Sex, Lies and Politicians
Though millions of dollars of our collective 2 cents have already been spent in the handful of days since “Weinergate” broke, I felt the need to chime in. As any sentient person has noticed, there seems to be an unfortunate correlation between men, power and the desire to “act out” fantasies of intimacy. How can we comprehend the thinking that led to Bill Clinton’s humiliation and Elliot Spitzer’s political implosion? Hasn’t it been made abundantly clear by now that these are career ending choices? Why is the level of risk not penetrating into the otherwise intelligent and accomplished heads of these people?
One oberservation is that it requires a robust level of obtuseness and lack of humility to reach the upper echelons of the political universe. How many of us are so confident in our positions and our ability to articulate them that we’d be willing to go on national television and explain them? They are. How many of us could just shrug off millions of people vehemently disagreeing with every decision that we make? They do. In the Jewish tradition, leaders are reluctantly coaxed out of obscurity because it’s recognized that the people genuinely need them, but none of the greats ever sought office. Moses never formed an exploratory committee to consider running for the number one slot in the Jewish world. Deborah demurred greatly before being dragged into power by the great general Barak. Not so with our elected officials. They want these jobs (and all the great perks and power that go along with them). I think that the combination of their highly inflated egos – which are required to do these jobs – and their sense of entitlement due to their (self-perceived) superior intelligence, charm and political savvy, are creating a class of uber-narcissists. And a true narcissist has no trouble going after exactly what he wants – whatever it is.
Joan Walsh wrote yesterday in Slate that, if the Weiner affair is proven true, “I must never, ever be surprised by the capacity of a male politician to do unbelievably stupid things, things that are at once arrogant, self-indulgent and self-destructive — when it comes to sex.” Fair enough, and perhaps it’s worth trying to understand just what it is that so possess these men (and men in general) when it comes to this facet of life. Mystically speaking, women are more aligned with a spiritual force called binah. Binah is a pragmatic and sensible analytic power. It’s helps us in decision making, grounded and organic thinking and by and large keeps us out of trouble (its no coincidence that our nations jails are (overstuffed) with humans of the male persuasion). Men, on the other hand, are more closely associated with a force called chochma which pushes them towards ever greater levels of expansion and innovation. It also craves uncharted territory to conquer. Both of these forces are, to a degree, present in both men and women and without them we could not function. When they are in balance, they are wonderful and powerful tools to create, enact, produce, reflect and grow from. When they are out of whack they can lead us down dark roads.
In his heart a politician wants to create, give and produce for the world, And the best do that, sometimes despite themselves. The issue is that he frequently believes that he himself is the best thing that he can provide for the people. He is sometimes too expanded by chochma to get out of his own way and his desire for expansion morphs into overreach. The filters that most people have in place to prevent this kind of behavior become overwhelmed and he becomes, as Ms Walsh pointed out, “arrogant, self-indulgent and self-destructive.”
What then might be done to forestall these unfortunate outcomes? The Mishna in Ethics of our Fathers offers some advice. First, strive to be the kind of person who shuns rulership, as it says “love work, despise lordliness and do not become overly familiar with the government.” Sounds right.
Second, how about an antidote to that overactive tendency towards expansion that can give way to live or online indiscretion? How about “the more flesh, the more worms?” A tad morbid, so I’ll just go with “consider three things and you will not come into the grip of sin: know what is above you: A watchful eye, an attentive ear, and all your deeds are recorded in a book [or on Twitter].”