Time magazine’s cover is displaying what Time calls the era of the “strong man”…a montage of photos of allegedly political leaders who have adopted the mantle of the “strong man”….putin, trump, erdogan, kim jung un, sisi, duterte, and even xi jinping (having just arranged a life appointment as Secretary of the Communist Party) and a couple of others who, taken together, along with the multiple sex offenders, terrorists, spineless ‘moderate’ leaders of the male gender demonstrate what is most objectionable, heinous and repulsive about the current menu of masculinities, grabbing the headlines.
Not satisfied with circumscribed, constitutional, historic, moderated and mediated power, determined to inflict even a violent, dictatorial and exclusionary imprint on their moment in history, these men are so tarnishing the long-term reputation of masculinity, (as if it needed more pummelling!) without a concerted, conscientious, thoughtful, and collaborative push-back from the mainstream of moderate, reasonable, respectable and even attempting to be honourable men. Commentary on the exploits of these men, for the most part, demonstrates their abuse of power, certainly not their exemplary deployment of it. They imprison or otherwise ‘wipe-out’ dissent; they manipulate the information concerning their rule; they take for granted that their power is too restricted by norms previously considered essential to their people; they consider their career ambitions, legacies and ‘triumphs’ more significant than the welfare of their people; and they dominate their own “news outlets” as if some movie magnate(s) had taken over their domains in the production of some “heroic” super-man hero movie….
Far removed from the days of the Lee Iacoca’s, the Jack Welsh’s, when corporate governance included as an important agenda item, the support of the community in which their companies operated, it is not only the visages on the Time cover who are abusing their power. For too long, at a much lower echelon, and much less visible to the public, corporate boards and CEO’s, supported by their government pawns, have been vacuuming into their own executive field of play, the ruthless, and unobstructed pursuit of both profit and thereby dividends for investors, at the expense of committed and contracted pensions, wages, environmental and health and safety protections not to mention the viable and effective existence of labour unions which have become virtually dead.
We are witnessing an oligarchic take-over, globally, that is clearly dedicated to its own narrow narcissistic and greedy goals, without caring a ‘fig’ for the long-term health of the planet, the long-term resolution of serious and ever-morphing conflict, the strength and viability of international institutions like the UN, the WHO, the ILO, the International Criminal Court, the IMF, and then World Bank. Rape and pillage of natural resources, for immediate profit and dividends, surgical removal of regulations that would impede the unfettered pursuit of corporate profit by their puppet legislators (of so many nations and languages and ethnicities and geographies) and the dropping of a few “crumbs” of pennies in tax breaks, for example, just to keep the “dogs” of starving, un-and-under-employed, desperate and mostly hopeless people at bay.
They build up “their” military bastion, both because they can and because they never know when they might need it to retain power. They demand “loyalty” which really means a sell-out of any principles of decency, leaving only sycophants willing to assume positions of responsibility, even if their tenures will be short-lived.
It is not just the cover story that appals. It is the ‘back-story’ that infuriates ordinary people around the world. We all know that instant global communication has permeated the borders of almost all countries, (with some blatant and dangerously controlled exceptions using Canadian technology to repress internet access to their people). We also know that global markets have unleashed the lowest common denominator of corporate greed, narcissism and the unfettered and unaccountable movement and hiding of cash under the guidance of the most costly accounting and legal firms.
Oligarchs, armed with a coterie of “loyal” protectors, body-guards, lawyers, accountants and legislative pawns, walking on mountains of secretly-stashed cash, striding the corridors of their own media slaves (dependent on the ratings their “heroes” generate and the advertising dollars that ensue), dismissing negative voices as if they were mere packaging on their latest Big Mac, (a record number of jounralists, 262, have been jailed this year!), seducing more weak and gullible sycophants to replace those already carelessly thrown under the bush, denying even the merest appearance of indecency, lawlessness, and deceit.
And the story goes even deeper: these thugs in public life, striding their respective stages like self-declared super-heroes, give cover, and even role modelling to millions of young men, most of them desperate for a moment in the limelight, barely being able to distinguish fame from infamy. In a star-drugged culture, supported, aided and abetted to the social media, we are at risk of sabotaging many of our best men, who no longer seek public office, given the sacrifices required in time, resources and reputation, and of so tainting the overall reputation of men generally, that we are all at greater risk.
And because most of the “strong men” champion free enterprise, for-profit at the expense of the planet’s rising temperatures, raging fires and floods and the displacement of millions through both military conflicts and starvation, poverty, disease and infant malnutrition and the impacts of those conditions on every newborn in the developing world. Taken together, these men represent a plethora of political parties, all of them veering far right, nationalistic, catering to their own “sub-oligarchs,’ wanting walls to keep out the most desperate, and more and more power, money and influence for themselves.
In such a climate, we need far more Macrons, Trudeaus, Merkels and articulate moderates everywhere. And yet, will the moderates be strong enough to bring serious reflective approach to world affairs, given the obstreporous intransigence of these tyrants? It is legitimate to fear that many will not see behind the headlines or this cover on Time, to tease out the black holes of vacuity, narcissism and empty ego’s that threaten the health, sanity and well-being of millions with impunity.