b. What will it mean to you, your family, the community? 

c. Why should they elect you, in particular, and not someone else? 

d. What exactly would you offer which the others might not? 

e. What specific attributes, values, skills and empathy would you bring to the job? 

f. What's so special about you, in a nutshell?

g. What do you like most about the post?

h. How would you improve the position in just TWO simple or major ways?

3. FOCUS on YOURSELF, not your rivals.

They do not exist when you are in a competition. People make the mistake of watching competitors, focusing on what others are doing and saying, then repeatedly getting defensive and reactive instead of being on the offensive and proactive. The main thing is to steadily but surely push one's corner, no matter the obstacles, the brickbats or the setback. Only respond to the major issues otherwise you will keep the focus on your opponent!

Focus on how the post and the voters will benefit from your presence, not how unsuitable rivals may be. Above all, emphasise the POSITIVES and focus on the job and the voters. Never lose sight of those two factors. Be AWARE of what is happening around you, of course, but don't take it on board. Otherwise it is likely to make you feel inadequate or unsuitable.

4. Make up a catchy slogan of no more than 7 words that would only apply to you in relation to the job. It would be associated with you 24/7, in all speeches, print and online writings, so that people see your name and the slogan together. It must be a feel-good positive one, a bit like 'Yes, we can'! But something unique to you and your aspirations in the job.

5. Finally, always SMILE and have a sense of humour. Try to see the funny side in campaigning as often as you can. It keeps your sanity intact, it puts things in perspectives, it makes people feel more comfortable dealing with you and makes you seem far more warm and approachable. A smile and some humour are priceless. Don't leave home without them!

These key points can be adapted to suit any situation while keeping the focus on the essential aspects and avoiding too much stress.

Do people tend to base election votes more on emotion or reason?


People tend to base their election votes primarily on emotion, though a little reasoning does come into it when they are fully aware of the facts relating to a particular candidate or party. Emotions play a big part in voting choice because we tend to be drawn to anything which makes us feel comfortable, secure, which reflects our values and aspirations and which feels inclusive to us.

1. COMFORT and SECURITY....Anything which makes us feel welcome, in alignment with its aims and objectives, will draw us towards it. There is no reasoning in comfort and security. That is pure emotion which makes sure that anxiety and fear are kept well away from us. We want that choice to give us that cosy feeling of having a friend on our side, someone who will always look after our interest, who will keep the bad days away and give us the reassurance that we will be safe under their wing. Hence people will gravitate towards candidates who seem to exude confidence and stability to provide the necessary feeling of security.

2. Reflection of VALUES.....Reasoning takes a back seat when it comes to our values. That's pure emotion and identity. Our values reflect who we are, what we represent and where we hope to go. Any party or candidate reflecting our values immediately has our vote. That tells us we are among friends, among people who care about what we value, and the country would be in a 'safe pair of hands', being taken in the direction we too are travelling. That is why we tend to become loyal to one party or person over a long period of time because fear ensures that we do not align with anything different which might not work. So we tend to stick to tried and tested governments, which deliver the same dubious fare time after time, but which keep our comfort levels high and our values as priority.

3. Personal ASPIRATIONS....We tend to vote for our future, whoever appears to be able to make that possible. Our life is all about pleasure and pain which are both controlled by our emotions. It is natural that we are going to gravitate towards those who give us the most pleasure and are perceived to diminish any pain. Thus we will be keen to cast our votes for anyone fulfilling those essential emotional needs which align with our aspirations of what we would like to achieve and to be: anyone who would be able to fulfil our dreams and increase that sense of pleasure and value.

4. Feeling INCLUSIVE.....Any party which welcomes us and makes us feel significant and special has our vote. We all want to matter to others, to feel worthy and valued. Any candidate who extends that welcoming hand and genuine warmth will take us with them. If they are good looking as well, even better! It has little to do with reasoning. No one wants to feel on the periphery of life, or to be isolated from the action, and so we tend to vote for those who make us feel we really do matter.

It is feelings and emotions that lead us to the choices we make in elections. Feelings are emotions and they dictate the level of fear and anxiety we feel. The less fearful we are, and the more valued we feel, the more we are drawn towards the source of that warmth. As the proverbial saying goes: "No one is likely to remember what you said, but they will always remember how you made them FEEL."

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Truth in Politics: Does it Exist?


That is an interesting question because many people might be tempted to say no, judging by their experience of politics and the number of politicians who have lost credibility trying to deliver that truth and have been found wanting. The stark fact is that truth does exist in politics, but it is often lost along the way for one main reason: politics operate on two levels - INTENTION and REALITY - and truth is often lurking somewhere between them, which makes it difficult to find.

Every politician starts out with the intention of being truthful. They are often guided by ideals of truth, by principles that enable truth and the determination to deliver their truth. In fact, it seems that the goal of every politician, especially the new ones, is to ensure that voters recognise their singular commitment to truth and transparency in office. Fine so far. Except that reality has a way if intruding at some point and obscuring that truth due to the fact that it is very difficult to ever please a large number of people, no matter how truthful one is, because of the vested interests that prevent that truth from prevailing. It is no easy task pleasing a few people, let alone millions, especially when voters are so diverse in needs, desires, aspirations and allegiances and are keen to protect and/or promote their own interests.

It seems that truth in politics will depend on two things, in particular:

1. How many voters align with a politician's truth, find it relevant to them and their needs, accept that truth as possible and have the faith in the politician to deliver the truth for them.

2. Once in office, the capacity of the politician in matching 'truthful' promises to the realty of governing, and bringing that truth to life for all to see.

New politicians, in particular, are at the mercy of enabling their truth after they are elected because their inexperienced perception of what they can do in office is often at odds with what they can actually achieve when elected. This is the time when the vast chasm between intention and reality becomes really obvious. Unfortunately, they find that out only too late when reality kicks in.

For example, if the resources are not there for action, the red tape is tying them in knots, too many power brokers prefer the status quo and they have to prioritise delivery. This means many people will be disappointed. Soon they get disillusioned as their aspirations (their personal truths and reasons for voting) fall by the wayside, while the politicians too begin to feel impotent, lose their enthusiasm and settle into the status quo. Everything then appears superficial and expedient to the voters, a 'truth' obviously designed to get the politician elected.

