A sycophant is not a mythical animal. When I think of the word my mind's eye conjures up an image of a creature that is similar to but is much larger than an elephant. I envisage a fierce fire breathing monster that has three eyes and six legs and has huge horns on it's head. For some strange reason I perceive it as having blue lizard like scales and a yellow bushy tail.
My imagination is vivid and it is often a wee bit warped. You don't have to tell me this because I know it already.
A sycophant is not a mythical monster though, it is a person who acts obsequiously towards other people. They are servile flatterers and they are fishers. They are mother fishers in fact.
If you are confused by why I am using the term 'fisher' you had best read a previous article I wrote entitled 'Fishing". I am making a valiant effort to reduce my swearing as it apparently upsets my mother and some of the uptight and prudish English with whom I work.
I threw the word 'obsequiously' in there to make you dive for your on-line dictionaries - but I will actually save you the bother. To be obsequious is to be a suck. Think of a teacher's pet or a brown noser. Think of someone who grovels and kowtows to other people to try and impress them. They do this solely to improve their own standing. Such people are fake and are disingenuous.
I don't like them at all.
The word kowtow sounds very Chinese and this is because it's origins are indeed Chinese. The custom of k'o-t'ou is the touching of the ground with one's forehead - it is a sign of respect or reverence to a higher authority. It's literal translation from Mandarin is to "knock the head". "K'o" meaning 'knock' or 'bump' and t'ou meaning 'head'.
The origin of the word sycophant is also interesting. It arose in the fifth century Greek world in the city of Athens. This was a time when Greece was a global financial powerhouse and it was the centre of culture and art and academia. Look at it now. It is an economic basket case.
Where did it all go wrong?
I had an excellent idea awhile back, when Greece first entered their debt crisis. I thought that every country in the world should chip in and build massive Olympic stadiums in Greece, and then we should hold the next twenty Olympic Games there. It is after all the home of the original Olympics. The construction activity alone would create tens of thousands of jobs and it would greatly stimulate the economy. I wrote to the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne in Switzerland with this suggestion but I received no reply.
No one ever listens to me when I have these brilliant ideas.
They mostly mock and scorn me instead.
In ancient Greece the word sykophantes translates to the term a "revealer of figs". It harks back to an era when the ancient Greek government audaciously imposed a ban on the exportation of figs. A rebellious group of fig growers ignored this ban and they were harshly prosecuted. Many were sentenced to death.
Figs were such a precious and highly sought after fruit that there were also severe penalties under Greek law for anyone caught stealing them from fig gardens. The Greek populace were encouraged to inform the Greek police of people that they suspected of being fig thieves.
It was a Gestapo type of action.
Such informers were offered cash bounties by the Greek constabulary for providing the names of suspected fig heisters and some unscrupulous Greeks would dob fig thieves in to the Authorities. These informers were supposedly not well regarded by the common people and they were considered to be slippery and sly and self serving. They were branded sykophantes. It was a derogatory term.
I know a number of sycophants here in Singapore and I know some in Australia and in London and in New York as well. I don't think that they steal figs but they are a global scourge who are morally bankrupt. I know no Greek sycophants though. The Greek people that I do know and who are my friends are kind and generous and wonderful people. They are selfless. The sycophants that I know and who I work with - and who I have worked for - are shallow and slimy and nasty little people. They are ambitious in a most self centered way. They smile sweetly at you and pretend to be your friend and then say terrible and inappropriate things to other people about you behind your back. They do this all in the pursuit of self promotion.
It is not very nice.
I think that setting sycophants on fire would be an appropriate form of justice. The reality is though that most of these people are generally friendless and unhappy and they will inevitably self-immolate through their own immoral conduct. Self immolation is the act of setting oneself on fire.
What would be even better would be for these sycophants to be stampeded by a rampaging herd of enormous three eyed and six legged blue-scaled monsters. I would like to see them gorged and incinerated by creatures that breathe fire.
While they swish their yellow bushy tails.