"A Citizen"s Eye View"

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Diagnosing Harper

First of all, I need to say that I am neither a psychiatrist, a psychologist nor any kind of mental health clinician for that matter. But I have  been a Child and Youth Counsellor  for 30 years now, so I've become pretty good at identifying deviant and maladaptive patterns of behaviour. It's a big part of what I do. That being said, what ever I say from here on in is at best, a guess, based on my observations of our current Prime Minister. It can in no way be construed as any kind of clinical assessment or medical diagnosis. It is my opinion only. So.... onward and upward!

I know I'm not the only one who's raised an eyebrow at Prime Minister Stephen Harper's behaviour. I've heard him characterized in the mainstream media and in the online community as being: a megalomaniac, a tin-pot dictator, an autocrat, an ideologue, a control freak, a bully etc. Our country has been labeled as a "rogue state" by the European Union due to Mr. Harper's unfathomable stance on exporting asbestos to developing nations. These are all very powerful comments. But I think they are also indicators of something far more complicated going on with our friend Mr. Harper than just the appearance of being a "tough nut" (pun intended).

I've written about the Prime Minister a fair bit in the last year. It's pretty safe to say that I don't much like his politics and way of doing business. He is turning the clock back on Canadian Society to somewhere around 1950. I believe he is hurting our country. But recently, I started noticing some patterns in the way Harper does things. I say only recently because I never bothered to look for patterns of behaviour with The P.M. before. But they are now as plain as the nose on my face. And anyone who's ever seen my beak would say it's pretty hard to miss.

Let's start with the obvious, Harper's need to control. It's common knowledge that The P.M. controls his caucus with an iron fist. It's his way or the highway all of the time. He sets the tone, the talking points, the script, the policies. And heaven help any party member who deviates from the party line. There are precious few Ministers or MPs who he allows to speak. All others must consult with the PMO first. This was no where as apparent as in the last election. Harper forbade most of his candidates from participating in debates in their own ridings. So the vast majority of the campaign message came right from the top. Only Harper himself and his trusted lieutenants were allowed to speak. He  exercised complete control of his party's message.

Next lets look at Harper's unconditional support for Israel. Other Prime Ministers have stood firm regarding any of our fellow nations and allies who have transgressed in any way. Brian Mulroney and John Diefenbaker's opposition to apartheid in sister Commonwealth nation South Africa comes to mind.  Yet Harper seems wholly incapable of casting any kind of criticism on our international ally Israel. They can do no wrong to him. And what's worse, he has insinuated that anyone who says they do, is probably anti-Semitic. All or nothing for Mr. H. Just as with the Afghan detainee issue. When it first arose, he accused critics of Canada's detainee policy of being more concerned about the enemy than about our own soldiers. He called them "un Canadian". Again, all or nothing. This may well have been a bit of politicking on the P.M.s part, but I also believe it is part of a wider pattern of behaviour.

It is generally accepted that there are two kinds of people where Mr. Harper is concerned. Those who are with him and those who are against him. And those who are against him are enemies to be eradicated. It's no secret that Harper has made it a personal goal to completely destroy the Liberal Party. Results from the last election would indicate he's doing a pretty good job of that.

The Prime Minister has claimed that the mainstream media is biased against him. So much so that he limited the press to only 5 questions at each campaign stop in the last election. He also chose the questions he would be asked and by whom. He forgets how tough the media were on previous Liberal Governments, particularly former Prime Minister Jean Chretien. But Chretien didn't isolate himself or attempt to control the media. Just the opposite. He seemed to like a "good go of it" with an inquiring journalist. Mr. Harper though, is clearly paranoid about their intentions and has claimed that they are all left-leaning and not to be trusted. The media are his enemy now and he is raising funds to combat them.

Harper does not forgive a slight. It was a shameful failure of the Harper Government that Canada did not secure a seat on the U.N. Security Council last fall. This is something he has not forgotten, nor forgiven. He has subsequently thumbed his nose at numerous U.N. accords and committees, most recently, the U.N. Rotterdam convention to have asbestos declared a harmful substance. Canada single-handedly blocked this from happening. In addition, Harper is being called to task by the U.N. for his steadfast refusal to change the phrase "visible minorities" from any government document pertaining to any person or group of people who are of an  ethnic background. The use of this phrase, "visible minority" according to the U.N. infers that the "norm" is white Anglo Saxon Protestant and that it speaks to a person's "non-whiteness". Harper refuses to change this phraseology.

Upon receiving his long sought majority government, Mr. Harper declared that Canada will make several unpopular decisions regarding it's foreign policy in the future and will not "bow to every petty dictator who has a vote in the U.N." "Ouch"!

Then there is the Famous Harper aloofness. This is something his handlers have been struggling with for years.  How to transform a man who presents as cold and distant into warm an cuddly. The handlers don't seem to be doing a very good job in this regard though. He's the same cold, aloof politician as always, only with glasses and a persistent smarmy grin on his face now. He continues to be inaccessible and distant to all who are not a part of his inner circle.

So if we sum up the above behaviours as exhibited by our Prime Minister, we see:

- Need for control
- All or nothing, you're with me or against me. Friends can do no wrong, enemies can do no right
- Paranoia, enemies are everywhere and need to be eradicated.
- Never forgive a slight
- cold, aloof, inaccessible, open to only a small group of people in his inner circle.

