I’ve been having some difficulty writing anything of late. I guess my head’s too full of stuff close to home. The media log-jam of Trump and Brexit still dominates the airwaves, and browsing through old posts recently I came across a near-perfect example of media/political inanity from February 2015. Four years on the news items may be old-hat, but the madness continues.
Originally entitled, “One Human Trait Too Many,” this time I’ve called it simply, “Egomania.”
There’s a problem with the human species. It affects us all, and for most of us it sits simmering under the surface of our characters like a quietly bubbling volcano. There are those, however, from whom it will inevitably break free and erupt with disastrous consequences. The catalyst for this reaction is money, power, and the inevitable, accompanying, arrogance.
The problem is Egotism. It’s the bane of politicians, media personalities, and tycoons the world over, often resulting in their downfall. It’s particularly prevalent among the not-so-bright politicians of our time. They may have scholared at Harvard, or Oxbridge, but success relies more heavily on ‘Daddy’s money’ than anything resembling intelligence. Common sense, once considered a prerequisite for success, has no abode in the brains of these individuals.
Perhaps one of the most famous political figures of late to fall foul of their ego, was 2008 presidential hopeful, Hilary Clinton.
Her account of being ‘under fire’ while on a visit to war-torn Iraq was rapidly discovered to be false.
In just the last few days, NBC news anchor Brian Williams has been forced to eat humble pie after “mis-remembering” his flight in a helicopter he told the world was hit by RPG fire over Iraq.
The chopper he was in was a full hour behind the one that was hit.
Of course, there are psychologists and psychiatrists only too ready to tell us such ‘mis-remembrances’ are perfectly normal, and we can’t be blamed when we get it wrong. Or, is that merely a way of suggesting that no-one ever lies, they simply ‘mis-remember’? If so, then Brian Williams is a true mis-rememberer. In 2006, after reporting for NBC from New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, Williams said in an interview:
“When you look out of your hotel window in the French Quarter and watch a man float by face down, when you see bodies that you last saw in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, and swore to yourself that you would never see in your country.”
He went on to relate how he’d accidentally ingested some of the floodwater and contracted dysentery. Apparently, there was no flooding in the French Quarter (so no body floating past) and no known outbreak of dysentery resulting from the Katrina catastrophe.
‘Mis-remembering’ could be something of a handicap for a news reporter. Does this mean NBC might not be telling us the truth during their news broadcasts? Surely not?
Today’s politicians are not only known for mis-remembering, they’re also easily recognized by acts or statements of gross stupidity. Here, the egotistical are caught out because they try to think – a function of the brain they’re not well practiced at.
Take Republican Senator Thom Tillis, of North Carolina.
He’s just stated that restaurants shouldn’t insist employees wash their hands after using the toilet. Actually, they don’t. Restaurant owners stick a notice in the restroom and leave compliance entirely up to the employee. Even that’s not sufficient for Tillis. His argument is simply that if sufficient customers became sick, then the restaurant would cease to be patronized, and go out of business.
Across the pond, in my UK homeland, the ego reigns supreme among certain politicians who might do well to keep their mouths under firmer control. The present Mayor of London, for instance, Boris de Pfeffel Johnson.
A distant relative of George II, and hence a cousin to the British prime minister, David Cameron, (yes, these bloody aristocrats keep popping up where they’re least expected) he was educated at Eton and Oxford. Does that make him intelligent? Well, not necessarily, in these days of top jobs having more to do with who you know (and are) rather than acquired qualifications, but it does allow the ego to trip one up rather easily when one’s trying hard to be clever, and failing dismally.
Only last week Johnson described members of the Islamic extremist group, ISIS, as “porn watching wankers”.
According to the Guardian newspaper:
Citing a report from MI5 on the profile of jihadis, the mayor of London said: “If you look at all the psychological profiling about bombers, they typically will look at porn. They are literally wankers. Severe onanists.”
Johnson described British jihadis as “tortured” and “very badly adjusted in their relations with women”, something he said was a symptom of “their feeling of being a failure and that the world is against them”.
“They are not making it with girls and so they turn to other forms of spiritual comfort – which of course is no comfort.”
He continued: “They are just young men in desperate need of self-esteem who do not have a particular mission in life, who feel that they are losers and this thing makes them feel strong – like winners.”
Johnson, who is one of the leading candidates to be the next Tory leader, made the comments in an interview with the Sun newspaper a week after he visited the Kurdish regional capital of Irbil to see the Peshmerga fighters who are pushing back against the Isis insurgency in Iraq. The visit, during which he posed for pictures with an AK47, was interpreted as an attempt to demonstrate his credentials as an international statesman…”
Being photographed holding an AK47 is now a prerequisite for statesmanship. Presumably, this would explain where Winston Churchill went wrong.
Johnson’s outburst against ISIS says more about him than it does about the Islamic extremist organization he criticizes. He’s in the running to be the next prime minister of the UK, and probably considers such base language a vote-catcher among the poor, ill-educated, British masses he imagines tip their forelocks to him as he passes. As a sop to his ego, this Eton pseudo-intellectual threw in the noun, “onanist”, just to prove he knows a word the peasants don’t. Etonians would readily recognize it, of course, given that the college is full of them.
Meanwhile, his cousin, British Prime Minister David Cameron, is endeavoring to bolster a flagging ego, not just among British voters but throughout the political landscape of Europe. Notable this week was his lack of invitation to peace talks taking place in Germany, between France, Germany, and Russia, over the future of Ukraine. Mister Cameron has taken pains to deny he was jilted over the affair, though observers have been quick to note a slight quivering of the proverbial stiff upper lip, precariously poised above his somewhat weak and flabby chin.
Ukraine has been a godsend to politicians in the United States. They’ve taken every opportunity to spout egotistical rhetoric designed to quash their political opposition and win votes in 2016. Such are the political stakes that a full-blown war with Russia has already been hinted at, as good old American arrogance and bluster blast commonsense from the playing field.
Only today, according to the BBC, Germany’s Chancellor Merkel upset NATO’s top military ego, US Air Force General Philip Breedlove, by stating her opposition to Washington sending weapons to Ukraine:
The US is considering pleas to send weapons to Ukraine but Mrs Merkel said she could not “imagine any situation in which improved equipment for the Ukrainian army leads to President Putin being so impressed that he believes he will lose militarily”.
The statement put her in opposition to Nato’s top military commander, US Air Force general Philip Breedlove, who told reporters that Western allies should not “preclude out of hand the possibility of the military option”.
All of this leaves one with an impression of today’s world controlled, not by wisdom and commonsense, but solely by the egotism of those in power. Unfortunately, the ego has no commonsense and merely flounders around making one bad judgement after another, its purpose to bolster the macho image of its owner, much as a cockerel struts with puffed out chest around the chickens in his farmyard.
I began this article by stating that the human species has a problem that affects us all. It’s not just politicians and people with power that suffer from the affliction. It’s all of us. Instead of standing up and telling our leaders how stupidly they’re behaving, our egos force us to take sides. We assume positions, usually along political lines, that bolster our own egos, and happily go along with the most ridiculous of ideas because, in some strange way, it makes us feel better and more powerful to do so.
One perfect example of this is American talk radio. The best known ‘radio-jock’ in the nation, Rush Limbaugh, can spout the most ludicrous statements, secure in the knowledge that his many listeners will cling resolutely to his words, without ever attempting to decipher whether they’re utter nonsense, or not.
Perhaps this is merely evolution in action. It seems we have a stark choice. Either, learn to control our egotism, or flounder to inevitable extinction while proudly waving our national flags and singing our anthems, as we sink into the bottomless quicksands of our own arrogance.
 “Clinton under fire: Video contradicts Hillary’s claim she ran from sniper shots in Bosnia” Daily Mail, March 26th 2008
 “US anchor Brian Williams apology for Iraq helicopter story” BBC, February 5th 2015
 “The science behind Brian Williams’s mortifying memory flub” Washington Post, February 5th 2015
 “NBC News anchor Brian Williams’ comments about dead bodies, Hurricane Katrina starting to gain attention, draw scrutiny” New Orleans Advocate, February 7th 2015
 “US senator questions forcing food workers to wash hands” BBC, February 4th 2015
 “Boris Johnson: jihadis are porn-watching ‘wankers'” Guardian, January 30th 2015
 “Cameron under fire in UK for not joining Merkel & Hollande in Moscow, Kiev talks” RT, February 7th 2015
 “Ukraine crisis: ‘Last chance’ for peace says Hollande” BBC, February 7th 2015