do Cheney-Bush, Stalin-Saddam, Fernando Marcos, Augusto Pinochet,
Omar el-Bashir (head honcho in Sudan), Conrad Black-Kenneth Lay,
to mention a few, have in common? They all subscribed to the modern
version of the Divine Right of Kings theory which proclaims the
monarch is chosen by God, and is, ergo, answerable only
to God -- code for they are exceptional beings with exceptional
rights, chosen for exceptional roles in the unfolding human drama,
code for not answerable to any parliament, judiciary, opposition
Membership in the
club of the exceptional countenances all that which serves their
exceptionality: political assassination, meddling in the affairs
of nation states, the use of illicit funds to achieve an objective,
and everything and anything that satisfies the expression of
their elite status concerning the manner in which they wield
power and indulge in pleasure – all at the expense of
the unrevolted masses. Kierkegaard, in Fear and Trembling,
introduces the notion of the ‘teleological suspension
of the ethical,’ where Biblical law prohibits murder;
but for the higher cause, of God, Abraham is prepared to transgress
the universal law that proscribes murder, and kill his son Isaac.
Exceptional beings, by dint of their manifest highest standing,
come to know themselves as the sons and daughters of Abraham
and perforce, under the full weight of destiny, must suspend
ethical judgments for higher causes. And where the inconvenience
of institutions they purport to honour and respect exist that
would restrict the expression of their exceptionality, honour
and self-respect oblige the circumvention of those same bodies
in order to make manifest their destiny.
Always one step
ahead of the Zeitgeist, exceptional beings have learned
to never speak of their special status for fear of provoking
the envy and revolt of the normally submissive masses -- the
nuisance of which would distract them from their higher calling.
For their role, the masses, without ever speaking of it and
refusing to confess it even to themselves, have chosen to dwell
in the kingdom of denial, a pillowy palace built and sustained
by the propaganda devised and implemented by exceptional beings.
The former come to believe the causes they support are their
own when in fact, as designated proxyites, they serve
the will of their masters. Nonetheless, the convenient head-in-the-sand-view
of life that defines the masses as qua masses does
nothing to reduce the brutal weight of the fact that the concept
of the exceptional being has been around long enough -- at least
in the back pages -- to have been quietly argued and advanced.
The Russian novelist Dostoievsky (1821-81), the philosopher
Nietzsche (1844-1900) and the historian Oswald Spengler (1880-1936)
were all fascinated by the notion of the exceptional being.
Spengler divided the world into two types: the historically
significant and everyone else, a taxonomy that precludes arbitrariness;
if Napoleon were a foot soldier he wouldn’t have been
Napoleon, just as we know if Marcos hadn’t amassed a fortune,
he wouldn’t have been Marcos. They were gods in their
time, and in them we trusted.
Based on the observable
behaviour of history’s exceptional beings, what can we
conclude about their belief systems? How do we come to recognize
their exceptionality, the brotherhood, the unspoken bond that
connects them -- even when they disagree or hate each other?
subscribe to an edifice of unspoken presuppositions and exemptions
that derives from their exceptionality. While Cheney-Bush must
loath Saddam Hussein and vice versa, they and their league share
the same values and historically deep, disinterested disregard
for the masses -- the raw material of their ambitions. From
Sumer to Alexander through Ghengis Khan to the Cheney-Bush doctrine,
whether in the service of good or evil, it’s the same
ambition operating under the same principle. Over and against
an unvarying plenitude of mediocrity, exceptional beings understand
their exceptionality as a demonstration of their remarkable
ability, intelligence and the invitability of their highest
standing. They view the masses, not so much with contempt but
as the banal means with which they realize their aims and objectives.
When it comes to the execution of their designs, be it waging
war, erecting monuments or indulging in lavish pleasures, their
first mission is to convince us that we ourselves desire that
outcome. To this end, in war and peace, in the construction
of pyramids and palaces, we provide for their wealth and well-being.
Which begs the question: are we, the unrevolted masses, demonstrative
proof that Spengler’s formulation is correct, or to cite
another elitist, Allan Bloom: Are the thoughtless always going
to be prisoners of other people’s thoughts?
showcase their special status by the obedient institutions they
establish and their ability to dwell in exceptionality for as
long as possible. Thus, Stalin and Saddam, answerable to no
one, must be judged as superlatively exceptional because they
manifested their exceptionality over a much longer historical
period than their institutionally enfeebled democratic counterparts,
whose independent institutions -- congress, parliament, judiciary
-- conspire against the very exceptionality to which they aspire.
But as the record shows, these institutions often end up co-opted
by the cunning that provides for their circumvention. Leaders
emerging from democratic backgrounds, limited by terms mandates,
the inconvenience of elections, or annoying separation of power
clauses invariably create the ‘ways and means’ to
finesse the institutions and laws that apply to everyone else.
So what we have today, in democracies everywhere, are elected
leaders who are always looking for ways to circumvent the system
they hold up as the model for the world to follow.
to no one, are the secret envy of democratically elected leaders.
With impunity, they plunge the coffers, suppress and eliminate
opposition, give themselves office for life, and provide the
ethos many corporate CEOs feel -- as their due and destiny --
compelled to implement: Enron’s Ley, Hollinger’s
Black, WorldCom’s Ebber, Tyco’s Kozlowski .
But what decisively
distinguishes exceptional beings from everyone else is they
don’t care about you or me. Notwithstanding memorable
locutions, (I can feel your pain), we know as fact that they
don’t care because actions always speak louder than words
that don’t speak at all unless backed up by actions. Mugabe
(Zimbabwe) can cry out to the world that he believes
in the principles of democracy and freedom but if he fixes an
election, not once but perhaps twice, he, as fact, doesn’t
care about democracy. Kenneth Lay and Conrad Black can claim
they care about their employees, but if the former bilks his
workers to the tune of 11 billion, we know he doesn’t
When our elected
officials budget $10,000 for a state supper, do you suppose
for one moment they think about the one year you laboured to
make that money available in the form of taxes to a government
pledged to serve your needs and welfare? They don't care. If
the expenditure enters their minds, it’s only to corroborate
the inner-circle conceit that this is how it is meant to be,
that humans are created unequally, that the polarity that governs
the divide between exceptional beings and everyone else is fixed
for all time.
So, if the existence
of the exceptional being is proof of his exceptionality, are
we proof of the opposite, and is the partnership that provides
for the way things are as fixed and immutable as the categories
of ‘us’ and ‘them'? Jean Baudrillard, in his
analysis of 9/11, argues the event was the inevitable result
of the necessary relationship between good and evil, that the
former excites the development and execution of the latter.
Calling it the way he saw it, the poet Carl Sandburg wrote: