George Sarant

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EGOMANIA AND POWER

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Today’s New York Times, of all places, contains an article about President Obama’s unbridled ego, his hypercompetitiveness, his high opinion of himself, and his need to dominate, even in relatively trivial pursuits. However, “he tends to overestimate his capabilities,” to put it mildly. For a long time I have felt that egomania is one of the most significant negative features of our time, an idea that will be developed in detail subsequently.

 Everything kids are taught and fed today is designed to build and reinforce “self-esteem.”  As a result, we have a population that views itself as the center of the universe, has a sense of entitlement, and often engages in obnoxious behavior as a result. Everything revives around “me,” and “I” is a term you read and hear ad nauseum. The world is viewed entirely through the prism of the self, so that everything is perceived in terms of how it affects or relates to that individual, which determines its place in the hierarchy of values. Everything is perceived in terms of how it relates to “me.” So, for example, in the case of an actor who was informed of the death of a friend, his only reaction was to say that he wasn’t feeling so good either, going on to describe a slight pain he had. But if everyone, or at least many people, go around thinking “I am special,” we wind up with things like aggressive driving and road rage when they are not given their proper due behind the wheel.

But the more severe the pathology, the more one is likely to fall off a cliff at some point, as limitations become unavoidable, and it becomes clear that one is not so special after all. When this recognition is achieved, it essentIally determines how mature a person is, and the best characters learn it sooner rather than later. But a few people go through life never having to deal with a larger reality, as everything they encounter seems to reinforce their special status and confirm their self-perception. It never registers that their situation has come about largely due to luck and they continue to perceive themselves as possessed with some special grace. The result is the kind of megalomania we see with stars and their entourages, or Presidents with their worshipful aides.
However, under such conditions contradictory information tends to get filtered out, reinforcing a sense of invincibility increasingly divorced from reality. That appears to be what is happening in the White House today, with a President who believes he is always right, the best at everything, and inherently great. He was anointed with a Nobel Prize before he even did anything. He was chosen as “the One” by millions around the world. He was validated by a fawning media, which only confirmed the inevitability of his rise. Thus it is unsurprising that he has an overabundance of confidence.
There are, however, “facts on the ground.” He is often described as “eloquent,” which only indicates how far our standards of rhetorical quality have fallen. For he is a mediocre man in a time of mediocrity. His idea of the Presidency is all appearance and ceremony rather than substance, so, for example, he left it to the congress to fashion his unpopular health plan, while he has spent his time almost continuously campaigning with agreeable crowds. When there is such a dynamic in Hollywood it is frivolous, but when coupled with real power in government it is frightening.
Due to the fact that his eminence is constantly reinforced, anything that stands in the way is heretical. Thus, his greatness should not be limited by inconvenient nuisance things like the the Supreme Court and congress, or an obsolete document like the constitution. Given this, we may be headed for catastrophe if he wins the election- not because he would be President again, but because he would feel vindicated to the point where he would feel entitled to rule by decree. He would issue proclamations and presidential orders contravening the other branches of government and possibly precipitate a constitutional crisis, resulting in impeachment proceedings. Then while our government is self-destructing the world would spin out of control; all because we have a man who is not as great as he thinks he is, but there is no one who can convince him of that fact. That is the truth of our situation today, which can only be rectified, perhaps, by the electorate.

 

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Written by georgesarant

September 5, 2012 at 12:08 AM

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