Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The March of Folly - about power and sex

I read Barbara Tuchman's The March of Folly right after it was published in 1984. I reread it now. Being a fan of 'good government' - today often changed in 'good governance' - it remains interesting to read her shortlist of misgovernment:
  1. Tyranny or oppression
  2. Excessive ambition
  3. Incompetence or decadence
  4. Folly or perversity
Tyranny and oppression we can  read about each day and we can watch the uprisings against it, especially now in the Arab world. Excessive ambition, also known since Paul Kennedy as imperial overstretch, we know mainly from the US. On a personal level, many more examples can be found. Decadence doesn't survive too easily in today's interconected world, incompetence is rampant. And as to folly, think of the Peace Process (yes that one). This reminds about an old quip about processes: a process is anything that is almost succeeding for a long time.
Tuchmann defines folly as grounded in preconceptions, contrary to common sense, rational inference and cogent advice. Government is it favorite field, because power not only corrupts, it also blinds. She sees lust for power as the chief trigger of political folly. Government remains the paramount area of folly because there men seek power over others - only to lose it over themselves.

Combine this with the often noted connection between sex and power: powerful men are usually oversexed. Think of that IMF-chief (whose name I strangely can't remember right now, although it is blaring all day over the news). Now the relationship between sex and folly we don't need to explore. Even love, that much nobler emotion, can blind us easily. Anyway, power, sex and folly are a potent cocktail. Good for storytelling, bad for real people. Now what again is the name of that Italian prime minister?
Are powerful women also oversexed? Probably often, but they are less aggressive about it - and they usually don't need to be.
Anyway, the March of Folly has a twin sister: The Waltz of Folly.

No comments:

Post a Comment