Why People Still Want Charisma

By Patrick Brogan

“Who the fuck is that guy?”

Something nobody could ask about Conor McGregor. Or indeed Donald Trump. Both have big egos and they have both used this to build their profile. The reason they are both loved and hated in what seems to be equal measure is because of their egos and expressing their honest opinions.

The world has always appreciated showmen and to some extent needed them. In our fast paced society nobody can pay attention long enough to people that are quieter and understated, even if their message is good.  The loud, flashy showman has increased its pulling power.

Sports Need Cocky Athletes

Sport has always produced this brand of brash virtuoso. The likes of Muhammed Ali, Serena Williams and Michael Jordan changed their sports and then there is others that are so good that they only need one name, Tyson, Ronaldo, Maradona, DiMaggio, Bolt etc. Sporting events are usually decided by mental strength, more so than pure talent, so it  is imperative to be mentally strong, especially at the top level.

So, when McGregor comes along as a cocky Irish kid paradoxically he is only continuing a tradition of individuals. Sport needs people like this, if for entertainment if nothing else. Some people are critical of our sports-obsessed culture, but people do need a release from the ordinary and mundane. Sport’s popularity is rooted in our tribal nature and the fact it has all the aspects of life condensed to a manageable time frame. Pain, joy, hard work and glory in a compact format for our time-averse society.

Charisma is a sought after commodity in politics too. Lincoln, Kennedy, Reagan and Thatcher loom over us from their perched positions in history. Again, only one name is needed to conjure up an image. They represent a certain place and time and a brand of politics that became a way of life. Even if you were opposed to their politics, you had to sit up and take notice. They captured the imagination and tapped into something greater than themselves.


How do these differ from the so-called demagogues and tyrants of history. The likes of Stalin, Mao and Hitler. Well, the second group were rigid and viewed themselves as godly characters. The first group were far more pragmatic. Having supreme belief in your abilities is important in politics and sport, but imposing your will should be left to the theatre of sport. So much of successful politics is about compromise. In a democracy, that’s exactly how it should be. A lot of Donald Trump’s behaviour would suggest he hasn’t much time for compromise.   

The examples are too many to go into in this article and they are almost too many to count. A great example of his utterly uncompromising nature is captured in the film You’ve been Trumped and the follow-up A Dangerous Game. Both films look at how he deals with people who are opposed to his golf courses. There are some cases where people aren’t against his plans, but still end up suffering. If you are part of a minority in the United States you must be worried about the potential for a divisive Trump presidency.

An Angry Society 

The rise of Trump has been interesting. A large amount American people are unhappy. Most of this is down to economic circumstances. While a large part of middle-class America, predominately white, have seen their living standards dramatically reduced, the rich have continued to get richer. The life expectancy of this demographic is one of the few to have reduced in the Western world leading many to claim it is part of a white genocide. This is of course not true, but one thing has become clear; the elite no longer care about the rest of us.

Trump is playing on this anger and many who are angry see a mirror of themselves in the outburst-prone Trump. Anger feeding off anger. As history has shown us, this is a dangerous equation.


To sum up; an ego is great for sport and all the great sports stars have had huge egos.  Politics is a different matter. In order for a society to be successful compromise is always needed. True capitalism is about give and take. Everybody gains something. I may be coming across as Arthur Jensen (Network, 1976), but there is no reason capitalism can’t reformed to benefit all in society. We know enough about Trump to say this is not a version of capitalism he wants, nor cares for.    


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