Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Unfit for Gentlemen

Politics: "[A] vaguely degrading . . .occupation. . . . plainly a career wide open to all-but-unmentionable talents and an occupation blatantly unfit for gentlemen - let alone gentlewomen."

-  John Dunn, The Cunning of Unreason (2000)

 Politicians (eating hot dogs)

My neighbor Zeno, an agnostic in most things except in his zealous prosecution of Christmas, might have spoken those very words in any of our desultory, Armagnac-fuelled afternoon confreries. A gentleman, he recently opined, is secure in his own opinions; these he has well considered. Further, he feels no need either to broadcast them nor to have them accepted by anyone less informed than he. En court, son assurance c'est complet.

 My neighbor Zeno

But what about Bill Clinton, I proposed. Or Barack Obama, for all of that. Surely Obama's opinions are by now those of an expert, worth the $400,000 he was paid to address those Wall Street bankers. He is finally being listened to by people who were once his sworn enemies.

Zeno lifted his balon of Armagnac and studied it in the warm April sun streaming across the north lawn of the chateau and into the belvedere. He sipped it and set it down deliberately on the wicker tabouret at his knee. As perhaps I should have said, he rejoined, a gentleman is secure. A gentleman could never receive what is dubiously called an 'honorarium' for his considered opinion.

So, I asked, former presidents and official dignitaries - the Clintons, Obama, the various Rices and Powells and Bushes - all offer their expertise and you suppose that they aren't gentlemen - or ladies - because they accept a fee?

Ah, he said, I spy a drop remaining in that flask at your elbow.

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