“I take complete responsibility.”
There’s a reason we don’t often hear these words, particularly in the arena of politics. Typically they speak of humbleness and honesty. Yet they’re unlikely to have earned Milliband much respect on resigning from the Labour Party last week. We tend to like the certainty of politicians who are always going to be right, rather than weak. A good dose of spin is actually a comfort blanket.
It’s all about expectations. We want so badly for our innate bias to be proved right that we unconsciously block out information that contradicts our preferred theory. We might describe our ideal leader as honest and open, but we often expect the opposite. Thus it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, particularly in the unusual game where merit does not triumph.
Yes, Milliband did little more wrong than fail to win a glorified popularity contest. But it doesn’t puzzle me why someone would try and take the blame for something not totally attributable to them because there could be many reasons for this – from feeling it’s the right thing to actual belief they are responsible. What does confuse and annoy me is why someone would not admit fault, or worse blame somebody else, when they are clearly the sole perpetrator. There’s only one reason for that, and it’s self interest.
Taking responsibility for real mistakes is hard. It’s uncomfortable and embarrassing. Yet, it’s also a relief to do the right thing. I can’t believe having shoulders so sloping that everything slips off is half as cathartic as having a weight lifted from those shoulders.
What is so unfortunate is that people who don’t take responsibility can’t see this. Thus they never learn to develop integrity. It’s not unfortunate for them of course, they’re too cocooned in their self-righteousness to care. It’s just unfortunate for everyone else, as the self-styled blameless party always casts the first stone.