Thursday, March 24, 2016


The Common Man

Robertson Davies (1913-1995), The Papers of Samuel Marchbanks (New York: Viking, 1986), p. 86 (ellipsis in original):
I see that some of his political supporters are telling President Truman that it will do him no good to be known throughout the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave as a fellow who plays the piano for relaxation; this, the politicos fear, may give the impression that Harry is a "longhair," and not a "regular guy." Here is a quaint sidelight on democracy, as interpreted by politicians....I fear I have a reactionary mind; I like to think of my leaders as wiser, more cultivated and more intelligent than myself; if they are not, God help us all! But the proper democratic attitude seems to be that a national leader should be the intellectual peer of a barbershop loafer, and as illiterate and undistinguished as possible.
Id., p. 131 (ellipsis in original):
I confess that I find the modern enthusiasm for the Common Man rather hard to follow. I know a lot of Common Men myself, and as works of God they are admittedly wonderful; their hearts beat, their digestions turn pie and beef into blood and bone, and they defy gravity by walking upright instead of going on all fours: these are marvels in themselves, but I have not found that they imply any genius for government or any wisdom which is not given to Uncommon Men....In fact, I suspect that the talk about the Common Man is popular cant; in order to get anywhere or be anything a man must still possess some qualities above the ordinary. But talk about the Common Man gives the yahoo element in the population a mighty conceit of itself, which may or may not be a good thing for democracy which, by the way, was the result of some uncommon thinking by some very uncommon men.

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