No doubt Gauis Julius Mittensus Caesar is quite happy this morning. Why? Well, perhaps it’s because over his daily mug of the blood of the poor his favorite columnist, one David Brooks, the ever-screeching Burkean bagpipe, offered some sociological insight from the 1950s: Mittensus is “other-directed,” and if he aims to win the presidency, he ought to harp on some bad talking points like that idiot Santorum.
But maybe you think “other-directed” sounds good; ‘He likes to volunteer,’ you think to yourself. Sadly, “other-directed” seems to be the worst of the types! It lacks the dedication to tradition that growing up on a farm gives you (tradition-directed, yay!), and doesn’t possess the individual certainty of moral rectitude that one receives whilst growing up during an industrial period (inner-directed, what-what).*
Seemingly, contrasted to the other types adumbrated in The Lonely Crowd (Brooks’s “I practically invented American Studies” selection of the week), it’s the worst possible type! According to Brooks’s analysis (which unfortunately I’ll have to rely on because I seem to have misplaced my well-annotated copy of The Lonely Crowd), the “other-directed” type is the sad product of the modern economy:
The other-directed personality type emerges in a service or information age economy. In this sort of economy, most workers are not working with physical things; they are manipulating people. The other-directed person becomes adept at pleasing others, at selling him or herself.
The other-directed person is attuned to what other people want him to be. The other-directed person is a pliable member of a team and yearns for acceptance. He or she is less notable for having a rigid character than for having a smooth personality.
Sadly, our armchair Lacan (I can name-drop, too, Brooks!) lacks the courage of his convictions, and waivers on his analysis: Brooks doesn’t know Mittensus, really, but he certainly does seem like an “other-directed,” gladhanding android.
This tendency to seem like a shallow automaton works against poor Mittensus because according to Brooks, this is a bad time to be seen as “other-directed” (though that particular character type is an inevitable product of our modern paradigm). We’re at a crisis moment in America, dammit—the people want values! Is this the nation that defeated communism? Hell yes it is! Thus, the American people want a gunslinging cowboy that they can drink beer with and have homoerotic fantasies about! There’s nothing erotic about an android wearing Hermes.
Brooks claims that this desire for certainty and uprightness of character is particularly strong for Republicans—they prefer their homoerotic fantasies to involve airport bathrooms and vacations with rent-boys; Republicans prefer their gay sex with layers of secrecy and a clearly demarcated power dynamic. They also prefer a candidate who has unshakeable convictions; a candidate willing to make the hard choices and govern with a giant phallus of doom. Having noted the deepest desires of Republicans, Brooks offers some advice for Mittensus:
If Romney is to thrive, he really needs to go on an integrity tour. He needs to show how his outer pronouncements flow directly from his inner core. He needs to trust that voters will take him as he really is. He needs to tell his own complicated individual story and stop reducing himself to the outsider/businessman advertising cliché. He needs to tell us what about his character is more fundamental than his national park patriotism and his skill at corporate restructuring.
Brooks also thinks that Mittensus needs to stop with all the Goddamn used-car salesman flip-flopping platitudes. If he’s going to govern, he’s got to be willing to send a few grannies to their deaths, and moreover, tell those bitches he’s doing it while he eats a slice of pie.
For Brooks, the granny-killing type is exemplified by Santorum; with or without media attention, Santorum would still want to kill your grandmother and shove your gay cousin back in the closet. If only Mittensus would learn that crazy, categorical bullshit wins the day, he too could be president.
*I’d like to take this opportunity to point out that David Brooks does not know what the fuck he’s talking about with regard to Victorian morality. In fact, there was no such thing; what we regard as Victorian “morality,” was largely a construct fabricated confluence of particular social and cultural factors, as well as later interpreters. Victorian “morality” does not exist; it is a fiction dreamed up by Sigmund Freud and perpetuated by conservative scholars. Stick with the Enlightenment, Brooks.