11 October 2015

The long and short of politics or the Sarkozy principle

There are many ways to 'lift' oneself
This was first published in the ‘Daily News’, September 11, 2009.  That’s six years ago, but then again some people don’t grow taller with time, especially politicians.

It is reported that French President Nicolas Sarkozy had ordered twenty short people to stand behind him while delivering a televised speech, just to make him look taller. These persons, apparently, had been vetted by aides of the President to make sure that they were all less than 5ft 5ins in height.

This reminded me of something that the present Minister of Transport, Dullas Alahapperuma had told me in an interview in 2001, when he decided not to contest the General Election. He said that he was too 'white' to be in politics. 'Politicians are usually brown,' he explained, using the colour to denote a lack in honesty, integrity etc. 'They don't like those who are white because it shows them up; if everyone was brown, it will be less noticeable and more acceptable as "inevitable",' he said.
Dullas has since come out of retirement and what this means to his colour thesis I have not had the opportunity to ask him. Sarkozy has done the reverse. If we were to switch colour for height in this exercise, what the French President has done is to find 20 browner people to stand with him, so he looks white.

Politicians who say they came into politics to 'do something' rare do anything other than fatten themselves. To get elected and to remain in power, most politicians adopt the Sarkozy method. Once in it, few would do a Dullas.

The Sarkozy method is simple and time-tested. George W. Bush (snr) did it, I remember. It was not easy for him to step into the shoes of Ronald Reagan, a President whose flamboyance covered up for what he lacked in intellect. Poor George was neither flashy nor smart. He exercised the option that Sarkozy chose 21 years later: to counter the 'wimp' tag, he picked a man who was intellectually slower, Dan Quayle, as his running mate. Quayle built quite a reputation for being uninformed, stupid and a blundering jackass until he was pushed off stage by the irrepressible George W. Bush came along in the year 2000. That was the pits.

It all boils down to this: if you are incompetent, gather around you people who are more incompetent than you are; if you are a crook, make sure you are surrounded by bigger crooks; if you are a two-bit joker, hire some circus clowns to form your entourage; if you are simpleton, get some morons to escort you wherever you go.

There are corollaries to the Sarkozy Principle. If you want to look smart and want people to think you are smart, then you have to get smarter people out of the way. If you want to be perceived as efficient, you have to hoof out those who are more efficient. If you want to be seen as honest, you better show the door to truly honest people. If you want to sound learned and eloquent, get shoo away the wise and poetic.

Success, then, has little to do with positive attributes. It is all about wiping out the 'negatives' in a political bio-data by way of head-hunting people with negative-ridden curriculum vitae and/or eliminating those who possess superior track-records. In politics or in other fields.

How do the Sarkozies of this world continue to stand tall, have we ever asked ourselves? The reason is simple: we are ever ready to dwarf ourselves. We don't exercise enough our powers of observation and perception. We are ever ready to close our eyes when we ought to keep them wide open. We are suckers for disguise, indeed sometimes behaving as though politicians wear make-up not so much to cover up their hideousness as to pander to public demand. 

We can't really expect Sarkozy to shoot up a few inches overnight, can we? It would have been similarly silly for anyone to expect George Bush (snr) or his son to acquire an analytical mind, some minimum level of logic and sharpen oratorical skills in a matter of hour, or even a few years. No, mediocrity will always take the short cut: cut short the superior and promote the inferior. We should trust the politicians on this. They can do no better, after all.

The question is, what are we going to do about our demonstrated propensity to succumb to Sarkozyism? The Sarkozies of this world can get away with this dwarfing of our intelligence only because we are ready to be dwarfed, isn't that the case? We don't need to appear taller than we are. We don't need 2-inch 'lifts'. We need to stand on our feet, regardless of our height. We need to open our eyes. Politicians, when this is done, collapse into their true dimensions, what do you think?