An examiner of Boris Johnson wrote in The Times of London this week that for him lying is like breathing. According to Petronella Wyatt, a London journalist and prestigious femme fatale, this is an involuntary tic, impossible to control.
If what Wyatt says is true, and I suspect it is, then lying is not a conscious decision for the British Prime Minister who has just fallen. It is not a moral choice but an ineradicable aspect of his personality. So, it’s not that Johnson is necessarily a bad person, it’s that he’s suffering from a kind of madness. It is disconnected from reality. Or, rather, it is taken from its own reality, a condition it shares with at least half of the world’s governing leaders.
That's how you think of Trump, but also Putin, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Nicolás Maduro, Daniel Ortega, Kim Jong-un. Going back in time, they come to mind Fidel Castro, Hitler, Stalin, Napoleon, Caligula, VIII. What they share is neither values nor what they have done with power. (Those who are getting hysterical, calm. Obviously, Hitler and Stalin caused incomparably more suffering than Trump or Putin. Maduro and Ortega are not Caligula: so far neither has appointed a horse as government minister.)
What they all have in common is colossal narcissism. From their own imagination they build an ecosystem in which they are the masters of truth, in which what others think or feel does not matter, in which every sensible being must succumb to his vision of a better world. .
As another of these possessions, Louis XV of France, said: "Après moi, le déluge". Without me, the world is over. They are considered essential. Vanity is their driving force, but once in power they are convinced that they are essential. And suddenly a point of morality appears, however perverse it may be. They come to the self-deception of believing, sincerely, that they are doing good, that the prosperity and happiness of the citizens depends on their permanence in power; that if others replace them, what will come is the flood.
The secret to the success of these conceits lies in convincing people that they are indeed gods; to wrap them in the truth that they themselves have invented, to convince them that objective reality and their paradise of wonders are the same thing. It's a lot like religion. The more adherence to the leader becomes a matter of faith, the more anchored he will be at the command post.
Because of the visibility and supposed maturity of U.S. democracy, Trump is today the most iconic case of this phenomenon. The nakedness of his egocentrism is absolute. Empathy, zero. Principles: You don’t know what the word means. He despises democratic institutions, except for the White House when he occupies it. Chaos as a ruler, its only north is the hunger for greatness. It all comes down to nurturing his fragile personality. And he is chronically dishonest. The Washington Post counted more than 30,000 lies during his four years in the presidency. The key word here is the one I just used: chronically. As with Boris Johnson, lying is an incurable disease. It is their nature. To be Trump is to be a lying child.
Danger comes when large numbers of people embrace his self-deception, when they believe in him with the same fervor as he believes in himself. This is what has happened to Trump. For 30 percent of the American population, it has ceased to be what should be a political leader in a democracy - transient, interchangeable - and has become something more like a religious, eternal leader. . Trump is a false prophet, but his devotees do not see him. Faith transcends the visible world. Reason does not come into play in the same way that it does not serve to sow doubt in a literal Christian about the fact that God put the first humans on earth six thousand years ago, or gave Moses a table with ten commandments.
Trump supporters will go with him to the end of the world, or at least to the end of the United States as a democratic nation, if he demands it. They are already on their way. Changing the metaphor, from Genesis to the Brothers Grimm, Trump is Hamelin's flutist who dazzles the crowds and leads them, dancing, into the abyss. And he does so with the complicity, with the sublime cynicism, of Republican Party senators and congressmen, people who know perfectly well who he is, but support him solely and simply because they see in him their best chance of re-election.
It was for the same reason that British Conservative Party MPs chose Johnson as their leader. Boris's charisma dazzled all English social classes. There was no more popular politician in his day. His historical legacy will be that he sold Brexit to the English people, without believing in it. In the end, of course, he ended up believing it. As Trump has come to believe that he was robbed of the 2020 presidential election. True to his way, Johnson and Trump lied to themselves.
Who knows how the United States will end up as long as Trump stays on stage? In the United Kingdom, on the other hand, the farce is over. Unlike the Republican Party, the Conservative Party has rebelled against its leader. Tory ministers and deputies have not done so, in the first place, for a matter of principle, of course. It has been, once again, for electoral considerations. Polls had told them Johnson had lost all credibility for the bulk of the electorate.
The good news is that the British have woken up from hypnosis and the democratic system has corrected itself. As Lincoln said, "you can't fool everyone all the time." Unless, ironically, you belong to today's Lincoln party, where not everyone but a critical mass of 70 percent has yet to see their emperor as unbalanced. The United States is about to pull its hair out, but despite the nonsense represented by Boris Johnson, the United Kingdom ends up offering some hope to the world. It shows us that the tyranny of embalming narcissism does not have to last forever.