Amid the entourage

Every time that some party leader visits a public services office, a collapsed road or a hospital for a surprise inspection, we witness a wide range of revealing glances and grimaces. The look of the emergency inspector – whether he represents the government or the opposition – is grimly austere but at the same time, does not conceal any surprise, as if this is the first time he has had to deal with the real world. Meanwhile the eyes of those being inspected are cast downward, frightened; sometimes we can see resentment in their faces, as if they are saying to their political opponents: «You’ll see what happens when my lot are where you are now.» The most depressing aspect, however, is the look on the faces of members of the entourage, and their general stance. They may be MPs, local party leaders, even ministers; but at such moments – facing their boss on the one hand and television cameras on the other – they forget their position and stature, and seem to shrink. They run ahead of their leader to open up the way for him, they huddle around him when he’s making a statement before a camera and nod their heads gravely when he speaks. …And because they take these frequent displays of adulation so seriously, the only way they can acquire some sort of mental balance is by talking down to their subordinates, by acting like little dictators practicing what they hope to inherit. Today’s most insecure people are tomorrow’s worst dictators.

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