Hillary Clinton the superhuman

12 Sep

US Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has pneumonia. Most people, if they had the option, would take time to get better. That is, they would alter their normal schedule and take time off work or education. But, of course, political (and business) elites in many countries have gotten themselves into the position where they cannot be seen to be ill – or normal. They have willingly built an edifice of ‘superhumaness’ around themselves.

The problem with this fiction is that they are not superhuman. They get sick, tired, drunk and stupid – just like the rest of us. Italian dictator Mussolini reputedly left the light on in his study late at night so that people in the street outside would think he was working at his desk. The same vanity prevails today. Politicians and their media teams perpetuate the myth of the superhuman politician who is forever fit, forever working, forever switched on. They go to absurd lengths to hide their ‘normality’. President Obama smokes cigarettes in the shadows – out of sight of the photographers. Most UK politicians – apparently – dress in sober business suits 24 hours a day. Former Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern once released his daily schedule that began with a 05:45 start. Those who knew his actual schedule were surprised.

The forever-on politician is just one part of a wider construction of the superhuman politician. Key to this is the notion that politicians are never wrong and can never apologise. We see politicians go to extreme lengths to avoid being seen to change their minds or reconsider options. In many other walks of life (for example, medicine or law) the careful reviewing of evidence and changing one’s stance to suit the evidence and circumstances is seen as prudent. Politicians have convinced themselves that the very human (indeed humane) qualities of frailty and fallibility are weakness.

I would predict that we will see Hillary Clinton going to absurd lengths to prove not only her fitness, but her super-fitness. Cue photo opportunities of Mrs Clinton doing things that most 68 year olds would not do (probably playing some sort of sport she has no interest in). This is just plain ridiculous. Many politicians have constructed the myth of them as super-human and now a sick woman who needs to take time out to get better will forced to live up to the myth.

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