Thursday, April 9, 2015

Why Politicians Fear (or Hate) People Like Me

Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality. - Nikos Kazantzakis

Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one. - Albert Einstein

We live in a fantasy world, a world of illusion. The great task in life is to find reality. - Iris Murdoch

The further a society drifts from truth the more it will hate those who speak it. - George Orwell

I’m thinking about running an ad on Craigslist offering to sell the people of Alberta dead parrots.


Because as the election rhetoric (translation: BS, obfuscation, intentional misdirection, etc.) heats up in the Province of Alberta, people like me who study strategy (and people) for a living watch with a mix of amusement, sadness and disappointment as politicians fall over each other attempting to sell the equivalent of dead parrots to the people.

And it seems that too many people either won’t tell the politicians that they don’t want dead parrots, they are afraid to demand a living parrot or they don’t dare to demand something completely different than a parrot at all, living or deceased.

Oh sure, there is lots of complaining, bickering and the like but the specific, measurable, meaningful asks are few and far between.

With that, the typical exchange between politician and citizen tends to look more like Monty Python’s Dead Parrot Sketch, where a slick salesman sells an unsuspecting customer a dead parrot by waxing on about its positive attributes like its beautiful plumage.

Unfortunately for the people, they are often easily beguiled by such smooth talking individuals and shortly after “buying the dead parrot”, the people return to lamenting that their choice did not produce the result that they hoped for or desired.

Too many politicians don’t care about this, since they have bought themselves another term in which they hope to convince the citizenry that something great is being accomplished and if nothing else, they bought themselves another four years to do “whatever”.

And so the cycle repeats, with the same “customer” going back to the same “salesman” every four years and he / she again sells them something they don’t want or need.

Meanwhile, people like me come along and instead of succumbing to the polished, practiced, political patter, we ask questions like “Why?”, “How do you know?” and “What data / knowledge can you offer up to support your belief / intention?”

We tend to view politicians and their promises through lenses like this one (click on the diagram for a viewable version):

Balanced Scorecard in Politics

Unfortunately, when people like me do this, most politicians don’t stick around long to even attempt to answer our questions, with the assumption that we are not in the market for a dead parrot or anything else they are selling.

In fact, since we represent a threat to the dead parrot market, they work very hard to avoid us, discredit us, threaten us (yes – it happens) or to outshout us.

They reason that for every one of us who can’t be sold a dead parrot, there are thousands more who can be and are gullible enough to be convinced that it’s either the best thing ever or that there is nothing else out there anyway so they might as well settle for it.

And besides, they posit – even a dead parrot can look beautiful and valuable when positioned in the right way.

Are you in the market for a dead parrot?

Are you sure?

Because if you are not, it takes more than complaining out loud in coffee shops, on talk show radio and on social media streams to make this point clear to the people who would like to sell you one.

Otherwise you will end up squawking like a parrot – a lot of noise and wing flapping while the desired potential and result in government fades away ….. again.

In service and servanthood,


Addendum – Alberta PC Party Goes Down In Defeat - May 6, 2015

Former Premier Prentice guided to the PC Party to a crushing defeat in the Alberta election on May 5, 2015.  Those of us in the PC Party who warned the leadership about the importance of being honest with citizens, about being respectful and to use data instead of fear mongering were told to mind our own business.

I guess a few voters felt the same way also and made it their business to tell the PC Party what they thought of them.

To know the difference between confidence and arrogance is to walk the fine line between great results and embarrassment.

The PC Party just learned the difference.


  1. Shouldnt the powers that be, and their horse hire someone to do this before running? Not to mention that they themselves would have already done this if they had any intention of actually trying to improve any metric? From these two questions I jump to how do you attract someone actually interested in improving those metrics, and what has to change in the environment for them to come forward?

    1. Great points, Wesley.

      The dilemma in today's world is that the system is "almost" unsolvable in that it has become larger / more complex than its creators can grasp. It is only solvable if we make VERY difficult decisions but therein lies the rub - most politicians know that tough decisions mean they don't get reelected and so they offer half-solutions in an effort to balance what they have to work with, what the people want and the politicians desire to get reelected. Honesty doesn't get them reelected, after all, because it will likely contain bad news and citizens punish bad news instead of facing the reality that bad news is necessary in order to create something better.

      As for attracting people who can fix things - I am watching the system chew up very good people right now so that is a difficult question to answer.

      We need great people to step up but the system reminds them that great people are either not welcomed or will be changed to suit the needs / rules of the system.

      We are thus condemned to sink lower until we hit some bottom, after which we will hopefully get it and do better moving forward.

      Thanks for the comment, Wesley - create a great day!