Sunday, 13 May 2012

There is a sort of Walter Mitty

character who lives not far from us. For years he has appeared at various times of the day dressed in the uniform of a pilot or the robes of a Queen's Council.  The two things are apparently not incompatible. He has an explanation for both.
Many people believe he is one or other - or even both. - at least at first. He sounds utterly convincing. He can use the language of either well enough to fool a lay person. He tells stories that are full of detail. He can even repeat the same stories, still full of the same detail. In all other respects he is able to function in the actual world. He can drive a car, do the shopping and is often to be found giving someone else some help.
This man is, of course, a liar - but it may also be that he genuinely believes what he is telling you. He does no real harm. His long suffering son, with whom he lives, says his father inhabits the same fantasy world at home. They do not always know who he is in the morning or who he might be by the end of the day. It must be very difficult.
I cannot go inside his head to find out what he is really thinking but there can be no doubt that his thought processes and his beliefs about himself are not usual. As long as nobody takes his "legal" advice he will do no harm. As he always suggests getting a solicitor before he can take up a case it is unlikely that he will do harm there either.
I was reminded of him while watching our national news service last night. There was an excruciatingly embarrassing excerpt of an interview between a very senior political journalist and a politician.  It was quite clear that the political journalist was having problems with the answers the politician was giving. If the politician was telling the truth then there is some sort of complex conspiracy out there. It has been exceptionally well planned and executed. More than one person would have had to be involved. If he was not telling the truth then it is the stuff of fantasy, more suited to a second or even third rate television drama. It may even be that the politician is not telling the truth but believes that he is. People can come to a genuinely held belief that a lie is the truth over a period of time - or that the truth is a lie. It is sometimes impossible to tell whether soemthing is one thing or the other.
For our Walter Mitty character it does not matter terribly much. He is happy enough I think. I hope so because he can be very kind. He does not actually represent other people. I think it would worry him if he really had to do it.
For the politician it does matter. Is he happy? I doubt it. Is he kind? I do not know. He claims to represent his electorate in parliament. Does that worry him? It should because, whatever the truth of the matter, it has reached a point where he cannot be effective.
A Walter Mitty character should do no harm. The Thomson affair is harming all of us.

No comments: