August 11, 2007

Lashing out in Montevideo

Quico says: Reading through the transcript of Chávez's speech in Uruguay on August the 8th - sorry, no link, I got it via email - is genuinely frightening. Not so much for the lunatic political rants sprinkled throughout as for what it shows about Chávez's mental state these days, about his increasing paranoia, his sense of victimhood, his serial bullying, about the bizarre extremes his narcissism has reached.

Certainly, his propensity to fly off the handle when he can't get what he wants has always been clear. But, in Uruguay, his outsized sense of personal grievance reached a scary new plateau.

In one especially telling riff, he railed against the media for lying when they said he'd given a ultimatum to the Brazilian and Paraguayan parliaments over Venezuela's accession to Mercosur. And how did such a queer idea wriggle its way into journos' minds? Merely because Chávez announced Venezuela is only interested in joining Mercosur if it can accede by September.

"We won't wait any longer than that," cryptochavista newswire IPS reported him saying last July the 5th, "The Brazilian and Paraguayan Congresses have no reason not to approve our entry: no political, legal, economic or moral reasons."

But in Uruguay this week, he slammed all who took that as some sort of ultimatum.
I was telling him [Uruguayan President Tabaré Vásquez], listen this is like if we were neighbors, good neighbors and good friends, and I decided for some reason to go knock on my neighbor's door. Knock knock! And I look through the window and I see there are people inside and the lights are on - knock knock knock! - I spend half an hour knocking and nobody comes to the door. I retire to wait for new conditions. They can't come to the door, they don't hear me, they have some problem in there so they can't open. It's something similar; it's very simple.
That anyone could have mistaken such a stance for an "ultimatum" seemed genuinely to baffle him. Chávez was even gracious enough to extend Venezuela's, erm, unilaterally set deadline ( use...U-word...) until the end of the year. Otherwise, he said, Venezuela would have to look at "other options."

On second thought, "baffle" is the wrong word: for Chávez, the solution to any such enigma is always at hand. If newspapers misreported what was merely a unilaterally set deadline as an "ultimatum", he could only surmise "they're playing the role of lackeys of the empire."

The fact that "ultimatum" is the word ordinarily used to describe a unilaterally set deadline never enters into it: the only material fact here is that something happened that Chávez hadn't wanted to happen. Ergo, the gringos must be involved somehow.

Obvio, ¿no?

The episode neatly captures the psychic niche Uncle Sam fills in Chávez's private demoniary. The US is a psychological crutch he can't do without, the all-purpose explanation for an otherwise intolerable, incomprehensible, baffling anomaly: that reality, sometimes, fails to bend to his will.

At some point, this debate ceases to be about politics in any recognizable sense of the word. The evidence is now overwhelming that Chávez does not share the cognitive style of a normal, well person. The ultimatum hissy-fit captures the extent of his pathology neatly: we're dealing with a man convinced that even the dictionary is in bed with the CIA.

Psychiatrists have a term for the amalgamation of traits Chávez exhibits: narcissistic personality disorder. The DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for NPD read like a journalistic profile of the guy. This has long been obvious, but now it's really, really getting out of hand.

Three years ago, I posted this essay by Stephen McDonnell. I really think it's worth reading again.

Narcissist Rage

by Stephen McDonnell

The narcissist who is frustrated, who is publicly humiliated, who can't get what he wants, usually will react with anger and rage. They are like frustrated children throwing a fit. Most adults can handle frustration, but narcissists have a low tolerance for denial. A narcissist is always boiling, always thinks others are conspiring against him. Narcissists are always conspiring against others, they tend to think other people are like them.

Paranoia is a problem with narcissists. They want it their way, they want their dream to come true and any deviation or anyone stepping on their toes sparks immediate anger. If they are in seduction mode, they will forgive for the moment, but years later the anger will come back in spades. They never forget a slight or an insult. They plan revenge. Or at least some of them do.

Other narcissists will act as though above the fray, not deigning to be upset. But they remember.

Think of a 6 year old child, think tantrum, remember how kids can say something terrible to you and then forget they said it, but if you reprimand them, they break into tears or they start breaking things.

For a narcissist, rage is the ultimate response to loss of control, and they use it to gain back control over the situation and others. They can be physically abusive and hurtful. If all their words of seduction and gifts do not work, then they will physically intimidate you. Rage can either be feigned or real. As long as it works.

Is it real? Is it a game? Even the narcissist doesn't know. He is playing out his life out of touch with his real self, so who knows what he's really feeling.

I have watched narcissists use rage to get their way, to vent their frustration on someone, then I have watched them walk away, cool as a cucumber, as if nothing happened. Other times, I have seen them break things. No doubt the prisons of the world are filled with narcissists who let their rage get the upper hand. The murderers and rapists with narcissistic disorders learned to like the rush of adrenaline, the loss of control that gave them more control over their victims in the end. If someone dies when a narcissist is angry, he blames the victim for "provoking him." Remember, the narcissist is never wrong, never remembers his own mistakes, and is always in control.

If you want to see them enraged, disagree with them, make fun of them or their opinions, fight back when they attack you. If they feel they're loosing, they will fly off the handle, in a desperate attempt at control. Or they will break down in tears and try to get attention that way; beware, they are experts at manipulation.