Monday, November 12, 2007

The "subtle man"

I've been enjoying reading CP Snow's series of novels recently. Snow was a physicist, a novelist and he held several important positions in British government from 1940 t0 1966. It was he who added the phrase "the corridors of power" to the language of the day, and this is the milieu about which he writes.

A quote from 'The Affair' caught my eye, a description of a character representative of so called "subtle men" -- a description to me that is an eerily accurate portrait of a certain contemporary political figure. For convenience I've changed the character's name, though I could just as easily have called him Kevin ...
I was thinking that John, quite apart from his hidden violence, was a subtle character. He was fluid, quick-moving, full of manoeuvre, happy to play on other men. But, like other subtle characters, he was under the illusion that his manoeuvres were invisible. In fact, they were seen through, not only by people such as Brown and me, but by the simplest. And that was true of most subtle men. As they went round flattering, cajoling, misleading, and promising, the only persons who found their disguise totally convincing were themselves...

I was thinking that subtle men like him would be wiser not to play at politics.
Very apt, I think.

And Snow talks too about the nature of hypocrisy, identifying that hypocrites who see the naked truth and contrive nonetheless to act quite contrary -- such people as these he says are "romantic conceptions."
Those whom we call hypocrites simply have a gift for denying to themselves what the truth is.
And there are many of those about, aren't there.

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