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The right thing to do

April 20, 2015

The right thing to do – has anyone else noted that this has become the cliché of choice for politicians in the run-up to this election? It crosses party lines; I’ve heard both David Cameron and Ed Miliband use it, as well as some other smaller fry whom I can’t remember. We did this because it was the right thing to do. It’s always delivered in the same manner, with a heavy stress on right and a tone of preening virtue. The implication is that this party doesn’t choose policies just because they’ll get votes; yet at the same time it’s transparently an appeal to get votes. It’s versatile, because it can be used both to defend an unpopular policy and to pretend that a populist policy is actually principled. Of course it’s never explained why it (whatever it may be) is or was the right thing to do. It’s just assumed that we all know what’s right, and only an unprincipled scoundrel could disagree.

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  1. alexburrett permalink

    Noticed it? I wrote a novel about it. Well not quite about it – but I did use the nonsensicalness of “doing the right thing” as the crux of the central character’s demise. (Coupon for free download of ‘Outstared by a Bullfrog’ available on request!)

    “The right thing” is total bullshit. It presents subjective action as the only objective moral choice. Hitler (and I know one shouldn’t always jump to Hitler to make a point), yes Hitler would have presented his murder of millions to his followers as “the right thing”.

    There is no right thing. Each of us has to decide what the right thing is for us. That’s the backbone of a moral and free society.

    But while you’re on the point of politician’s attempts to appear statespersonlike*, have you noticed Ed MIlliband’s instance on preempting his own opinion with a third party introduction to his own opinion?

    He says things like, “And what I say to you is this…” before he actually says it. Why do we need to be forewarned, by him, that he’s going to say something to us – in advance of him actually saying it? Extrapolating this behavior into everyday conversation, we’d spend so long telling one another that we were going to tell each other something, that we’d have no time left to actually say what we wanted to say.

    True statespeople* are naturally statesmanlike. People who need to be trained to appear statesmanlinke are not true statespeople.

    (* I’m pretty sure you’ll dislike these words Brandon.)

    • Susansmith permalink

      Tell them what you’re going to tell them. Tell them. Then tell them what you’ve told them. Teacher training 1994.

      • alexburrett permalink

        It’s not that. It’s:

        Tell them that you’re going to tell them something – but not what. Tell them. Then turn to your biggest audience with puppy dog eyes. Miliband training 2014.

        (Would that work in teaching?)

  2. Excellent comment. I’ve just recalled that I reviewed a book of yours some time ago – The Goat that Ate Its Own Legs. When I find the time I’ll read Outstared by a Bullfrog. By the way, I don’t mind ‘statespeople’.

  3. alexburrett permalink

    Thank you three times: your original review, response to my comment and promise to read Bullfrog.

    ‘My Goat’ is currently masquerading as ‘Ma chèvre’ in France. Your review has, ironically, given it legs (published in the US too – by Harper Perennial).

    You’re my literary statesperson.

  4. hyam permalink

    … and we have a (former) Nazi, in the news today, explaining his actions by using this very phrase. See (second half of) BBC webpage:

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