Fernando Pessoa was a Portugese writer in the 1930’s. I’m not sure if he was really involved with politics at all, but in The Book of Disquiet he had a short passage that I think describes politicians well. He writes,
“The government of the world begins in ourselves. It is not the sincere who govern the world but neither is it the insincere. It is governed by those who manufacture in themselves a real sincerity by artificial and automatic means; that sincerity constitutes their strength and it is that which shines out over the less false sincerity of the others. A marked talent for self-deception is the statesman’s foremost quality. Only poets and philosophers have a practical vision of the world since only to them is given the gift of having no illusions. to see clearly is to be unable to act.”
This post is not one to say negative things about politicians. Instead, it is a reflection on how humans behave. I want to focus in on the stories we tell ourselves and how we view reality. I think Pessoa is correct in his assessment of politicians. Sincere is defined, by a quick Google search, as “free from pretense or deceit, genuine feelings.” Politicians have many things on their mind at any given time and it is likely that they are never truly influenced by solely their own genuine feelings. At the same time, however, it is probably not fair to say that they never have true and meaningful feelings or beliefs. They likely try to hide any selfish motivations from even themselves, in an attempt to have pure motives for their decisions. But they are not completely deceitful (in general) and insincere. They are humans, trying to do what they think is right, popular, and will bring good outcomes for society and for themselves personally. Their lives are a story, and they are constantly trying to write a good ending.
If you think about it, the assessment Pessoa makes of politicians is really just an assessment of humans in general. We all live like politicians, trying to craft a story that seems genuine and sincere about our lives and who we are, even if our actions, decisions, and behaviors are partially (or almost completely) self-serving. The politician is just an easy example of how humans behave in ways that appear contradictory. We should recognize that men are not angles, but we are (in most instances) not complete devils either. We have moments of genuine sincerity, but we are also capable of boundless deception. If we are careful and look at the world very clearly, we can see this play out in our politicians and in ourselves.
I like Wright’s quote because it speaks about the importance of being oneself in a relationship. He shows that the base of an authentic relationship is a mixture of togetherness, trust, and independence, which allow each person to be unique and individual. When we can live authentically in a relationship, we can put our true selves forward and trust that we will be accepted.
If we fail to build the foundation Wright describes, then it is like we are never truly in a relationship at all. If our relationship is based on expected actions and behaviors, rather than trust and respect, then we will have to always live up to a standard and expectation that may be separate from who we truly are. In a romantic relationship this could mean hiding our true feelings and always going along with the other person’s ideas, and in a business relationship this could be holding back true feelings to simply agree with anything a partner does. In both situations, rather than being open and honest, we are denying part of ourselves in an act meant to please someone else.