Posts Tagged ‘Jack Lesgrin’

We need more Mr Nice Guys

16/09/2020, 10:45:17 PM

by Jack Lesgrin

Despite the blandness of the term ‘nice’, the rehabilitation of nice human attributes, particularly among political leaders, is needed more than ever in a world in which those who are far from nice keep winning.

Dictionary definitions of “nice” behaviour that evoke kindness, generosity and graciousness sound wholly positive. Yet society has an awkward relationship with the concept. It is a required attribute in the caring and nurturing professions but often eschewed in the arenas of business, politics and sport, where aggression, competitiveness and ruthlessness are the watchwords. Bill Gates’s hugely impressive philanthropy indicates profound niceness, he himself admits that in his Microsoft days he had been “tough on people he worked with” and that some of this was “over the top”.

This ambivalence can be seen in the way the ‘nice guy’ motif features in popular culture: international drug dealer Howard Marks benefits from niceness chic in his 1990s autobiography ‘Mr Nice’; Alice Cooper rebels against niceness in his song ‘No More Mr Nice Guy’; sports coaches chant “nice guys finish last”; while Richard Dawkins added a new chapter entitled ‘Nice guys finish first’ to The Selfish Gene.

The challenges faced by our communities, at any scale, can be overcome most effectively by people who exhibit niceness. Cultures of kindness and collaboration are more likely to thrive. Leaders with compassion as their core value are inclined to address the great persisting injustices of our time, at national and international level.

Star Trek’s fictitious Jean-Luc Picard shows a leadership style that is valued as much for its kindness and empathy as its decisiveness and bravery. It is no accident that the rare glimpses of this utopian future on earth imply that global problems have been overcome by such leaders.

We are a long way from Star Trek’s 24th century and niceness is in retreat due to much more than the indifference expressed in J.S. Mill’s quote, “bad men need nothing more to accomplish their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing”.

Niceness is foundering because its behavioural attributes are not sufficiently respected and promoted within society. Despite general entreaties of the law for compliance and truthfulness, there is no law about being nice. The best efforts of parents and teachers to inculcate niceness have not been ultimately successful and many people learn that it impairs their personal advancement.

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Nothing matters (now), so everything matters (later)

23/08/2020, 09:40:22 PM

by Jack Lesgrin

“Never in the field human commentary was so much outrage expressed, by so many, with so few effects.”

Across much of the political spectrum, we are living through an age of outrage, especially regarding the reckless ineptitude of this government. Many of us are afflicted by ‘outragitis’ – inflammation of their indignation. I was once a sufferer, but despite being a devout optimist, I came to realise midway through the lockdown that both the outrage and any resulting action, don’t matter an iota.

If directed at effecting immediate positive change or exacting a political price now, they are of no consequence and do the opposite to what was intended. Because they can have no effect, they let the government off the hook by absorbing the well-meaning energy of its critics, leaving them less time to take steps that will matter later.

In any self-respecting democracy, the view that governments must be held to account for incompetence is honourable but sadly misguided. Currently, the sentiment is amplified due to the after-effects of the last parliament, when Theresa May and later Boris Johnson governed with a wafer thin parliamentary majority, which offered a glimmer of hope to their opponents that Brexit could be blocked. But everything changed when Johnson won that 80-seat majority

We needn’t rehearse the details of all the episodes of incompetence since December, for even the debacle over exam results pales into insignificance next to the government’s response to Covid 19.

As well as exposing cruelly all the weaknesses of society and state that were held together by a shoestring pre-Covid, this government’s response to the pandemic is a tragic case study of the most fundamental, yet often overlooked British flaw of them all: that once a government has won substantial majority, there is almost no way that it can be held to account until the next general election. Neither robust criticism nor Royal Commission will result in the government paying any price; they’re untouchable.

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