Where do you see yourself in five years?
Let’s begin today by thinking about job interviews.
During my career in Software Development I must have interviewed hundreds of people, hired at least a hundred, but few stick in the memory.
I remember one guy who was so laid back he was practically horizontal, leaning back in his chair until his back was essentially parallel to the floor. He was smart, and funny as heck. Some people might have judged how the guy presented himself and perhaps not proceeded. I was more worried about whether the guy was a good coder and whether he’d fit in with the team.
Over the years I hired that same guy at three companies and although we haven’t worked together in a decade we still stay in touch. When you like someone and you trust them you stick with them. If I’d judged the guy on appearances I’d have missed hiring a really good employee but also his friendship.
Where maybe some other people, including those much more senior, would sugarcoat information, he’d give it to me straight. Even if it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. The truth is important to me, more so than anything else. But it’s also a weakness.
Think about some standard interview questions. Where do you see yourself in five years? Or, what are your weaknesses?
Well I have a weakness, and it’s telling the truth.
I don’t tell lies. I can’t, I’m no good at it. That’s not to say I haven’t been guilty of saying things that turned out to be wrong. Or that I haven’t exaggerated or perhaps omitted something. But a straight out, barefaced, lie? Nope. While those easily roll off the tongue for some, I can’t do it.
I’m not religious. I don’t fear some divine retribution, to be struck down for telling porkies. There is just this compulsion to tell the truth, no matter the consequences - and as you can imagine in the business world that’s sometimes a weakness.
But it would be absolutely hopeless in politics. Can you imagine?
An election is kind of like a job interview. The parties tell us where they see us in five years, they play up their strengths, while pretending they don’t have any weaknesses.
But as with a job interview you kind of think once that’s out of the way, once the job has actually commenced, that the candidate will relax and be more straight up. They’ve got the job, now it’s time to get on with it, no need to massage the truth now.
Obviously that assumes they’re not in sales or marketing.
Are you familiar with the phrase “as honest as a tobacco salesman”?
No, me either. I suspect there is a very good reason for that. As we witnessed yesterday with a kerfuffle over National telling some class ‘A’ clangers over the number of tobacco outlets in Northland.
In case you missed the news yesterday, or the Q&A programme, what happened was this:
National had been telling people, following concerns over their cancellation of the Smokefree initiatives, that if they hadn’t done so there would only be one place to buy cigarettes in the whole of Northland.
That sounds a bit extreme, some might suggest, on the face of it, a bit far fetched. What it actually was, was a lie. The official documents published by the Director General of Health show clearly that there would in fact be 35 places in Northland to buy tobacco, 17 in town and city centres and 18 in rural areas
We can dress it up if you want, we can say Luxon misspoke, although that’s merely newspeak for lying.
We could claim he didn’t take the time to do his own research, so he just made up his own number. Statistically more people in Northland are open to that sort of thing than in other parts of the country. Based on the number of votes for cooker parties in the region, Northland beating out Coromandel and the West Coast as having given the most votes to Liz Gunn’s NZ Loyal party.
Or we could just be honest. They got caught in a lie.
The problem is no one remembered to tell Chris Bishop that it was complete bollocks. They were probably too busy telling Erica that she best roll out those three ‘R’s quick smart if people, the Prime Minister no less, were getting confused between thirty five and the number one.
So we had Bishop repeating the false claim, a polite way of saying lie, that there would only be one store in the whole of Northland and it would have to be like Fort Knox. The interviewer, Jack Tame, looked mystified by this.
Jack allowed Chris to continue digging a deeper hole in the truth for a while before telling him that he went through the list of outlets that would exist and counted 35 in Northland. Now it was Bishop that looked mystified.
Chris tried to change the subject to other regions, but Jack wasn’t having it and challenged him on the fact that he said there would be one in Northland, when in fact it was 35.
In other words, Bishop was out by 3500%, which to be fair is pretty impressive. What was almost as impressive was the fact that despite being corrected Bishop stood by the claim, repeating that it was his understanding there would only be one.
To be honest I was starting to question his claim earlier in the interview that more people wouldn’t die as a result of the coalition’s abandonment of the Smokefree changes.
Bishop confessed he hadn’t actually seen the information, which caused Jack to ask again why he kept saying that it was one. But Chris wasn’t backing down, sticking by his alternate facts, regardless of the real ones.
Look I don’t want to make too big a deal about this. Don’t get me wrong I think telling the truth is really important, I just have very low expectations of the truth from either Luxon or Bishop.
From Luxon I expect meaningless waffle, corporate buzzwords that mean absolutely nothing, but from Bishop? Well I pretty much assume that if anything that comes out of his mouth resembles the truth it’s probably just a coincidence.
For goodness sake this is a man who during the run up to the election claimed that he didn’t rent from family, despite his Mother in Law owning the place! I can only dream of having the courage to just straight out lie to the nation over something so easily checked.
A man with the dishonesty chops that when parents complained that he was interacting with their young daughters on social media said he was engaging with young people!
I’m not insinuating anything, I don’t think that Bishop was up to anything untoward, he was just being incredibly dumb.
For goodness sake Chris your party doesn’t even support lowering the voting age to 16, in what world did you think people were going to find a Member of Parliament messaging a 13 year old girl daily on Snapchat was going to look like a chat on civics?
So which is it with Bishop here? Is it negligent stupidity on behalf of the National Party that they didn’t give Bishop the information before appearing on a current affairs show where it would come up?
On his own part that he didn’t bother to look at the report himself, but chose to go with a number that he pulled from goodness knows where?
Or was it just the confidence of an habitual liar who thought he could get away with anything, and if caught just grin gormlessly and say oops?
Because if it was me, and I was going to claim that the previous government were taken draconian action leaving just one cigarette shop in the whole of Northland, I think I’d probably double check my facts before doing so. Or at least single check them, for goodness sake!
While it’s all fun and games to point out this sort of blatant lie, or gross incompetence, from National, the truth is that the truth actually matters.
National made some bold claims about what they were going to do to improve our country ahead of the election. Many of us could see through those. The policies simply didn’t add up, and even if they delivered what they promised it was going to leave a lot of New Zealanders worse off. But for those who fell for it, it’s only a matter of time before they realise too.
In response to a question asking what people thought of the new government so far I said the following:
“A petty mediocrity of small unpleasant gestures, gimmicks, and wealth transference to the already rich, all while smirking. I look forward to seeing the smugness wiped from that ludicrous little man when the country turns on him for being the naked Emperor the rest of us can see.”
National came to power, with the assistance of NZF, largely on the back of not being Labour. Many people voted for a change with more of a focus on what they wanted to change from than consideration for what they were changing to.
But those people are going to start asking questions quick smart if things they’ve been unhappy with are not improved rapidly. Given that many of those things are factors that are beyond the government’s control, regardless of who’s in power, that puts National in a difficult position.
Kiwis are fair minded and they’ll give something a go, at least for a while. If National are honest with people, rather than telling stupid lies, people will stay with them longer.
But if they persist in saying things that are just nonsense, divorced from any semblance of the truth, it’s going to catch up with them fast. Look at Christopher’s hero, John Key. That man told so many lies that by the end of it many of us questioned whether he even knew what the truth was.
My advice to National, if they see themselves somewhere other than the opposition benches five years from now, is to stop the lies and start just being honest with people.
Do I think that’ll happen? Well, I cannot tell a lie…
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