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Baron Wormser: Notes from the Time of the Leader

Will this be the end of us? Death by words. A writer and I am sick of words. Each day the Leader unleashing a deluge of words: denunciations, boasts, grievances, vituperation, lies upon lies. The air thick with his words yet he rarely has a live press conference. His words are electronic. Disembodied. No air holds them, so I am wrong about the air being thick. That was old-fashioned and about someone getting on a platform and giving a speech,. He gives rambling, vociferous speeches for his supporters that address nothing of substance but speeches belong to the past. Much preferable are the little machines that deliver his words day and night. They are words that destroy words, words that have no use for words, words that would be grunts and growls, words that do not want to be words, that wish there were no words, that wish there was only force, power, pushing enemies aside, maybe destroying them, at the least humiliating them. He brims with such words.

* *  *

Bulletins on top of bulletins, 24 hours a day of news. Do we stop listening? Some do and pride themselves on it. What, after all, is the point of heeding what refuses to stop, an environment unto itself? But someone must be in charge and thus you’d better listen. Whoever “they” are, they can come after you in a variety of ways. There are secret agencies. Dirty tricks. Accidents that may not be accidents. But that is paranoia, the proliferation of fantasy. Laws exist. Rules of the game. Elections. No one can rise up and say, “Mine. Get lost!” But all that means is that no one has done it before.

* * *

The institutional avant-garde thrives, a world unto itself, quite happily spinning its webs of exciting meaninglessness, meeting all hypothetical challenges fearlessly, ever in pursuit of the further novelty. A supposed art for a supposed age. The Leader has no use for any art because it is not about him.

* * *

The principle of More predominates. Limits are repugnant, a denial of desire and wanting. The rapacious ridicule the less rapacious. No conservatives exist in the public spotlight because to conserve anything is to impugn the principle of More. Those who conserve are powerless. The engines that drone day and night are not for them. Endless growth—a bean stalk that pierces the heavens and keeps going—is a myth come true. The machines make More—end of discussion. The machines rule.

* * *

The Leader despises the earth because he did not make it. Its indifference troubles him, how it was here before him, how he cannot loot the whole of it. Each day he is pleased to walk all over the earth as if he were walking on faces, pressing his shoes’ soles and heels into faces, breaking them, wearing them down, soiling them. But the earth remains and is soil and rock anyway. His gestures are futile. This makes him all the angrier. He will be revenged. His idea of nature is a golf course.

* * *

On the television, non-stop hysteria, voices taut with importance: Something is Happening! Listen! There is no God. There is News! Whatever the voices say pertains to everyone. Even if you shut off the machine, the voices will follow you, setting the shrill, remorseless tone. The voices belong to well-groomed people, well-coiffed. And what do you think? And what do you think? Think? How do I manage to think amid all the voices? Every day the voices assert their authority. That what is said is forgotten, because another day will offer more events, is irrelevant. The principle of More reaches everywhere. People are dynamic creatures, not merely an aggregate of appetites. The Leader personifies that, although he clearly has a large appetite and has eaten many sizable pieces of meat over the course of his lifetime. He contains the spirits of many dead animals but doesn’t understand what a spirit might be. In that sense, he is a prisoner of materialism.

* * *

The Leader is not so much a leader as a loud repository of common prejudices and grievances, eager to give vent to opinions that he has nursed but that are not original to him because nothing is original to him. He is too busy caring about himself to be original. Many adore his narcissism because many wish they could be that narcissistic. Life’s circumstances have thwarted them but the Leader is pure, drenched wholly in the oils of himself, a man made for mirrors and cameras. Others exist as impediments and, as such, barely do exist. His fulminations are meant to blow them away like straw in a great wind. Poof! Be gone!

* * *

There is no talking to the Leader because for him there is no listening. Why should he listen? How silly, to think others might know something. Sometimes the Leader even smiles (he has no sense of humor since that would indicate an awareness of human imperfection that might include him) when people expect him to listen. What children other people are! How little they understand him. He watches their mouths move as if watching a pantomime or looking at fish in an aquarium.

