Pericles in the funeral oration for the first Athenians to fall during the Peloponnesian War said
Our constitution is called a democracy because power is in the hands not of a minority but of the whole people. When it is a question of settling private disputes, everyone is equal before the law; when it is a question of putting one person before another in positions of public responsibility, what counts is not membership of a particular class, but the actual ability which the man possesses. No one, so long as he has it in him to be of service to the state, is kept in political obscurity because of poverty. And, just as our political life is free and open, so is our day-to-day life in our relations with each other…We are free and tolerant in our private lives; but in public affairs we keep to the law. This is because it commands our deep respect.
This speech sets out, eloquently, the Athenian ideal of government and also of day-to-day life. This is the same ideal that continues to fire all Western Democracies until this past month. It is important to note that it is an ideal, something that shines as a goal, something that is not wholly realizable, that escapes all our attempts to totally fulfill as a matter of practical execution. Athenians did not apply this ideal to slaves in their time nor did the founding fathers of the American version apply this to Africans living in the New World. But, since this constitution is an ideal it has the capacity to be expanded to become inclusive so that Africans in the USA, other minorities can become citizens within this description. That is until 20 January 2017.
The new regime, because properly speaking, that is what the Great Leader’s government is, will soon become a junta, if the Great Leader gets his way. The Great Leader has every intention of severing the long link to the Athenian ideal. And the easiest, smoothest road to perdition is by identifying a group, any group as Other, as the enemy. In this way, citizenship, freedom and humanity are stripped from a small group, a minority to start with. But, the ultimate desire is to have total power, to secure authoritarian rule, to govern by Decree and Fiat. Discussion, debate, politics will be abjured. The press is already in the line of fire for standing in the way of despotism. Pericles’ ideal is not the model that the Great Leader seeks. In his vision, being human is not universal, it is only an attribute that people like him possess.
Who is “other” in this scheme? It is much easier to start with anyone with visible difference, a darker shade of melanin will suffice, a different religion, facing east and bowing low, anyone who is not one of us, an “immigrant” perhaps? And why does this despicable method work?
At one level, it is one of the most primitive principles in the animal kingdom, the xenophobic principle (E.O.Wilson).
The sight of an alien bird, for example, energises a flock of Canada geese, evoking a full panoply of threat displays accompanied by repeated mass approaches and retreats…A new bird introduced into an organized [chicken] flock will, unless it is unusually vigorous, suffer attacks for days on end whilst being forced down on to the lowest status.
The human equivalent is well demonstrated in the crowds that gather at the Great Leader’s rallies. That is the level of regression that the Great Leader’s crowds operate at and that’s not surprising- chanting in unison is designed to subjugate the rational senses so that poisonous ideas can take root. You now understand the role of the chant ‘Lock her up’, ‘Build the Wall’ and more recently ‘Fake News’. These are hypnosis inducing techniques that the Great Leader has mastered and uses effectively to great effect upon his self-selected subjects. These are the people who no longer regard themselves as citizens but rather are subjects in the sense of being subject to his powers and menaces. They have given up all authority, all autonomy.
It is true that the xenophobic principle is alive within human groups. Outsiders, no matter how defined are “other” and can be cast as an evil, monolithic force. The language used can dehumanize so that the “other” can be brutally treated, indeed killed without conscience. The systematic work to render all “immigrants” as “other” is ongoing. Next will be transportation, concentration camps, and murder. After all, these are “immigrants” and they are criminals, gang members, who murder and rape our women!
What is astonishing is that this insidious destruction of fealty is being executed in our presence, not at night, on trains away in a remote siding and a camp out of sight, but the assault, on common decency, was carried and is being carried out at airports, both at home and abroad, by perfectly normal and decent people. That’s the surprise and the shame.
