A few months ago, author William Gumede described Zuma as someone with a narcissistic personality disorder — a set of traits defined by Austrian psychoanalyst Heinz Kohut as “including an exaggerated sense of superiority, a lack of self-awareness about the impact of their behaviour and having a disdain for others, who they devalue to validate their own grandiosity”. These people lack empathy, have a distorted sense of reality and are incapable of seeing anything from anyone else’s perspective. Narcissists like Zuma, Gumede argues, can’t accept responsibility and don’t care if they take down entire countries with them. The events at Nkandla, sadly for Zuma, only reinforced that perspective.
The latest catastrophe, the Covid-19 pandemic, has revealed the deep untruth underlying Adam Smith’s claim that ‘individuals, without desiring or knowing it, and while pursuing each his own interest, are working for the direct realisation of the general interest.’ The truth is that individuals pursuing their own interests produce group identities that have no sense of the general interest, but are rather marked by feelings of oppression, resentment or both. Only social trust and collective action, involving not only democratic co-ordination but genuine leadership, have a chance of returning us to a sense of the collective interest.BACK TO TOP