The Symbols Of Power Are Not Substitutes For Real Power

Some are tempted to confuse the symbols of power with the reality of power.  They are not the same thing.  Power is the one thing that cannot be faked.  For a time, perhaps, the bluffer can maintain an illusion of authority; he can go through his empty pantomime, imagining he is fooling everyone; but sooner or later, the truth will shine through.  And then he will discover that the only one who has been deceived is himself.  Symbolism, bombast, and slight-of-hand are no substitutes for the real thing.  Some anecdotes from the historian Ammianus Marcellinus, so often mentioned in these pages, help us to reinforce this point.

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