Old World Diplomacy: Inimical (episode eighteen)
“As we’ve seen, legislative or parliamentary careers can last through decades with these setbacks and revivals. Chautemps comes to mind. With apologies, Feuillat.”
Feuillat shrugged. “Unquestionably, Chautemps is the best man to represent those who support him.”
“A man driven from office today may be a hero or martyr tomorrow, when popular opinion shifts.” Kneussl leaned forward and picked up a newspaper that Winter had brought with him and neglected to take away. He rolled it up, and began using it as a pointer to emphasize his remarks. Wrentsley glanced at the table; it held nothing else of interest.
“This new type of leader,” Kneussl continued, “would like the public to always regard him in this heroic light. He must be infallible; he can never be wrong. Officials are required to create stories to account for inconsistency or tactlessness―even stupid or offensive behavior has to be justified. He will tend to surround himself with inferior advisors. The best men won’t advise a mistaken course; yet he won’t permit the suggestion that his course is mistaken.
“An excessively active leader, even assuming such a man is capable of good intentions or reasonable ideas, places his nation on a path to isolation and extremism. Accept an untenable construct—the state, embodied by the leader, is never wrong; everything the state does is good, unquestioning loyalty is owed to the state—and you must, of necessity, be an extremist. The alternative is to disassociate yourself from the state, or to accept a dangerous isolation within the state.
“The greater the conflict of isolation and extremity, the greater this effect of Unwirklichkeit. The nation exists in a state of insularity in which the government measures its successes against a manufactured social and political environment; on the other hand, the people react to events that are only anticipated or imagined.”
“Which leads to instability,” suggested Wrentsley.
“Instability is unavoidable. Closing a door to every argument will not make opposition disappear. It only increases the pressure.”
“Well, Kneussl, you make the future seem quite hopeless. I can’t believe things are as bad as that… We surely have it within our power to avert the crisis.”
“If the crisis can be averted, certainly over time, one would expect a disenchantment with the current political experiments. I only say the present conditions must produce instability.”
(copyright 2014, 2018 Stephanie Foster)