An interesting thing came to my attention over the last weekend. I was assisting my partner at an equestrian event where she competed in several classes with her two horses. She is a good rider, and I have been her strapper for around a dozen years, so both herself and even more so, myself, have been able to assess the standard of rider opposition and judging levels over those years.
Of course, as everybody who rides horses knows, it can all come down to “the horse on the day”. But there are consistencies expected and they are the judging criteria that make or break the ride. These criteria would be the ones handed down from eons ago using a set of standards of excellence for each level of competition. These standards were evolved from centuries of cavalry manoeuvres required to keep a squadron of horses manageable in a battle situation. I hardly need tell you what sort of discipline THAT would require! Of course, such “hard core” training has been eased somewhat to accommodate the use of sporting horses in a social day out.
But … a strange realisation came to me this past weekend. My partner had competed in two events of the same level competency, with the same horse, same people competitors and with myself observing. As I have said, I have been watching these competitions for around a dozen years and I am not deluded enough to “guild the lily” on my partners behalf, so I was surprised when in those two events she came second-last in one and second place in the other! … with little discernible difference in performance in both rides … BUT two different judges.
If you Google “Methods of training for horse riding”, you will come up with a plethora of individual styles, from “Rough-riding” to ‘Touch-therapy’ for horses. I won’t go into it. For my real purpose for this missive is to discuss “Perceptions versus Standards of excellence”. Sufficient to say that along with the creeping in of many and various breeds of horses, some quite unsuitable for the competitions they are entered into, along with the many and varied styles of training and riding of competition horses, has come softly, slowly, with generational change, the “sympathetic” assessment of horsemanship graded down from a set “standard of excellence” to more of a “perception of excellence” so that while both the horse and rider may be exhibiting those moments of the criteria sought for; “in-the-frame” composition (what gives the equestrian horse that perfect style of trot or canter etc), they both have not been brought there by setting the solid/correct foundations traditional in horsemanship to create that “frame”, but have been “confected” to behave “as if” it has been trained thoroughly in horsemanship skills via the use of advantageous breeding to create artificial “composition” (appearance), saddlery and bridle gear. THIS confected, cosmetic “perception of excellence” has permeated through many branches and skills of our society, demeaning excellence in manufacture, science and medicine to management to politics. It has damaged our society and left it vulnerable to persuasive propaganda that shifts opinions and sways decisions on little more than a created false-reality/instant gratification.
Self-esteem is now everything in our society. No-one is a loser – “there are many ways of skinning a cat” – but in some things, near enough is NOT good enough. And you can’t get always away with a “fake it till you make it” philosophy. In my trade in building, structure is everything and it is too late and too dangerous to get wisdom in hindsight. There ARE standards of excellence. In lens-polishing, for instance, a milli-point or two from perfect would be disastrous. As in any demanding profession, there ARE set standards of excellence that MUST be adhered to for quality to be achieved. We cannot let these slip, yet that is exactly what has happened in our politics – and in our parliament – and the judges of those standards have foolishly let themselves be persuaded that it was THEY who had “got it right” when they allowed the outrageous destruction of House Procedures to slide into the mire of LNP corruption that is the present government.
Like those sympathies that have corrupted the set standards of excellence in many skills, the MSM Press Gallery journalists were spoon-fed – in small increments over a long period of time – the perception that Labor were incompetent, even though they had moved swiftly to alleviate the hardships of the GFC. the collapse of Financial Advisers Securities, moved on Climate Change legislation, tried to apply regional refugee solutions, the NDIS, Gonski, the NBN. broadband – and all the rest – but somehow, all the Press Gallery could see was “leadership, leadership, leadership”. Why? because the moguls who owned them told them so. The LNP press releases told them nothing more. Their own egos sought to be the “first with the latest”. In short, they reported Labor as a lost cause because of a mistake with their “perception of excellence” and reported the Abbott opposition as the best thing since sliced bread, in spite of his many quite glaring and ghastly failings. Because of their failure to report with the “standard of excellence” which was once the cornerstone of their job-skill, their stupidity and gullibility is now written in Australian history and witnessed in this current fiasco of LNP governance.
This dangerous twisting awry of what is required to make an action “standard best practice” to accepting an action as “perceived best practice” has leeched into the electorate and allowed the lie of the “motherhood statement” to be accepted as a near-enough “perception of done-deed” so that with the LNP “200 policies costed and ready to go” and the “We will bring the ‘out-of-control’ budget back in the black by 2016” were embraced as actual policy promised and delivered. Or should I say: “Perceived as delivered”?
The electorate, by allowing its “self-esteem” to be stroked and massaged in this way, has given away democracy for the price of a couple of “magic beans”. Someone is going to have to tell them that fairy-tales do not come true, or that magic does not happen, or that God does not save little children from drowning, and economic rationalism is not going to deliver them a better standard of living. But with this whole-hearted and deluded embracing of a perception of excellence, it is going to be a bloody difficult job!