President Obama, for example, seems to be at the mercy of the truth in his intention being scuppered by the reality of his situation; one that is dominated by vested interests, differing expectations across the country, differing perceptions of what should be priority and powerful forces guarding the status quo. His truth would be hostage to those factors making it very difficult to bring his intentions to fruition.

It seems that genuine truth in politics operates at the lowest, local level where only a few people share both the truth and the expectation around that truth. In these local situations truth has a better chance of being visible as everyone will be working closer together to enable its reality. Once millions of people are involved, and they become more detached from the action, truth in politics is more difficult to achieve. Not because politicians are not telling the truth, per se, but because the version of the truth they are trying to convey will be sabotaged by the reality of the numerous unforeseen obstacles barring that truth from being delivered to millions of disparate expectations. A near impossible task, with so many voters to convince of their intention when the ensuing reality suggests something entirely different.

Liberal, Conservative, Right-Wing:
What do labels mean to you?


As a Briton on MSNBC’S Newsvine, the first uncomfortable thing I noticed when I joined a few years ago was the way people are labelled immediately with political monikers.

Personally, I have never joined a political party. I have never given my affiliation to anything political; I tend to go for the person rather than the stereotype when I vote and for the actual policies and programmes. Yet the number of times I have been called a 'liberal' because off my support for President Obama bemuses me. I understand the roots of it now, as one gradually understands another culture, but I guess I will never get used to it because the worst thing one can do to anyone is to label them without even knowing them.

The problem with labels, like 'conservative' and 'liberals' is that they leave little room for the individual or their uniqueness, while changing him/her into something generalised, superficial and without depth. Labels gradually come to stand for the person and their beliefs instead of being just one part of the person's perspective. Furthermore, the things we tell others, or ourselves, gradually come to represent who we are because words echo our thoughts and thoughts dictate our life. If we keep telling ourselves that we are 'thieves', for example, we will soon start behaving like thieves, or expect others to behave that way too! So labels are not just empty words. They are the mirrors which reflect how we see others, how we treat them, and the respect we have for them.

Labels might give a clearer indication of where we stand on our view of life, at that point in time, but no matter what labels we carry to describe our political or religious leanings, we are still humans under that cover, capable of all kinds of contradictory feelings, beliefs and emotions at any given time. Hence the flaw with any kind of labelling: it simply reduces the person to a low denominator which suggests no capacity to think or act in any other way except under a superficial, predictable title. Labelling immediately deprives someone of the right to go against that label, to use their initiative or to behave in an unpredictable manner.

Some time ago, psychologist Robert Bolton wrote a brilliant book on communication, People Skills (1979), where he noted that most of our problems arise simply because we cannot communicate well enough to allow people to understand, appreciate and respect us. For example, we are often not aware of the 'roadblocks' we set up when we speak to others through labelling and judging them. We feel we need to give people labels but, "in so doing, we cease to see the person before us, only a type". This is rarely constructive as it merely "represents an affront to the other person's intelligence".

Many people discount what others might say if they are from the 'opposition'. But for someone to dismiss what anyone says simply because of their political hue, instead of noting its relevance and contribution to any debate, shows a paucity of intellect and common sense. No one is all bad or all good based on a label, so the quicker we regard labels in their true contexts, more like broad brushstrokes than the finer details, the more we'll appreciate the individual, the rich tapestry they weave and where they're coming from; the more we'll be able to see that nothing is ever just black and white, right wing or left wing, liberal or conservative! But we can be all of those things if the moment dictates.

I would regard myself as firmly in the centre. Yet there are times when my views can be as extreme as any right wing person or as liberal as a left winger, depending on the issue involved, its effect on my life and my degree of commitment to it. That's the beauty of being human. No matter what we gravitate towards to reflect our values, we transcend all labels, especially when anything becomes life threatening to us or our dear ones.

Britons tend to baulk at anything that smacks of labelling, especially as our political affiliations tend to be very private until we cast our ballot, hence this desire to label seemed rather odd to me. Most Britons dislike labels intensely because, having lived through two brutal World Wars, we soon learnt the importance of being united as Britons in order to save our country than to be divisive and weakened, under one one petty label or another, and being utterly crushed in the process.

Are Americans being deeply divided by their self-imposed political labels?


I personally resent the labelling of people into inflexible political groups like Liberals, Conservatives, Right or Left. There seems to be an obsession with it on the Vine and in the USA. And it isn't attractive at all because it stops genuine dialogue through name-calling. I am not sure if this is because i am a Brit and here things are done in a much more low-key fashion. One never reveals anything unless one feels one has to.

Even if one might class one's self as a 'Conservative', or 'Labour', one does not say until one is asked, or there is a definite reason to shout it. It means we avoid judging someone superficially, and on a political level, before we actually get to know them because labels are both inclusive and exclusive. Fine when they are inclusive, and everyone feels valued, but when they exclude others for the sake of it, that is totally counter-productive.

In my view a label is terribly inadequate to describe a complex human being who tends to react to contexts than concrete dogma. It is based on a generalised stereotype that bears little resemblance to the multifaceted individuals we are. It restricts the interplay of language and discussion through superficial assumptions and negative expectations. It is misleading, at best, and bigoted, at worst, and a handy shortcut for the self-righteous who prefer to assign labels to mask their ignorance. It focuses on similarities while ignoring differences, and represents one aspect of that person, while being treated as the sum of their whole!

People fall on a continuum of thoughts and ideas. Unless we can be placed firmly at either extreme end of that continuum, and only a small percentage can, most people are flexible enough in their views, despite their particular choices. Our allegiances are merely leanings to one side or another of the political spectrum, depending on how we feel at a given point in time. They are not fixed points in concrete. We are free to change sides whenever we wish, according to which ideology is serving our interests and aspirations at any moment. Moreover, making a particular choice that suits our expectations does not give us the right to derogate the choice of another, otherwise our choice begins to lose its credibility too.

In short, while labels might give some idea of the ideological or political leanings of a person, they are mere guides to preferences which can be changed at will, not immovable aspects of our personalities we have no control over. In the UK we try to avoid them, as a rule. We are very sensitive to their use and are reluctant to label people to suit our own prejudices and predilections. I generally find that once we label a person, we stop listening to them, because we have already made up our minds what they are going to say and often impute things to them which they wouldn't say either!

I cannot understand this obsession with political labels when we are not unchanging robots. It is also difficult to see the other person's point of view when we label them as the enemy and many Americans appear to be putting unity to one side as they glory in their fragmentation. But we are thinking, feeling people who ALL seek the same thing: a great quality of life in which we can fulfil our potential and feel valued and secure. The only difference between us is the way we each wish to realise that need, and the vehicles we prefer to use to get it.

Is 'Unity' the easiest and cheapest word in the American political vocabulary?


It is very fashionable to desire unity in a party, especially when it begins to look remarkably fractious. It is also the easiest word to say as part of wishful thinking because most of us dislike conflict and simply yearn for a quiet life instead. But unity comes out of two main elements: sincerity - genuinely ditching the past to concentrate on both the present and the potential for the future, and forgiveness - to pave the way for a better understanding and appreciation of all parties working together. With no forgiveness, it is very difficult to move on to get that sought-after bonding.

Two days after her great speech in Denver, the one almost everyone thought was a unifying moment, the one many thought did the job to heal the wounds and support Barack Obama, in the cold light of a new day that speech is found wanting, because the two main elements of getting unity are absent. Hillary said some supportive things, yes, but there were many others she did not say which she could easily have said to show that sincerity and one of them should have related to Barack's potential.

As Christopher Hitchens points out in his thought-provoking little piece for the Mirror, Hillary said quite a few negative things about Obama during the campaign, especially regarding his lack of readiness to take command, which many people would not have forgotten. Yet she "certainly decided not to utter a word - a word - about Obama's readiness to assume the burden of commander-in-chief." It means that there is no sincerity there at all. She still holds to her view, her possible trump card for the future, when she stands against Obama again. Perhaps quietly lying in wait to say "I told you so"?

Yet an emphasis on his potential to do the job, for many people, would have been the most important sign that they are both on the same team now, unified and ready to run together for the benefit of the Democrats. Acknowledging that, for now, at least, he is the man of the moment, as ready as can be to assume command. Her acknowledgement of his suitability would have retracted what she said during the campaign.

Everyone says things about one another when they are rivals, especially when they are playing for such high stakes. But being rivals in the same party carries a different kind of responsibility than being on opposite sides of the political fence. The responsibility to always remember that you and your colleague are on the same side, with the same party values and, most important, that the two of you will have to support each other at the end, regardless of who gets the nomination.

Without that sincerity regarding Barack Obama's true potential, there is obviously no forgiveness, either, on her part. Whatever the Democrats are hoping to have over the next few weeks until the election, unity, sadly won't be part of it, because the deep animosity and anger felt by her supporters for her defeat is really being repressed by superficial gloss hiding the wounds beneath.

5 things America needs to change in its presidential elections


Thanks to Newsvine, I have been able to watch the American elections from close quarters, to see the progress or fall of the leading candidates and to even have my two cents worth from the hustings through my favoured candidate, Barack Obama. i have to admit that if Obama were not in the race, I would have favoured Hillary Clinton. It just so happens that there are two history-making candidates with different advantages in the frame this year and that has presented a difficult choice to their supporters who would like to see either of them win.

For years, there appeared to be no other choices but white males for the public to elect and then, like busses in a row, two other choices pull up at the same time. No wonder the nation seems to be heavily divided and confused, not because Clinton or Obama is so different from each other, or better than the other, but because the election has become unpredictable and exciting for the very first time, particularly for the Democrats. For women and minorities, it is really hard to know which way to go. And if you are a woman AND a minority, jeeez!

However, from across the Pond, a few things haven't made sense in the selection process and I think they need to change for fairness to be seen to be done when the dust has settled.

First, the length of the campaign: It is far too long. It should start much later in the current president's term and last only a year, no more than that, so that everything is conducted in his/her final year and then a hand-over at the end of it. Such a long campaign is debilitating and divisive. It needs to be briskly conducted and no hopers winnowed out quickly to concentrate on the leaders. That should dramatically cut down on the next factor, money.

Second, the money required: It is obscene to need so much money to elect a president of the USA. The only message that gives is that money makes a president, nothing else. The ones with the most money and loudest shout appear to win the race. That could also be why the 'wrong' people are perceived to be nominated for elections. Yet being president of America is the country's highest office and should be treated with the respect it deserves. It shouldn't be a time when the media makes a killing out of the candidates through advertising because all adverts should carry a hefty discount, or even be free, for example, to get the messages to the people as much as possible.

Third, the location of the first primaries: All early primaries should be rotated around the country so that every state has a chance to benefit from the clear economic gains of being the first primary and also have a say in who the first winners are. To keep having the same states as front runners every time leads to jealousy, feelings of being sidelined and a desire to get in on the action, which happened to Michigan and Florida this year when they were penalised for wanting their primaries earlier. Yet it is very natural to want that kind of media and economic benefit for one's state that Iowa and New Hampshire appear to enjoy each election. In today's media world it clearly does not make sense to have the same two states enjoying that first privilege every time. It really isn't fair to the other states who have to watch from the sidelines with a silent voice wishing they could be part of the action.

Fourth, the elitist presence of super delegates: There should be no super delegates in any fair elections, especially with the anomalous position of favouring someone their states voted against, neither should there be any clear support from governors for candidates until the convention. Something seems wrong to me that Gov. Strickand of Ohio openly favours Hillary Clinton and is campaigning for her, hoping she wins, when there are two candidates fighting for that state. Surely, that does not make for a fair contest from the very beginning? No governor should indicate their personal choice until after a primary. That makes for a more level playing field to start with, especially in such a crucial contest as Texas and Ohio.

