Thursday, June 24, 2010

Jedi caricatures

I have something of a fascination with people and their meltdowns. This week's nonsense with McChrystal and the Rolling Stone article reminded me of elements of some other situations I'm aware of. That article makes reference to a Newsweek piece referring to the discredited general as a Jedi. Apparently he exists on 4 hours sleep a night and one meal a day. Alarm bells go off in my head when I read about people like that. Monks do that stuff, guys without high stress lives. In soldiers, it's just adding rocks to their rucksack. Let me engage in some armchair pysch for a second and explore some experiences here.

One involves a junior NCM I briefly encountered years ago, the other this guy.

In the first case, the individual in question deported himself to the degree of insane. Not a thread, hair or button out of place. Ever. He insisted on shaving at least twice a day lest his jaw line ever be corrupted by the faintest hint of stubble. I swear his teeth were dressed and sized in single rank by someone trained with a pace-stick. To authority and his peers he looked and behaved like a textbook soldier and then some. But he was weird and insubordinate. Out of sight of authority and his peers, he was a tyrant and pervert. If he didn't like the nature of a given order or standard, he'd let his troops know and then make it all harder for them whilst badmouthing the offending officer or senior NCM. He did some other things too which resulted injured troops and his dismissal.

In the other case, there's Colonel Williams, who looked for all the cameras a Squarejaw T. Hardcastle. First time I saw his photo, I thought, 'Dude you're a Challenger VIP pilot/base commander wandering around in a tactical flight suit and number 2 buzzcut looking like WW3 is about to start and the Queen's gonna call on you to personally to ferry Her Majesty through massed Russian air defences while shooting flying monkeys out of the sky gangsta style with your service pistol. Something's off there.' Pending a guilty verdict, yep.

Now I am not saying the McChrystal is a murderer or cowardly rule-bender per se (although he does appear to have been comfortable lying about the death of his fellow Ranger, Pat Tillman...hmmm). However, all three seem to have held them themselves apart from their peers, as evidenced by their actions. All portrayed a larger than life, too perfect personality, some overt display of 'hardman' syndrome. Either as ultracomformists or rogues, with no wiggle room. And on some level I suspect felt themselves superior to most others around them. And all eventually thundered in to greater or lesser degrees of harm.

My point here is that people cannot sustain the self-imposed stress of maintaining an appearance without it venting somewhere. You cannot have an ego requiring it's own solar system and still be normal. Your psychological engine can't sustain the RPM and fuel burn your it demands, and things start to go wobbly. There's no such thing as the superhuman and in my experience anyone that appears as such probably has some secret. Could be harmless. Could be not. You gotta live. Have your habits. Your place to let your hair down. Chill the fuck out before you go nuts. Get a personality that doesn't look like a checklist. It doesn't mean larger than life characters are a bad thing, but it's the ones who can't turn around and laugh at themselves you gotta worry about.

No comments: