How Dangerous Personalities are Destroying Democracy

We are living in the age of the narcissistic leader. In this talk Ian Hughes explains how leaders with dangerous personality disorders – psychopaths and those with narcissistic and paranoid conditions – are rising to power and destroying democracy.

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Democracy in Crisis and Why Democracy Matters

Educate the next generation so as to cope intellectually, morally, and politically with the messiness and complexity of the world.

            Yehuda Elkana

In developing democracy in the United States and Europe over the last few centuries, the people of both continents have forged five fundamental safeguards against the tyranny of those with dangerous personality disorders. These safeguards are: representative democracy, in which leaders are freely elected and freely removed by the people; the separation of church and state, which limits the ability of tyrants to wield the power of the state on behalf of sectarian causes; social democracy, in which the state has the responsibility to redistribute wealth in order to minimise poverty and ensure social cohesion; pooled sovereignty, which reduces nationalist sentiment and deprives tyrants of a rallying cry to arms; and the protection of individual human rights in law, including the rights of minorities, which deprives tyrants of their most vulnerable scapegoats. Although the mix of safeguards varies between the United States and Europe, and between countries in Europe, they together characterise the Western democratic model.   Continue reading

Fire and fury: the psychodrama of a very stable genius

This article first appeared on Open Democracy Transformation

The release of Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury has heightened concerns about Donald Trump’s mental fitness for office. In her review of the book for the Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin says that it shows Trump to be “an unhinged man-child utterly lacking in the skill needed to be president”—despite Trump’s assertion that in fact he’s a “very stable genius.”

In the Guardian, Jonathan Freedland writes that Wolff’s revelations “prove—yet again—what a vile, narcissistic and dangerous man we have in the Oval Office.” And in the New Yorker, Masha Gessen, warns that Trump’s White House is “waging a daily assault on the public’s sense of sanity, decency, and cohesion. It makes us feel crazy.”

Is there any way to get beneath the daily assault on our sanity and try to understand what might be driving the chaos of the Trump Presidency? A good place to start is with the word that many say best sums up the man, which is narcissismContinue reading

The Solution to Democracy’s Crisis is More Democracy

A version of this article appears in the May edition of Village magazine.

Whatever else it is, Trump’s chaotic post-truth presidency is a gift for psychologists. Under their code of ethics, psychologists are not allowed to make pronouncements about the mental health of public figures. Despite this rule, thousands of psychotherapists in the U.S. have come together in Citizen Therapists Against Trumpism to warn about Trump’s dubious mental health. Psychology professors from top U.S. universities have also broken ranks to voice their clinical opinion that Trump suffers from a dangerous mental disorder.    Continue reading

Democracy as a Defence against Tyranny

The foundations of our modern system of democracy were first put in place in ancient Athens. Athenian society was never fully democratic in the way that we would understand a democratic society today. Slavery remained widespread, women were never allowed to participate in political affairs, and the elite who were eligible to take part in the democratic decision-making processes of the state never made up more than ten percent of the entire population. Despite these shortcomings, the Athenians established some of the fundamental principles of democratic government.   Continue reading