Fifth, the practice of endorsements: No one publicly endorses someone unless they want something in the process, even if it is simple acknowledgement, association with, or support from the perceived winner. I think endorsements can come after the person is in the White House, when they have got there on their own steam and their own efforts and owe no one anything. But are all these people coming out of the woodwork to endorse a candidate a good thing for the country? Will they want some kind of payback at some time? And how can one please all those disparate interests and expectations? Endorsements imply that a person is not good on their own merit until someone else says so, that they are inadequate until propped up by some group or person, which is why America is in the mess it is in from too many party and lobbying interests. Endorsements tie presidents to unwritten promises and give undue privilege to certain sections of society which immediately disenfranchise the rest of the population.

I think if these five factors were to be changed, there would be a fairer and clearer election process. This is the Internet age and it has had the biggest influence on the 2008 election, a clear pointer the future elections. Things cannot run the way they used to run, as Obama's very successful campaign has demonstrated .

And to anyone who might be tempted to say that 'this is how things have always been done', a genuine desire for all -round change among the population is why Barack Obama is now leading the field!

Do political polls really matter?


The latest polls seem to be going up and down like a yo-yo for President Obama. They have changed so frequently in the last nine months of him being in the White House it almost makes one's head spin.

It seems that people tend to be rather fickle. When it comes to political polls, responses appear to reflect the mood of those replying on that day, or whether they are feeling bad because their expectations have not yet been fulfilled, or they simply wish to be mean against certain politicians. So can we trust polls to tell us what is really happening at any given time, and with any accuracy, or are polls being manipulated to such an extent they should come with a health warning and be ignored until election time?

What do you think about political polls.

I seldom notice any poll until election time, unless they are pretty dramatic and different from the norm. The daily news is quite sufficient for me to gauge what is happening politically and how it is being accepted or received by the public. In this way I am not unduly influenced by the anxious and insecure noisemakers who believe that a daily poll gives the answer to everything they wish to happen!

Seven reasons why future politicians will not be able to offer much to voters


Three years ago, President Barack Obama burst on the scene with a stirring "Yes, We Can". Many of the American population, especially the youngsters, were galvanised into action, having been in some despair about the Bush years. They saw Obama's vision, they could feel the possibilities, they loved his speeches and jumped on to his bandwagon. The rest is history as he stormed the White House.

Today there is some talk of voters being 'disillusioned', of him lacking 'leadership', of the president being 'weak', of falling approval rates, and all such negative perceptions. But is that really the case, or did some people just expect too much of a mere mortal? More interesting, are we operating in entirely different times which need a different approach and reaction if any President is to be seen to be achieving anything of value? Worse still, can any future politician cut the mustard and please the people?

Look at the eight American Republican candidates just now. Most of come across as naive and mediocre as a slice of stale bread. Not a single one is capable of beating the President as they stand, despite his low ratings, because they are all partisan, sectarian, limited in vision and scope, naive about government on a large scale, ignorant of global economics and politics, and trying to serve two parties instead of one! They have not a hope in hell of winning anything, unless they can appeal to a BROAD church of the voters, and that is not likely to happen with some of their extreme views.

However, one cannot really blame them entirely, especially when they are seeking easy answers and are also blissfully unaware of the seven other hidden factors in operation, which even the pundits are not taking into account. These factors apply to all developed countries, not just America, but they would affect it most because of its competitive culture.

1. A Distinct Historical Shift

We have moved inexorably from an authoritarian society to an authoritative one, where everyone is now an expert on everything!! It means that power has been wrested from those who govern to the public at large, who are able to assess the situations for themselves  and pronounce on them too. Everyone takes delight in fact checking and disproving everything! Gone are the days when governments could make cock-ups and hide them for years, or lie about policy and not be found out for ages. 

For example, Britain was in desperate trouble immediately after the second world war, especially when America refused to help without a reciprocal gesture, and the country almost went bankrupt! Yet that was not revealed until 40 years later!! Today we know the economic state of the countries on a daily basis. Now governments are having to rule by consensus than by dictat because they really can't hide much anymore. Wikileaks has seen too that!

2. Wider access to Information

This has been the biggest and most influential change in the world of politics. The ready access to information by voters means that politicians can't make silly promises anymore and people can also gauge the progress, or lack of it, for themselves. The power of anything on the Internet to go viral immediately - and to stay there in a mocking way - has chastened many a politician, or even deprived them of their seats! Politicians now refuse to say anything spontaneous and tend just to resort to boring, or predictable, soundbytes so that they are seen to be saying the 'right' thing, but not necessarily the truth, or the most appropriate. The emphasis is now on form over substance and a genuine fear of saying the wrong thing. Moreover, people are not so easily taken in by false promises, or exaggeration, because they can check things for themselves.

3. The Effect of The Internet

Well, what can one say about this powerful medium that hasn't been said already, but it has singlehandedly changed the way we view politics, politicians and the whole campaigning process, especially with everything available in one place to view or interact with.

4. The Global Influence

This part is the least understood, yet is is growing more in influence day by day, thanks to the Internet. One only has to see what is happening in Europe and the euro to appreciate just how much countries control the fortunes of each other nowadays. No one country can exist by itself anymore, mainly because of the shared banking system and the increasing dependency on trade with others. So when Michele Bachmann, for instance, was trying to garner easy votes by promising the $2 gas, she was talking nonsense, because that is not possible in today's age to return to cheap gas unless one  has one's own! Or unless she is going to hold up the suppliers at gunpoint and dictate to them what to charge!

5. The Power of Corporates

Corporates are now like little countries themselves: with jobs to protect, massive budgets to manage and goods to deliver. Their main motive is of course, profit. But many of them now get extra power through being community conscious and even interfering with government policies. It also means that they will strive to keep their market share and position by fair means or foul. Money is power for the big magnates and that also means political power for the politicians they back. There's no such thing as a 'free lunch' in this new world of corporate influence. Hence politicians will always be in hock, be obliged to give something in return for such largesse, which ultimately takes away their independence, rob them of the scope to act, and keep business as their priority instead of their voters.

6. The Complex Web of Vested Interests

Today's world has so many vested interests one only has to see what happens when a new Congressional or Parliamentary Act is in progress. The stakeholders come out in force to either try to block it or to give it support. Like the drinks lobby in Britain. A lot could be done about the awful binge drinking among youngsters, there but that would upset the powerful brewing industry, so lip service is continually paid by various governments in order to keep business happy, while our youngsters stumble along helplessly, increasingly blighted by alcohol. 

