The clientelist and the collectivist

Two very different personalities

I recounted the spectacular Martinez-Peres affair in Noumea, a clash of egos at first sight. In second sight the personalities are very different: a clientelist opposed to a collectivist. Unusual outcome: the collectivist killed the clientelist. Let’s take a closer look at these two types of characters, often confused.

The clientelist is charged with magnetic empathy. It captures you. He immediately seems to see in you a hidden potential. You are valued from the outset, without having yet demonstrated the slightest competence. Very catchy attitude, never randomly distributed. The clientelist has some notions of your talents, already by your pace. Your image flattered, you become attentive. The clientelist’s discourse penetrates a mind placed in the best possible dispositions.

Attention! The clientelist gives importance to others only because it will come back to him multiplied. He is at the center of the exchange. His friends are essential because they are “his” friends. The clientelist is in fact a caricature of the egocentric, who reduces the world to those who pledge allegiance to him. All the importance of the collective is concentrated there. The rest of society does not exist, not other than in the shadow of this prominent entourage.

Advantageous dependency?

“Allegiance” is not the term used by the clientelist’s friends. I even refuse it, when I am. I see myself as independent, also a beneficiary of the exchange, free to break it at any time. Not so simple. The friendship of the clientelist does not have the same value as another, precisely because it attributes to me a great importance, willingly greater than that which I deserve. I am trapped. Independence compromised.

Beneficiary also of the exchange? This is one of the fundamental drivers of allegiance. Baron near the king rather than anonymous member of a huge egalitarian community. Free to break up? If still rational motives were enough. But the empathic bonds forged by the clientelist are otherwise difficult to unravel. Protected from reason by his mere presence, even after years of absence. Inscribed in the episodic memory, as rich in emotions as fragile in its logic.

A more repulsive dissolution

The collectivist is a less invasive character. He is concerned about all his congeners, both present and absent. This reduces the relative importance of the presents and makes his contact less attractive. The clientelist makes me the center of the world (but it is his in fact); for the collectivist I am only a small part of it (but it is the world common to all). The clientelist targets the individual in me, seeks to associate my egocentrism with his; the collectivist targets the part of me that feels included in the community. He wants to merge his holistic thinking with mine. He promotes a third accomplice, the Whole, in which he dissolves as much as he incites me to do.

The constraint imposed by the collectivist awakens a conflict that is already personal to me: that between my soliTary and soliDary part. The egotistic individual does not appreciate; the altruistic member is tempted. Is it surprising, under these conditions, that the most individualistic among us easily give in to the sirens of the clientelist, while true philanthropists are suspicious of it, are more attentive to the collectivist, despite less positive reinforcement?

Self-congratulation by the way

The collectivist is not devoid of a soliTary part. Ultimately, his efforts for the community benefit himself. The saint feeds on his label of holiness in others. It is the soliTary in him that gorges itself. It is impossible to escape our nature, which makes the species the beneficiary of our particular individuation. The collective does not exist without the individuals who carry it. Some raise it more than others, and all take advantage of it. This fine adjustment of an indissoluble conflict, between soliTary and soliDary shares, has made our success as Homo sapiens.

Sapiens… wisdom? Wisdom comes from the extension of our soliDary part. It gradually crosses all social circles, instead of restricting itself to the clientelist’s environment, stuck in the state of teenager lost in his myths. Fake insurance. Identity that fears to be lost if it moves away from its center. A Putin…

Concentrated or universal grief?

The clientelist is adored by a few and hated by the greater. His passing creates concentrated grief, and diffuse relief. While the collectivist, if he is driven by passion while avoiding its traps, wins his eternal monument.


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