We expect fairness, consistency from speaker

We expect fairness, consistency from speaker

One of my all-time favourite TV adverts teaches that what we do speaks much louder than what we actually say.
In the advert, a guy is caught driving drunk. To avoid the embarrassment of an arrest for driving under the influence, he bribes the cop. The cop pockets the money then lets him off the hook.

The next scene, he is shown sitting in his study reprimanding his young daughter for some misdemeanour.
The girl sits motionless and scared. Tears roll down her cheeks. She is sad and you can clearly see she regrets whatever it is she has done.
The father however is not appeased, he continues to shout at her. When he is done screaming and shouting, he asks her what she has to say for herself.

Her response is unexpected. She does not utter a word. She simply pulls out a couple of notes from her pocket and extends her arm to give them to her Dad.
The Dad looks at her befuddled. The question “what’s all this?” written all over his face.
Sobbing, she explains that she is giving him the money because she is sorry.
“But if you are sorry, why are you giving me your money?” he asks her.

“Isn’t that how you get out of trouble when you have done something bad? That other day, you give the cop money when he wanted to lock you up for driving drunk. After you handed him the money, he forgave you. Remember he stopped being angry and he let us go?” “Take it Daddy please. It’s all the money left in my kitty box. I don’t want you to be angry with me anymore.”
The man is then shown crying and hugging his little girl.

He realises at that point that it is not our beautiful and well scripted and rehearsed words that leave a lasting impression on young minds but our actions.
When he bribed the cop in the presence of his daughter, it did not occur to him then that his conduct was sending the message that instead of taking responsibility for your actions, you can buy your way out of a tight situation. Every day actions — big or small (and not words) shape and influence values and principles young and impressionable children ultimately adopt as guiding principles for their actions in life.

I suppose that’s the reason I like this advert so much. It teaches a powerful lesson about integrity but in a very simple way. We are reminded to be very careful how we carry ourselves — not just sometimes, but all the time. I have not seen this advert in years but I was reminded of it on Monday afternoon (27 February) as I sat watching proceedings in parliament.
Perhaps I was reminded of this advert because of a nagging feeling that something wasn’t quite right with what was happening in the house.

I was proved right that my qualm was justified when my young daughter asked me who the lady “bullying” everyone else in the house is. Her word not mine.
When Madam Speaker spoke, she said “that one.”
“That’s the Speaker” I said.

She said no it couldn’t be. The speaker should be neutral like an umpire in her favourite sport of tennis.
“This lady is behaving like you Daddy”.“And how is that?” I asked her. “She is unfair” she said.

She said the Speaker was unfair because she was behaving like me when I tell her, “This is my house. You will do as I say. You did not vote for me. I am your Dad not your MP. If you don’t like my rules tough luck. No I will not listen to you.”
That’s me alright. I couldn’t argue with that.

It concerned me though that the Madam Speaker was coming across as a bully like Daddy and not as the fair Umpire that she is required to be.
How was this shaping my daughter’s young impressionable mind? What life lessons was she learning from this powerful woman in the country?
Was INTEGRITY affirmed for her? What about the other core values such as freedom of speech and expression, fairness, objectivity, impartiality, consistency? Was her belief in these made stronger or weaker by the conduct of Madam Speaker?

So yes, it concerns me very much when a 10-year-old (uninfluenced by me) thinks that someone expected to act in a certain way by law is failing to do that.
Those who hold high office unlike minnows like me have even smaller space to err because the whole of society looks up to them. We look up to them to mirror the best of who we are all the time.

They are role models. When they fail, we are all blighted and not just them.
Their everyday conduct sets the benchmark for behaviour we consider acceptable. When they lower the level of acceptable performance, young impressionable minds recognise it then settle for this lower standard.

When this happens, words alone will never raise the bar to a higher level. So, for the sake of our kids, nothing short of absolute integrity especially by those in high profile positions (in particular the Speaker or Umpire as my daughter prefers), is required if future generations are to uphold higher and not lower moral standards in their life.
The performance on Monday was disappointing.

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