As a young woman, growing up in Alberta and Quebec, I loved drama. I yearned to be on stage, wowing the audience, making sweeping gestures that would evoke memories of Judy Garland or Isadora Duncan. I wanted to wear fabulous clothing, clothing so stunning that people would stop dead in the streets to watch me as I sashayed along the pavement with my scarves twirling in the breeze, and my skirts trailing behind me like a bridal train.
The fact that, at this stage, I was only raw material waiting to be shaped into something better, totally escaped me. Children have no power beyond that which their parents allow them. My desire for fame was a comforting consolation to circumstances yet to be under my control.
Even as a fledgling muso in the eighties … and what a time that was to be dramatic! … I was wholeheartedly in sync with the stage mindset, and the need to be in the spotlight. I shunned the whole blue jeans and flannel shirt ethos of most Canajuns, preferring to be seen in spandex and Danskin bodysuits. All of which was totally acceptable, even reasonable, given the times and my career in the entertainment world.
My goal was to be a Diva, a Drama Queen whose whims and pronouncements were acknowledged, and even accepted as truth. Who wouldn’t want to be the one whose outrageous outfits and still more shocking antics kept others talking about her in hushed, and often respectful, tones? I wanted the power that comes from being predictably unpredictable.
Alas, my dream was hampered by a stark reality; I’m a fairly level headed person. Years of practicality and living in a sometimes stark environment had made me a rather sensible, responsible, and empathetic human. In order to think myself superior to others, I would first have to believe that others were inferior to me.
Divadom was just not in my skillset.
To be the Diva, the Queen, the one that must have all of the attention all of the time, requires an exhausting amount of maintenance to ensure that the public remains engaged in following even the most mundane of acts. It’s a hard position to maintain, requiring a persistent but oblique scrutiny of those expected to slavishly serve, and a constant pulse-taking to ensure the attention never flags. And of course, to keep the interest fresh, it requires that new and ever more shocking behaviour be always on display.
It is draining to those who orbit this satellite, who must shove aside their own needs to serve the one who has demanded their attention. Those who follow those who must be served and obeyed, abdicate a full responsibility for their own lives, in the pursuit of abject servitude to another’s.
The Diva is having all the fun. Oh, they may occasionally frame a petty or inconvenient moment of discomfort as being equivalent to a circle of Dante’s hell, but it will be made clear that they alone are emotionally capable of suffering the tortures of the damned. Your job loss or cancer diagnosis pales at the spectre of their badly timed broken fingernail. Your real job is the alleviation of the Diva’s melodramatic – and often imaginary – pain.
The Drama Queen excels at public adulation; it is the symbol of their public finally affording them the attention and adoration they honestly feel they deserve. Crumbs from the public display may be magnanimously bestowed upon the most fortunate of their sycophants and supplicants. But always with the corollary that the best and most precious of what is available is only for themselves.
It is the essence of power, writ small or large. Drama, excitement, egotism, the shock and awe of unbridled narcissism … chaos.
Now the thing is … we humans do like a bit of drama in our lives. It’s why we gossip, and stir our own pots of personal theatre. And we all would like a little power, please and thank you. From the lowliest beggar in the lowliest gutter to dictators and heads of countries, most of us are all looking for a little more control and power, some magic wand allowing us to claim that we are better and more valuable than someone else, and therefore deserving of more of whatever it is that we prize. Human nature. A base desire to be found worthier than another, and an insistence of public acknowledgement of that importance, by words, deeds, or offerings.
That need lies at the heart of every power struggle in human interaction in history; the only difference being in how far that desire for control is taken.
From the labourer who is afraid to talk back to his boss and so comes home to yell at his wife, to the megalomaniac who commands despotic power over a company or a country, the thirst for power and control is only limited by the one who craves it.
But we humans also need stability, security, and the comfort of habit. Most of us embody Newton’s first law of motion – sometimes referred to as the law of inertia. “An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. ”
People in the civilized world tread a familiar path, day in and day out. They wake up, go to school or work, spend the majority of their time doing a job they’ve done the day before and will do the next day, and then go home, have a meal, watch a little TV, and finally, go to bed. The next day, they do it all again.
Within that majority are some who want and need to break out of that routine. But for most of us, it may be a rut, but it’s our rut, and we’re inured to it. To abruptly have to grapple with chaos and change on a regular basis asks us to suddenly develop the ability to be mentally prepared, at all times, on a moment’s notice.
That’s just not how the average person rolls. Most of the time, it’s enough for us to look forward to a long weekend or a raise in salary. There is comfort in habit, stability in routine.
Divas, drama Queens, and dictators are the unbalanced forces that unleash chaos on inertia, alter the course of lives, destabilize the comfortable, and consume all in their paths.
In some situations, chaos is welcomed, at least for a short period of time. Long term frustration and anxiety over things we believe cannot be changed can lead to a need for a saviour, for a liberator who will kick over the traces of what has been, the disruptor who will fly in the face of what we’ve been told is ‘just the way it is.”
But unbalanced forces have a limited life span. We may cheer the tearing down of a wall, but a small part of us knows that it is the rebuilding that will consume our reality for years to come. Although the unbalanced force can do great damage during its arc of influence, the simple truth is that modern civilization and our social institutions are based upon a massive inertia that tends to keep the quo in status, and seeks to balance the unbalanced.
Eventually, even the most easily amused of the masses begin to look for a justification of continued devotion. Power, whether it is wielded in a high school clique or at the highest levels of society, has to be shown to be warranted, and eventually validated by actions beneficial to the majority, not just those temporarily blinded by the harbingers of fireworks, sound, and fury proclaiming the power seeker’s arrival.