June 28, 1990


In the rest of us, our insanities are different; we may be partially sane and partially insane concerning a thousand things, but with the monomaniac it appears that all the insanities of his nature are drawn to one centre..., and with regard to all matters which do not touch his pet illusion, he is lucid beyond the average and and almost supernormally logical.

Don Marquis

As I watch the Earth First? drama (or comedy) unfold, I am reminded of the British psychiatrist Wilfred Bion. Many years ago, he performed an experiment to find out what would happen to a therapy group if it had no leader. So he told his groups that henceforth, he would only observe; which is what he did.

What he found was that there was confusion for a while; but before too long, the group elected their own leader. The person they elected was invariably the flakiest member of the group.

I don't remember precisely what he concluded from this but, as I recall, his conclusions were very conservative --a characteristic of most British scientists since Darwin.

I believe that he had discovered a very important Law of Human Behavior: People tend to elect as their leaders, some very zany people.

I want to combine Bion's observation with the conclusions from a story:

A man got a flat tire in front of a mental hospital. He jacked up the car and removed the flat tire. While getting the spare tire out of the trunk, he kicked the wheel nuts into a storm drain. As he stood there swearing, an inmate walked up and asked him what had happened. He explained what had happened, and the inmate said "Why don't you take one nut off of each of the other three wheels; put your wheel on and drive to the gas station, where you can buy some more nuts."

"That's a great idea!" said the man.

He mounted the wheel and, as he was about to leave, he thanked the inmate for his advice and said, "You're pretty smart. What are you doing in a mental hospital?"

"I'm here because I'm crazy; not because I'm stupid!"

These two stories go a long way toward explaining what kinds of leaders people have elected and supported through history. Many have been very clever, and very flaky. Jim Jones and Adolph Hitler certainly weren't stupid.

A person who is simply clever is not likely to want to be a leader; at least not the charismatic leader of a large number of people. It's a much more gratifying life to do one's own thing and to leave the rest of the world more-or-less alone. Leading a few good people, if any, is usually enough to gratify a person's ego.

Mohandras Gandhi was a very good and a very intelligent man. He was obsessed, to the point of mania, with the idea of freedom for his people. Had he not been mistreated in South Africa, he might have lived a relatively placid life as a lawyer. He was loved by his people and was also very very lucky. He was assassinated at 78 years of age.

People aren't born flaky. Events in their lives make it so. A person who was starved as a child may be obsessed with food; claustrophobia may develop in someone who has been locked in a dark closet as a child; sexual aberration often relates to childhood experiences and there are many childhood insecurities which shape adult lives.

Some obsessions come from parents who believe that their child is destined for greatness and imbue him with that drive. In contrast, relatively normal people are content to do their work, raise their families, and lead a reasonable life that has its moments of hardship, pain, happiness and contentment. I say "relatively normal" because I have never met a "normal" person. As the old saying goes: Sometimes I think that the whole world is mad except thee and me, and sometimes I have my doubts about thee. Writing a column is hardly the act of a "normal" person.

Of those who are set on "the road to greatness", a few make history; some grow out of it; some settle for a lot less than their manifest destiny, and a few are murdered. It's a precarious path, that road to glory. A person has to have a screw loose to start out on it in the first place.

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