Of the gallons of ink dedicated to analyzing the eye-popping follies of Eliot Spitzer, by far the most trenchant view is contained in the March 14 New York Times OpEd piece by David Brooks. Permit me to quote whole sections of his article.
"Our social structure seems to produce significant numbers of people with rank-link imbalances. That is to say, they have all of the social skills required to improve their social rank, but none of the social skills that lead to genuine bonding. They are good at vertical relationships with mentors and bosses, but bad at horizontal relationships with friends and lovers.
[In school,] they rack up great grades and develop that coating of arrogance that forms on those who know that in the long run they will be more successful than the beauties and jocks who get dates.
Then they go into one of those fields like law, medicine or politics, where a person’s identity is defined by career rank. They develop the specific social skills that are useful on the climb up the greasy pole: the capacity to imply false intimacy; the ability to remember first names; the subtle skills of effective deference; the willingness to stand too close to other men while talking and touching them in a manly way.
And, of course, these people succeed and enjoy their success.
They treat their conversational partners the way the Nazis treated Poland. They crush initial resistance, and the onslaught of accumulated narcissism is finally too much to bear.
[But] then, gradually, some cruel cosmic joke gets played on them. They realize in middle age that their grandeur is not enough and that they are lonely. The ordinariness of their intimate lives is made more painful by the exhilaration of their public success. If they were used to limits in public life, maybe it would be easier to accept the everydayness of middle-aged passion. But, of course, they are not.
And so the crisis comes…
These Type A men are just not equipped to have normal relationships. All their lives they’ve been a walking Asperger’s Convention, the kings of the emotionally avoidant. Because of disuse, their sensitivity synapses are still performing at preschool levels.
So when they decide that they do in fact have an inner soul and it’s time to take it out for a romp … . Well, let’s just say they’ve just bought a ticket on the self-immolation express. Some desperate lunge toward intimacy is sure to follow, some sad attempt at bonding. Welcome to the land of the wide stance."