Jean Paul Sartre, an existentialist philosopher/playwright/novelist, wrote a rather large book titled Being and Nothingness — which pretty much covers everything. Much of the book is unreadable, but buried somewhere within he has a description of what he called “Bad Faith” which is truly brilliant. He asks us to imagine a waiter in a cafe holding the tray “just so” and dodging through the tables to wait on his customers. If we watch him carefully we will realize that he is playing at being a waiter! That’s Bad faith, and Sartre was convinced that we all do it to one degree or another. Instead of being our authentic selves, we assume a role and the play it out.
Donald Trump is a case in point. In spades. A blogger named Erik Hare who blogs under the name “Barataria” is convinced that we are beginning to see signs that the man suffers from a serious mental illness, as demonstrated in a recent press conference:
After a press conference today the problem at hand should be obvious to absolutely everyone – the President has a severe mental illness. Nothing else matters at this point. There will be many sentences written, many hours of panel discussions, and hundreds of Facebook posts shared going around this simple and obvious fact. But like the vast majority of our politics, it will be irrelevant. . . .
It doesn’t take too much of the press conference to see the issue plainly. The most common quote which we will be hearing through the next few news cycles will resonate almost as well as Kelly Ann Conway’s infamous “alternative facts” statement.
“The leaks are absolutely real, the news is fake, because so much of the news is fake.”
How is this evidence of mental illness? It starts with the delivery of this line with a perfectly straight face. It runs through the follow-up which will last for days and days. Leaks, a feature of the paranoia of every President, are an understandable problem. What is different here is that they are interfering with an alternative reality that cannot be questioned in any way.. . .
Like many people with a severe mental illness, deep inside Trump understands there is a problem. The problem with leaks is not that they reveal his words or actions to the American people but that they reveal Donald Trump to Donald Trump.
According to Sartre the person himself or herself often doesn’t know they are playing a role. They simply adopt a pose and carry on. When, in this case, a reality TV show host and self-proclaimed business tycoon gradually realizes he is playing a role and is in way over his head he may begin to panic. I suspect this is what is happening with Trump. He is simply unable to play the role he has fallen into (and I choose that phrase carefully as I don’t believe for a moment that he thought he would ever be elected. Neither did anyone else!).
The man’s attacks against the media, especially of late, are a clear sign that those folks are not giving him the positive feedback his fragile ego requires, the applause he expects or demands. His choices for cabinet positions also reflect his desire to have around him people of even lesser ability than himself, people who will give him the praise he requires, who will not upstage him, who will somehow allow him to continue to play the role he now finds himself in: the head of the most powerful nation on earth.
But, as Erik says, this man lives in an alternative reality. That’s what Bad Faith id all about: what is real and what is not. I am not a psychiatrist so I cannot predict what will probably or almost certainly happen. However, this is an extreme case of “Bad Faith” and I can easily imagine that he will show increasing signs of paranoia as he slowly realizes that he is not cut out to be president and the whole thing was a dreadful mistake. He is asked to play a role and simply doesn’t know his lines.