Derek Mackay’s behaviour was self-evidently unacceptable for a person in his position. Although it is worth noting that had he been an ‘ordinary’ citizen of Scotland what he did would barely have raised an eyebrow. It certainly wouldn’t have been deemed newsworthy. Few employers would have considered it cause for disciplinary action. This is not to minimise the foolishness of Mackay’s conduct. It is merely to recognise the facts. Facts which are in danger of disappearing in a fog of competitive outrage and frantic virtue-signalling.
There are people in society who are held to a higher standard. Rightly so. It is entirely proper that those who are entrusted with authority or high office should be constantly mindful of their duty to meet the public’s high expectations. But neither authority nor high office makes the incumbent other than human with all the failings, flaws and fallibility that this entails. Defects of character and deficiencies of integrity which are seldom more in evidence than on those occasions when predatory politicians get the scent of blood.
Everything is exaggerated. And increasingly exaggerated. As if the partisan palate is ever more readily jaded and demanding of more and more seasoning. The smallest misdeed is gleefully seized upon by political rivals and fashioned into a career-destroying – and on occasion life-destroying – weapon. Various political rivals and even “friends” try to outdo one another in their public expressions of shock and horror for fear that an inadequate response might be maliciously construed as condoning the offence. The misdeed comes to be defined by the ramping reaction to it rather than being judged by normal standards.
The solemn self-righteousness of politically expedient indignation is every bit as patently contrived as the theatrical exhibitions of grief which follow the death of some ‘much-loved celebrity’ or ‘national treasure’ as inevitably as bodily decay. And with much the same nausea-inducing effect on more cynical observers. Sites of tragic death become instant makeshift shrines littered with mawkish ‘tributes’ to the departed from people whose mourning is grossly disproportionate to their non-existent relationship with its object.
The meretriciously maudlin melodrama of competitive grief is a close cousin of the leck-strutting displays of hyperbolised denunciation which can be prompted by even the most objectively trivial transgression.
Derek did a daft thing. He is paying dearly for his incomprehensible stupidity. But nobody died or was seriously harmed by his foolishness. I am prepared to cut the guy some slack and I barely know him. You’d think those claiming to be his close friends might be at least as supportive. Should the quality of forbearance not also be something we expect of our politicians? Or at least some sense of proportion.
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