Racism and entrenched xenophobia, not as a group phenomenon, but as an individual affliction, a malignant disease currently, like the plague, distempering those close to the Great Leader is another matter all together. You have to imagine the lowest form of self-esteem, think of the sludge at the bottom of a pond or canal, dark, filthy and foetid, then you have a grasp of the inner life of the afflicted. This is a grave condition, near fatal except for the possibility of describing another class (and it has to be a class) of people as not human and therefore without any effort our racists, the Great Leader’s team, can be better than some other human being. This monumental delusion can only be sustained by great effort of will. Hence, the gargantuan energy expended dressing up as Ku Klux Klan, or in the case of Aryan the Younger, wearing a brilliant white shirt, a dark tie, an over tidy hair and an erect stance, a caricature of the SS if there was ever one. But, the best exemplar is the Great Wizard himself, untidy, obese, unshaven, grotesque and deplorable on any scale- he hasn’t the energy to hide or dissemble the foul odours of his inner life. He is recognizably unpleasant. The inner pathology is actually quite simple- we have deep self-hatred that can only be assuaged by the hatred of others.
The Great Leader is in a very different category indeed. Our two-year old feeds on attention, the lust for the limelight is insatiable as is the belief that only his needs matter and sadly that he is the only sentient being in the universe. Allied to this is the unmistakable terror that he does not exist, that only when he occupies central station and is beyond doubt illuminated by the spotlight does he feel alive, just as some people need to self-cut, to see blood flow in order to re-affirm that they are alive and exist. The Great Leader’s lust for the spotlight is a malignant equivalent of this- deprived of this lifeblood, his very being is under threat, hence the impulse to be centre stage, and it does not much matter how this impulse is served. Lying is just one of the many schemes that call attention to the Great Leader. There are, of course, several motivations for the lying, as we say this sickness is over determined as to its origins.
The deep sense of emptiness, the terror of being non-existent, the dread that has no ready name but that is experienced as near annihilation, the impoverished spirit, hollow and already corrupted, and the mask of confidence that is just that, a mask that slips all too easily and that has to be supported by props: an executive table, a pen, paper, a football or baseball cap, mannerisms that are jerky and language that is stripped to mere grunts and single words, eschewing grammar and order. These are the props that mask utter unspeakable terror, an emptiness that clings like spittle to a non-existent self.
And as for relationships, think of the mimicry that infects the likes of Farage and Gove such that they leave their adult and responsible selves behind and pose for photos that undermine their integrity forever. Actually that belittle them, reducing any significance they previous had to no more than mere postscript in history. This mimicry, best described as echopraxia is how the Great Leader has chosen to undermine whatever autonomy these men had before appearing with him in photos.
As for the Vicar’s Daughter, hand in hand, fingers clutching, she was defiled in full view of the world. The Great Leader shows no sign of affection for his consort, except where it is stage-managed. He never or rarely looks at her, never openly seeks her comfort or interest, yet he is hand holding with the Vicar’s Daughter in record time. Think pollution, think moral corruption, think an un-washable stain. The Vicar’s Daughter’s moral rectitude forever compromised.
What can we learn from these encounters? Simply that the Great Leader is a mortally serious disease that seeks to infect and destroy whatever moral compass an individual has. But, that also the Great Leader’s relationships are at considerable risk of moral death. World leaders be warned.
Finally I want to turn to that matter of chaos. I was taught once that the physical three-dimensional world is the visible projection, the instantiated version of an individual’s inner life. And what can we say about the Great Leader from his isolation in the cavernous spaces of the White House, the absence of light, the scrambling for light at night, the need for rivalry and dysfunction between the members of his entourage, the restless frenzy and impetuous twitter finger, the reliance on tabloid sensationalism for information and the disdain for truth, for honest reporting and hunger for triumph and accolade in the face of defeat and dislike. The real uncoordinated, stuttering engine of his reality, all the witnessed impropriety and failures of judgment and the misjudgments and idiosyncrasies, what do they say abut the Great Leader? We can say that these visible chaotic architectures of his manifest physical world are but mere and trivial reflections of the chaos inside. Mind you, the inner chaos is several magnitudes more severe and destructive.
Photos by Jan Oyebode