Monday, May 20, 2013

Sanford and Weiner

Two very dissimilar politicians, Mark Sanford and Anthony Weiner, opposite sides of the political spectrum, but very similar in the grandiose narcissism that has guided their paths through public life.

Sanford, the disgraced Republican ex-governor of South Carolina, was recently returned to Congress by the voters in his old district. He vied for the crown of political hypocrisy with a platform of family values and sober, if cruel, budgetary positions. Governor Sanford famously took a hike on the Appalachian Trail. That hike was, of course, a euphemistic lie he purveyed to hide his international extramarital affair.

Weiner, the bombastic populist  Democratic Queens ex-congressman, threw away his promising political career when he sent lewd self portraits of himself via social media to an unknown number of women. Of course, he denied doing this, but this was just a craven lie that did not stop the inevitable truth from coming out, and his late and woeful admission of it.

Sanford has been elected back to Congress, and Weiner is planning to test the waters in an attempt at running for Mayor of NYC. Besides the inescapable question of "Are these the best candidates these parties can come up with?", I wonder about the sheer lack of shame, the unbounded narcissism that these two politicians are operating under, with cheerful self righteousness.

It is breathtaking when you think about it, what characteristics are part and parcel of successful people in our current culture. Honesty, compassion, introspection, personal morality, these are what most people would consider desirable in a public servant, or even in a man of commerce. A trustworthy, straight shooter striving for the betterment of his constituents is the ideal politician. In the case of business, someone who wouldn't sacrifice the safety and well being of their customers, employees or stakeholders in the blind hunt for profits or personal recompense.

The reality is sadly different. In both realms, political and commercial, there is a stinking corruption that corrodes and propels forward the most "successful" of leaders. It's every man for himself, and you better get yours, because if your late, well, tough luck to you, pal.

I don't know what the tipping point will be. While our environment slowly chokes because of a lack of leadership, it seems like the clock is starting to tick a little louder now. Leadership is nowhere to be found, while pathological narcissism rules the day. The coming decades promise to be among the most dangerous in human history, and the best we can do seems to be placing hopelessly broken people in positions of leadership and hoping for the best.

That loudly ticking clock is telling us that time is starting to run out.

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