On 15th November 2014, Mr Cameron, the UK Prime Minister, was in Canberra addressing the Australian Parliament.
He was flaunting his aggressive macho/militaristic credentials. His speech included the following words.
'For the first time since the 1970s the UK is expanding our presence east of Suez, opening diplomatic posts across Asia.
'Our economic prosperity underpins our national security and we are using it to modernise our armed forces with the most modern equipment--new fighters; new hunter-killer submarines; renewing our nuclear deterrent; type 26 global combat ship, the world's most advanced frigate; and two new aircraft carriers, the most powerful the Royal Navy has ever put to sea in its history.'
This demented boast simultaneously betrays a long-since-discredited imperialist and empire-building mindset, and lists a series of items that is costing British citizens countless billions of pounds. Trident renewal alone is costing one hundred billion pounds (100,000,000,000). The two aircraft carriers are so hopelessly expensive that even this reckless government acknowledges that they will only be building aircraft for one of them! An aircraft carrier with no aircraft! This vast militaristic profligacy is taking place at a time when the only major threat to the UK is from the greed and irresponsibility of bankers. And at a time when social services are being cut and the poor squeezed because of lack of funds!
The psychopathology of leaders
In the past the populace would just dismiss this sort of behaviour as 'crazy' and get on with their lives. Now it is beginning to be addressed much more seriously. We think of the duck adage -- 'If it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck it probably is a duck.' Similarly if our leaders sound as though they are mad and if they act as though they are mad, they probably are mad. Witnessing the way the members of the United Nations 'Security Council' (!) cling to their nuclear arsenals, each one capable of destroying billions of people, surely must make us wonder.
One prescient and well-qualified individual who is taking this matter very seriously is David Owen, a doctor of medicine who did research into neuroscience before becoming an MP for 26 years, and serving for a spell as foreign secretary. In 2002 he began to write and speak on the effects of serious illness in heads of government including what he called 'hubris syndrome'. This brand of debilitating mental illness was recognised by Bertrand Russell who referred to the damaging consequences of those suffering from the 'intoxication of power'.
David Owen published 'The Hubris Syndrome: Bush, Blair and the Intoxication of Power' in 2007 and a more comprehensive book entitled 'In Sickness and In Power: Illness in Heads of Government over the Last 100 Years' came out the following year.
Hubris Syndrome commonly occurs in people with no other mental illness. It is an acquired personality change occurring in people in power. David Owen lists 14 signs and symptoms that are possible in defining the condition. Among these are 'conflation of the self with the nation or organisation; use of the royal 'we'; an unshakable belief that a higher court (history or God) will provide vindication; restlessness, recklessness and impulsiveness; and moral rectitude that overrides practicalities, cost and outcome.'