Behind Closed Doors
A few years ago, shortly after the end of the Obama presidency, I read an article in The New Yorker, or the New York Times, or some other reputed source, written by a famous journalist with long years of experience.
The journalist confessed sadly that he had had high hopes for Obama, and had been disappointed. He had believed Obama’s campaign trail promises to close Guantánamo Bay and crack down on unethical government behavior towards detainees.
But, the journalist said, the same thing happened to Obama as happened to his
predecessors. Very soon after inauguration, new presidents have a meeting with
the secret service. Even presidents promising ethics and transparency renege on
those promises after that briefing. This might be because of unimaginable,
incontrovertible evidence, but more likely, the journalist said,
it was the big head they got from realizing that they had joined the tallest echelons,
that they could peep behind the curtain.
As members of this new club, they “put away childish things”.
I have been lucky in my career to get glimpses behind closed doors from early on. Those secluded areas in restaurants where powerful men talked of big numbers and knew exactly which wine to pair with their steak tartare. This never gave me a thrill. I never hoped that one day I’d be the one calling those kinds of shots.
The thing is, some people do get a rush from joining some rarefied level.
Any rarefied level. From closing the
door behind them and feeling like they are pulling the strings. From showing off their
adult, levels-of-grey understanding of the Iraq invasion, the economy, government, “business”.
“The world is thus, laddie,” they’ll tell you if you question them.
I consider this growing up wrong. Being proud of the loss of innocence is silly. It is rather a thing to be lamented.
You should not be a fool. But managing to keep clean; not getting into
shady deals; avoiding the “special circles of trust” that can’t be talked of openly;
not rising at the detriment of others.
Keeping the innocent promises you made to yourself.
Those are the better things to be proud of.