Tuesday, June 20, 2006

St. Sycophant's Day

I'm declaring today, June 20th, St. Sycophant's Day. It honours the toadies, apple-polishers, ass-kissers, fawners, and obsequiously craven cravers of the world. Count me among them. Just for today.

I just performed a bit of a public favour. No harm in that, right mate? Part of the trade-offs of human commerce. You do this for me. I'll do that for you. Of course, the transaction is more subtle than that, rarely so explicit.

So, without advancing the risque (how does one insert an accent aigu right here?), or risky, details, let me just say the favour was performed, the deed was done, with all its attendant placing aside of fussy scruples, what-if's, and complicated caveats. But The Favour became something I embraced as time went on in its preparation. I relished doing it, became a more fervent believer in its cause. It wasn't as if personal moral scruples about this favour would (or had or will) prevent me from sleeping comfortably in good conscience (well, I typically get up two, three, maybe four or more times a night; medical thing; so, how good a sleep do I ever get anyway?). As I said, the tenets of belief underpinning The Favour (or Favor, for other fellow Anglo tribes) were such that I did not think I sold myself out completely. As I said before: human commerce.

C'mon: are you 100% uncompromisingly "pure"? Are you honest? Come on. And if you are, what is your price for such purity?

And now a word from not exactly our sponsors but a fine bit of reference to the word "sycophant":

http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/index.pperl?date=19980715

As you can see, the word has a fascinating history, not the least of which is its association with the notion of informer.

I'm thrilled to learn that.

Because after the event ["event" is perhaps either misleading or too revealing a word; but I'll declare this: it wasn't at the U.N., or in the galleries of the US Senate or House, or at the British House of Lords or House of Commons], I mean after The Dispensing of The Favour, I glad-handed a few of the Favour-Askers and got well-deserved thanks from them and all that.

But I discovered something, something obvious to most grown-ups, I suppose. Namely this: the more I sought the gratitude of The Favour-Askers (FAs) the more they were repelled by me. Literally repelled by my craving. By my cravenness [crave and craven seem to have two different roots]. The FAs actually walked away, averted their eyes when they saw me approaching.

It made me a little angry, eh? How dare they?

But the part about the Informer as an etymology association for "sycophant" very much intrigued me because the whole, shall we say, postcoital aroma (they smelled the whiff of St. Sycophant perfume emanating from my every pore) reminded me while I was driving home of a John le Carre novel. It dawned on fawning me that the sycophant is dangerous. Not pleasing him, not returning the favor of obeisance, sets up a dangerous game. Hence, Magnus Pym is le Carre's wonderfully tragic empty antihero in "A Perfect Spy." Hence that US spy Rick Aldrich [was that his name?] who turned out to be a counter spy for 30 some-odd years for the Russians.

I had an aha! revelation.

Those guys, those Perfect Spies, are the patron saints of St. Sycophant's Day. Magnus Pym and Smiley and the whole lot of them.

Now I know.

The dangerous dagger of sycophancy is sharpened most by what? Indifference? Irrelevance?

How should / would the feast day be celebrated in years hence? Groveling? Bowing? Lying prostrate? Licking? Sniveling?

Likely none of the above. Because:

As Oscar Wilde said, "Living well is the best revenge."

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