The ongoing stoush between Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull over the former's dream of becoming UN secretary general is unedifying. But it's also fascinating given how similar they are psychologically.
Now, I'm no shrink. Still, from what I've read and seen I think it's safe to say they clearly both display behavioural characteristics that could reasonably be called narcissism.
Such flawed individuals do not learn from reality. In their minds they constantly replay a gloriously inflated vision of themselves and demand that all those around them reflect it back as confirmation of its validity.
This compulsion is so strong and deep inside them that most people unfortunate enough to be trapped in their orbit die early, go barking mad, wind up addicted to drugs or alcohol, or, most frequently, run away screaming and take months to recover their own sense of self. More psychologically balanced individuals simply can't stand up to them -- unless they're narcissists themselves.
That seems to be what's happening here. And that's why I suspect this bitch-fest is gonna go for quite a while yet ...
And while men like Rudd and Turnbull are formidable, domineering and relentless, they are also extremely sensitive to any kind of criticism. They'll often take the rage this causes out on subordinates by chucking massive tanties over the tiniest of issues. But if that's not an option they'll express it in less dramatic ways.
Take Rudd's revealingly snarky reaction to Turnbull's claims he didn't actually promise him support for his UN push. While advising a bunch of young Labor activists he said this:
'I've got a very dark deep secret for you, sometimes it'll turn to s**t and sometimes it won't turn out perfectly.
'I've had a modest experience of that, just a little bit, including yesterday.
'Part of the collective scar tissue of life.'
This is very emotive language for a politician, don't you think? It clearly comes from a very different part of the brain that produced "programmatic specificity".
I think Rudd is hinting at the level of rage he's feeling now. He's saying he does have a deep, dark side to him. And a helluva lot of scar tissue!
Translation: "I'm a mean mofo with a hide like a rhino."
And from the same article:
Mr Rudd said he wanted to 'make a huge difference' as prime minister and on the international stage in his bid to be Australia's United Nations secretary general.
'I've been seeking to do that on the international stage, and then one of those great brick walls in life presented itself in the form of Malcolm Turnbull,' Mr Rudd said.
The first part shows his grandiosity. The second shows his contempt for Turnbull, whom he dehumanizes in his metaphor.
Translation: "Don't you dare deny me my good and altruistic ambitions. Do that and you are committing a crime against humanity! Watch out, pal. If I get the chance I'll flatten you like a bulldozer!"
Rudd's clearly upped the ante to "No more Mr Nice Guy". It'll be very interesting to see what happens next.