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|Volume 10 |Issue 20 | May 27, 2011 ||
Beware of the Sycophant
AASHA MEHREEN AMIN
Since the beginning of human civilisation, a main character in the social play of life has been the sycophant, also known as 'backscratcher', 'bootlicker', 'brown noser', 'lackey', 'creeper' or 'parasite'. If you try to look up the origins of the word you will be a little embarassed to find that it may have originated from a vulgar expression used by the ancients. Thus from the very beginning the sycophant has been considered something rather nasty and ignoble.
Funnily enough, despite the constant evolving of human civilisation (at least we hope to think) some things remain stubbornly unchanged. This is true of the sycophant who has, from time immemorial, adopted certain characteristics. The first thing that sycophants do, unless they are born with the trait, is to cleanse themselves of that thing called 'a conscience' - you know, that knawing feeling that keeps you up all night, that little voice incessantly reminding you that what you have done is wrong. Well, for the sycophant, that little voice has been strangulated and sent to the morgue ages ago.
The sycophant is usually a non-descript character, one that is indistinguishable in a crowd. This helps in making sure that the person they are buttering up may always have a false sense of superiority. These flatterers are often seen to have high-pitched, nasal voices, with which to spew out those sugar-coated compliments to make sure that their victims are totally in their grip.
The most vulnerable of these victims are politicians, mafia lords and celebrities who think for some reason that they need to be surrounded by these lackeys in order to feel secure. It goes without saying that the more successful a person becomes, the more likely that he or she will be encircled by sycophants who have the power to control the person. When a head of state goes into a frenzy of jealousy because an ordinary citizen has received an international award be sure that some sycophant has put it into her head that she should be the one to get it lest that undeserving individual becomes more popular than her. When a middle-aged film star plays the role of a college student, dressing up in tight jeans and a T shirt that says: 'Yo, I'm so cool, I'm hot' it is most likely that some creeper on his shoulder has told him that he still looks about twenty, that his wig looks perfectly authentic and that the double tires around his paunch actually makes him 'manlier'.
But it isn't just celebrities and politicians who become the target of these parasites who suck out all that is good in the person to leave an empty, shallow, shell of self-delusion. Practically every large organisation has a group of sycophants hovering around the boss. They will make sure that they get most of the official perks, all the contracts for their kith and kin, not to mention all the credit for every tiny success of the organisation. They also have the power to make sure that certain people they are not fond of get on the boss's bad side and possibly even get fired.
Unfortunately it is very difficult to differentiate the sycophant from the genuine admirer as they both tend to say the same things. Perhaps the only way is to notice the extent of the flattery. When someone says "Sir, that was a brilliant speech today, I was utterly mesmerised," it seems quite like a true fan. But when they say: "Sir your speech... so moving...I haven't cried like this since my grandmother died", perhaps one shoud take it with more than just a pinch of salt.
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