When I was a student as did then and do students today, I used to get various jobs to supplement my grant during the vacations. My favourite job during the long summer break was working on the local pier near where I lived. The sort of pier I'm talking about is a bit like a long bridge stretching out into the sea from the beach and invariably it has a theatre at the end of it. On the way along the pier you'll find different types of entertainment and the place where I worked was called the Palace of Fun. In there among other games you could for a small amount of money try to fire a dart into a board in order to win a prize or test your strength by striking a hammer as hard as you could in order to ring the bell at the top of a column. All good, plain and simple fun. But there were undercurrents of dishonesty at work.
The 'regulars' (people who did this job for a living) didn't get paid much to live on and so it was common practice for them to pocket every so often the fee (sum of money) the holidaymakers paid to play the game. It goes without saying that I as an honest student would never stoop (lower myself) to take part in these practices!! What was interesting was to watch the regulars at work as you always knew when they were helping themselves to additional funds (extra money). One would usually whistle, another would blow his nose and yet another would usually go red in the face. These signs of course were all symptoms of guilt. But then how do you know when someone is being truthful and honest? That's something we're going to be asking ourselves in the UK over the coming weeks because we are about to have a General Election.
Of course the first problem you have to face when interviewing politicians is trying to get them to give you a straight (direct) answer. Let me attempt to give you a mini flavour of what I mean. Imagine that A is the interviewer and B is the politician. It goes like this:
A. If you win the election will your party raise taxes?
B. You have to remember that finances are very tight at the moment.
A. Will you be raising taxes after the election?
B. We have to look at the global markets.
A. If you win, will you raise taxes?
B. We have to make sure that people on low incomes are protected.
A. If you win, will you raise taxes?
B. We intend to maintain a fair policy.
You see what I mean? It just goes on and on. But today in contrast to 50 years ago we can actually see our politicians on TV and now we have an added facility called high definition TV so that we can observe the smallest details. Not a hair must be out of place. Not the slightest spot on any item of clothing. Mind you, some politicians are no oil paintings (are not very attractive) and if you want to be cruel, you could say they have 'radio faces'. We have to watch closely when they are promising us all the benefits we will receive when we vote for them. The question is: Are they showing signs of dishonesty? Do they really mean what they say?
What do their eyes tell you? Are they looking at us in a friendly or threatening way? The trouble is that we're so busy watching their facial expressions that we are not really listening to what they are saying. And then there's the smile. Is it genuine or is it put on to show us how nice they are? And talking of smiles, one of the contenders has a very weird one. I'm sure he loves his wife and children and is pleasant to his next-door neighbour but his smile is a bit of a disaster, not that he smiles very often but when he does, he comes across like one of those villains in a James Bond film.
Maybe we expect too much from our politicians. Underneath all the speech making, the promises and the presentations, aren't they just like us? After all they are there to represent us and so they surely must be human, too. I am reminded of a character in Shakespeare's Winter's Tale, called Autolycus who is a peddler (a traveling salesman) earning his living by selling small items in the villages. He is very good at conning (tricking) his customers but fundamentally he has a good heart and means no one any harm. The line that endears him to me and suggests his human weakness is a remark he makes to himself when he finds he can't really trick one particular person: Though I am not naturally honest, I am so sometimes by chance. You know, I think I'd probably vote for him.
If you have any questions or comments regarding this essay, pleasepost your answers on the forum here