Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Myth of Steve Bannon the Kingmaker

From The American Conservative:
Contrast that with Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, a statesman and diplomat who worked under the regime of French King Louis XVI, survived the upheaval of the French Revolution, and then devoted himself to Napoleon I, Louis XVIII, Charles X, and Louis-Philippe. Talleyrand was known for his distinctive realist brand of cynical diplomacy. His ability to survive at the highest levels of successive French governments with competing agendas is cited as a model for advisors. He switched sides so many times that a contemporary cartoon shows him with six different faces, one for each regime he served.

“The first of all qualities in life is the art of showing only a part of oneself, of one’s thoughts, one’s feelings, one’s impressions,” Talleyrand wrote in his Memoirs, adding that “man was given the power of speech to conceal his thoughts.” Indeed, the ability to disguise one’s true self is a common theme embodied by history’s most successful and powerful advisors. T.E. Lawrence “of Arabia,” a clever chameleon and the quintessential kingmaker, reshaped the Middle East while being everything to everyone and nothing to himself. He wrote:
In my case, the effort for these years to live in the dress of Arabs, and to imitate their mental foundation, quitted me of my English self, and let me look at the West and its conventions with new eyes: they destroyed it all for me. At the same time I could not sincerely take on the Arab skin: it was an affectation only. Easily was a man made an infidel, but hardly might he be converted to another faith. I had dropped one form and not taken on the other, and had… a resultant feeling of intense loneliness in life, and a contempt, not for other men, but for all they do. Such detachment came at times to a man exhausted by prolonged physical effort and isolation. His body plodded on mechanically, while his reasonable mind left him, and from without looked down critically on him, wondering what that futile lumber did and why. Sometimes these selves would converse in the void; and then madness was very near, as I believe it would be near the man who could see things through the veils at once of two customs, two educations, two environments.
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