7. Changing Social Values

This has been a dramatic change in that politicians are not treated with any deference or automatic respect any more. They have to earn their respect and attention. Furthermore, what used to be social priorities in the past: like community cohesion, the family, serving the nation, chivalry, integrity, the protection of women, character etc., are not at the forefront of our lives anymore. Our increasing independence, women now leading lives of their own without recourse to men, and, above all, politics being regarded as a cynical activity engaged in mainly by people who are hungry for power, has put paid to such values holding sway. Instead individualism is encouraged and people wait to be convinced by the emerging political hopefuls with big dreams and little awareness of the political reality.

The current negative perception of President Obama has stemmed from the rude awakening he has has as his vision of ideal government, in which 'change' can come easily, clashes violently with the partisan powerful reality leaving him helpless and adrift, at the mercy of a cynical opposition party with two heads. In fact, I would think that factors 5,6 and 7 have proved a baptism of fire for him.

In view of those factors, anyone thinking that they'll get better results from government just by changing politicians are in for a rude shock. NO politician can really deliver anymore because voters are not in the dark or naive about politics, and greater information have merely boosted expectations to well nigh impossible levels. Voters can also see a lot for themselves but, worst of all, they no longer have any respect for political office. And where there is no respect, there is no desire to listen or to learn.

Can History Ever Really Be Our Teacher?


There is a little saying, "Until lions have their own historians, tales of hunting will always glorify the hunter." And that is the basic nature of history: it is subjected to individual interpretation, manipulation and wishful thinking, especially where the evidence was not as carefully preserved, well documented and accessible as it is now. So history is obviously a poor teacher, otherwise it would be more representative of our humanity, not just those with the power and voice, and we would have learnt much more from it.

History cannot be our teacher because we would not be repeating the errors of yesterday, repeating almost the same results without learning any new lessons. Iraq and Vietnam are cases in point. Despite the awful loss of life in Vietnam, the frustration with winning that war and it's sheer viciousness, the capitulation at the end and the general dissatisfaction about US involvement, President Bush happily revisited the sins of his father to do even worse in Iraq. Throwing caution to the wind, he squandered American reputation and trillions of dollars on something he could never hope to win, proving beyond doubt that history had nothing to teach him.

History is also dominated by particular slants and pervasive manipulation as excuses for bad memory. It mainly favours those who can give a good narrative and those who are well known, not the unsung and silent heroes who actually helped to make the substance of that history. We only hear of the great works of great people while every brutal act is downplayed and desensitised to favour the victor. Like the British Empire, an oppressive, racist, colonial regime which forced British customs, administration and language on many races across the world under the guise of 'discovering' new lands and peoples, and 'civilising' them, while robbing them of their resources and extending British power. Yet that has been reported in history as something glorious, a time which put the 'Great' in Britain without acknowledging, until recently, the insensitivity, sheer brutality and racist nature of some its administrations, not to mention the legacy of displacement and loss of local pride that was left.

History could teach us a lot, but it is not the nature of man to learn, otherwise it would curb our innovative spirit through fear of repeating the consequences shown in history. Our nature is to keep creating new history with the hope of changing what has already happened, and definitely bettering it. Not to really learn from it. Hence President Bush's rash actions. So we are the teachers of history through the mark and legacy we strive to leave behind us, while history cynically leaves a never ending trail of people who keep failing to learn from its recurring and ever potent lessons.

Should Contributions to Political Campaigns by Individuals be Limited?


Yes they should be, every time. However, the limits shouldn't be in the actual amount of money being pledged, but in the percentage being contributed.

The main reason why any limits must be mandatory is because there is no such thing as a FREE lunch. No one gives politicians anything for nothing because, behind every donation, no matter how small, is the hope of some reward. The man in the street who might donate $1 is hoping that the politician will act in his favour when it comes to laws and initiatives which will affect him and his family, like reduced taxes etc. Just as the millionaire with his thousands is hoping that his business, organisation, product or service, will be catered for in legislation or protected against any adverse lawmaking.

No one gives politically for the sake of it. There is always a hidden motive: whether for benefit, association, influence or power. That is why politicians have to be protected from being obliged to businesses and interest groups who could use the power of their money to get what they want, by influencing political decisions unfairly, which might be against the public interest, and put undue pressure on them.

That is what happened in the UK a couple years ago in the the Cash for Peerages scandal where big businessmen have repeatedly donated to the government in power with the unwritten expectation of either getting a peerage (a seat in the House of Lords), a knighthood (being titled 'Sir') or having preferential treatment for their businesses when it comes to the law or other aspects of government. This is not good if the objective is to establish fair government for all.

Limiting the amount people contribute to elections keeps a fairer playing field between contributors. Moreover, by limiting the donation by percentage rather than actual amount, it means that people with money also get the opportunity to donate according to their capacity, because 1% of a $1000 income is far less than 1% of $1 billion. This varied amount should keep everyone happy all round.

But what do you think?

Could a third-party candidate ever become president in the USA?


Yes, a third-party candidate can become president but it depends on three main factors.

First, a change in MINDSET: Currently, many people's mindsets are ruled by fear. They believe that a vote for any third party is a 'wasted vote' because that candidate will never get into power. That belief originates from fear of the unknown, fear of their vote not being counted, and fear of not seeing their own choices in power. Worst of all, there is the fear of letting in the opposition by voting for any third-party person. So they stick to the party they know and feel comfortable with, no matter how badly they have been served, and hope for the best. Voters need a new mindset that enables them to appreciate that anyone they vote for can win, if that person gets enough faith, belief and actual votes to put them in power.

Second, a broader PERSPECTIVE on what makes a good president. The electorate has only past experience to go on and that does not leave much room for innovation or trying something new. Presidential objectives and possibilities have always centred around known factors, wooing the usual suspects to get into office and trying to please as many people as possible. Few voters wish to install candidates who deviate too far from those perceived norms.

