In Defense of a Beautiful Boss
It shouldn't come as any surprise that someone out there writing for The Economist has a problem with the looks of our bosses. Leftists have been waging a war against nearly every personal advantage for years: if they aren't upset because your parents are rich, they'll insult you because your parents are white, or maybe because you have a penis. In their most unreasonable moments, they might even be upset that you deserve your own job. It seems only reasonable to expect that sooner or later, they would be complaining about whether or not our bosses keep themselves in shape.
This is because at the heart of all leftism lies an unreasonable envy of all advantage (disguised as an advocacy of the disadvantaged) and an unhealthy hatred of actual diversity (disguised as an appreciation of difference). They call life a meritocracy when your successful parents raise you to win, which is a lot like complaining that your parents raised you at all. It's almost enough to make you wonder whether they loathe the laws of cause and effect. In the fight against all odds – not his, but everyone's – the leftist hasn't only forgotten that different people breed different people; he's forgotten that different people are diversity itself, and that diversity, the thing he claims to be championing, means that someone is going to have natural advantages.
Few in the modern left have been honest enough to question whether our differences are more beneficial than harmful – even if differences drive us into certain paths. After all, it's our differences, in the long run, that make our leaders and followers of every kind. Maybe the thing that made Einstein an excellent scientist was the same thing that would have made him a horrible stylist. If one year we decide that the differences shouldn't matter, and that we should elect someone without the advantages normally required – say, upbringing, intelligence, personal connections, a natural charisma – then the only option left is to pick someone based on others. If all of us were in some hypothetical universe capable of running the country, the overwhelming majority of us would still be running factories and flipping cheeseburgers. Annihilate every difference of quality, and you will still end up with every difference in outcome.
And yet we still find people complaining about handsome bosses – the tall, fit man with the gray streak in his hair (or if you prefer, the Mitt Romney). That largeness doesn't mean goodness should be obvious to everyone; that largeness inspires us (whether for good or for bad) is irrefutable. Largeness and handsomeness have been inspiring people since the beginning of history, which is why tiny Napoleon was especially impressive, and the runtish King David's rise to power was completely unexpected. Whether or not the large man has any real talent for leadership is something that's proven only by experience; but size inspires us, because it implies power. Size can intimidate or make us feel secure. A conditioned body requires a persistent and self-conscious mind. A streak of grey hair implies experience and wisdom, without completely denying the vigor of youth.
Business may be different from war; we may not need the largest man to get the job done. But we have to remember that before we can do anything, we must believe we can do it. Likewise, it's also worth mentioning that if good leadership means the ability to get us somewhere better, it also means to ability to make us feel as though we can be taken there. The first step toward getting good leadership is knowing our own sentiments. The second is running with them when we find that they're right. Charisma is as accidental as romance, and as unexpected as magic: a man either has it or he doesn't. Others can offset a defect in size and beauty with all kinds of other things – and they should: there's no reason why a short and talented person should be inherently disqualified from any position of leadership. There are plenty of books and articles written about laws of attraction and personal politics to help them get there. There have also been many nations and companies ruined by men who inspire confidence. We might even be able to say that great countries can be ruined only by men who inspire confidence. But the last thing any of us should do is complain about the inspiring man if he's doing a fine job. If he's doing a poor job, we should complain either that we aren't smart enough to know when a large man is useless or that the small don't have spirits large enough to supplant him.
A beautiful woman is in a similar position. If she's smart and ambitious and educated and reliable, this is all fine and good – she might make an excellent leader. But if she's beautiful, she has one advantage that few others do: and that's that she controls the way other men feel. Everyone can control how others feel, in varying degrees – but nobody can like a beautiful woman. Her smile can make a day, and her frown can ruin it. She can shut minds off, and rally men to her defense – at least, if any of them are human enough to enjoy making beautiful women happy. If beautiful and charming women are likely to be promoted, it's our duty not to shame them for being successful, but to introduce them to great leaders like Benjamin Franklin and Cyrus the Great. If we've already been graced with the finest things on Earth, there's no reason we shouldn't marry them with the finest things in heaven.
That we need a healthy amount of idealism is obvious. There should always be a voice inside us that asks whether we're being kind because someone is beautiful, or whether we're being kind because being kind is the right thing to do – which I believe is the noble but cracked foundation of leftism. We should always be asking ourselves whether it's better to pick the handsome man or the better man. But if we allow our idealism to run so wild that we forget that our advantages are just that – the potential for blessing – and we begin to say that beauty and stature and charisma and raw intelligence are just as much a curse as a benefit because only some people have them, then we've denied not only the things that help us succeed, but also the forces that make us human.
Maybe we've forgotten the raw sentiment we experience when we brush up against someone who inspires us just by looking at him, or hearing his voice. Maybe we've forgotten that romance is bigger than just marriages and lovers, and that it also exists in patriotism and leadership. Maybe we've forgotten what it means to appreciate leadership like we appreciate art – a shame, as we've become more comfortable with making public monuments out of random shapes, instead of covering our cities with naked gods and goddesses. Perhaps we've wandered into an era so ideological that we've accidentally become lost in another age of Puritanism – an age of confusing the very joys of humanity for actual sins – an age of idealism without dancing. And perhaps the next generation will reclaim what we've lost by falling in love with human sentiments again (or in other words, by becoming romantics). These things are all possibilities; history is a record of our leaping so wholeheartedly toward our ideals that we tend in the very pursuit to ruin them. But there isn't anything written anywhere in the heavens that we have to.