Facial hair and foreign policy

You may notice that a few of your pals and colleagues are a little bit hairier than usual this month. The annual charity event Movember encourages men to grow mustaches to lift money and awareness for men's health issues, particularly prostate cancer and depression.

Even Luna Park adds a bit of pleasure to this month.

As far as philanthropic gimmicks go, Movember is among the finest within the business. It's cool for once, give it a little bit time. During the opposite eleven months of the yr, mustachioed residents are teased for his or her face coverings.

But elsewhere on this planet, facial hair has deep political and cultural meanings and has been the topic of international incidents.

Tradition and modernity

There's nothing like a mustache to indicate that you simply're serious about Middle Eastern culture.

President Assad is making a press release along with his facial hair.
EPA/Harish Tyagi

There the mustache represents the boundary between tradition and modernity. Promising reforms through the Arab Spring while clean-shaven was a symbolic gesture by Syrian President Assad. He desired to persuade the West and the youth of his country that he was serious.

In Iraq, men literally swear by their mustaches to seal a deal. Knowing that helps makes one understand an uncomfortable moment leading as much as the 2003 Iraq War.

At a world meeting lower than a month before the US-led invasion Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, certainly one of Saddam's top surrogates, was offended at Kuwait's decision to permit U.S. troops to assemble on its territory. He shouted to a member of a Kuwaiti delegation: “Curse your mustache, you traitor!”

Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri insulted a Kuwaiti by cursing his mustache.
EPA/Jamal Nasrallah

This was interpreted as greater than a straightforward threat. Western journalists supposed The subtext was that the Kuwaiti representative was “not man enough to deserve the mustache he wore” and, by extension, his country's policy of appeasing the American military was cowardly and dishonorable.

The military 'mo

This lesson in regards to the importance of facial hair in Middle East diplomacy was not lost on the American military. From 2001 to 2010, U.S. Special Forces soldiers in Afghanistan were at all times eager about winning hearts and minds Ken doll They wore the looks of a soldier and maintained bushy beards as an indication of respect for the local culture.

Last yr, senior leadership decided that despite supporting the mission, the looks was “unprofessional” and so were the soldiers ordered to shave. A Green Beret team leader said a US journalist that “growing a beard helps us enormously.” Now,” he lamented, “we look no different than the British or Russians before us.”

The regular US military also tested the beard in Iraq. In 2004, soldiers in Fallujah grew beards. But as violence increased in the world, some concluded that facial hair diplomacy was not a part of a soldier's job description. According to Sergeant Cameron Lefter“When you go to fight, it’s time to shoot – not to make friends with people.”

Growing beards helps foreign forces mix into the local culture in Afghanistan.
Flickr/The US Army

Australians in Afghanistan

The fate of the beardless soldier has also prolonged to Australian forces in Afghanistan. Despite the severe water shortage, soldiers are ordered to shave each day. In fact, the commanding officer of Mentoring Task Force 3 in Uruzgan Province was so concerned about compliance with shaving standards that he insisted that his subordinates sign an order that read, “Be a professional soldier, not a pirate.” The signatories made quickly placed on T-shirts that mocked the order. But it’s unlikely that our boys in Uruzgan might be at Movember this yr.

When it involves winning respect, not battles, the mustache has proven to be the unlikeliest secret weapon within the US arsenal.

Animal attraction

More than 200 years ago, certainly one of the few successful diplomats in America's first conflict with a Muslim nation wrote in regards to the importance of his mustache in negotiations.

1795 poet and diplomat Joel Barlow was sent to Algiers to secure the liberty of the greater than 150 American sailors trapped there.

Joel Barlow recognized the importance of his mustache in his diplomatic work.

When he returned to the United States after a successful mission in August 1797, he wrote the next letter to his wife:

“I wear big moustaches, long, nice and black (although a little bit gray). Would you want me to chop them here, or would you prefer to see them and cut them yourself? Tell me and I’ll obey you without the slightest resistance. I bet you'll tell me to chop them off here and I bet you'll be right.

“Do I even have to let you know why I left her? There is a saying that’s all too true, despite the fact that it is rather humiliating for humanity: Whoever makes himself a lamb, the wolf eats. No a part of this saying is as useful as in barbarism. I used to be serious about getting there, and since I’m a lamb at heart, it was obligatory to cover this character under the guise of one other animal. And my mustaches give me the look of a tiger pretty much, [a] Animal that the wolf doesn’t eat. You have been very useful in my affairs. I pay them no price except as a sole souvenir of the services they’ve rendered to me. I’ll lay them in your altar and proclaim their fate…”

protest power

Mustache culture has been vital throughout the centuries.

Just as facial hair has been used as a tool to ingratiate oneself into one other culture, it has also been used for international, cross-cultural political protest.

To defuse a political conflict, the British governor of Uganda exiled the family in 1953 King of the Buganda region. The king's male subjects vowed to grow beards and hair until his return.

Some of them were employed within the Ugandan civil service, prompting the governor to complain that the rough appearance was not befitting Her Majesty's civil servants. Still, the beards remained.

Within two years, this unconventional protest succeeded in ending the king's exile, and the “gang of bearded men” decided to fulfill at Entebbe airport and shave their beards together when the king's plane landed. Contrary to the cultural custom that the king was not allowed to the touch one other man's haircuts, the piles of shaved beards were picked up from the airport floor and used as stuffing for a pillow, which the king graciously accepted.

Add identity

The mustache was once very vital for Europeans.
AFP/Jonathan Nackstrand

Before Christopher Columbus “discovered America” in 1492, Westerners were bearded and “exotic foreigners” were clean-shaven. The biographer of Columbus, Bartolomé de las Casas, managed to summarize his diary and reveal the bearded Columbus's first meeting with the natives of the Bahamas:

“The Indians who were afraid [the Spaniard’s] beards, by their whiteness and by their clothing. They went to the bearded men, especially the Admiral… and they reached out to their beards and marveled at them as them [the Indians] I never have them and I watch very carefully the whiteness of their hands and faces.”

Thus, the beard became a vital a part of European identity while representing wild cultures in earlier and later centuries. But for a time, native civilizations from South America to Canada referred to Europeans as “the ugly bearded ones.”

Facial hair politics took a violent turn within the late sixteenth century when two Portuguese traders were captured after a fight with Tupinambá Indians in Brazil. The custom of the Tupinambá was to pluck out their hair because it grew on any a part of their body. Realizing the importance the Portuguese attached to their beards, they decided to tear out their captives' beards as a final humiliation before murdering them.

So this Movember, remember the plush international history of facial hair. its embodiment of masculinity and culture, its role in diplomacy and the shame that it must end on November thirtieth.

You probably won't have the option to grow it before November thirtieth. But try it. It's for an excellent cause.

image credit : theconversation.com