Speeches Solve Everything

Just run the words through your head a few times: The President is going to give a speech to address the jobs crisis. Think about our brief and flirtatious history with President Obama; how many speeches does He give in a year? How many speeches has He already given about the economy? Run the words through your noggin yet again. The President is going to give a speech about jobs. This date, this time! Be sure and tune in!

I’ve been working in technology for twenty-three years now. That’s counting just the time I’ve been thrown in with a bunch of other tech geeks in that “Lord of the Flies” situation that seems to follow us around throughout our entire careers. So believe me, I have met my share of big egos. But from all I’ve seen and heard, it seems there is this threshold of ego that can be defined in this way: If a problem emerges that is new in nature or vague in definition, the subject will confront the problem by giving a speech.

I think, at that threshold, we fulfill a meaningful litmus test of a true mental disorder.

And it would not surprise me to learn that the dozen or so words I asked you to reiterate to yourself, to cast a renewed spotlight on the plain observation that they are nonsensical, led directly to the Republicans’ decision that no rebuttal would be made — that they decided right there & then that none was necessary. Just sort of says it all, ya know? President Obama has figured out the job crisis is sufficiently serious that He must do something to provide a remedy, and right now…so…He’s going to give a speech. Now who, exactly, is hearing about that and thinking “All RIGHT! Things are sure to get better now!” Anybody? Anywhere?

Yes, it’s a mental disorder. It’s a learning disability, too, since you can’t take in any new information while your lips are moving.

We shouldn’t become enamored of our own pessimism…there is no constructive observation to be made there…but we can’t improve the situation as it really exists, if we don’t recognize how bad the problem is. And it seems to me that within government and academia, as well as with some businesses, most or all of the executives who hold real power and decide real things with real authority, are afflicted with this mental deficiency. A problem comes up, and Step One is to give a speech. Is that all that’s needed to address the problem? A lot of them seem to think so.

And really, where I start to become alarmed is where I prognosticate about what would happen in an advanced civilization in which everybody who was a power-broker of any kind, was mentally feeble in this way. I imagine no new things would get built that do anything useful; or, very few would do that. I imagine the things that used to work years ago, would start to crumble and fall apart. And, uh, well? Isn’t that exactly what’s happening?

Armed gunmen have taken over Nakatomi Plaza! All right, it’s time for some decisive action…so everyone gather around! I have something to say to you!

Captain, we’ve hit an iceberg and the ship is expected to sink within the hour! Okay, get all the passengers up on deck right now. But there aren’t enough lifeboats! No, we’re not bringing them up to put them in the lifeboats; I’m going to give a speech to address this crisis.

Sir! The Huns are at the gate! They carry torches and they are setting fire to our city! Right, now get all the residents into the village square pronto…is this microphone working?

I think it starts in childhood. I think what happens is, Junior speaks to a large crowd — some people are just built to — and earns some accolades from parents and teachers because the speech-job is better than average. The thing of it is, if you watch the parents and teachers congratulate students for doing a better-than-average job in a spectator environment, you’ll notice nobody ever does it halfway. Nobody ever says “you didn’t suck as bad as usual” or anything like that…no muted-tone “nice job.” Isn’t that funny? Grown-ups seem to have this fake exuberance that is directly proportional to the number of people who watched the performance. “Nice job” is for the budding artist who grinds out his handiwork when nobody is watching. That poor kid will never be carried around through a crowd on his buddies’ shoulders. But the aspiring gymnast or football player or speechmaker pulls in the can’t-find-a-way-to-express-it-adequately applause and accolades and high-five — that’s where the real atta-boy is. When the talent & strength is observed by a large number of spectators, simultaneously. Then, it seems this unwritten rule emerges that if a positive thing might possibly be said about what was accomplished, then that thing has to get said, and emphasized in every possible way.

Could this alter the course of a child’s natural development? It is manifestly absurd to try to deny it. That’s why it’s done. But the alteration is not completely positive…

So I guess these people, in childhood, are overly-indulged. And from this they form the impression that their speeches can solve everything. Bring the unemployment rate down, heal the sick, save the planet, turn water into wine, drive off an alien invasion, cure AIDS and Cancer, make a perfect sandwich, land a man on the moon a few years afterward…

People tend to lose sight of the self-evident fact that speeches don’t do these things.

And they go crazy. Yes, crazy. Don’t forget, Barack Obama gave the Queen of England an iPod — loaded up with His speeches. To this day, no evidence has emerged that the President has ever understood what might be wrong or inappropriate about that. It pretty much underscores exactly what I’m talking about here, doesn’t it? So I would like to see an ICD-9 number assigned to this; it would be a reasonable move. Sort of an offshoot of NPD (301.81), but not quite the same thing. Much, much more dangerous.

I mean seriously: How big of a threat can a mental disorder become? Let’s say, if a walking textbook incarnation of the disorder becomes President of the United States, and as a direct result of that, a whole bunch of national problems get worse and none of ’em get any better. So I ask again: What exactly is it we’re seeing right now? If this doesn’t make it sufficiently important for us to start recognizing this hitherto-unrecognized mental disability, then what does?

Cross-posted at House of Eratosthenes and Washington Rebel.

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