Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Faces of the Powerful

Note: This strikes me as a piece that cries out for illustrations. However, I don't want to either violate anyone's copyright or pay Reuters for pictures. So instead of inserting pictures, I'm inserting links to articles that have pictures. The articles have nothing to do with this entry; in fact, most of them are quite old. The point is the pictures. So to see pictures of what I'm talking about, click on the links. Thanks for understanding.


As you are no doubt aware, Barack Obama became President of the United States yesterday. He made a beautiful, moving speech about responsibility and sacrifice. That, of course, does not prove anything. Many people can make wonderful speeches and promise all sorts of things without following through. Many people have. But I feel sure that Obama is a man of integrity who will spend his time in office doing the right thing to the best of his ability, rather than covering his butt and sucking up to corporations and the wealthy in order to secure a second term.

How do I know this? Because Obama has something to back up his pretty words. He has his face. I saw a wonderful photo of him on the cover of a magazine, last week's Newsweek I think. He was smiling and looking relaxed and confident. His face is open. He is a man with nothing to hide.

By stark and terrible contrast, here in Canada we have Stephen Harper. Here we have a man whose conception of governance is to alternate attacks against every perceived threat to himself with long vacations and interruptions to Parliment. He has, since taking office, done much that is destructive and almost nothing that is useful and constructive. He is secretive to a degree that is sometimes pathological. He is probably paranoid, which is why he is secretive. And none of this comes as a surprise to me, nor should it to anyone, as it was all plain to read in his face, his distressingly masklike, expressionless face that looks like a Botox treatment gone too far.

We have a new leader of the opposition party. The old leader, Stephane Dion, was not a man of extremes, neither great like Obama nor terrible like Harper, as could be read in his average-looking face, but a good man. Strangely, that wasn't what Canadians wanted, and Dion had to go. His replacement, currently temporary and possibly to become permanent in May (though I hope not) is Michael Ignatieff. Here too, there is something disturbing to be read in the face. It doesn't reach the soulless extremes of the Harper rubber-face, yet all is not well. There is a hardness and an odd squinching up around the eyes, as if either to hold something in or keep something out. His eyes remind me of Karla Homolka's. I don't mean to imply that Ignatieff is like Homolka. I am fairly certain he will neither serve as an accomplice to murder nor mail his underwear to prisoners. Still, this narrowing of the eyes must mean something. I don't know what, but I know it isn't good. I do not have high hopes for Ignatieff.

The mouth can lie, the face does not. If you really want to know your leaders, hit the mute button when their faces appear on your television. If everybody did that before every election, we could probably save ourselves a lot of pain.


Further Reading: "The President's Speech" describes an incident in which brain-damaged people laughed at a televised speech by Ronald Regan, while people with normal brain functioning were taken in. This fascinating essay can be found, along with several other fascinating essays, in The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks.

4 comments:

Heather said...

Obama instated a policy regarding lobbying. Makes me think he will really try to do the right things. How the media will treat him in the long run will be a different story.

I hear what you are saying about Ignatieff. About four years ago, before he jumped into the political ring, I heard him speak (on CBC Ideas) - and was really impressed. I'm torn.

And well, Steve-O. He scares me. And I think he is going to start looking less staunchy now that his texan counterpart is out of the picture

The Happy Painter said...

Not a Steve-O fan, I guess.

Just wanted to let you know that I went to my first yoga class and it was awesome!

Vivian said...

Heather, I'm sure Ignatieff is intelligent, as is Harper. They remind me of each other, a bit. They both crack awful fake smiles. And Ignatieff is conservative, isn't he? Tomorrow is the unveiling of the budget. I bet the Liberals will decide to accept it, and there will be no coalition government. Ugh, I really would have liked a coalition government.

Happy Painter, I'm glad you enjoyed the yoga class. What kind of yoga are you doing?

Vivian said...

What do you know, Ignatieff has a blog! I'll post the link here - http://www.michaelignatieff.ca/blog/ - so that people can read his words and make up their minds about him based on more than just his face. It's only fair. Though I have to say, that face of his is something else. Look at him here: http://a123.g.akamai.net/f/123/12465/1d/www.nationalpost.com/news/1245606.bin?size=404x272 What's he trying to do--squeeze lemons with his forehead?

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