Streetwise Professor

January 20, 2009

Cult of Personality

Filed under: Politics — The Professor @ 9:47 pm

The idolatrous euphoria over Obama has led me to wonder why the left/statists/”progressives” are so much more likely to fall under the thrall of personality cults than conservatives/libertarians.  One thought that comes to mind is that such folks do not believe in original sin, the fundamental corruption of men (and women); they believe in human perfectibility and the ability to achieve heaven here on earth through political means.  As a result, they believe that a human messiah is a real possibility; anxiously await his (or her) arrival; and are susceptible to projecting their heartfelt hopes and wishes onto those who (cynically?) appeal to those hopes.  

Dunno.  Just a guess.

Speaking of the Obama idolatry, and his conscious efforts to associate himself with secular saints, I got a laugh out of his retracing Lincoln’s path to his first inauguration from Philadelphia to Washington.  The re-enactment was lacking a few authentic touches.  Most notably, fearing assassination in fervently secessionist/pro-Southern Baltimore, Lincoln dodged the crowd in the Maryland city, leaving the train incognito a few stops before his scheduled arrival in the city’s main train station.  (Southern wags trafficked the story that Lincoln disguised himself as a Scotsman, in a quilt and ‘tam to make good his getaway.)  Didn’t read about Obama doing that;-) (Whoops–I guess I owe another royalty to that Russian advertising dude.)

Anyways, back to the main theme of this post–I find personality cults very creepy.  Very.  They betray a fundamental unseriousness and immaturity.  Moreover, they tend to have pernicious effects.  If the object of affection disappoints, as is almost inevitable, fury usually follows.  This fury is either directed at the fallen idol, or at those who are deemed to have thwarted him from achieving his/her noble mission.  In the current political and economic environment, I think that (a) failure to realize hopes and expectations is a given, and (b) the resulting fury will be great, and will be directed not so much at Obama, as at those who have the temerity to suggest that the messiah has no clothes.

And, that happy thought concluded, the theme music for this post.

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  1. Shhh… You have written the apocrypha of the day Professor, lol. I think of this as the Kool-Aid principle. Some type of Kool-Aid works for every person, to help them into a temporary utopia. Right now the Obama Kool-Aid is proving to be an effective placebo. Hopefully, the economy will improve by the time the effect of the kool-aid wears off.

    I think religion is the greatest/most pragmatic kool-aid / personality cult ever invented. And we all know that civilization would never have progressed this far without that kool-aid.

    Comment by Surya — January 21, 2009 @ 12:03 am

  2. The word you seek is ‘kilt’, not ‘quilt’

    Comment by KMcC — January 21, 2009 @ 6:42 am

  3. KMcC–LOL. Speed kills! Glad you’re reading so closely–want to be my copy editor?;-)

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — January 21, 2009 @ 7:53 am

  4. Surya–Yes, as someone who takes something of an instrumentalist view of religion I see your point. Here’s a key difference though. As Paul Johnson noted in his history of the 20th century, Modern Times, as opposed to religions (except for millenarian ones), personality cults have an “imminent eschatology”–they promise perfection on earth now, or in the very near future. The inevitable failure of this earthly paradise to appear has pernicious effects, e.g., disillusionment and a search for scapegoats (think of the campaigns against “wreckers” in the Stalin period). That’s what concerns me.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — January 21, 2009 @ 12:26 pm

  5. (It was asmall point and I’d have sent it to you discreetly but I can’t find your email address on the site)

    Comment by KMcC — January 21, 2009 @ 12:33 pm

  6. oops – ‘a small’ not asmall, obviously. Keed spills indeed

    Comment by KMcC — January 21, 2009 @ 12:33 pm

  7. The Cult of Obama has been media driven. They annointed and protected him from the very beginning. We’ve got a long arduous slog through a very bad recession in the coming years. Obama owns that mess now. So far he and the Democrats haven’t been making very good economic decisions in my opinion. Bailing out Detroit was stupid. I’m more concerned at Obama’s desire to create 600,000 public sector jobs because it moves us closer to the European model of socialism with all of the stagnation and other problems that follow.

    I may be wrong, but, I lived through the Carter years of economic and foreign policy ineptness. We didn’t have a MSM then that was as rabidly partisan. If Obama turns out as badly as I think he will I doubt the media will throw him under the bus.

    Comment by penny — January 21, 2009 @ 2:55 pm

  8. Yes Professor, scapegoatism is very scary and a large government is one of the places where it would flourish. And Obama is repeatedly hedging himself, constantly reminding everyone, how difficult the situation is.

    On a related note, I have another question. How much has the contribution of outsourcing been to this crisis? Outsourcing is locally profitable. Taken at a company level, it cut costs by seeking labor at the cheapest location, not necessarily where its market lies. If more and more companies do the same, they would collectively reduce the purchasing power of their market (McDonald’s jobs versus Ford). In the end, the demand for their products would reduce. How can companies tackle this issue (this is for sure some kind of game theory question a la Nash).

    Comment by Surya — January 21, 2009 @ 7:45 pm

  9. Reading my comment again, I guess I should have said on a “non related note” 🙂

    Comment by Surya — January 22, 2009 @ 8:37 pm

  10. Best advice ever:

    Put not your faith in princes, in sons of man
    In whom there is no salvation.

    (from the Bible – and, no, I’m not a thumper of the Bible)

    Comment by elmer — January 22, 2009 @ 10:51 pm

  11. Amen, Elmer (and I don’t thump either–just a believer in the tragic/fallen nature of man, with belief based on empirical observation).

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — January 22, 2009 @ 11:42 pm

  12. The old, stern WASPs around him will surely limit the damage.

    Comment by So? — January 23, 2009 @ 8:27 pm

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