Because I agree with Victorian writer Thomas S. Gowing that "the absence of Beard is usually a sign of physical and moral weakness", I find myself paying careful attention to the election corflutes presently decorating my city.
There is no way I will vote for a man who is a moral weakling, and the beardedness or beardlessness of a man portrayed on a corflute may for voters be a powerful indicator of the true character hidden behind his crocodilian political smile.
Gowing's 1854 thesis on the necessity of beards has now been republished by the British Library as The Philosophy of Beards. For The Irish Times Joe Humphreys has just used Gowing's book as the starting point for a timely discussion of the role of the beard on the chin of history.
"The Covid pandemic," Humphreys writes, "has given us many cultural phenomena: the elbow bump, the Zoom meeting ... and for many, there is a personal addition: lockdown beard."
"Facial hair enjoyed a renaissance during the past 24 months. But, as we return to the new normal, is there an onus on those lax shavers among us to restore order to the jawline? You may think this a rather frivolous consideration but the ethics of beard-wearing has been matter of some debate since the Socratean look took off in ancient Athens."
Gowing's persuasive case for beardedness (he is preaching to the converted in this columnist's case for I have chosen beardedness ever since emerging from the ordeal of puberty) includes this theologically and intellectually compelling argument; since a man's ability to grow a beard must be a gift from God (how else to explain it?), Gowing preaches, it is sinful for a man to defy God by keeping his, the man's, face artificially hairless.
With us today Gowing would be distressed to see how seldom one sees bearded faces on our corflutes and in our parliaments.
Liberal Party men in particular always have glossily smooth faces, as if physiologically retarded for ever, marooned in their early teens by their prepubescent membership of the Young Liberals.
Perhaps it is unfair of me but I am afraid I am put off by politicians' smooth and glossy faces since they suggest to me a smooth and glossy person. And perhaps a narcissist too, since the maintenance of a face as smooth and polished as the white marble one of Michelangelo's David requires a daily ritual of self-adoration and face-sculpting in front of a mirror.
One suspects, too, that highly conservative political men think that a beard, especially a wild, unkempt one, is suggestive of wild, unkempt, radical beliefs.
No Liberal candidate, and perhaps no cautious Labor candidate either, wants his face to subconsciously trigger in voters thoughts of the spectacularly bearded Marx and Engels and Che Guevara. What political hay ScoMo would make of Albo's beard if Albo dared to sport one. "Life won't be easy under Che Albanese" the smooth ScoMo would crow.
And in The Irish Times, Joe Humphreys suggests another reason candidates should be facial-hair wary. What if female voters feel oppressed by beards and prefer to vote for smooth men?
Humphreys reports that the gendered aspect of pogonotrophy - or the cultivating of facial hair - has been explored by Henry Pratt, a New York-based philosophy professor.
"In a paper entitled To Beard or Not to Beard: Ethical and Aesthetic Obligations and Facial Hair, he argues that the beard is not only a symbol of manliness, 'it's a symbol of patriarchy'.
"Though Pratt himself likes to play around with different styles - from a hipster goatee to a Ringo Starr moustache - he feels conflicted about it. 'Growing beautiful facial hair might be the equivalent of creating a beautiful painting that's oppressive towards women'."
Perhaps, too, in our increasingly secular Australia no male candidate wants his face to remind voters of God. God-fearing Thomas S. Gowing will have noticed that God Himself in His own personal life has always been an influential advertisement for true beardedness.
We know this since every Christian painter God has posed for has faithfully captured his divine subject's almighty beardedness. So for example the God of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling has a cloud-grey beard of billowing, streaming magnificence, suggestive of a field of (grey) waving wheat being caressed by a mighty breeze.
A clean-shaven face of God, giving us a boyish, Young-Liberal-looking God, would strike us as implausibly, oxymoronically, even blasphemously weird.
Ian Warden is a Canberra Times columnist
Ian Warden is a Canberra Times columnist
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