The only sign of intelligence in a male politician is well-maintained facial hair. Sceptics may laugh this sentence out of any room, but history has repeatedly shown us that men (always men) with well-groomed, glossy beards or moustaches are the only ones qualified to be leaders and icons. If a leader’s beard is white, it is further proof that not only is the gentleman learned, but also old enough to know that the world has no more secrets from him. It is proof given to us that we are in the presence of someone Godlike. To not grasp this is to condemn our country to failure.
Let me try and explain. My examples may not be as interesting as I would like them to be, but I blame this solely on the fact that I do not have a beautiful beard. As exhibit A, I present Adolf Hitler. He may have been reviled for many things, such as the massacre of a few million human beings, but what we fail to acknowledge in our haste to condemn him is that even his most vociferous opponent would have found it hard to find fault with his finely-trimmed moustache.
It lifted his otherwise obnoxious features into something almost beatific, proving that men who have the capacity to change the world must always pay an inordinate amount of attention to facial hair. The changes they force upon the countries they govern may not be good for humanity, but that is not the point being made here. What matters is intent, and we should be taught to recognise the signs that separate leaders from mere followers.
I was compelled to come up with this passionate defence of beards because I find little celebrating their presence in Indian journalism today. Yes, a significant number of my colleagues working in television sometimes focus on good journalism and highlight the importance of beards and appearances whenever they can, but there are others who choose to evaluate our politicians using redundant parameters such as qualifications and performance instead. I find this disheartening because it prevents us from recognising the true worth of an individual.
A man who cares about his beard, maintains it well, and makes sure it is carefully trimmed and glossy, is a man who likes being photographed. This is a proud man who knows that pretending to do things is always more important than actually doing them. It tells us that this is a man who understands one of the first rules of good governance: perception is stronger than action. A man who maintains his beard and primes himself for every available photo-opportunity is a man who will not be at a loss for words during a press conference. Naturally, this will be the kind of smart man who avoids press conferences altogether.
I also blame filmmakers for our wrong impressions about leaders with beards because they inevitably depict all sociopaths and psychopaths as characters with facial hair. They make us believe that these bearded men are almost always narcissistic, unpredictable, and manipulative. They tell us that these men do everything in their power to appear charismatic, pay an abnormal amount of attention to where a camera is, or how a photographer captures them. It saddens me because politicians with great beards are all painted with the same brush in the process.
There are no elections scheduled in our immediate future, but I have taken the trouble of creating this argument as a desperate attempt to convince my fellow Indians that we all need to change how we choose our leaders. For too long, we have allowed religion, language, and caste to influence our decisions. They have all been important factors — after all, only a few hundred other countries have managed to outperform us on all fronts by choosing leaders based on qualifications rather than religious beliefs — but it is time to change the way we evaluate candidates.
Don’t judge a man for how qualified he is, where he went to college, or if he went to college at all. Don’t judge a man based upon how he treats his family, if he is married, or knows how to spell. Don’t judge a man based upon his history of incompetence, if he has or has not failed to deliver any of the promises he has been making for decades. If we must judge someone, and choose the right leader, this decision should be based solely upon how well-maintained his beard is. Nothing else matters.
— First published in the Mid-Day