After I posted this morning’s item, I watched the inauguration, along with the rest of the world. It is unquestionably a promising and historic moment, and I am not immune to President Obama’s charismatic appeal myself — but I have to say, at the risk of being a cranky old grouch, that I found the love-fest in the National Mall rather disturbing. I’m leery of large crowds, particularly when they are sharing a powerful emotion.
G. I. Gurdjieff described humans as ‘three-brained beings’: we have, he suggested, quite separate intellectual, emotional, and physical/instinctive centers. I think he is right, and that furthermore there is something that happens to humans in groups: we appear to be designed so that it is easy for the emotional parts all to link up, with a cumulative power that easily overrides the comparatively slow and feeble activity of the intellectual center. And when that happens, anything is possible. We have seen it before.
The remarkably magnetic — ‘astonishingly’ is a better word — Mr. Obama has an enormous well of power to draw on here, and it is a power that is, it appears, available to him personally. It must be a very strange position for the man to be in. Although I do not have any reason to doubt his good intentions (indeed, that almost nobody seems to is a root cause of the very effect in question), I don’t like having to trust anyone with power like that. The President of the United States is already, arguably, the most powerful man in the world, even without that kind of frenzied popular support. What a corrupt or misguided man might do with it is a sobering prospect. And we know what they say about the power of power.