As my old mate Sam T told me in his comment on my discussion last week of all the forms of dementia I could think of, the most troubling of them all had somehow slipped my mind.
And this lapse really started me wondering, indeed worrying. How could I have been so blinkered in my thinking as to focus on such syndromes as he-mentia, shementia, cementia, sedimentia, academentia and doughmentia to the exclusion of the the most fundamental human mentia of them all, me-mentia?
The answer, I’m afraid, is that it was probably a case of so-called ‘Freudian forgetfulness’, or what Freud himself called repression, of the shame I feel at how self-centred and self-interested I see myself as still being despite my best efforts to minimize such symptoms of my own me-mentia.
Not that I haven’t made some progress toward sanity in this regard. For example, I fancy myself an exception to Logan Pearsall Smith’s devastating contention that ‘every author, however modest, keeps a most outrageous vanity chained like a madman in the padded cell of his breast.’
And even if self-awareness of my literary limitations is ever insufficient to keep my ego in check in this regard, I can always remind myself that I’m a mere columnist, not an author, and in any case I can always rely on readers like the aforementioned Sam T to bring me back to my senses.
That being said, however, it’s an inescapable fact of life that every one of us needs certain basic feelings of self-worth and self-care to enable us to successfully compete with our fellows for the food, drink, shelter and whatever else we need to survive and if possible thrive.
But unfortunately, as the great German philosopher Immanuel Kant argued in distinguishing us from other animals, physical ‘needs’ can be satisfied, but the human mind endlessly invents ‘wants’ that it proceeds to imagine are further needs and thus is capable of an infinity of insatiable greeds.
And not just material greeds, but also and perhaps more problematically, psychological ones, as postulated by the great psychoanalyst Alfred Adler in his rebuttal of Sigmund Freud’s theory of the primacy of so-called ‘infant sexuality’ in the human psyche, with his perception that infantile powerlessness, or what he called ‘inferiority’, motivates a lifelong struggle for ‘superiority’.
Happily for most of us, our greeds for economic, social and other forms of superiority are kept within at least somewhat sensible bounds by a combination of competitive pressure from our peers, the limitations of our talents, energies or opportunities, and even, in some cases, ethical regard for the rights of others as well as for ourselves.
Rights that are enshrined in the ‘social contracts’ to which those of us sufficiently fortunate as enjoy civilized forms of government are party, and that underpin the civil and criminal laws designed to protect us against the worst excesses of our own and others’ me-mentias.
A situation that is very far from the case indeed in Malaysia, or perhaps that should be Me-laysia, considering how me-mented to the extent of megalomanic the members and supporters of its perennially-ruling Umno/BN regime so clearly are.
Dr M for Madhathir the destroyed both the social contract and the rule of law in Malaysia during his 22 years as prime minister of the country, and his current successor, Najib Abdul Razak has now further transformed it further into his own, personal 1Me-laysia in which he and his accomplices and accessories in the massive 1MDB and sundry other frauds have abolished not only the rule of law but such concepts as justice and truth in favour of their own self-interest.
And, to add insult to injury, also self-indulgence, as witnessed by the lavish celebrations, jet-set lifestyle and international shopping sprees to which Najib and his spouse have treated themselves and their entourages.
Plus, even more insultingly to the Malaysian people, the privilege of indulging in every conceivable falsehood concerning their alleged crimes, from outright denial that anything is amiss, to supporting squads of paid apologists, propagandists and outright perjurers in politics, the civil services and the press for the purpose of misleading the people.
Meanwhile, another supreme example of me-mentia is busy is on some apparently psychotic project to turn the You-nited States of America into the Me-nited States of Donald Trump.
Fortunately for sane US citizens and the rest of the world, however, Trump has the same Department of Justice to contend with as Najib Abdul Razak and his 1MDB gang do; his manic tweeting is making him more of a laughing-stock by the day; his bizarre peace-pilgrimage-cum-arms-sales-mission to Saudi Arabia was a grim global joke; and now, today as I write this, I see he has even outraged the golfing fraternity by driving his buggy over some putting greens.
What the late, great Alfred Adler would diagnose as the source of the de-mented senses of self-importance and entitlement demonstrated by Najib, Trump and their ilk in the Russian, North Korean and other ruling regimes is anybody’s guess.
Do they have superiority complexes arising from inherited privilege? Or are they massively and pathologically over-compensating for inferiority complexes caused by overly-repressive parenting or deep-seated suspicions or outright convictions that they’re somehow truly inferior?
Who knows? And, come to that, who cares? Just as long as the rest of us can overcome our own petty personal me-mentias for long enough, and in sufficiently large numbers, to put these egomanic, megalomanic me-maniacs in their place, which in every case appears to be some institution, be it penal, psychiatric or a combination of both.