The above title is a bit misleading, but I couldn't think of one that isn't at least somewhat misleading. The one I originally intended was “What does he really want?” However, the one above has more resonance.
I intend to examine a few personality types. No, not Myers-Briggs classifications; those are all too easily understood – and misunderstood. My pigeonholes are more about dominant inclinations: how a member of the category wants to see himself, and how that might be expressed in his occupation, his pastimes, or his associations.
What will result, of course, are generalizations. They won’t be absolutely precise or confining. There will be gray zones around the edges of each one. Some persons will stubbornly, maddeningly refuse to “stay in their box.” But even though they will be inexact, they will be useful as a predictor of tendencies in behavior, which is about all one can ask of a classification scheme for human personalities.
Let’s see if you can deduce the label I’m thinking of for the first one. Please be aware that whatever the gender of the pronoun I use, the person being described could be of either sex.
He’s fairly young, perhaps no more than thirty-five. He might be married, but probably isn’t. He’s very unlikely to have children. If he’s employed, he probably works in an office, at a trade that doesn’t require him to exert himself too greatly or to get his hands dirty. Whatever the working conditions and demands his job imposes on him, he feels unappreciated, ill-treated, and underpaid.
If he’s unmarried, he pours a lot of his time and energy into seeking sexual contact. However, he’s not terribly successful in that realm; few members of the opposite sex find him attractive. More, those that do find him attractive are unlikely to elicit his interest.
His central passion is for politics. His opinions in that sphere are many, firm, and often expressed at the top of his lungs. Chances are that his positions are left-of-center, possibly very much so. But the defining characteristic of his politics is that he must be right. He must prevail in every argument. He cannot abide dissent; if you differ with him, it indicates a characterological deficit in you...and he’ll probably tell you so.
In summary, he is dissatisfied with The Way Things Are. He sees politics as both the reason and the remedy. He wants sweeping changes in law and public policy. However, he’s not interested in making those changes himself; that’s hard work. The changes he has in mind would upset quite a lot of people. They’d take it badly. He could accumulate bruises. No, he’ll confine himself to screaming for others to effect the changes he demands.
It pleases him more than he’ll admit that he’s “out of the mainstream.” He takes that as an indicator of superior wisdom and virtue.
When he’s not working, not engaged with in some sort of political activism, and not seeking a sexual partner, he’s likely to be wholly idle, perhaps sitting before a television or some other form of passive entertainment. Like as not his sleeping hours are irregular.
Do you know him?
Over the century behind us, quite a lot of Americans have passed through a phase of the sort described above. The central thread is politics and political immersion to the point of obsession. The most salient fact of such immersion in the American political order is the underlying, unarticulated conviction that the way to get what one wants is to vote for it.
Don’t bother asking him whether Robinson Crusoe could have voted himself a mansion, a banquet, and a beautiful girl. He’ll only scowl and wave you aside. He might mutter “get real,” as if the survival challenge Crusoe faced, and its implications for his thinking, planning, and conduct, has no relation to the trials of the “real world.”
And there is this: he’s not necessarily on the left politically. There are persons to the right, particularly among self-described libertarians, who fit the profile described here. Their political immersion can be as complete as any Cause Person. They can be quite as unpleasant company as any crusading left-liberal.
Politics, specifically the conviction that politics is the route to all good things, is the key to this category.
One of my favorite posters from Despair, Inc. is this one:
It’s not inconceivable that some persons’ de facto function in this life is exactly that: a bellow to the rest of Mankind not to be like that. But no man is inescapably assigned to such duties. All of us are capable of improvement.
But as Albert Jay Nock has told us, that means self-improvement. The political obsessive isn’t thinking of that. He wants to improve others, to drag them closer to the standards he holds, whether they like it or not (and whether he meets them or not). The desire to improve others leaves no room for a candid examination of one’s own sins and shortcomings.
Let’s call this person the Armchair Rebel.
As I wrote earlier, many Americans have experienced a phase of this sort. The explosion of political activism in the early Twentieth Century, while it wasn’t the birth of the A.R., indicates what occurs when large numbers of persons are taught that the way to get what you want is to vote for it.
Fortunately, obsessive political activism is neither chronic nor fatal. After fifteen or twenty years of ineffective shouting and gesticulating, it usually fades away. However, the sense of dissatisfaction can last a lifetime, permeating all one’s relationships and dividing him from others.
Reality lies almost entirely outside the political sphere. The earlier the A.R. learns this, the better off he’s likely to be.