So armed with these observations, I went searching for a possible cause for our Prime Minister's behaviour, his being a little beyond the ODD, ASD, ADHD and all those other "D's" that I work with on a daily basis. So after doing some research, this is what I've come up with: Paranoid Personality Disorder.

According to the World Health Organization, signs and symptoms of Paranoid Personality Disorder include:
  1. Excessive sensitivity to setbacks and rebuffs;
  2. Tendency to bear grudges persistently, i.e. refusal to forgive insults and injuries or slights;
  3. Suspiciousness and a pervasive tendency to distort experience by misconstruing the neutral or friendly actions of others as hostile or contemptuous;
  4. A combative and tenacious sense of personal rights out of keeping with the actual situation;
  5. Recurrent suspicions, without justification, regarding sexual fidelity of spouse or sexual partner;
  6. Tendency to experience excessive self-importance, manifest in a persistent self-referential attitude;
  7. Preoccupation with unsubstantiated "conspiratorial" explanations of events both immediate to the patient and in the world at large. 
According to Wikipedia, people with Paranoid Personality Disorder are characterized by:

"Hypersensitivity, are easily slighted, and habitually relate to the world by vigilant scanning of the environment for clues or suggestions to validate their prejudicial ideas or biases. Paranoid individuals are eager observers. They think they are in danger and look for signs and threats of that danger, disregarding any facts. ( Waldinger, 1997). They tend to be guarded and suspicious and have quite constricted emotional lives. Their incapacity for meaningful emotional involvement and the general pattern of isolated withdrawal often lend a quality of schizoid isolation to their life experience".

In addition, the website www.psychcentral.com states that:

"Because individuals with Paranoid Personality Disorder lack trust in others, they have an excessive need to be self-sufficient and a strong sense of autonomy. They also need to have a high degree of control over those around them. They are often rigid, critical of others, and unable to collaborate, and they have great difficulty accepting criticism".

Well based on the information I discovered above and compared to the observations I've made, I think we have a diagnosis. I should add here that Paranoid Personality disorder is usually treated with antidepressant, antipsycotic and antanxiety medications.   Because of heightened levels of paranoia and reduced levels of trust, psychotherapy is difficult though not impossible.

So we have a Prime Minister who may well be suffering from a significant mental illness. Because of the field I'm in, I am a great believer in rehabilitation and reintegration, even though the subject in question is not. But even I, the die-hard, bleeding-heart Liberal, has to ask: is this a man who should be running our country, Or is this a man who should be made to step down immediately and be compelled to enter treatment?  Again, I'm not a mental health professional, but If asked to vote on the matter, I would opt for the latter.



  1. It's a good fit and well argued, but I was expecting you to go for Narcissistic Personlity Disorder. I'm still stuck on the question of WTF was he thinking with these outrageous behaviours, and in particular he should have thought to himself "what will the AG say?" It seems he really hasn't thought that through in advance. This is the first time someone has caught him in a fraud where he hasn't immediately retaliated with a vindictive personal attack, so he apparently doesn't have a response. Apparently he completely ignored any thought of consequence - staggering - just arrogantly expecting to get away with it - a haughty narcissist.

  2. Having had fairly extensive experience with mental illnesses, I'm rather inclined to agree with the previous commenter that narcissism accounts for most of our PM's behaviour. The assumption that he is omniscient and omnipotent, the tight-lipped anger when anyone hints he is not, the thoroughly inappropriate chastisement of other nations for not agreeing with his positions on economics and climate change--even his showing off of his rather limited skills as a musician. But beyond all that, I see a tendency towards sadism: just watch his expression as he announced in Davos (of all places!) that he would be breaking his word on the Old Age Security programme, or on occasions when he talks to or about countries with more progressive social views, or when he deigns to give the press an evasive non-answer to a question. The German word Schadenfreude perfectly describes what appears to give him the greatest pleasure: one can see it quite clearly in the way he smiles at the suffering of others. Simple narcissistic personality disorder does not usually include that component, and paranoid personality disorder does not usually include the opinion that one's sins will never catch up with one. It seems possible to me that we are dealing here with a more complex condition in which sociopathy may well play a part.

  3. I always thought there was something (socio), however, your assessment seems bang-on. Excellent article and sooo insightful. Thank You, you shed light for me and now we have a good understanding of what we are dealing with in Canada. That non-partisan psych evaluations should be mandatory on anyone in the future of running for PMO office again. Reflections of seventy-years ago, sadly.

  4. Harper and the powers that be, that ensured his robo-fraud tacticts worked. This man is not only mentally unstable, he uses the Delphi Technique to control. This Bushism, of You're either with us or against us, is clearly the Delphi at its best(or worst).. What a person who is under his thumb should do or at least to be true to his soul, is walk away from him, his Tyranny, and his ideology. It is simple, it is a choice... we make choices every nano second of our day, what we think, what we do, how we react, what we eat, and it all goes out there. One thing that has become abundandtly clear. The Lot of Them should be fired as our employees. A madman at the helm who is clearly in contempt of all things Canadian, our Constitution, and Canadians cannot continue to wreak havoc and sell us all out for his own gain. I'm a great beleiver in Karma/Darma.. what ye reap, so shall ye sow.. Good Luck, Harperius! Emperor of the Damned!!!

  5. You hit it right on the nail! And "smarmy" was exactly the word I had been searching for to describe his grin. Thank you.