THE BLOG

'Soapy Fish' by Nature?

06/17/2015 03:28 pm ET | Updated Jun 16, 2016

I picked up the metaphor of "soapy fish" in Mexico. It describes a person who is like a soaped fish. You can't catch him. It looks as if you had coaxed him to agree, or you finally understood what he or she meant to say, only later to find out he wiggled out of your hands like a soaped fish -- i.e. he actually disagreed or did something totally opposite of what he said he was going to do.

And this behavior does not only refer to agreements. It applies to commitments too. You shake hands. He gives you the impression of making a total commitment. Only later on you discover it did not mean a thing. No signed paper, no commitment. And in many cases they do not honor a signed paper either.

These people lose the respect of others.

They are called liars, manipulators.

And, surprise. They get elected to office.

I am referring to politicians.

You read the newspapers and watch the polls. Disaster. The criticism. Sometimes expressions of hate. Some people outright despise them. Obama. Hollander. Bibi.

What is going on?

In my humble opinion and experience, they are not bad people.

It is not necessarily part of their character to lie, to hide facts, to manipulate.

So what explains their behavior?

The "technology" of ruling in a democracy requires them to behave that way.

It is much the way a fighter plane pilot must be decisive, fast on the trigger; and a heart surgeon steely, with an unflappable opinion bolstered by an enormous ego. They have to. To open a heart you need to not be in doubt. If you are, you will not be able to cut.

Tell me your profession and I will tell you your behavior.

To gain and keep power in a democratic system, you cannot show all your cards. And sometimes you might need to bluff, just the way you would in a poker game. And you have to do it in the most pleasant way, otherwise the population will not vote for you.

If politicians open their cards, those who want their chair will exploit every opportunity possible and use any information they can to unseat them.

So politicians bluff. Like in poker.

Once we understand the reasons for their behavior, it is important to stop listening to what politicians say and analyze their interests instead.

What drives them is getting and holding to power. Try it. It explains it all.

Why is power so critical? Because without it they cannot drive forward their agenda, how they see the country should advance. And, in my opinion, they all have an agenda. It is dictated by their ego as to what history books will say about them.

Dictators are different. They have the power, or as long as they do, they are less of poker players. They do not need to play games. You can trust that what they say they mean to say, and they will act according to what they say.

People make the mistake and put dictators in the same basket with politicians and ignore what the dictators say, as if it is a bluff, to the peril of those that are the target of the dictator.