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[Listen to an audio version of this blog entry here.]
‘Before you criticise somebody, walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you do criticise them, you’ll be a mile away and you’ll have their shoes.’
Yeah, it’s an old one but many of today’s holier-than-thou types could do with hearing it. Not that it would lead to any self-reflection, never mind a change in their ways. Such people, mostly found in the comfortable, influential classes of high-income nations, are quite convinced of their righteousness.
Rather than ‘walk in one’s shoes’, what they often do is irately pursue — at a safe distance — those they criticise, making their targets’ lives as difficult as possible whilst enjoying pleasures they wish to deny others.
Philanthropy is, however, at the heart of all this. Others simply don’t know and are incapable of knowing what’s good for them. So it’s these superhumans to the rescue. We are forever in their debt.
Most of these say-rather-than-do-gooders are, as you may have guessed, nothing more than hypocrites. They publicly proclaim to be virtuous yet their private actions and way of life generally betray this. What they do have on their side, though, as a buffer to the many contradictions, are influence and power.
‘Chinese suppression of protesters: an outrage. Canadian quashing of protesters: it’s for the good of national security.’
They are experts at seeing the faults and flaws in foreign lands but are generally blind to them closer to home. See, for example, the likes of Jacinda Ardern and Justin Trudeau. ‘Chinese suppression of protesters: an outrage. Canadian quashing of protesters: it’s for the good of national security.’
So while Fifa President Gianni Infantino came in for much criticism and ridicule when he spoke about the double standards of many in the “democratic” West on the eve of the Qatar World Cup, he wasn’t far wrong.
Getting lectures from Fifa on morals may seem a bit of a wild shot, so to put it, but the association is well-steeped in immorality, so it does have, in a way, detailed knowledge of the subject area.
Now, this isn’t to say that we should all just ignore evil acts and immoral practices. No. It’s a case of at least acknowledging our own knowledge gaps and shortcomings in the first instance. Finding the right tone is also important when speaking out.
It’s very difficult to listen to, let alone actually act on, the words of those who try to come across as incorruptible, know-it-alls. The only incorruptible, faultless humans are those yet to be born.
So whether it be action on climate change, tackling a global pandemic, the Brexit fallout, Petro versus Uribe, left versus right — what have you — be wary of those pontificating that their way is the right way.
Popular support for somebody or something doesn’t automatically confer infallibility. Safety in numbers and the madness — and badness — of crowds are but two sides of the same coin. Today’s unquestionable truth is tomorrow’s big lie.
Thus, we should all aim to be a little more corrigible (cautiously and questioningly, that is) and less incorrigible, if I do say so myself. In doing so, we might just find the other’s shoes are a nice fit.
Listen to Wrong Way’s Colombia Cast podcast here.