We all tend to stick to what makes us comfortable, what is familiar, tried and tested, and what we think actually works for us, even though it might not be in the interest of a large section of the public. Third party candidates, having never had power, are at a disadvantage here because they need to be trusted with that power to show what they can do, but are likely to follow a different agenda to show that they do not share the same objectives of the majority parties. But that very difference is what breeds fear. In a classic chicken and egg situation, people fear putting them there to try out any new perspectives so they get few chances to prove themselves.

Third, greater FAITH in potential leaders of whatever ilk. Third-party candidates tend to suffer from a lack of credibility. No matter how sincere they are, with them being untried, and having fewer resources and fewer backers, there is far less faith in their ability to deliver the presidential goods than members of majority parties. They suffer on all fronts because of that lack of faith and credibility because that means less funding to promote themselves, less helpers to get the message out and fewer audiences to take that message.

In view of those three factors which are dictated by fear, it is always an uphill struggle for third-party candidates, but only the people can change their fortunes by giving them the big break they need. For example the Liberal Democrat Party in England went from a 'phone box full of MPs' (12) a decade ago to 42 new MPs in the 1997 election. Even though the Party was always the dominant one at local council level, they never managed to convince the public of their competence, at national level, enough to vote for their candidates until when they broke through the 20 MPs barrier.

Being completely disillusioned with the Tories, yet not wanting to vote for Labour, many voters threw in their lot with the Liberals under the assumption that things couldn't get any worse! However, the fact that support fell away after that back to Labour in the 2004 election, shows the difficulty of maintaining such support.

Does The Press Pick Presidents?


In any democracy, including that of the USA, the press will end up choosing the leaders because the media is the vehicle of free expression. The press reflects the voice of the people and they depend on it, in turn, for their advice and information. So it is not so far fetched to say that the media chooses the president because indirectly it does, through its power, expertise and influence.

1. The press, by virtue of the awesome publicity it generates, has the power to make or break a candidate simply by focusing negatively or positively on them at any time. And now the Internet has added to that influence. For example, Barack Obama, the young and enthusiastic presidential hopeful, is enjoying a honeymoon period just now where most of his coverage has been positive, while his more experienced opponent, Hillary Clinton, with a known history behind her family, has been having mixed exposure, some of it not so complimentary. But come 2008, when things get really upfront and personal, expect something different. Thus the press has the power to at least keep its choice at the forefront of the debate for the people to consider and to vote for. It often uses this influence unashamedly to change the fortunes of the candidates and that is why they have to take notice of the press and always try to be overly accommodating to get the most favourable or sympathetic coverage.

2. The press is known for its expert writers and journalists who can analyse a person's suitability rather clinically for this top job. With such a reputation for investigative journalism, the public tends to take note of what is published, especially if they are loyal readers/viewers/listeners of a particular medium. They come to trust their source of information and often remain floating voters until they see which way the press coverage is going. In this regard, one can say that the press often does a valuable job in unseating insincere candidates who might not be consistent in stated policies or who have a dodgy public background. However, some members of the press have abused this position by deliberately giving negative publicity to those who might be competing too closely with their favourites by dredging up unsavoury things from their past or spreading questionable gossip.

3. The press has the capacity and means to affect the public perception of who is the best potential president and often manipulates that perception to suit their ends. Public perception is often fickle and highly changeable, depending on its knowledge and information, and the press enjoys the best position to alter that perception at any given time, especially when it suits their purpose to do so.

In the UK, the press has always dominated the selection of our leaders. In fact, one of the first persons to be called to Downing Street after Tony Blair won office was Rupert Murdoch, the media giant. His papers had sided with the Labour party in the election and that did make a difference to how Labour was perceived as 'electable' after their 18 years in the political wilderness.

'Let us close the springs of racial poison',
on the signing the Civil Rights Act, this day in 1964.
Has that racial poison been stemmed?


July 2, 1964 was a landmark day in American history. Engineered by Martin Luther king and signed by President Lyndon B Johnson, the Civil Rights Act effectively swept away the second class citizenship of Black people in his country. It would take another 30 years before the full effects of the landmark Act was felt by the country (when the Civil Rights Act of 1991 encouraged positive discrimination and allowed lawsuits against employers if their hiring had a "disparate impact" on women or minorities). But, for that moment, it was the most important bit of legislation affecting Americans for years.

At the time the Act was passed:

* 57% of African American housing was judged to be unacceptable

* African American life expectancy was 7 years less than Whites

* African American infant mortality was twice as great as Whites

* African Americans found it all but impossible to get mortgages from mortgage lenders

* Property values would drop a great deal if an African American family moved into a neighbourhood that was not a ghetto.

Civil rights activists welcomed the new law and the secretary of the NAACP, and keen rights activist, Roy Wilkins, even hailed it as "the Magna Carta of human rights". Whether history has proved him right is another matter. However, on that landmark day in July, the Act created equal rights, regardless of race, colour, religion and national origin, across a swathe of social injustices.

It affected:

* Education services

* Voting rights

* Public accommodation (especially outlawing segregation)

* Union membership

* Federally assisted programmes

The public accommodations part had immediate effect so that minorities could no longer be barred from service in public places, but other sections to deal with employment would not be really effective for five years.

Though the Act was passed with a hefty majority (163), a large number of lawmakers still opposed it (289 to 126). Not surprisingly, segregationist politicians from the deep South saw it as the thin end of the wedge. One of them, Howard Smith of Virginia, said it was a 'monstrous oppression of the people'.

On addressing the nation after the signing, President Johnson called on all Americans to "eliminate the last vestiges of racism". He added: "Let us close the springs of racial poison".

The key question today, on July 2nd 2012, 48 years after the Act came into being, is:
Has racial poison been stemmed in America?

Other important questions to consider:

1. Are minorities still exposed to 'vestiges of hate'?

2. Is there still clearly demarcated segregated areas?

3. Has the Civil Rights Act really achieved anything of true value for Black people which they could have achieved without it?

4. Has the White population benefited too from the Civil Rights Act?

5. To what extent are the White majority still as fearful and racist towards their Black peers?

6. Looking at the five areas of poor lifestyle for African American quoted above, has any of them really improved significantly in the past 48 years?

