by: Phil Wolfson on August 16th, 2013 | 2 Comments »
I hate when people say ‘I told you so!’ but as I am now on the giving end, I find this is a bit of redemption that feels pleasurable. My piece that came out at the end of May entitled “The Soiled Men Want Your Vote! And They Think They Can Get It” was criticized by some of my male friends for picking on the Weiner fellow – perhaps because these friends sheepishly identified with him just a tiny bit. My friends claimed that I exaggerated Weiner’s responsibility, as his sexual peccati were not harmful to others and only hurt his own reputation – i.e., victimless follies. Of course, I noted to them that his wife, baby, and family would not be happy with him, but we all have our flaws, they rationalized. And I truly do not have a hard-on for the Weiner. He is a small fish indeed.
And there seems to be a reliable addition of other foolish fellows, most recently including San Diego’s mayor Bob Filner with his unwanted intrusive actions towards his workers, a liberty of action he presumed kosher, lost as he is in his own powerful narcissism. Weiner is but one particle of the host in the cloud chamber – who knows how long they will last and where they are going? Hopefully, towards a rapid decay.
Personalities are hardly the focus of our interest – save as drama, scandal, the ridiculous, and exemplars of the perversion-producing nature of this system. In this sense, I was and am now focused on character and its persistent psychological and social manifestations.
On the individual level, we know it is hard to change and we have rigidities of personality that are often disconcerting, even to ourselves. I expected more revelations from Weiner and the possibility of his exhibitionism continuing. Yes, he could not stop – even after getting caught and suffering grievous harm. There is a lovely shrinky term for this kind of lapse in a presumably otherwise moral human: a superego lacunae, or hole in the fabric. It allows an escape from our otherwise controlled expressions.
Men seem to have this one particularly in the erotic zone, no doubt related to our boar-ing nature, going whole hog after the women in the fields. But in a culture that is tending towards equality, keeping one’s word and holding one’s vows as sacred and part of personal integrity has become ever more important and the excoriations for violations by public figures have become more pronounced, even for lesser violations. This is true much more for the sexual realm than for the realms of economics, power, and rip-offs where vast crimes go unpunished and lacunae are really great lakes of immorality, not just limited holes in the linen. My main point was and is “Money Out of Politics!” since the mainspring empowering the persistence of buffoons and buffoonery in the political landscape is campaign funds from strangely loyal bedfellows, as if there aren’t so many better and unsullied folks capable of moving us in a politically ethical and representative manner.
This brings me to buffoons and buffoonery – from the Italian for puffed up, like Mussolini and his more recent version Berlusconi, the originators of modern camp. Yes, we seem to have a penchant for following blustering, silly-looking baboons, whose clownishness should invalidate and instead seems to enchant. Hitler was the worst of the lot. He takes buffoonery to a new level: killing to purify race into tall blondes while sporting that stupid little mustache, strutting like a goat with hair pomaded across his temples – hardly an Aryan in his sense of race. It didn’t seem to bother his flock, did it? And as the playing field tilts slightly towards the level, women are entering the lists – for example the noteworthies Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin. And I have always voted for Margaret Thatcher as a throwback to Bunckerismo and an English version of Archie’s Edith. Despite the recent cinematic adulation, Ms. Thatcher just came too close to Edith for me.
Men do dominate the ranks. We just got rid of that cosmically destructive buffoon from Libya. Dick Cheney is right up there, as is our former golfing president Gerald Ford, the Bush boy, and Arnold the pumped up, self-trumped up freak terminator, who was entrusted by the electorate (for what reason?). Clinton looked the part in the Monica mistake, forever emblazoned as ‘cigar man’ though he didn’t inhale – well, maybe the cigar. Unfortunately, the list is endless. And there are also the serious, menacing buffoons, like the Donald, the Greenspan, and our lovely Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld’s demeanor was designed to intimidate into subjection, but he was much too heavy and paranoid, so as to make it into a bad show for all of us – a buffoon of menace. So many are. And yet we grant them our votes and our lives. Awful!
This is the main point and the principle question in all of this: namely, our attraction to the buffoons. We have a long history of following them and allowing our Romes to burn. Remember fat Nero. It goes way back. We don’t seem to learn.
Do we identify with the fool? We all have at least a bit of it in us. It is a great liberation to recognize our own personal internal and externalized fool and to allow him/her out. Not to be too hurt by the leaks of foolishness, clumsiness, boorishness, the slob, the stupid commentator, the guy with dead mirror neurons in the bad moment, the trickster who tricks us as well as others. The fool is there in all of us and we need to welcome the fool as a part that we can work with, enjoy, and control from doing harm to others even as we embarrass ourselves – inevitably. The fool is honored – in Shakespeare and throughout at least Western literature as the one who set kings right with the wisdom of mockery; who gets away with taunts and gibes; and who is sometimes beheaded for his indiscretion. ‘Alas, I lost my head’, are the fool’s last words.
The buffoon is pumped up. We are the ones being mocked – anyone who is taken in. The buffoon has arrogance, not wisdom, and his trick is to delude us into believing that arrogance has something to offer. What could that be? Our traumatized wish for recognition? Overcoming our own self-loathing by delusive pomposity? Maybe. It needs more work as it is an important problem – the problem of making certain that we have good, moral, modest, representative, yet charismatic leadership – and that we are all trained for the role. There are so many spots available for good leadership.
My son just won a second term as mayor of Lightning in a Bottle, a 15,000-person festival. He runs on the Love ticket as Paul E. Amori and he is a fine fool – witty and very funny as he makes fun of all convention and buffoonery. I am hoping he will run next for mayor of Los Angeles, where he actually resides. I believe he is capable and he sees the risks of real buffoonery, as he is a fool pretending to be a buffoon. Vote for him if it happens. As a foolish father, eschewing buffoonery, I endorse him and will not ask for favors if he is elected. Nepotism does not run in this family. Unfortunately for me. I am forced to take the moral high ground – actually, in truth, happily.
Phil Wolfson, M.D., is a practicing psychiatrist/psychotherapist in the Bay Area. He is the author of Noe: A Father-Son Song of Love, Life, Sickness, and Death. He is an activist and a contributing editor to Tikkun with a special focus on consciousness studies and consciousness transformation. Website: http://www.philwolfsonmd.com.