One-Upmanship - Poem by gershon hepner
Sometimes I just sit and think, man,
thinkman turned into a brinkman
who likes to challenge every point,
until the time is out of joint.
One-upmanship means I don’t shrink
from going closely to the brink,
though told by shrinks that I should take
more care, or somebody will break
my legs and cause a dreadful stink,
and pour my money down the sink,
and turn the profits I have made
to trash and stocks I cannot trade.
Inspired by an article by Marcus Walker in the WSJ, October 21,2009 (“Did Brinkmannship Fell Berlin's Wall? Brinkmann Says It Did: Reporter Claims He, Not an Italian Competitor, Caused an Apparatchik to Err and Open Border”) :
The world believes Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev or peaceful protests brought down the Berlin Wall 20 years ago next month. But for those who had front-row seats, the argument boils down to Ehrman vs. Brinkmann. Riccardo Ehrman, a veteran Italian foreign correspondent, and Peter Brinkmann, a combative German tabloid reporter, both claim they asked the crucial questions at a news conference on Nov.9,1989, that led East German Politburo member Günter Schabowski to make one of the biggest fumbles in modern history. Mr. Schabowski was supposed to announce a temporary bureaucratic procedure that would make it easier for East Germans to travel abroad, a tactic aimed at shoring up the Communist regime in the face of mass demonstrations. Instead, he inadvertently opened the Berlin Wall. When his fellow Communist leaders decided on new travel regulations, Mr. Schabowski was out of the room. Later that evening he skim-read the executive order, stuffed it in his briefcase, and headed off to meet the world's media….
Mr. Brinkmann thought he had picked the best seat in the house: front row and center. The German tabloid reporter occupied the chair with his jacket three hours before the news conference in East Berlin began. Mr. Ehrman arrived so late that all seats were taken, so he sat on the edge of the podium, in full view of the cameras. Mr. Brinkmann, now 64, is trying to fight his way into the history books with a public-relations offensive. He has persuaded some historians and TV documentary makers of his story, and he is spreading the word on Twitter. 'Am angry that Riccardo Ehrman falsely gets the credit for calling out 'When? Immediately? ' when the Wall fell in 1989, ' Mr. Brinkmann tweeted recently. Mr. Ehrman counters that he has never even heard of Mr. Brinkmann. 'Anybody is free to claim whatever they like, but the record is clear, ' Mr. Ehrman says. 'It was a sort of conversation between Schabowski and myself. This, Schabowski admits.'
Terminological note: Oneupmanship is a term coined by Steve Potter, in 1952 as a follow-up to the The Theory and Practice of Gamesmanship (or the Art of Winning Games without Actually Cheating) (1947) and Lifemanship titles in his series of tongue-in-cheek self-help books, and film and television derivatives, that teach various 'ploys' to achieve this. Viewed seriously, it is a phenomenon of group dynamics that can have significant effects in the management field: for instance, manifesting in office politics. The term has been extended to a generic, often punning, extension upmanship used for any assertion of superiority.
© 2009 Gershon Hepner 10/21/09
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