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579. Preponderance of the great (VIII)

There is an alcoholic sub-type who drinks because he is a perfectionist. This type is often found among surgeons and pilots, professions where you are rewarded for flawless performance. Perfectionists are angry people, their perfectionism expresses their repressed anger—and this is why surgeons sometimes explode in titanic rages at their staff, all that fiddly perfectionism requires extreme repression and sometimes the anger overwhelms the barriers. These people drink because they have a little self-critical voice in their head that goes: “Not good enough, not good enough. You did that wrong. You did that wrong. Not right. You’re a loser, you’re pathetic. Loser.” The drink is used to escape the self-critical voice that nags these people 24/7—and also to overcome the shame that comes about when they fail or lose control and express their anger.

These men are actually feminised, even if they work in ultra-masculine professions such as surgery and aviation. It is women who are perfectionists, not least because women struggle to express their anger; they ball up and stamp their feet or beat their fists on you and yet for women the anger never really comes “out”. So they go back to their miss perfect-pants schedules and perfectly coloured-in organisation charts instead. I knew a girl who made a chart and little pack for every day on a holiday she took, just to allay the anxiety.

For women perfectionism is more about the fact they have less idea about the future, for them the future is very uncertain—they have no strategic ability, only tactics. To allay the anxiety they plan things very carefully, sublimate their anger at their impotence and inability to predict events. Men in detail-orientated professions are either like this already constitutionally or are forced to act this way through the time horizon involved in the job. The surgeon must watch every stitch carefully, the pilot watches his instruments carefully—strategy is less important than tactics.

Perfect things are not beautiful: they are uncanny and they disturb us. Look at those little girls American moms dress up for beauty pageants, or the Russian army has sing <<Katyusha>> in pigtails—these little China dolls are weird and uncanny because they are caked in slap so as to be perfect, they are little CGI-effect dolls; they are too smooth, too clean. Technically perfect, done up by their perfect moms, and yet they revolt us—although they are not ugly in the strict sense.

Wabi-sabi: beautiful pottery must always have a slight flaw, a small crack or unpainted area—so say the Japanese. Leonard Cohen, in Zen mode, sang: “There is a crack / A crack / In everything / That’s how the light gets in.” As Žižek pointed out: Claudia Schiffer was beautiful in her prime because she had a mole, unlike the weirdo beauty pageant girls she had a slight flaw to offset her beauty—it was the necessary flaw that made her so beautiful.

To accept imperfection is a masculine attitude: it did the job, no worries—the prototype is always a bit clunky, but it is more beloved than the final polished consumer product (sold to women, to the consumers). “There’s a spot of mould on it, I’m taking it back for a refund,” says the female consumer. For men, the perfect is the enemy of the good—we work iteratively, we reduce the errors down and down to almost zero; yet this is asymptotic, we never reach it because if you disallow a small flaw you destroy beauty. What you have instead is camp: to achieve perfection you must start to fuss about the inessentials, and to take the frivolous seriously—hence the queer hairdresser who fusses over a woman’s “do” is in a conspiracy of perfectionism with his female client, they fuss over the frivolous and so become camp. Yet men just muss up the perfect “do”, otherwise it would be unreal. Satan is a perfectionist: real things are whole—they include imperfection, just a dab.


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