Monday, July 12, 2010
Society’s chronic overpassing of the shorter man is, as many other unfortunate habits of human behaviour, explained with all the authority of Darwinian reasoning. Apparently after all this time, physical dominance in males still determines who sits at the top of the pecking order, and women are still searching for able-bodied mates to provide for them and offer protection. Shorter men earn less than taller men, and are less likely to be elected into a position of power; a tall man as leader is seen as being strong and assertive, whereas a shorter man is commonly viewed upon as being a pushy tyrant, accused of suffering a sort of Napoleonic complex (remember Lord Farquaad in Shrek?). Heightism however extends beyond ‘comical’ discrimination, manifesting itself in more severe forms around the world, cited as one of the underlying causes of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. Close to one million people were murdered, and it is believed that one of the reasons that political power had been conferred to the minority Tutsis by the Belgians was because they were taller, and were therefore considered superior and more suited to governance. More recently, the Vietnamese Government launched a $40 million programme, vowing to make its population taller, and therefore more ‘beautiful.’ Women are never cooing over the ‘short, dark and handsome,’ but is this really because of our biological wiring? The idea of glorifying men according to their physical stature seems outrageously primitive, and it may be possible that shorter men are instilling self-fulfilling prophecies constructed by the subconscious prejudices of our societies today.
Our beloved presidents and captains of industry rarely exhibit the broad shoulders, chiseled jaws and Herculean bodies supposedly required for a position of power, so it is very likely that it is not the stature of a person that presents the problem, but rather the constructed bias directed towards the shorter man. Discrimination experts point out that the vast majority of us harbour deeply rooted feelings of negativity towards shorter men, and that heightism is burdened with the same weight as other very important biases such as race bias, or gender bias. When we are young, we become exposed to the discourses of tall boys deferred to the image of maturity, while shorter ones are quickly dismissed as being childlike. The connection between height and status is even embedded into our very language, with respected men of ‘stature’ being ‘looked up to’ amongst his lesser peers. With such ideals forcible instilled into our subconscious, it’s no wonder that many men begin to act accordingly. However, things do appear to go either way. Is it a coincidence that a seemingly disproportionate number of our brilliant thinkers, artists and creatives have stood shorter than the average male? Whether or not as a means of compensating for their apparent shortcomings, shorter men have often made up the greater part of the more interesting personalities in history, and even the unfortunate examples of Charles Manson, Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler and the Marquis de Sade (of which, to me, the lack of ‘fortune’ is quite debatable) do not prove otherwise. The appeal of the following men, all of whom stand under five-feet-five, certainly surpasses the mere incident of being 'cute':
10. Woody Allen
The notorious yet fascinating American screenwriter and director offers a very distinct style to the world of cinema, and is heralded as one of the most influential directors of all time.
9. Ludwig van Beethoven
German composer and pianist Ludwig van Beethoven contributed some of the most stirring compositions, lingering between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western classical music. How would we know drama without Symphony No.5?
8. Pablo Picasso
Co-founder of the radical and influential Cubist movement, the Spanish painter created some of the most moving and terrifying pieces of artwork and is unsurprisingly one of the best known artists of the twentieth century.
7. Charlie Chaplin
The interesting life of Charlie Chaplin undoubtedly came with becoming the largest screen legend of the silent era. Regarded as the "only genius to come out of the movie industry," Chaplin succeeded to bring comedy to a war-torn world.
Writer of the biting French satire Candide, the witty writer and philosopher of the exciting French Enlightenment advocated civil liberties such as freedom of religion and free trade, and is up there (so to speak) with the likes of Locke, Rousseau and Montesquieu.
5. Martin Scorsese
At the forefront of contemporary American cinema, Scorsese captures beauty in violence and reason in madness in his exquisite and provocative films.
His mysterious acts crafted the Hungarian-American magician into no less than a legend. Living and breathing magic, he became a worldwide sensation, and the source of guidance and inspiration for every magician after him.
3. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
As the most enduringly popular composer of classical music, very few could disagree that Mozart’s symphonies rest upon the brink of godliness.
2. T. E. Lawrence
Otherwise known as Lawrence of Arabia, the British Army officer is famous for the dashing role he played in helping the Arabs against the Turks during the First World War.
1. John Keats
England's young, nineteenth century Romantic poet bewitched later writers with sensual imagery and an elaborate choice of words. "I have two luxuries to brood over in my walks, your loveliness and the hour of my death. O that I could have possession of them both in the same minute." - Yes, Keats definitely deserves first place!