Points to consider when answering those questions (using 2009 stats):

a. Right across the board, for low/high income buyers and renters, inadequate housing is doubled in percentage for Blacks than Whites.

b. Life expectancy for Blacks currently stands at 73 years and 78 for Whites, improving only two years since the Act, while expectancy for African American males have worsened even more (70 years).

c. African American infant mortality rates now stand at 2.3 times that of Whites, up from what it was when the Act was passed!
d. Are African Americans any more welcome than they were in certain areas, especially for luxury accommodation?

Very pertinent questions for our modern world in judging the physical and emotional improvement for minorities in America since that landmark legislation.

Do Powerful Men Need Something Else to Keep Them Motivated?


Three incidents were reported separately over the past two months. On the face of it, they were not connected in any way, but, on closer inspection, they were inextricably linked in two ways: by sex and power.

Dominique Strauss Kahn, the former chief of the IMF, had everything going for him: money, wealth, the most prestigious global position one could have, a pretty, intelligent achiever for a wife, and was even a kind of leader-in-waiting for France. Yet he was caught with his pants down, and accused of rape, kicking off an embarrassing scandal, especially for one so high-powered, well established and respected, which lost him his job.

Worse still, it has emerged that he had a string of liaisons, was involved in procuring prostitutes for his own benefit, and treated women none too greatly, perhaps like his own candy shop where he could always help himself and with no questions asked. Many women are drawn like moths to a flame when it comes to power, especially younger ambitious women on their way up, hoping for such power to rub off on them. Often many women allow things to be done to them they would later regret in their bid to be associated with that power. But did Strauss Kahn take advantage of that power he had to manipulate the women he desired, and did his luck just run out?

Happily Married?
In the United States Congress, other lawmakers were also allowing their brains too move south too, especially Anthony Weiner (who used his phone to send "crotch and bulge-revealing photos" to women, including a high school girl) ) and David Wu (who was accused of having sex with a supporter's 18 year old daughter). Far too close to home for comfort. Yet both men were apparently "happily married" with families (that word "happily" being suspect for men playing away from home, and obviously interpreted differently in their language!).

One would have thought that their exposed position of influence would have made them more circumspect in their behaviour. Not at all. There seems to be a bit of risk taking behind the knowledge that their power makes them more attractive to women, and they seem to throw caution to the wind. They are not alone either. History is littered with the falling debris of illicit affairs and sex scandals on both sides of the Atlantic.

So what makes powerful men prone to sex scandals when they are at the top of their tree, when they seem to have everything which other people might envy? What makes them risk their achievements and family life for moments of madness? What prompts them to take such heady risks in the face of all they have to lose? Could it be that it takes a certain kind of very focused individual to get to the top, one who is often self-centred and egocentric; one who believes that their status gives them so much power that the only person who matters is them, that the whole world revolves around them?

A Sense of Entitlement and Privilege?
Or could it be that, on a purely emotional level, the very feat of getting to the top, of besting other men in the process, carries a perception of greater sexual prowess too which also has to be proven and sustained to make that person feel worthy? That they actually 'deserve' everything they get at that level, and it should be theirs for the taking? It seems that power is an intoxicating aphrodisiac to both men and women, that makes the holders appear even more attractive and desirable, especially power over women and employees.

It seems, also, that life at the top is a different version of life for mere mortals. It carries tremendous pressures of service delivery, public expectations and professional exposure, a need to prove being the best person in that job while being consciously aware that the eyes of the public watch keenly for the wrong step that will signal their Achilles heel and, ultimately, their demise. The goldfish bowl of power is a very limiting and exposed place to be and, perhaps, men in this situation, charged with so much responsibility need an outlet, or activity, where they can simply forget the world and please themselves. But, paradoxically, the activities tend to be those which appear to carry great risks and also have the power to destroy them, in a perverse kind of death wish!

Whatever it is, these powerful men are a race apart from ordinary mortals in a competitive society. When they get to that level, the trappings of power: willing staff waiting on them constantly, money, perks, high status and conditions of office, can sometimes go to their heads. A few begin to believe that they are invincible and the rules cease to apply to them. They begin to test the boundaries, to enjoy the thrill of pushing those elastic boundaries hard, the ones they should be stabilising, and then getting away with it, until the day their luck runs out. Then those boundaries have a bad habit of bouncing back to hit them massively in the groin, bringing their world crashing around them with a huge and reverberating bang. Dominque Strauss-Kahn is experiencing that painful bang right and it will hurt like hell for some time to come!

Is The Death Penalty Really A Deterrent?


For me the death penalty is not a deterrent because, quite simply, people do not think about the consequences of their crime when they are committing it. They might wish they hadn't done it afterward, but they would not have thought that they would die when they were doing the deed. All they would have focused on was what they were doing and how to cause maximum damage to their victims.

The death penalty is there mainly for retribution, so that society can believe that justice has been done by the taking of one life to compensate for another. Naturally, no killer can get away with their crime, but the death penalty has not been a sufficient deterrent because of the various reasons why crime is committed. Most crime stems from a desire for power over another. Every time someone is hurt reflects either a passionate, knee jerk response to that person's action, a planned revenge attack or pure self defence. But, underlying many heinous crimes, ones like the Virginia Tech massacre, is a desire for power and public significance and the death penalty is pretty useless in those cases. The moment of madness is always devoid of any feeling for the consequences which nullifies the effect of the death penalty being a real deterrent.

If the criminal lives, they might come to regret their action and perhaps be rehabilitated, but such regret comes only after a period of imprisonment and a looming noose for their head. Like John McVicar in the UK who was a dangerous career criminal, regarded as "Public Enemy No.1" in the '60s, who was wanted "dead or alive" and served 26 years in prison. He studied for a degree and wrote his autobiography while he was in prison then became a journalist and media pundit on his release and completely changed his life around. But he is not the usual.

Every person's basic desires revolve around being wanted, respected, valued and feeling like someone. When they don't feel affirmed and worthy, the most insecure among us will seek power in other negative ways, by blaming others for the way they feel and seeking to harm them to feel better. The thought of being put to death might momentarily cross their mind, but the fact that there are so many murders still going on in the various states in America that have the death penalty shows that something else is needed as a prevention, rather than a deterrent, to stem the flow of crime in society.

