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12/05/2010 | Antanas Mockus: Is this showoff fit to be Colombia's president?

Carlos Alberto Montaner

Antanas Mockus, the leading candidate in the next elections in Colombia, is a peculiar man.

 

He has a well-earned reputation as a mathematical genius and an honest official. He was twice mayor of Bogotá, a job he performed gloriously, leaving a trail of extravagant efficacy.

The problem is that his personal puzzle contains a disquieting piece for someone who's running for president of his country. Mockus displays a clear personality disorder: He's a show-off.

He had his picture taken in a Superman costume; as a university dean, he bared his bum to some students who shouted at him while he delivered a speech; for some unknown reason (it isn't easy to find an explanation for this), he urinated publicly on a university lawn; and he was married in the main ring of a circus.

There appear to be other, similar episodes, but these are the ones the press has cited most frequently.

Is it worrisome to have a president who's afflicted with histrionics? U.S. psychiatry, which sets the guidelines in these matters, describes histrionics as one of the many personality disorders and treats it with psychotherapy or anti-depressants that control the flow of serotonin.

Histrionics is a comical relative of exhibitionism and choleric hysteria. It also shows up in narcissistic personalities.

According to experts, it is practiced by egotistical persons who have tenuous amorous leanings toward others. Generally, they are beings lacking in inhibition mechanisms, totally uninhibited people who have repressed the sense of ridiculousness in their constant effort to summon attention at all costs.

Why do they do this? The most widespread theory is that they are people who developed outsized egos to compensate for childhood traumas, but all that sounds like Freudian jargon. Actually, nobody knows. Quite simply, there's people like that.

Contemporary history is rich in famous show-offs full of talent. Salvador Dali is the best known example. His long moustache, his madman's stare and his constant quips enriched the gatherings at European cafés for decades. He was a funny genius who had become a professional eccentric.

Dali began his career as a grand show-off when André Breton made the esthetics and the ethics of surrealism fashionable. Among other things, surrealism was literature affected by histrionics and the psychoanalytical discourse.

Around that time, Ramón Gómez de la Serna gave a lecture about an elephant. Two generations later, Andy Warhol inaugurated a paradoxical variant of histrionics; he mixed it with an unexpected dose of timidity and added a gesture of supreme boredom. The surrealist variant of histrionics dissolved into Pop Art.

In a sense, Mockus is the political expression of surrealism. He will not be accused of being a neoliberal but a neosurrealist.

The obvious question is whether histrionics incapacitates the practitioner from becoming a president. I fear it does. It is one thing to be amused by, and smile at, an Oscar Wilde who delivers a speech wearing velvet knickers and a gladiolus on the lapel, and quite another to watch your country's president reviewing the troops in that attire.

After all, among the 20 examples of great contemporary statesmen we know -- from Churchill to Mandela, including Rómulo Betancourt and Oscar Arias, to mention a couple of our people -- there are no show-offs. They all had the sense of decorum that came with the responsibility to lead and represent their compatriots.

In any case, Mockus would not be the first histrionic president in the region. That tribe includes individuals who are ideologically very different from him but similar in their pathological passion to be the center of attention: Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro are two good (or bad) examples. Juan Perón is another.

More than governing, histrionic presidents perform for the gallery. They are always more ready to resort to gestures than to substance. They live to dazzle society, to mock their adversaries and to be admired. They are like sparklers: an intense crackling followed by obscurity and silence.

That's not good.




Miami Herald (Estados Unidos)

 


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