Saturday, January 15, 2011
I wasn't really expecting an instalink regarding my latest ruminations on our dear Professor Krugman, but as there was one, I think it prudent to be clear on what I'm not saying. I'm not saying K is schizophrenic or has any tendencies that way. I was merely noting the rather ironic similarity (although one hopes very different in intensity) between the lack of insight a schizophrenic has and the lack of insight K displays about his confusion of genuine conscience and an overpowering sense of one's own moral superiority. Actually, I would argue being a person of conscience, let alone something like a leading conscience of one's generation or nation, is nearly the opposite of supposing oneself to be greatly morally superior to others. Like most people, I regard people who suppose themselves to be greatly morally superior to others, especially when it seems if anything they are rather worse than most, a peculiarly obnoxious trait. K stands out in my mind as one of these people.
(I am not any sort of mental health expert, though for the little it is worth, I actually did represent a paranoid schizophrenic who had improperly, though probably wisely, been incarcerated in a maximum security mental facility (what used to be called a facility for the "criminally insane") and, I regret to say, got him sprung. This was at the mental health legal clinic at the good old the Yale Law School. I wonder what became of Chris; probably nothing good.) My more general point is that schizophrenics in a way seem to have in a much greater magnitude traits and tendencies that many of us have to a degree. Lots of people indulge in magical thinking, while schizophrenics seem to live in a kind of magical world, or some of them do.)
I have tried a little lately to get my arms around this idea of "I am really a kind of moral wonder; truly morally superior to most people" sense that some people have, and how it relates to politics. Happily I don't think it is a very widespread trait, but where you encounter it, it's beastly. You see some of it on the right, in the form of certain very religious sorts who think all but themselves are bound for hell, but even there I think it's pretty rare. You definitely can encounter it among academics but I have made such efforts to avoid it that I personally seldom come across it -- but if I do, at an ill chosen conference or something, I just flee, as I would a restaurant with an alarming smell. You see it sometimes among certain old school Progressives, a movement that grew in part out of fervent evangelical busy bodyness turned national movement. But I don't have anything like a theory of it; just a wish that I had one.