I was looking for the origins of the phrase “wild men in the wings.”
I was pondering the significance of an event ranked way down low on the list of atrocities committed by the United States in the postwar era, the deliberate bombing of a trauma hospital in Kunduz in northern Afghanistan.
The phrase sounds Shakespearean, but the Google can only point me at sports teams and chicken recipes and bars … oh, one other item, a 1967 essay by Noam Chomsky called “The Responsibility of Intellectuals.” It was published in the New York Review of Books prior to his being banned from that haven for liberal intellectuals … this taxes my sense of irony. I must stop!
Deep in the essay Chomsky quotes McGeorge Bundy, a liberal intellectual and Camelot guy who was an important mover behind the US invasion of Vietnam. That is where the words “wild men in the wings” appears. (If the phrase has another origin, please let me know in the comment section.)
The Responsibility of Intellectuals is one of the most important essays ever written by Chomsky. I strongly urge that readers capable of prolonged concentration give a look. Chomsky addresses the question asked throughout human history – why do intellectuals align themselves with power and against ideals like simple justice and humanity? His prose is accessible and easily understood, though the essay is long.
The Eastern seaboard and California coast and every major city in the United States are bursting with liberal and right-wing intellectuals justifying the fascist course this country has taken since 1945. No atrocity is so significant that it cannot be trivialized. Motives are never questioned. Barbarity, slaughters, genocides are pedestrian affairs ascribed to high ideals.
“Wild men in the wings” refers to military men who run with a policy and turn it into slaughter and mayhem. But they could not succeed without backing from the intellectual class. Who, then, are more dangerous?
PS: For the benefit of those who do not read the essay, which is deed a homework assignment, I will slip you the answer: “IT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY of intellectuals to speak the truth and to expose lies.” If you know of any American intellectuals who are actually doing that, please alert your local authorities.