The fallacy of order

Image: Elyeser Szturm

By Jean Pierre Chauvin*

Try to imagine a leader who, in addition to his obsession with order (for private purposes) and cleanliness (so as not to feel mixed up), carries the uncontrollable habit of lying.

A recurring hypothesis in behavioral psychology studies resides in the commonplace that individuals with exaggerated mania[I] of organization and cleanliness are/are not mentally or emotionally balanced[ii]. It could be better attested if we studied analytical cases that discuss the so-called Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders - which result from or spring from recurrent thoughts and speeches in the form of loops, accompanied or not by repetitive gestures, often linked to aggressive postures.

Georg Groddeck (1866-1934) believed that "It would almost be worth watching to the end how far this delicately balanced opposition between cruelty and anguish reaches in human beings."[iii] Jacques Lacan (1901-1981) assumed that “[…] the neurotic constructions of the obsessive sometimes end up bordering the delusional constructions”.[iv] Our contemporary Byung-Chul Han has warned that “we are heading towards the era of digital psychopolitics, which advances from passive surveillance to active control, thus pushing us towards a new crisis of freedom: even one's own will is compromised”.[v]

Back to the smallest sphere. The question would perhaps accumulate greater interest if we extended it beyond the desk, with its perfectly aligned pencil holders; the supposedly immaculate dining table, free of small and large stains (including imaginary ones); of the fluffy blanket, which both warms and accumulates extremely “intrangable” dirt particles, like ticks that emigrated from their habitat with the specific purpose of creating stains in the private realm of the unresolved guardian of other people’s lives[vi].

As I said, the subject can go far. Want to see? Try to carry out a simple test, even if it is for shallow statistical purposes. Find out, please, if these and other obsessions with organization and cleanliness could be related to a certain type of personality, (im)posture or behavior pattern. From here, I can assure you that the connection has been verified on all the occasions that I have come across people who have disorders of this nature.

What "link" am I referring to? To the one that suggests a link between authoritarian (or controlling) types with such cleanliness and organization mania. In the people around me, the test has always been positive: it did not spare family members, close friends, girlfriends or work colleagues. Discounting the probable exceptions, that is, the cases in which OCD would not involve personalities with these traits, I tend to consider the (dis)reasons for these creatures to behave in this way.

What is the greatest desire of the authoritarian? To be obeyed. What is the greatest satisfaction of the cleaning maniac? Diagnose the (visible) hygienic impeccability of the environment. Both have the almost uncontrollable desire for absolute control. Who is the main opponent of the first? Anyone who challenges their imaginary command post with wishes or proposals for change. Who is the archrival of the second? The guy who doesn't protect the clean floor from his torn and filthy shoes.

Advance another square on the board. Substitute organization for order and cleanliness for Aryanism, and we arrive at a far more troubling stage. Yes, because, in theory, the obsession with hygiene and organization has no major consequences when restricted to the domestic environment. But let's go to the second level. Suppose that the controlling subject has an occupation outside the home: the disorder, which is personal, can contaminate environments where many more people circulate, for example, the place of study, leisure, business or work.

At this point, the dear reader, the attentive reader will have realized that we have not yet reached the end of this sad equation. Well then. Envision the possibility of an individual with a mania for military order and ethnic cleansing occupying a high position in the neighborhood where he lives (badly) with thousands of citizens. If you wish, increase the subject's power scale, elevating him to the continental sphere, so to speak.

Best of all, persistent reader, resilient reader, we're not done yet. There is still one decisive factor to add to the already unhealthy picture. Try to imagine that this neighborhood leader, in addition to his obsession with order (for private purposes) and cleanliness (so as not to feel so mixed up), carries the uncontrollable habit of lying. Let's push it a little: let's say that he is, effectively, a mythomaniac.

And here things get complicated. Yes, because we would find maniacs of two (or three) categories.

(1) Those who diagnosed the OCD they carry and, since then, began to count on the help of therapists, the understanding of family members, the patience of friends and the tolerance of co-workers, who reveal their outbursts of rage in front of the pencil without a tip, the blue pen with the red cap, the lid displaced seventeen millimeters in relation to the pan, the crooked rug in relation to the mark on the floor that imitates wood, the slightly open door on the shelf.

(2) Those who, having or not having diagnosed the disorder they carry, pretend to represent a collective, through the encouragement of millions of lunatics, the brute force of half a dozen ideologues, the impatience of agribusiness, banks, industry, the stupidity of the nano-entrepreneur – almost everyone ignoring his frothy outbursts of hatred and the sadistic desire to tyrannize any person, institution, bush, stone or protozoan that offers him an obstacle (even if imaginary, made like lint on a tablecloth).

Your grace will excuse me. I am not a specialist in neurology; I'm not even a speculator, in terms of politics. But, please, say something that will dampen or remove this bad omen from me (or uneasiness in the face of the pseudo civilization that has taken over this neocolony). It's just that I have a layman's doubt here, seriously. Enjoyable compulsion to lie, combined with the option to legislate for the benefit of a few, invalidate the other disorders? Or do you add to them? In that case, we would be facing a third category, correct? Would it require ethical, civic, or psychiatric treatment? Do you know if there's a cure?

*Jean Pierre Chauvin is a professor at the School of Communications and Arts at USP.


[I] The two meanings of the term are considered here: mania as a habit and mania as a euphoric state.

[ii]By way of illustration, check out this report from 2014: -toc.html – Accessed January 4, 2020.

[iii]the book of it. Trans. José Teixeira Coelho Neto. São Paulo: Perspectiva, 2019, p. two.

[iv]The individual myth of the neurotic. Trans. Claudia Berliner. Rio de Janeiro: Zahar, 2008, p. 22.

[v]Psychopolitics – Neoliberalism and the New Techniques of Power. Trans. Mauricio Liesen. Belo Horizonte; Venice: Editora Âyiné, 2018, p. 23.

[vi] “We have already said how autophilia was the very foundation of paranoia: and it is from the inadaptability of this external environment, in which he lives, to his disproportionate Ego, that the first conflicts arise and the imbalance operates, more or less quickly. The paranoid person does not give in to his willful prerogatives, and, thwarted in his idea, it becomes more and more deeply rooted in his mind. Nor could the environment become attached to the tyrannical demands of its will and the reaction it offers, at first passive, is immediately received with hostility” [Cf. Juliano Moreira; Afrânio Peixoto. “Paranoia and Paranoid Syndromes”. History, Science, Health – Manguinhos, vol.17, supl.2. Rio de Janeiro, Dec. 2010, p. 544 (article originally published in 1905)].

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