If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise……
Kipling had his own ideas of what made a man and most of us would, I guess, broadly agree with him. Yet that first verse of his famous ode is only the beginning. There is, as Kipling later points out, much more to being a man that just that.
Take Paul Wolfowitz, head of the World Bank, as an example. One could assume, after reading the lines above, that his dogmatic refusal to resign is an expression of manly aspirations. After all, he seems to be “keeping his head when all about are losing theirs” (one of his senior aides, Kevin Kellems, has just resigned, according to a BBC report today) and his self-trust is all too obvious, even though most others consider him dishonest. Quite obviously, he believes patience will win the day, though sadly it was lying that brought him to his impasse. He is certainly hated, particularly – we are told – by his co-workers at the Bank. We can only ponder on whether that negative emotion is mirrored in return.
At this point, then, he appears to achieve at least some measure of Kipling’s “manliness”. But, is it manly to cock a snoot (old English expression) at everyone around you, knowing they dislike you intensely; to continue in the same old way, seemingly oblivious of the negative vibrations you are generating throughout your workplace? If so, Paul Wolfowitz is one manly cookie.
However, there is a difference between manliness and arrogance, and in this case Wolfowitz is, I believe, merely expressing the latter.
In fact, the one common denominator that bound such neo-cons as Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld and Cheney was a surfeit of arrogance. Like all egocentric ogres they claw their way to power, and having attained it, cling fervently by well-manicured fingernails to the cliff edge of their positions. But even giants can be toppled. It just takes a bit of extra effort. Don a pair of good, hob-nailed boots, stamp on the fingers hard enough, and they will eventually plunge, shrieking and wailing to the end, into an abyss of anonymity – as Donald Rumsfeld eventually discovered.
“Who?” I hear you ask. “Oh, yes, Rumsfeld! We’d almost forgotten him.”
It seems likely Wolfowitz will soon follow a similar downward plummet, despite old pals in the White House desperately clinging to his fingertips. He, and his pals, wanted to “take over the Earth and everything that’s in it” but not, alas, in the way Kipling meant. They’re not true men; their only compassion is for themselves; they know bravado, but lack true bravery. Wolfowitz, and his cronies, will go the way of others deficient in the real manliness Kipling immortalized so vividly:
“If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!”
No. They will never be Men.
Filed under: Political psirens