When Gallup issued its annual poll of the men Americans most admired in 2014, it featured two improbable names at No. 10: Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. All things considered, 2014 wasn’t a terribly good year for either.
Both found themselves embroiled in conflict and controversy. Both faced international opprobrium. And both exhibited a pugnacity that, diplomatically at least, was hardly considered admirable.
So how did Putin and Netanyahu wind up with enough admirers in this country to place them on the list? The simple answer may be that they exude certitude in an age that reveres it, and views it as strength.
This is the opposite of what we are taught in sophisticated college humanities courses – that certainty is the dominion of fools and knaves. There is no absolute truth, scholars insist, and even if there were, no one could claim a monopoly on it. We are taught to believe in ambiguity, accommodation and a certain kind of intellectual modesty – that just because we may feel something doesn’t make it true or right. This sort of modesty is regularly cited as one hallmark of great thinkers and great people. They understand their limitations. Read more here.