Gaddafi’s peacock strut and shrinking testicles.
I just took part in a very interesting discussion on BBC World Service with Richard Beeston, Foreign Editor of the Times, and Salwa Ishmael of the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. We were discussing my previous blogs on Rupert Murdoch and Nicholas Sarkozy. I outlined one of the arguments in The Winner Effect, namely that in the absence of constraints (eg elections, independent judiciary and a free press), unfettered power will inevitably unbalance the minds of those in power through an excess of dopamine in the reward system which will distort brain function and lead to very dangerous and predatory behaviour. It is also reflected in the bodily poses of people in power – they take up a lot of space and dress like peacocks. Richard Beeston gave the most chilling description of meeting Libya’s Gaddafi one occasion, describing how he marched around the hotel like a peacock, his security guards pushing everyone out his way, saying nothing, but just, in his ridiculous outfit, strutting. We outside Libya could laugh at him: we could see this as a primitive dominance display in a man addicted to the testosterone his power triggered, and his brain deranged by the grossly excessive levels of dopamine released by the testosterone. But to be one of his citizens was to be crushed psychologically and physically by this strutting, dominance – the ludicrous uniforms would not appear ridiculous to them, but rather tokens of terror.
The World Today presenter Paul Henley asked me what happens to powerful baboons when they lose power. The testicle shrinkage consequent on dropping testosterone levels made him suggest that this was yet another reason for President Sarkozy to fear the results of the second round of the French election!