Archive for the 'court petition' category

politicians are human too

May 30, 2009

It seems a lot of people assume that most politicians are compulsive liars. Unfortunately, my successful petition to have a lying politician ousted from office may reinforce that belief. While the behaviour of James Coleridge was certainly deceitful, he is a very rare exception.

The problem with politicians isn’t that they’re dishonest; it’s that they’re human. As such, they have emotions; they can want things to be true that aren’t, making themselves susceptible to self-deception; and they can just simply be wrong because they can’t possibly know everything about all things. So, if an elected official says something at one time then says something different later, is it that they were lying the first time? Or did they learn something new, hear a compelling alternate opinion, or see things from a new perspective? Maybe, after some more careful consideration, they just changed their mind?

In the case of the Coleridge deception, he said things that he knew are not true and then refused to accept responsibility for that lie until forced to do so in Supreme Court. This is an unusual exception. This isn’t a case of him changing his mind or misunderstanding the facts at hand; he told people things even though he knew they were not true.

Ignorance, misunderstanding and naiveté is understandably human and tolerable. Deception is also human, but much less tolerable. But it’s not enough to demand more integrity from politicians. Deceit should be equally unacceptable for all people, not just elected leaders.

People who step up to serve as leaders in our community should not be set up for ridicule with unrealistic expectations that, upon being elected, they should suddenly become smarter and less susceptible to self-deception than everyone else in the community. The best way to raise the standard for politicians is to raise the standard within the whole community.

judgment day

May 27, 2009

My petition to have the election of James Coleridge declared invalid was successful. The judge released her decision yesterday. He is no longer a member of City Council for the City of White Rock. He is required to pay $20,000 toward the cost of a byelection to fill his vacant seat, and some of my legal costs will be reimbursed.

What is ironic about the decision is that the judge seemed less concerned about him pretending he didn’t know who sent the contentious email and making up stories to cover his tracks, it was that he was lying about being honest in his campaign advertising — he was selling himself as being someone who citizens could trust to be honest with them, all the while he was lying.

But this judgment is less about lying than it is about integrity. They are related, but there is a difference. Integrity requires that you accept responsibility for your choices. Yes, Coleridge lied, but it was his lack of integrity — his unwillingness to accept responsibility for his incorrect and misleading statements — that cost him his office. In reading the judgment, it sounds like, had he enough integrity to admit his error when he had the chance (before I filed a petition in Supreme Court to force him to do so), he probably would have escaped this consequence.

survival of the deceptors

March 22, 2009

Are we born to be deceivers? If humans evolved this way, it might have been good for cavemen, but doesn’t work so well now. So, how can we inoculate ourselves against something we’ve inherited in our genetics?

There are some things we are pre-wired for. From birth, we know how to eat and have a fear of falling — nobody has to teach us. Our brain structure is set up in such a way that emotions can easily take command of our reaction to something before we’re even consciously aware of it. Even smiling is thought to be evolutionary because it seems there is no culture or society, no matter how isolated, that does not understand what a smile means. These shared traits were established within our neural circuitry before groups of Homo sapiens struck out on their own (which was relatively recently) to discover new lands, eventually forming new races and developing unique cultures.

Unfortunately, it seems we also share a less constructive human condition. We have a tendency to form assumptions based on almost no information and to try to escape responsibility for things that go wrong. It seems more important to have a complete explanation than for the story to actually be true. So, when faced with a lot of unknowns, we just fill in the blanks ourselves. Likewise, impulsively at least, figuring out whether a mistake was made isn’t as important as avoiding responsibility for it. This is witnessed frequently, daily. Read on »