Eminently Presentable Men

Over the last several weeks there has been much talk about Judge Kavanaugh and the other men who approved his nomination to the Supreme Court of the United States. Many of us felt a sense of incongruity as we watched the line-up of nicely turned out, well-dressed men, emanating wealth and privilege while listening to testimonies of violent sexual assault.

Throughout my childhood and teenage years, I saw power as symbolized by confident men in dark suits. They embodied authority and were not to be questioned. Sometimes I felt there was something under the surface that was to be feared, though I could not say what it was.

Recently, talking to a friend about such men, D.H. Lawrence’s poem called How Beastly the Bourgeois Is sprang to mind:  

How beastly the bourgeois is
especially the male of the species —

Presentable, eminently presentable — shall I make you a present of him?
 
Isn’t he handsome? Isn’t he healthy? Isn’t he a fine specimen?
Doesn’t he look the fresh clean Englishman, outside?
Isn’t it God’s own image? tramping his thirty miles a day
after partridges, or a little rubber ball?
wouldn’t you like to be like that, well off, and quite the thing

Oh, but wait!
Let him meet a new emotion, let him be faced with another
man’s need,
let him come home to a bit of moral difficulty, let life
face him with a new demand on his understanding
and then watch him go soggy, like a wet meringue.
Watch him turn into a mess, either a fool or a bully.
Just watch the display of him, confronted with a new
demand on his intelligence,
a new life-demand.

How beastly the bourgeois is
especially the male of the species —
Nicely groomed, like a mushroom
standing there so sleek and erect and eyeable — 
and like a fungus, living on the remains of a bygone life
sucking his life out of the dead leaves of greater life
than his own.

And even so, he’s stale, he’s been there too long.
Touch him, and you’ll find he’s all gone inside
Just like an old mushroom, all wormy inside, and hollow
under a smooth skin and an upright appearance.
 Full of seething, wormy, hollow feelings
rather nasty — 
How beastly the bourgeois is!

Standing in their thousands, these appearances, in damp England
what a pity they can’t all be kicked over
like sickening toadstools, and left to melt back, swiftly
into the soil of England.

Lawrence wrote this poem almost century ago in another country but it still resonates. He specifically points at the male of the species, but surely a finger must also be pointed towards the females who stand behind most of these men, enabling them to stay “sleek and erect and eyeable” so that they too can suck their lives out of the remains of others.

12 thoughts on “Eminently Presentable Men

  1. Those grey men like Al Purdy perhaps? But beneath the cloth is often a terrified child, enabled by his peers and perhaps even a good woman sometimes caled ‘Mom’. What traumas produce such men who become so blind?

    Like

  2. Those grey men like Al Purdy perhaps? But beneath the cloth is often a terrified child, enabled by his peers and perhaps even a good woman sometimes caled ‘Mom’. What traumas produce such men who become so blind?

    Like

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