Classical Jewish Thinking On Modern Politics – The Likeability Factor
He who is pleasing to others is pleasing to God, but he is not pleasing to others is displeasing to God (Avos 3,10).
This text is saying that for whatever the reason, people who are generally well liked by others are also well-liked by The Almighty. And the converse is true as well.
Some clarification is in order:
Some of our wildly popular entertainment and sports personalities are personally repugnant in almost every imaginable way. Yet, they are adored by millions. In truth, the fans don’t like these people personally. Rather, they identify with these celebrities and feel somehow raised and glorified by this pitiful relationship. (As for the celebrities themselves, they care little or not at all about those who all but worship them.)
A second type of ‘non-affection-affection’ that comes to mind can take place in the case of talented individuals who are capable of deliberately charming those around them. For example, a boss might know exactly how to charm employees in order to get the best work out of them. The boss is crafty and self-serving, and he may not care at all for those same people who like him.
The litmus test of likability shows itself with people who are likeable for no apparent reason. Most of us know a person (or people if we are lucky) like this. It is an uncle or an aunt, a neighborhood personality; someone who is always smiling, is not trying to get anything out of anyone, has generally only nice things to say about others, and is somehow loved by everyone.
As for a personality on the national stage, Ronald Reagan comes to mind. Although many Liberals strongly disagreed with his policies, on a personal level President Reagan was well liked even by his detractors. I recently read a first-hand account of how when Mr. Reagan’s presidency ended and he was leaving the White House for good, members of the White House staff were openly weeping because they were going to miss him so much.
One of the most unusual aspects of this very unusual presidential election campaign has been the amazingly negative attitudes felt by the electorate toward both front runners.
One might think that likeability is merely just another of the many different human virtues; and whether or not a candidate is a likable human being has nothing to do with how successful a president the candidate will be.
This ancient Jewish text teaches that a person who is intensely unlikeable is somehow profoundly at odds with God. What exactly it means to be profoundly at odds with God is difficult to say with certainty. But I nonetheless think such a person is not someone we want making decisions that will affect three hundred and thirty million Americans – and the rest of the world.
Author’s note: My intention is to apply time-honored Jewish precepts to current political issues. I have put some of these ideas together in a book called Uncommon Sense. This article is an abbreviated example of the same.