“The most dangerous men on Earth are those who are afraid they are wimps.” — James Gilligan.
Just when we think that politics couldn’t get any more corrupt and we’ve ferreted out the sleaziest of the bunch, along comes state Sen. Leland Yee and his inventory of alleged offenses. Seems this is a striking example of what is wrong with, among other things, allowing special interest money to control our politicians. This pathetic facsimile of a man, had proven some time ago that he couldn’t be trusted. You’d think that anyone with an iota of common sense and insight would have caught on to his antics long ago.
It seems politics is quite a draw for guys who are extremely egocentric, and often have no conscience. Yee and his ilk, when you read their history, are obviously men with no qualms about using others for their own purposes — often to the extent that they believe they are above the law. It’s too bad that so many people are taken in by the baloney that these guys spew and choose not to see beyond the facade into their psychological disorders.
Of course, there aren’t many people who go into politics because of their humility and their desire to help humanity. When they do, they often get caught up in the system. Too many politicians are narcissists, the type that is based on deep insecurity and pathological self-esteem. As time goes on, this can increase greatly as they bask in the devotion of their supporters who are often living through his notoriety and get their jollies from all of the folderol. And then, when you add the influence of big money, opportunities to break the law proliferate.
When all of this stuff about Yee came out, I just happened to be reading: “The Myth of the Spoiled Child” by Alfie Kohn which, surprisingly, offers much insight into people like Yee by discussing the differences between healthy and pathological self-esteem. For instance, “someone who feels compelled to swagger and boast, to flash his credentials or his bling, to tell you how much better he is than anyone else, may well be trying to compensate for the terrifying suspicion that, down deep, he’s really not very impressive at all.” … “There’s a world of difference between, on the one hand, genuinely positive self-regard and arrogant self-satisfaction.”
Much corruption and opportunism could be prevented if more people would learn early on how to spot those who are out to use others for their own benefit in such exploitative ways that we often read about. They would learn how to recognize the types of people who have no ethics, no empathy, no humility — and look beyond the surface instead of latching themselves on to someone who is out to use them in whatever manner necessary to promote their own agenda.
After reading Kohn’s book, you learn that to prevent such exploitative people from getting away with their antics, children need to learn early on to counteract such behavior by being raised by parents who “support kids’ inclination to care and develop a pro-social orientation.” We need to “support their self-confidence and assertiveness.” We also need to help them “embrace the value of skepticism and non-conformity.”
Trouble is, in our culture, celebrity adoration is rampant. No matter how phony they are, how obviously completely obsessed with themselves, or how lacking in ethics and morality, they often gain a huge following who are easily swayed by glib, manipulative people. To counteract this, children need to develop self-confidence, to learn to be appropriately skeptical, and not to believe everything they are told, especially by those who stand to gain from their devotion. Sadly, they will learn that there are people out there who cannot be trusted, often those in positions of influence like even some school personnel and religious leaders. When we watch the news on TV or read the newspaper, evidence of this need surfaces regularly. Children can be taught and encouraged to responsibly question and to be suspicious of those who would make followers out of them instead of skeptics.
No one ever said that parenting is easy. But much of the success of the future depends upon people with healthy self-esteem catching on to and standing up to politicians and others who are out to use us for their own malevolent purposes. As Kohn concluded: “The truth is that if we want children to be able to resist peer pressure and grow into principled and brave adults, we have to actively welcome their questioning and being assertive — with us.” Maybe then people like Yee would be exposed for who they are and summarily dealt with before so much damage has been done.
Since 1984, Dorothy Dimitre has written more than 700 columns for various local newspapers. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.