Pattern Recognition, by William Gibson, is among my favorite recent (2003) novels. Its protagonist is a professional pattern-recognizer: she looks for emerging in trends in a variety of culture areas, seeing patterns amid the overwhelming ocean of information, things manufactured, virtual reality, etc. I read recently that the U.S. military is using pattern-recognition software to try to determine when and where IED’s will be placed, and by whom, in Iraq and Afghanistan. . . . Let’s play pattern-recognition with quotations from Charles De Gaulle:
A true leader always keeps an element of surprise up his sleeve, which others cannot grasp but which keeps his public excited and breathless.
As an adolescent I was convinced that France would have to go through gigantic trials, that the interest of life consisted in one day rendering her some signal service and that I would have the occasion to do so.
[As an adolescent, I was interested in sports, books, the Supremes, fishing, hiking, and day-dreaming.]
Authority doesn’t work without prestige, or prestige without distance.
Deliberation is the work of many men. Action, of one alone.
Diplomats are useful only in fair weather. As soon as it rains they drown in every drop.
[Robert Kennedy, for one, indirectly begged to differ; according to his book, personal relationships between U.S. and Russian diplomats in Washington and some deft lateral thinking helped ward off catastrophe.]
Don’t ask me who’s influenced me. A lion is made up of the lambs he’s digested, and I’ve been reading all my life.
[Okay, I won’t ask you who influenced you.]
I have heard your views. They do not harmonize with mine. The decision is taken unanimously.
I have tried to lift France out of the mud. But she will return to her errors and vomitings. I cannot prevent the French from being French.
In politics it is necessary either to betray one’s country or the electorate. I prefer to betray the electorate.
Nothing great will ever be achieved without great men, and men are great only if they are determined to be so.
[Great women are of some assistance as well, I have heard.]
Silence is the ultimate weapon of power.
[For some reason, this one made me think of Alberto Gonzalez and his hundreds of “I don’t recalls” (a figurative form of silence) before Congress.]
Since a politician never believes what he says, he is quite surprised to be taken at his word.
The great leaders have always stage-managed their effects.
Treaties are like roses and young girls. They last while they last.
[American Indians might agree.]
De Gaulle seems to have been obsessed, beginning in his adolescence, with leading France, and leading it as solitary, superior, I-know-the-right-answers figure of authority. That’s one pattern. Another is that his sense of humor leaks out occasionally. . .
Imagine De Gaulle and Churchill in a room together. So much ego, so little room.