* **

Since each person’s happiness is controlled by each person, the Leader is irrelevant. Each person makes up his (to use the Leader’s pronoun) life. The Leader merely contributes to the fear and anxiety that float around in the socialized air. How disturbing the fear and anxiety can be, no one quite knows, especially since many (most?) of the people are drugged in one way or another already. Some people, like the Leader, seem to thrive on it, boasting the way he does, that he has no fear in him while spreading more fear. Still, there are many entertainments available to make people happy and they avail themselves appropriately. The Leader hasn’t directly murdered anyone though he is not above inciting people to commit mayhem. Whatever happens he isn’t responsible because he has used words and words are just wind and nothing to hold against a person.

* * *

The Leader has not done much of consequence in life. He doesn’t know how to do much of a practical nature. Perhaps he could make a bed. Maybe he could run a vacuum cleaner or boil an egg. He is above all that. Busy turning braggadocio into money, he can’t be bothered with lesser tasks. Working people flock to him because he seems to have a great deal of money and isn’t shy about letting others know it. He seems to be made of gold and can be idolized. Sometimes he strikes a pose as if he is an idol and wouldn’t mind if people bowed down. When they agree with his opinions, they are bowing down, although he has no real use for them. They are suckers who give him control of the political machine. His peers, other moneyed men, are content to wink at him. Despite his outbursts he can be trusted to take care of the money. He understands that the money, their money, comes first.

* * *

Like more than one overbearing, mediocre man, the Leader fancies himself a great personage, the stuff of pages in history books, although he can’t be bothered with reading books since he already knows everything. A simple man, he believes that the world has never seen the likes of him. Plenty of people who also never read books are glad to agree. For a society geared to spurious excitement and disdainful of the past, he is perfect, always in the mode of much-ado, a perpetual story unto himself. He barely needs the world except to lob him topics to hit into the grandstand.

* * *

 Why women exist, beyond their roles as sexual baubles, is beyond his comprehension and a topic of much mirth. A fount of male wisdom in this regard, he has advice for any who care to listen about how to treat women. He’s married a couple and fathered some children and is glad enough to act the family man when it suits him. Otherwise, he considers himself a rogue. Watch out, ladies, the Leader is on the prowl! He sometimes wishes he could have lived in some other time where a leader such as himself could have a harem. Snap a finger and a nubile woman appeared. Those must have been the days. He could see himself as a pasha or whatever those guys were called, seated on some plump cushions and being fed by very lovely fingers. The rigmarole of getting to know a woman and acting as though you were interested in her as a person has mightily tried him. Happily, he is possessed of so much charm that some women barely notice he has no interest in who they are. They are pleased to be flattered and acknowledged in a no-nonsense way.

* * *

The Leader enjoys demeaning people. That is what a real leader does, puts people in their place. He enjoys meeting other world leaders who also know how to demean. If you despise someone, why fool around? And there are plenty of people to despise: categorical idealists, radicals, liberals, socialists, feminists plus anyone who disagrees. The list seems endless some days. The Leader notices when he talks with like-minded leaders that often they are dyspeptic, pissed-off despite the palaces they live in, because there are so many people to demean. Back when there were kings and princes, you could just kill such people and no one thought twice about it. Nowadays, you have to act as though they somehow matter when they clearly don’t. Traducing them in whatever manner—calling attention to physical failings, mental failings, political failings or simply calling them obscene names—is some recompense. Still, the Leader yearns to be like those strong men who, as a matter of course, instruct their henchmen to get rid of so-and-so. He looks up to such men of action, real men.

* * *

As a child on the playground, the Leader first learned how to bully people. He puffed himself up and pushed other kids around but was careful to first recruit some lieutenants to do the actual fighting. From an early age, he realized how others were glad to make his quarrel their quarrel. They, too, were full of animus that needed somewhere to lodge. A good bully could spot a weakness at a distance; close up he was unerring. People troubled by sensitivity and scruples were an easy mark, but he could bear down on those who believed they could out-bully him. As long as he had his lieutenants, he was fine. As he got older and more powerful, the Leader grew more capricious, hiring and firing lieutenants at will. Others came forward, however, who were eager to be part of his court. People were disposable. Having high opinions of them was a waste of time. The Leader believed that disparagement was ever the shrewdest move. Inevitably, others would pile on.