Should Soldiers be Allowed to Opt Out of Wars They Disagree With?


Yes they should. A soldier has already made the greatest commitment to his/her country: the tacit agreement of laying down a life to protect others. To know you are likely to lose your life on any day of any week while you are doing the job you chose is not a comfortable feeling. But many people care about service so much, they willingly take up that career and cheerfully resign themselves to their early deaths to play their part and make an impact. Therefore, that commitment of a life should be a sacred undertaking. It should not be taken lightly, be manipulated, coerced or be squandered for political ends.

Being a soldier is a lonely occupation away from the civilian community. Bonding is done with other soldiers to protect one another and encourage loyalty, bravery and self-preservation. Soldiers expect to support each other and go where they are sent. Naturally, if the system of preparation for fighting isn't to break down completely, there has to be discipline within the ranks. Each soldier has to obey orders, otherwise any resistance simply weakens the unit and fosters low morale among those left behind. However, if a soldier has a very strong reason, whether on religious, cultural, social or other grounds, stemming from particular values they hold that would prevent them fighting a war, this desire should be respected and upheld.

Thinking, Feeling Humans

Soldiers are not robots. They are people with thoughts, feelings, opinions and particular stances on issues. They are part of the community they serve so they will feel the same way as the folks they leave behind. Though they have to be objective in complying with their deployments, they are still feeling, thinking humans capable of making decisions for themselves. If they intrinsically believe that a conflict is wrong, or not in their nation's best interest and do not wish to fight, they should be allowed to opt out. The only situation where this wouldn't be allowed is in the case of a national call-up where serving the country is mandatory for certain people. But we are in times of volunteering for service out of choice, just like any other career. That right to opt out, to withdraw one's consent to fight a war which is a personal anathema should be granted and respected.

Another key reason is that a person fighting a war they think is necessary will make a far better fighter, a stronger, more skilled and confident one, than someone fighting reluctantly or who feels coerced in what he/she is doing. They will be emotionally more in tune with what is required to help secure that victory instead of fighting with resentment and a feeling of impotence. When soldiers fight in wars they do not agree with, they have emotionally lost that battle in their heads before they begin because they are divided in their objective, fighting without beliefs and plagued by doubts.

Yet belief in the right and worth of any action we undertake is crucial to any success that we might wish to score. Such divisions merely make it harder all round for everyone involved at a time when brotherly solidarity and full appreciation of the enemy are the keys to success. Far better to allow the likely dissenters to opt out and have a stronger team left to fight than to leave them stewing there halfheartedly like rotten apples in the middle to spread doubt and confusion among the whole team.

Should the Current Government Apologise For The Slave Trade?


It is easy to seek current retribution for past wrongs, but there should be no apology for the slave trade, or any other historical atrocity, for a number of reasons.

First, we cannot take it upon ourselves to apologise for the values and beliefs of people of a bygone age. That is to imply our superiority over their judgement based on limited knowledge of the reasons for their actions. Yet they were the best judges of their times because they LIVED in it and based their decisions on the nature of THEIR society, the norms, mores, values and what was acceptable, whether it is agreeable to us or not. Just as we are now living in the 21st century and are making decisions based upon what is appropriate to us and the knowledge we have, so every age bases its actions on the beliefs, resources, information and aspirations they have.

For example, the fact that Bush and Blair were wrong to go into Iraq will not be decided in 200 years time by a different world. We will make that judgement now, based upon our values of what is ethically right and wrong for us as a people in this time and space. Should we expect a future American president and British prime minister to publicly apologise to the future Iraqi people for what is happening now? That would be very silly because they would be taking upon themselves power which they do not possess over our age, dictating to us what they believe to be right by THEIR ethical standards and interpretation of our actions, not ours; depriving us of the right to decide our own destiny. Any apology should be made by our leaders, in our time and age, because they carried out the deed and were sure of the reasons why it was necessary.

The Value of Each Era
Each period of time has led us, in turn, to this one through exploration, education and innovation. Every era is thus a natural phase in our evolutionary development, teaching us something new as mankind advances. Therefore every age is essential in our unique emotional and professional journey. We cannot judge a past age by our standards because that age did not have our knowledge or resources. We are learning all the time, improving from past actions, with the hope of not repeating the mistakes we make along the way. To use our current knowledge to denigrate a bygone age is rather foolhardy because without the experiments of that age we would not be where we are now. Improved information and education ensure our growth, one which should give as a greater understanding of, and compassion for, the past.

Seeking apologies for past acts might be fashionable but they cannot be sincere because they are simply guilt by proxy, being made purely for appeasement or a superficial notion of 'justice'. They are not for remorse or real regret because the pain, magnitude and true consequences of the act can never be understood by anyone outside that age.

Apologies are also highly selective. We only apologise for those atrocities which carry the most condemnation or voice. What about all the other wars and unjustified killings in history? Who is going to apologise for those? And why are only European peoples being asked for an apology regarding the slave trade? What of the African chiefs and leaders who sold their people in slavery? Who is asking current Africans for an apology, or doesn't their part in it matter too?

A Clear Acknowledgement of the Past
Apologies are inappropriate in these instances because it is not the apology that is important, but moving on in the future being better people because of what happened. What is the point of an empty apology without anything else to change the status quo of inequality and disrespect, of resentment and recrimination, continuing prejudice and discrimination? It merely accords history more precedence over the present and future and prevents any real change in both perception and respect.

What matters most now is a clear acknowledgement of the past by everyone, especially the part such atrocities play in hampering the progress of a community, and a genuine desire to to learn from such acts. Not to deny it, mask it, bury it, justify it or pretend slavery never happened. It really, really did and one group of people benefited from it, while one group suffered from it, purely through their colour.

The main action now is to appreciate the enormous consequences of slavery through the years to our current time, and to make a major effort to reduce the inherent bias. That should make the present and future a much richer experience for all concerned, as one people in a genuine spirit of reconciliation.


(Photo images used on EmotionalHealthGuide.com courtesy of dreamstime free photos).