THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
Tories take Crewe & Nantwich
Chelsea sack Avram Grant as manager

When positive thinking goes wrong

Link: US elections: Hillary Clinton apologises for assassination gaffe - Telegraph.

HillariousI dislike Hillary Clinton, both as a politician and as a human being, but I feel sorry for her this morning. I understand why she made this terrible error.

Self-belief is a necessary but not sufficient pre-condition of success. Not everyone who has it wins, but everyone who wins has it  reinforced, which increases their chances of winning again. Great sportsmen like Tiger Woods have uncanny control over their own thoughts, which allows them to ignore bad shots and concentrate totally on making the next shot great. I read recently that, when he is behind in a game, he imagines unlikely scenarios in which he could win. That allows him to play as if he might and keeps open the possibility of victory. Such mental self-discipline is hard for we lesser mortals to imagine (although many can find it in a real crisis, doing things to save their child in danger, for example, the memory of which leaves them in a cold sweat). Usually, however, those with weaker wills are distracted from opportunities to win by the memory of their failures. 

Those irritating people who tell life's losers that they would all be winners if they only believed are almost right. It is true if you replace "would" with "could." For people whose luck has long held, however, it can come to seem that their powerful self-belief is actually shaping events. The longer such people keep winning, the greater the risk that this becomes a dangerous delusion. People need to lose a little (or to be lucky enough to have friends and family to keep reminding them of how lucky they have been) to remain fully human.

Hillary Clinton has been a winner all her life. She has been visualising, with total clarity, the unlikely scenario of being the first woman President of the United States since she was a school-girl. Of course that makes her weird, but that is the kind of "weirdness" necessary to achieve such greatness. "The rich are different" and so are great politicians, sportsmen and business leaders. I don't deny Hillary Clinton's potential for greatness, much as I may hope to see it unfulfilled. Even her worst enemy, however, would surely not have wished to see it denied in this awful way.

In this interview she allowed the mental mechanics of greatness to be seen. She was running through scenarios (however unlikely) in which she could come from behind to win. That kind of thinking is essential for her to keep going at this stage. If she had kept going - and pulled off a victory - without this slip, then it would have become the subject of books and articles in which she was lauded by admiring losers as a gutsy winner who would never quit. To let it be seen, however, was a huge error for a democratic politician. Where the majority who are losers pick the winners, it's essential to resemble them at least in some respects. That is why Socialism has been such a political success, despite being economically devastating. It allows winners to present themselves as the champions of the losers; as well as promising to share with them the proceeds of the theft of other winners' wealth.

The Englishman today implies that Gordon Brown is showing signs of being delusional. In a sense that is right. When belief in your own ability to win has brought you as far in your ambitions as it has Brown, it does not simply die when your luck runs out. Right now, Brown is running endless unlikely scenarios in his mind which could lead to him winning the next election. When he is denied the chance to do so, it will be by friends protecting him from his "delusions". Do not be surprised if, in his memoirs, he claims he could have won were it not for their treachery. Poor Hillary however, today has only herself to blame.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Tom Paine

That's an interesting observation, Brian, though I am not sure how it relates to the post or previous comments. Obviously we would all wish that voters applied your criterion. It's pretty clear by the choices they make that they don't. It's clear that some people even vote according to who they think will win, perhaps in some effort to be associated indirectly with a winner (though that's a loserly way to think). Hence the bandwagon effect. I don't think you're silly. Only you know how old you are. Thanks for commenting.


Silly old me but there was I thinking that in somebody's calculations which politician would fuck up the country least would count for something, rather that whether the scumbag can win the next election.

Silly old me.


..classic give away is him flapping his arms in robot way.


I reckon Brooon has mild Asperger syndrome, even amongst his "friends" and supporters he is very disconnected.

The comments to this entry are closed.