There Is a Man

There is a man. You know him, but I’ll tell you about him anyway.

This man is well-known and respected. He has wealth and status. He represents an institution. No—is an institution. Everybody says so.

He earned this widespread high regard because of his accomplishments. Because of his acumen at seeing, knowing, and working the system to his advantage. Because he has a system and it works. He has a high vantage point so he can see how all the pieces fit together, and he has a long reach so he can move them around. He’s got vision!

When others are in distress, in it up to their necks, he finds a way to rise above. Even to benefit.

He knows people. His name opens doors. He plies every advantage, and that’s his right. He’s entitled to a little advantage; look at who he is.

He is plainspoken, blunt. If he was not so highly esteemed, you might say he is rude, but someone of his stature can be forgiven if he has greater concerns than courtesy. He’s busy. People are counting on him.

Because when he succeeds, those on his periphery benefit and succeed also. The benefits spill over, trickle down.

Seeing him thrive, many of us feel like fools in comparison. We realize that we are but passive victims of the beast, while he has grabbed the horns and risked riding it.

People like him can take risks. They have thick skin. They aren’t discouraged by little things like criticism, rejection, or a hand down their pants. They just do the work.

So we look to him. If we don’t quite understand the choices he is making, we trust him to achieve outcomes as he always does (just as consistently, we don’t understand how he did so).

Having accepted our comparative ignorance, we do not question him. Or if we do, we let him answer, “You’ll see.” We know that if he explained how it all works we wouldn’t comprehend, we’d get bored and befuddled. Better leave it to him.

At some point, however, we see that the system itself has changed, and that the man, it seems, has not. Still we trust. Still we wait.

He’s from the old school, it’s explained. This isn’t how they did things in his day, the good old days, when men were men and …. He is under scrutiny and that little muscle in his jaw is throbbing.

The man still moves in a way that he has moved many times before, and seems only slightly perturbed by the off-pattern outcomes, though not at all shaken in his confidence. He will move this way again, increasing in panic each time it fails, but keeping a confident face on because people are counting on him, or because it’s the only way he knows how to be. Everything is gonna be fine.

Once again, others are in distress and they look to this man to rise, to lift us all with him. Will he?

Contrary to his customary aplomb, he has become messy, angry, uneasy.

You have to understand, he’s under a lot of pressure right now. Change is hard, but his heart’s in the right place. He has expressed his good intentions. That’s an action in itself!

Now things are so bad that they are affecting everyone, but you know that he will adapt. Winners adapt. Even you are adapting, and you are not as smart as he is, or he wouldn’t be where he is now.

You think, he’d better hurry up and think of something—but then you realize that he probably knows a thing or two about timing so you wait, maybe a little longer than you want to, because someone’s got to do something and there’s no way it’s you.

If he needs to be unseated, let him unseat himself. If he needs to go, give him time to find the door.

Hold on. Have a little faith.

This man is surrounded by other people, capable people, people who share his vantage point. Surely if something is amiss they will correct course, or at least advise wisely. They have to, because his choices trickle down, affecting countless others. People are counting on him.

He has a specific definition of people. I mean, there are people and then there are people. There are those who put in the work, who pull up their bootstraps, who are legacies, and then there are those who want everything done for them.

You know him. Whether he is a third-world dictator, first-world president, or Canadian artistic director, you know him. Whether he is a friend of yours, your employer, or just the protagonist of my new play, you know him. Do you recognize him?

Donna-Michelle St. Bernard’s play Cake, part of the 54ology, a project committed to create one performance work for each country in Africa, is on at Theatre Passe Muraille until December 3.

Click here for tickets or more information
Written By

DM is a slippery fishgirl afflicted with long vision and a short attention span. She will dance to Fela Kuti and Feist, she would face the frontline for you; she is rarely seen at parties. DM is in love with words, Kern, and Jesus.


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