Sunday, February 15, 2009

About the Personalities of Joe Biden and Barack Obama, and about Etiquette

THE QUALITY OF MERCY IS NOT STRAINED is the frequent quote of a gentleman lawyer friend of mine, a man with real social grace, emotional intelligence, and etiquette. It has to do with the exercise of power and the example one sets. Mr. Valdez, you see, is named partner in a law firm.
The article, by Maureen Dowd, is called Oval Newlywed Game. It uses old terminology - the superego and the id:

It can’t be easy, for someone with a highly defined superego to be bound to the wacky Biden id, for one so disciplined to be tied to one so undisciplined, for a man so coolly unsentimental to be paired with someone so exuberantly sentimental.
I love Dowd. οἱ πολλοί ... id ... Jane Austen ... all in one article. And hoi polloi is spelled correctly, not surprisingly.
The article points the different personalities of these men, which is to say, their brains are different. Is this about right-brain, left-brain and whole-brain? Personality, they say, resides in the reptilian brain - our early-learned and ever-enduring (unless one wants to change) ways of perceiving the world, reacting to it, and relating to it. We can ameliorate these ancient patterns, with the higher brains - the limbic and the neo-cortex (right-brain and left-brain, with corpus callosum joining). I might say that Obama has more of an observing ego. And who has the higher emotional intelligence here? The better etiquette?
But the POINT of Dowd's article is all about emotional intelligence and etiquette. For Obama will have to deal with these aspects of Biden's personality, and how he does this will say more about him (superego notwithstanding) than about Biden. Obama has been noted to respond, in interviews, with what Dowd calls "snarky comments" (like "not surprisingly"). Writes Dowd:
It was the “not surprisingly” that was surprisingly snarky.

So snarky, that it's being parodied on SNL, which is brutal about that sort of thing. What more can I say?

The remedy, the etiquette, how a gentleman behaves? What we all know about situations like these. Dowd closes with:

Still, the president should brush up on his Jane Austen. When Emma
Woodhouse belittles Miss Bates, an older and poorer friend, at a picnic, Mr.
Knightly pulls her aside to remonstrate. “How could you be so insolent in your
wit?” he chides, reminding her that it is unfeeling to humble someone less
fortunate in front of others who will be guided by the way she behaves.

That’s how it works ... not surprisingly.

Jane Austen? I'm afraid many readers won't have read Jane Austen, the author of "Emma." This is from the time of 'comedies of manners.' From wikipedia:

Also, it turns out, [Emma] ... is rather spoiled; and, she overvalues her personal judgment and skills...and, she is naive —clueless, even— about the effects of her social machinations on others. Prior to starting the novel, Austen wrote, "I am going to take a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like."

Unlike me, as well, I hope. And you?
Remember ... others are watching. Especially when you're the Leader. They will be "guided by the way [you] behave."

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