* * *

Since he doesn’t read anything of substance, he feels free to dismiss writers, yet he knows such people exist, people who don’t respect him and consider him a threat. These writers consider themselves to be educated, which means they are stuck-up. The Leader plays that card vigorously, appealing to the distrust many citizens have of the educated. Who do these educated bastards think they are? What the hell do they know? Everyone who ever sat in a classroom and had to listen to one of these supercilious jerks hold forth at length and brown nose the teacher is on the Leader’s side and takes pleasure in his ridicule. Too many writers are fundamentally disagreeable people, always carping and criticizing, acting as if they know better. The Leader makes a point of putting writers in their place, which is nowhere. A goodly portion of the populace cheers him on.

* * *

The Leader never lies. Since he is saying whatever he wants to say, whatever he says must be true since he said it. Assertion is nine-tenths of the law. Other people, however, lie plenty. Anyone who disagrees with the Leader is, by definition, a liar. This distresses the Leader, a world full of miserable liars. He tries to bury these “terrible people” with his words but to no avail. Many persist in calling his statements “lies.” How dare they? Do they own reality? Isn’t he free to assert his version of the world he lives in? What is the point of freedom if a man can’t do that? Isn’t his insight superior to theirs? Have they managed to attain the position of Leader? And the world is constructed out of lies anyway. Only a child believes in truth. Santa is a lie. Justice is a lie. Fairness is a lie. The Leader isn’t a cynic, just a realist. There is pleasure, too, in saying whatever comes into his head. It keeps people on their toes. They think they can corner him but they can’t. He can say black is white and dare them to contradict him. Again, this pleases many who always wanted to tell more lies and get away with them. “I’m not seeing another woman, honey.” “I’ll send the child support check next week.” “I don’t know anything about those charges on the credit card bill.”

* * *

As a hard-boiled competitor, the Leader holds that everything can be manipulated and everyone has a price. The folderol about democracy is just that, a lot of high-flown mumbling about nothing. Each citizen has the right to support him—that is what democracy is about. Anything else is a waste of time, argumentation for the sake of argumentation. How tired everyone gets of politicians who act as though they aren’t in on the take, who act as if they are above the fray. For the Leader only the fray matters and winning is what matters most. The Leader loves to call people whom he detests “losers,” which is, in a society devoted to striving, the worst shame. Everyone who lives through childhood harbors shame but for many the Leader lets the shame loose. People can be shameless the way he is—a relief. People don’t want a bunch of hooey about respecting people who disagree with you. Why should you respect someone who disagrees with you? Hadn’t there been civil wars in many nations? Hadn’t leaders of all stripes thrown their opponents in jail and tossed the keys away? Why pretend politics was civil?

* * *

The Leader destroys the importance of character. He is a brand, an identity, however misbegotten. He is a product like what people have been watching on TV since they were children. You can pull him off the shelf. There he is. Who he is doesn’t matter. He may be a coward, a braggart, an adulterer. None of that matters. As a product, he is an ultimate advertisement and beyond criticism. The hectoring image is everything. This was predicted and has come true.

* * *

The Leader rages in private and public. He feeds on rage.


Copyright 2021 Baron Wormser

Baron Wormser’s many books include Songs from a Voice (Woodhall, 2020) and Unidentified Sighing Objects (Cavankerry, 2015).

Source: Connecticut Public Radio

3 comments on “Baron Wormser: Notes from the Time of the Leader

  1. Mary Ann
    November 13, 2021

    Frightening truths.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rose Mary Boehm
    November 13, 2021

    “The Leader despises the earth because he did not make it. Its indifference troubles him, how it was here before him, how he cannot loot the whole of it.”

    Indeed.

    I am also sick of empty words.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jim Newsome
    November 13, 2021

    Wormser sums up the Leader in a chilling way: as a malignant narcissist, who knows how to use people to reinforce his own inner needs. The question for us is how to turn Wormser’s words towards justice, not to an epitaph for our broken hopes. Brilliant essay.

    Liked by 2 people

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