Welcome to Friday, where Joe Biden announces a huge COVID relief package, North Korea boasts "the world's most powerful weapon" and Wikipedia turns 20. Les Echos also explains how the pandemic response is quietly helping us prepare for the next big bad thing.
SPOTLIGHT: TRUMP DIDN'T INVENT THE SPREADING PLAGUE OF NARCISSISM
When I was a kid — 12,13 — my dad had a shrink friend who used to come around our house. His usual business on these visits was to review the degenerating state of the world for us, and list the ways it all made his profession difficult.
"Wanna catch a glimpse of the future?" he asked, raising an eyebrow. "Just visit the waiting room of a psychologist!" Then he raised a finger: "I'll tell you, they're no neurotics left, just narcissists!"
I remember that night because the word narcissist entered my vocabulary directly from the mouth of a professional in the field. And inside my still-growing cortex, a terrifying image of what that might mean for a person, the world, as well as for Dr. Jansson's blood pressure.
The term accompanied me through 2016, as Donald Trump lied and boasted and driveled his way to the pole position in the GOP primary, and on to the White House. What eventually was even more terrifying about the election of a narcissist was the subsequent consensus in the psychological community that Trump appealed most of all to fellow narcissists.
So ... as with Donald, as with us, the people. We the people, who almost twice elected a high-end bingo caller as leader of the Free World. There's solid data coming from my priest dad — Gunnar — that narcissism's rise to the status of a folk illness dates back decades.
Yes, it predates that virtual litter box for the worst that humans can verbally discharge. Twitter and other social media no doubt play their part, but at the time of the dinner conversation at my house, Zuckerberg had yet to invent his algorithm and people were still playing Snake II on Nokias.
Dr. Jansson's theory, Gunnar recalled on the phone the other day, was rather that our self-absorbed tendencies were the result of the widespread distrust in any kind of overarching idea. We contemporary humans prefer to cherry-pick our ideas — often fragmented, incoherent and simplified — that best validate some feeling of self-worth.
That's what Gunnar saw last week on his television set in southern Sweden as a mob of narcissists launched their assault on the U.S. Capitol. They are not believers in any ideology, per se, but rather a fleeting series of (conspiracy) theories: that Trump leads a covert battle against a blood-sucking child-trafficking conglomerate featuring Hillary Clinton and Tom Hanks; that the 2020 election was stolen through Hugo Chavez-designed voting machines hacked by Venezuelan children; that who knows what next ...
... well, you get it. The farcical madness that played out in Washington suggests something deeper than just political polarization, or the disillusionment of under-educated white voters, or social media going haywire. The lesson of these last four years that (let us hope) culminated last week is that our collective sanity, like democracy, requires constant support from professionals in the field.
— Carl-Johan Karlsson
THE SITUATION: 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW
• COVID-19 latest: U.S. President-elect Joe Biden announces a $1.9 trillion relief package which includes $1,400 per person, additional unemployment benefits, food stamps, and rental assistance. As cases hit 30 million across Europe, France announces a 6 pm curfew, and the UK bans all flights from South America.
• Capitol riot aftermath: The Pentagon launches investigation into White Nationalism extremists in the military noting that "numerous people" have been identified as military veterans or active-duty service members. Meanwhile, the Army agrees to bring 21,000 National Guard members to D.C. and the city's mayor asks people not to come to the inauguration.
• North Korea flexes military: Kim Jong-un boasts Pyongyang's submarine launched missile as "world's most powerful weapon," and calls the U.S. his "principal enemy."
• Algerian roadside bomb: Five civilians have been killed and three wounded in a homemade bomb in eastern Algeria.
• Earthquake in Indonesia: A 6.2-magnitude quake has shaken the island of Sulawesi, killing at least 34.
• Dakar rally news: France's Pierre Cherpin has died from a head injury he sustained during a motorsport crash. Fellow countryman Stéphane Peterhansel has won the rally for the 14th time, a new record.
• Tintin painting breaks record: The original cover for Tintin's The Blue Lotus volume from 1936 was bought by a private collector for a record €3.2 million at a Paris auction. It breaks the 2014 record for the most expensive comic book art sale of €2.65 million.