Some day I would like to compile a list of utterly meaningless expressions which must be violently crumpled and buried six feet under. (Literary exaggeration). I have written in these columns about the idiocy of using expressions such as “There is no magic wand” or “After all, I am also human.” I am adding to that list, “I am not a superman.”
First, the reference to the context. Raghuram Rajan, the governor of the Reserve Bank of India, was quoted as telling this to audience at an event organized by the Institute of International Finance: "Expectations are high. Clearly, I am not a superman. There is a little bit of euphoria in India."
Writing about “There is no magic wand” I had once said, “Politicians say “there is no magic wand” as if they have tried their hardest to look for one but couldn’t find it. Their tone would suggest barely hidden anguish that there is actually no magic wand and they have the onerous duty to report the tragic finding of their quest to the suckers at large like us. Why do people talk about a magic wand as if it can actually exist? At this point, on a Sunday morning at 5.55 a.m. CST, I cannot think of a more pointless pronouncement in public discourse.”
By some weird quirk, it is 5.55 CST on a Sunday morning when I am writing this fresh rant. In the Washington speech Rajan, whose rise as India’s Fed boss has been received with the kind of effusion normally reserved for movie stars, was also quoted by the Press Trust of India (PTI) as saying, “I have a wife and two kids.” First of all, why does the notion that he is not a superman need repudiation? It is as as self-evident as saying “there is no magic wand.” Just as there is no magic wand, which does not need stating, there is no superman, which too doesn’t need stating.
Also—and I presume that the PTI has quoted him accurately and in the right order—what is the significance of the information that he has a wife and two kids? Is he suggesting that if there were indeed a superman and if it were indeed him, he couldn’t possibly have a wife and two kids? Offering the existence of a wife and two kids as the unimpeachable proof that he is not a superman is strange. I am being anal for the effect and because it is I am in character. Other than that there is nothing personal.
I suspect that those who say such things as “I am not a superman” or “After all, I am also human” have hidden somewhere inside them a grand view of themselves which accords them precisely the kind of attributes and powers that a superhuman is popularly given. By rejecting that view publicly they seem to be actually reaffirming it in their private mind.
It is almost as if such people are saying “Don’t be misled by my enormously impressive talents and accomplishments into thinking that I am god with a magic wand. I am just a frail human being like you after all, with a wife and two kids (or a husband and three kids as the case may be).”
While I am on the subject, check out the news story of the event above. This story has scored widely with the same headline. Apparently, this clarification was urgently needed because an impression had rapidly gained ground that for the first time in India’s history there is a superman as the Fed chief. Now that he has clarified the world can lower its expectations to the more realistic levels of what a mortal man with a wife and two kids can deliver.
P.S.: It is entirely likely that Dr. Rajan too was being sarcastic but then that takes away from the rationale of this little post. So why even consider the possibility?