Saving Face

Back in college I was taught that there is a concept among Oriental cultures called “face.” Face is like ego but perhaps in a more civilized context.

Interactions are supposedly arranged in most cases to allow both parties to retain face. If one of the parties needs to change position or even back down, it is much easier to do so if they do not lose face. Obviously it is easier to win if your opponent can give ground without looking like they’ve lost.

We Americans sometimes refer to “saving face” but that seems more like hanging on to a few threads. It’s more like a child, after being scolded, sticking out his tongue behind the parent’s back.

I’ve decided that what we need is to elect leaders who understand that there is more than one way to win. Yes, the image of David holding Goliath’s head is impressive. So too are the pictures of St. George on his horse with the lance sticking out of the dragon*. There’s just one small difference. David and Goliath were enemies, as were St. George and the dragon. Do we really want to have our elected representatives view one another as enemies? I would hope not.

Of course, this goes a long way in explaining why Washington does not get a lot done. Yes they can take credit for a whole lot of laws, declarations, committees, reports and hearings, but do any of these things make life for the average American any better?

I suspect that not every person who joined in to raise a neighbor’s barn was “best friends forever.” However, people in America once realized that to get things done it was necessary to work together and focus on results.

Maybe a giant leap backwards is in order. A good first step would be to find people who can respect one another enough to let everyone keep “face” even when they disagree.


*Disclaimer – Dragons do not really exist. St. George is believed to have existed. The most common reference to him is the British Flag which has the crosses of St. George and St Andrew. I know that the absence of the dragon messes things up for the British, but facts are facts.  Sorry.

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