Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Origin of Leader as "Castrato" (Saul)

From John Ralston Saul, The Collapse of Globalism, Penguin, 2005, p. 92-3.
In the midst of their (world political leaders) arguments over economic management versus political leadership, something very revealing happened. Giscard (d'Estaing) had been a long-time and apparently successful French minister of finance. He was elected in mid-1974 as a young president who could bring his economic talents to the top job. He represented a new-style politician. The specialist. The man who would take your worries away with his financial expertise. Compared with leaders like Charles de Gaulle or Konrad Adenauer--who somehow involved citizenry emotionally in their grand schemes--here was a calm, dispassionate, modern leader. Even post-modern. This was the face of the post-nationalist nation-state.
         But Giscard came to power in the midst of those seminal crises of oil, inflation, unemployment and no growth. He counterattacked as best a technocrat could and made no impact. Interest rates were so high that they were bankrupting the private sector without controlling inflation. Giscard became bewildered. Discouraged.
      Then one night he appeared on television to address the people. He told them that great global forces were at work. These were new forces. Forces of inevitability. Forces of economic interdependence. There was little a national government could do. He was powerless.
      This historic appearance was probably the original declaration of Globalization as a freestanding force escaping the controls of all men. It was also the invention of the new leader: the manager as castrato. This approach created quite a fashion among leaders at all levels. The easy answer to the most difficult problems was increasingly to lament publicly that you were powerless. Impotent. That your large budgets, your public structures, the talents and determination of your populations could make little difference. These were not problems to be solved. These were manifestations of the global reality. With your leader/manager friends in other countries you would do your best to round the sharp corners through management of the details.
       You might say that Globalization became an excuse for not dealing with important problems. Worse than that, this betrayal of the idea of public responsibility--that is, a belief in the possibility of choice--gradually undermined the citizens' confidence in their democracy. People like Giscard made the shibboleth of inevitability credible. It was the return of the fearful priests so central to the darkest moments of the Middle Ages.
And from The Female Eunuch, Germaine Greer, Paladin, 1970, p.11-12, a mere four years before the Giscard d'Estaing television appearance.....
The castration of women has been carried out in terms of a masculine-feminine polarity, in which men have commandeered all the energy and streamlined it into an aggressive conquistatorial power, reducing all heterosexual contact to a sadomasochistic pattern. This has meant the distortion of our concepts of Love. Beginning with a celebration of an Ideal, Love proceeds to describe some of the chief perversions, Altruism, Egotism, and Obsession. These distortions masquerade under various mythic guises, of which two follow – Romance, an account of the fantasies on which the appetent and the disappointed woman is nourished, and The Object of Male Fantasy, which deals with the favourite ways in which women are presented in specifically male literature. The Middle-Class Myth of Love and Marriage records the rise of the most commonly accepted mutual fantasy of heterosexual love in our society, as a prelude to a discussion of the normal form of life as we understand it, the Family. The nuclear family of our time is severely criticized, and some vague alternatives are suggested, but the chief function of this part, as of the whole book, is mostly to suggest the possibility and the desirability of an alternative. The chief bogy of those who fear freedom is insecurity, and so Love ends with an animadversion on the illusoriness of Security, the ruling deity of the welfare state, never more insubstantial than it is in the age of total warfare, global pollution and population explosion.
If Saul is right about the leader/manager as "castrato" (and there is little to contradict his position, except perhaps the public persona of a Pierre Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada from 1968 to 1979 and again from 1980 to 1984). In fact it was in 1970 that Trudeau imposed the War Measures Act on what he perceived as an "apprehended insurrection" in Quebec perpetrated by the FLQ. One can only imagine the Trudeau response to Saul's observation, if it were to include his "watch" as Prime Minister) and women were writing about their own castration, we can, in retrospect see a collision of images of impotence, as a central image of the first few years of the decade that began in 1970.
However, on reflection, after 35 years, it would appear, at least to this observer, that women as a gender took full responsibility for improving their political power and status (if the struggle is not complete) while male political leaders in the west have fallen, for the most part, into the "castrato" category.
I have written elsewhere that both American elections of 2000 and 2004 were plebescites on masculinity, the "alpha" variety, with Gore and Kerry both losing to the Texas gunslinger, Dubya.
And we know that Dubya does not represent an authentic male leader, fully comfortable in his own skin, without having to prove himself to anyone, fully conscious of his political purpose and vision, and his capacity to carry out the best intentions and ideals of the United States. In fact, it can be argued that George W. Bush singlehandedly did more to tarnish the male archetype that any other American president, with his lies and excuses for his war in Iraq, and his tax cuts for the very rich, and his refusal to grapple with global warming and his refusal to fund No Child Left Behind.
Geroge W. Bush, represents the least evolved, the least emotionally mature and the least intellectually subtle president in the last sixty years, and gives to all males a model of how not to be a political leader.
One of the main thrusts of Saul's argument is for the citizens to take back the running of all democratically governed countries, from the experts whose powerlessness, in the face of the "inevitable," is really an abdication of their responsibiltiy. He even ridicules their mantra: There Is No Alternative or (TINA), especially as it refers to globalization.

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